of the Lords, Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-
1. Notwithstanding anything in the British North America Act, 1867, or in any Act amending the same, or in any Order in Council, or terms or conditions of Union, made or approved under the said Act, or under any Act of the Canadian Parliament, the term of the Twelfth Parliament of Canada is hereby extended until the Seventh day of October, 1918.
2. This Act may be cited as the British North America Act, 1917, and the British North America Act. 1867 to 1916, and this Act may be cited together as the British North America Act, 1867 to 1917.
All of which we humbly pray Your Majesty to take into your favourable and gracious consideration.
He said: In rising to present this motion to the House, I beg to call to the recollection of honourable gentlemen that on the 8th of February, 1916, I presented a similar motion. That motion for the extension of the term of Parliament from 7th October, 1916, to 7th October, 1917, was unanimously adopted at that time. In the speech from the Throne this year reference was made to a similar resolution, which would extend the life of this Parliament from the 7th of October, 1917, to the 7th October, 1918. Accordingly, the resolution which I now have the honour to propose was placed upon the Order Paper in the latter part of May, and it now becomes my duty to present it to the House, in order that it may be considered and dealt with.
In my judgment, the reasons for proposing this motion are quite as strong today as they were in 1916, and perhaps stronger. They are fully set forth in the remarks which I addressed to the House at that time. I need only summarize them now. In the first place, there would be, consequent upon a general election, disunion and discord throughout this country. There has, up to the present time, been at least a seeming unity. Outside and inside of Parliament men have worked together without regard to party or race or creed. I believe that party political questions have not been -tfery much in the minds of the people during the last three years, and I would hope that we might, on this occasion, arrive at some conclusion which would prevent the controversy and distraction consequent upon a general election. More than that, the minds, the thoughts, the energies of the people would be diverted and turned aside from the supreme purpose of aiding in this war, and would be concentrated on political issues of relative insignificance. In short, a general .election would leave, at least
might leave, a divided nation. Besides that, I desire to emphasize the fact that the time and the energies of the ministers of the Crown during a general election would necessarily be diverted from the [DOT]conduct of our country's participation in the war to the activities of a political campaign. It goes without question that members of the Government could not remain silent under attack. They would be obliged to speak and to use their best efforts to justify themselves and the administration for which they are responsible. In short, they would be obliged to take one course or the other; either to devote their energies largely to the necessities of a political campaign, or to let that campaign take care of itself, and continue, as they have been doing in the past, to devote their entire energies to the duties which are imposed upon them by the necessities of the war.
More than that, there is the fact that we have about 300,000 men overseas at the present time. It is impossible for any one of us to anticipate with any reasonable degree of certainty what proportion of those men would have the opportunity of exercising their franchise,, and what proportion would not have that opportunity. That would depend altogether upon the character of the operations in the field at that particular time. These men are the best elements of our population. They assuredly have a right to be heard in the selection of a parliament which will control the affairs of this country during the next five years; and, indeed, I might ask, what right would we have to entrust the affairs of this country for five years to a Parliament in whose selection these men might have so comparatively small a voice.
More than that, I believe that the discussion of political issues, the intrusion of party politics upon the gallant and heroic men fighting our battles at the front and walking daily hand in hand with death, would be regarded by them as odious and indeed insulting.
There is another consideration I must place before honourable gentlemen of this House, and to me it seems of some significance. Very eloquent appeals have been made by honourable gentlemen, chiefly, I think, from the other side of the House, that before the Military Service Bill, which has been under the consideration of Parliament for some time, shall be put into operation, there shall be a united and earnest effort of all parties and
JUL'i 17, 1917
all interests in this country for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain by voluntary enlistment the reinforcements which we seek to raise by the Military Service Bill.
I have listened to those appeals with a great deal of interest. I have given very attentive thought to them.
