July 17, 1917

LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

I will come to that. Of course, my information is not official; it is such information as I can collect and such as comes to me through correspondence and otherwise. If I am wrong as to the battle, if it was not St. Julien, it was some other battle in which the soldiers in tears and rage threw down the Ross rifle and took up the Lee-Enfield. To quote from the poet, Walter Scott:-

But woe awaits a country, when She sees the tears of bearded men.

The Government saw the tears of these bearded men, but they did nothing to correct the condition of things that existed. The commander in chief, Sir John French, had to take notice of the situation. He did not wait to report to the War Oflflce, but he instituted an inquiry, and on the 19th June, 1915, he made his report. After having stated that rumours with regard to the Ross rifle had come to him, and that he had appointed a committee to investigate, he proceeded :- 1

(1) To the unanimous opinion of my committee that the Ross rifle could not he relied upon to work smoothly and efficiently in rapid fire with any ammunition other than that of Canadian manufacture;

m [Sir Wilfrid Laurier.J

(2) to the fact that no ammunition of this nature was available in this country, and that sufficient supplies could not he obtained from' England, and,

(3) to the want of confidence in the rifle which a large number of the infantry evidently felt, as evidenced by the fact that over 3,000 had, without authority, exchanged their rifles for those used by their British comrades, and taken from casualties on the battlefield.

I did not feel justified in sending this Division into battle with the Ross rifle, and ordered the re-arming of the infantry of the Division with the Lee-Enfield rifle, which was carried out before they went into action on the 15th instant.

Sir John French said that he armed one division with the Lee-Enfield rifle. Now, I come -to the interruption made by my hon. friend from Victoria (Sir Sam Hughes). Sir John French goes on to say:-

6. I would, therefore, suggest that the Army Council should send to this country one or more of the most highly qualified experts obtainable to make the necessary tests under service conditions and report whether ammunition of British manufacture is or is not suitable for use with the Ross rifle. For this' purpose a supply of ammunition of Canadian manufacture should be brought out for comparison.

I have expressed and acted on my opinion, that, so far as I can judge, the ammunition of British manufacture is not suitable for use with Ross rifles, and that there is a large and growing feeling of want of confidence in their rifle on the part of the men in the Canadian Division, which is amply justified by the report of the committee.

My hon. friend (Sir Sam Hughes) was right. It was not the rifle which was condemned, but the dissatisfaction arose from the fact that it was not supplied with the proper ammunition. The fact is that the Ross rifle jammed, and the men were left without any weapons to defend themselves. That is the charge I make against the Government. The General Commanding wanted a test made, and a commission was appointed to make that test, but to this day, in so far as my knowledge goes, and in so far as the information brought before the House shows, there never was a test made of the Ross rifle with proper ammunition.

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Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

Is my right hon. friend not aware that there were three brands of British ammunition that failed when used with the Lee-Enfield rifle, and that not one division but fifty divisions of British troops were shot to pieces by the failure of the Lee-Enfield when using these three brands of British ammunition? These same brands were supplied for use in the Canadian rifle.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

That is not an answer to the charge I make. The charge

I make is that the Ross rifle did not give satisfaction, and there never was any ammunition sent over to make a proper investigation. Upon this point I should quote the testimony of my right hon. friend the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Borden) himself. During the present session, in the month of January last, my right hon. friend, speaking upon this question, said:

The situation which confronted the Government in the summer of 1915 was this: We

knew that Sir John French had concluded that the First Canadian Division ought to he re-armed with the Lee-Enfleld rifle. He based1 that conclusion very largely upon the consideration that the men of the First Division, or a considerable number of them, had lost confidence in the Ross rifle. He took the view, in which I am sure we all concur, that no rifle, however effective, would be useful to the men if they had lost confidence in it. He said, in that same report, that he did not condemn the Ross rifle-that he had no data upon which he could condemn it; and he said further that the difficulty had arisen by reason of the fact that the ammunition supplied in this country, which might have made the rifle useful, could not be supplied in sufficient quantities.

What a statement to make ! In the first place, I must say that Sir John French had not condemned the ammunition made in this country. Quite the reverse. He asked that the rifle should be tested with ammunition made in this country, but my right hon. friend stated that ammunition could not be supplied in this country. So that there may be no ambiguity, let me repeat his words:

He said, in that same report, that he did not condemn the Rosa rifle-that he had no data upon which he could condemn it; and he said further that the difficulty had arisen by reason of the fact that the ammunition supplied in this country, which might have made the rifle useful, could not be supplied in sufficient quantities.