I should be willing to give them every consideration consistent with the certainty of providing the necessary reinforcements for the Canadian troops at the front, but I do not understand how it would be possible to have a united and earnest appeal of that nature, or how it could possibly be effective, under the imminence of an approaching general election. I hope, therefore, that hon. gentlemen, in coming to a conclusion upon the resolution which I am now proposing, will hear that in mind. The unity which would be necessary to make that appeal possible or effective could not be expected during a general election, or during the imminence of a general election; and so it would seem to me that if an election is forced upon the country at the * present time, such a proposal must be abandoned.
As to precedents, I alluded to them when I spoke in this House on February 8, 1916. The Parliament of Great Britain has extended its life on three successive occasions, and its term now stands extended until November 30, 1917. New Zealand has
extended its parliamentary term to December 19, 1918 - a very long extension. Australia was precluded from carrying out an extension by disturbing political conditions which unfortunately prevented her representation in the Imperial War Cabinet. I referred, in speaking on the motion of last year, to the precedent in Great Britain, when in 1716 a Parliament which had been elected for only three years, extended its term to seven years. In every self-governing nation of this Empire since the commencement of this war it has been found impossible to preserve the same regard for constitutional conventions as in time of peace. Extraordinary powers have been conferred upon the Governments of each of these nations by their Parliaments, and indeed, hon. gentlemen in this House know that here in Canada powers of a very extensive character have been conferred upon the Governor'in Council by the War Measures Act of 1914, an Act which, reposes in the Governor in Council practically all the powers that could be exercised by Parliament under the British North America Act, except the power of taxation and of appropriation of public revenue.
It may be urged that this proposal involves an alteration of the constitution. 1 regard it rather as a temporary suspension of but one feature of the constitution. Surely it is not a very serious step, for it merely provides that in Canada during the necessities of the war we shall have a parliamentary term of seven years instead of five years. Great Britain had a seven year term for her Parliament during a period of more than 150 years, and I am content to accept in that connection the view expressed by my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) who in speaking on this motion in February, 1916, said:
It is not proposed here to alter the principle of the constitution. It is not proposed to override the control which the people have over Parliament. It is simply proposed to suspend for the time being the operation of the co-n-stitution. If it were proposed to make away altogether with that principle which is embodied in the Constitution, certainly I would oppose such attempt with all my might. But no such thing is proposed. This measure simply proposes that the constitution shall be suspended for twelve months, at the expiration of which time it will resume its full force.
It is not necessary, I am sure, that I should dwell upon the gravity of the situation with which this country, the whole Empire, and, indeed, the whole world, are presently confronted1. When I spoke in. this House on the 8th of February, 1916, we had sent 125,000 men overseas. To-day, our casualties are rapidly approaching that figure, and since my return from Great Britain on the 14th of May last, just about two months ago, they number 12,000. Since the extension of the term of Parliament sanctioned on the 8th day of February, 1916, Canada has sent no fewer than 200,000 men across the ocean to fight for liberty and civilization. We must realize, in dealing with this resolution, that our country, in common with the whole Empire, is facing a supreme test1. The existence of the Empire, its institutions, and liberties, are in peril. More than that, the foundations of civilization itself are endangered.
It would be impassible to overstate the transcendent issues which are hanging in the balance, and I am content to have them portrayed in the eloquent words which my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) addressed to this House in February, 1916, when he spoke thus upon this motion:
There was nothing for Canada to do but to do what she did; to illace at the disposal of England all her resources in men and money. Men there are to-day who sneer at the thought of Canada exhausting her resources to defend the Empire. Sir, who talks of the Empire
House and the country to-day, I am discharging as best 'I can the responsibility and duty thus devolving upon me.
It will be lor my right hon. friend to see for himself the path of his duty, and under the responsibility which appertains to him to act as he may think that duty demands. So, my final word of appeal to this House is that this motion may be passed with that practical unanimity which will enable us to present it to the Imperial Parliament for necessary action and ratification, and I believe in doing so we shall take a course which none of us, at any time in the future, can regret, a c,curse absolutely in the interests of this Dominion, of this Empire, and of the great cause for which our gallant troops are to-day fighting at the front.
Hon. GEORGE P. GRAHAM (South Renfrew) : I trust none ,of the hon. members of this House will think I 'am unduly intruding myself at this juncture in the discussion. What the right hon. gentleman has said concerning the desirability of Canada prosecuting this war so far as in her lies, until it is brought to a successful conclusion, finds an echo in the heart of every man. Canada did not enter this war lightly. She entered it of her own free will, without compulsion -I might say, without invitation-fully believing that on her, as part of the Empire, rested a duty, and on her shoulders as a young nation there rested also a privilege to join hand in hand with the free citizenship of the world in doing her best to maintain the rights, the privileges, and the liberties, for which our fathers and our grandfathers fought. We are in the war, and we propose to stay in it until victory finally perches on the banners of the Allies. There is no desire, no thought, of shrinking from what is before us.
Our experience during the past three years has been sad, but it has been stimulating, it has been encouraging, because we in this part of the Empire, we in this young nation of Canada, have discovered ourselves during these 'three years of great struggle. We have discovered within us those elements of greatness, of manhood, and of citizenship that always were there, but were, in a measure, allowed to remain latent until this great opportunity was given to us to bring them forth in all their grandeur and in all their strength. We have risen to the occasion. I am not of those who believe, or who hint for a moment that Canada has not risen to the occasion. She has sent her men, she has sent her women, she has sent
her money, she has made sacrifices great and voluntary, and she is prepared to make any sacrifice that may be requisite for the completion of this war in a proper manner.
I do not propose discussing what my right hon. friend has said, because I intend moving an amendment to the resolution. It is possible that we are losing our sense of proportion. The great question before qs is the winning of the war-the Prime Minister has made that very plain- and we ought as a Parliament to support all measures necessary to accomplish that end for the cause of civilization. The Prime Minister has rightly and eloquently said that the conditions at the front demand our greatest energies. With that I absolutely agree. But, they demand our energies in more ways than one. I said a moment ago it was possible that for the moment we wrere losing our sense of proportion. We have discussed, and passed almost to completion, a measure of military service for the providing of men-and though we have differed on it, yet Parliament has acted. Before that is quite completed the Prime Minister introduces a resolution for the extension of the term of Parliament, which term does not expire for nearly three months. While the discussion of the extension of the term of Parliament is necessary and right, while the introduction of that measure is proper, I submit there is a duty incumbent upon the Government which demands more immediate action than the discussion, or passing, or withdrawal, of such a resolution. We have three months yet before this term expires, and during that three months-yes, even now-this Parliament ought to manfully grapple with the conditions at the front and with the conditions existing in iGanada, and prove itself equal to working out a plan by which the conditions will be fully met.
One part of that programme has been dealt with. The other part has been left in abeyance. The second part of the programme, to my mind, is of little less importance than the first. The winning of the war being our great object, vte should not be so desirous, three months ahead of time, to discover whether we are going to extend our own term or not. Our chief business to-day is to see that we are' going to stand by the boys in the front in every particular. I have supported, and I intend to support to its conclusion, one branch of this programme and I am going to ask this House seriously if it is not
their duty now to proceed with the inauguration and the completion of the other part of the programme which is necessary for the carrying on of the war.
The amendmept which I intend to move has not been sprung upon this House. I gave notice of it several weeks ago, intending to move it on going into Committee of Supply but, not succeeding, as an opportunity was not afforded me to move that resolution, I take the opportunity of moving it to-day. I may say frankly that I did not care to move this on the third reading of the other Bill to which I have referred. Had I done so, a great many hon. gentlemen would have said that the hon. member for South Renfrew (Mr. Graham) was retarding the Military Service Bill. Consequently, I am moving it today in the proper place and, I believe, at the proper hour, and I would ask serious consideration of the few observations I am going to make.
It is useless to send men to the front, either voluntarily or forcibly, unless we are prepared to back them up. We must feed, finance, equip and clothe men,
Subtopic: MOTION BY THE PRIME MINISTER FOR ADDRESS TO HIS MAJESTY.