What a statement to make, Sir, that we could not supply cartridges in this country! We have established no less than two hundred plants for the manufacture of shells. Is it more difficult to manufacture cartridges than shells? If we can manufacture shells, why not cartridges also? We have a cartridge factory in Quebec; it has been there for years, and yet we are told that ammunition could hot be supplied for use with the Ross rifle. No test was made of the Ross rifle.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

That is General French's statement commented upon by Sir Robert Borden.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

What page of Hansard is that? .

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

Page 148. This matter went on during the whole campaign of 1915. The report of Sir John 10 p.m. French was not acted upon.

Instead of having the Ross rifle tested with the proper ammunition, there was an order made to have the rifle fitted with new chambers.

The attempt was made; new chambers were manufactured, and the Ross rifle was tried again with the new chamber. The consequence was that, instead of being useless, it became dangerous, and some of the rifles exploded. That is my information. At all events, nothing was done during the campaign of 1915; and the Canadian troops, except one division, in the campaign of 1916 again took the field armed with the Ross rifle. On the 28th of May Sir Douglas Haig sent the following letter to the War Office:

Sir,-I have the honour to inform you that I have satisfied myself, after extensive inquiries carried out throughout the Canadian Corps, that, as a service rifle, the Ross is less trustworthy than the Lee-Enfield, and that the majority of the men armed with the Ross rifle have not confidence in it that it is so essential that they should possess. The inquiry on which these conclusions are based, was the outcome of an urgent application from a battalion of the 3rd Canadian Division for rearmament with the short Lee-Enfield rifle, in consequence of a high percentge of jams experienced with their Ross rifles during a hostile attack on May 1, 1916.

This report was such that it should have moved the Government to take some action; yet nothing was done, so that on the 28th of June Sir Douglas Haig again wrote as follows:

I have the honour to inform you that the efficiency of the Ross rifle has been thoroughly tested by actual fighting in the field, and the application conveyed in my O.B./174 of May 28, 1916, was made after very careful consideration of all the evidences available.

2. I have again consulted the General Officer Commanding Second Army in case any fresh points have come to light during the recent heavy fighting by the Canadians near Tpres. He tells me that his experience of the working-of the Ross rifle during the last fight has only confirmed him in his opinion that the Canadians, in the 3rd Division at all events, have lost confidence in their rifle and he recommends that the rifles in this division he exchanged.

This was on the 21st of June, 1916. That should have moved the Government to take some action, hut again nothing was done. On the 24th of June the following telegram was sent by Sir Robert Borden to Sir George Perley:

Most confidential, secret.

Mark .the gradation-confidential, most confidential, secret. You oan imagine that there was something very important when so much discretion was required-confidential, most confidential, secret. Well, it was perhaps not so much the importance of the despatch as the novelty of it which suggested this secrecy. Sir Robert Bordeu telegraphed to Sir George Perley:

We have had under consideration since January last an order for one hundred thousand additional Ross rifles, none of which can be delivered before April, 1917. If we decide to order the additional one hundred thousand-company requires nearly a year's notice before commencement of delivery in order to secure necessary material of various kinds for which there is great demand at present. Several months ago the Master General of Ordnance strongly recommended immediate action, but we have delayed by reason of doubts raised as to efficiency of rifle. Time has now arrived when immediate decision should he made.

" Time has now arrived when an immediate decision should be made." On the '24th .of June, 1916, nearly two years after the war .broke out, the time has arrived for a decision as to whether the Ross rifle should be continued or some other substituted ! The time has arrived for some action, and apparently some action was being considered, but there was immediate repentance, because the despatch continues:

To this end it is important that we should have a definite, reliable and thorough report upon the merits of the rifle.

Here we had the communications of the two commanders in chief, General French and General Haig, asking that some .action be taken. No action had been taken, and after two years the Government ask for another report. SiT Robert Borden goes on:

If it is so defective as to forbid its use at the front, or if confidence in its efficiency has been undermined in our troops, it would be a waste of public money to give further orders. Please consult Aitken, with whom I have had much correspondence on this subject and advise me whether any such report as above mentioned exists. If not, it should be made immediately for our guidance.

That was on the 24th of June, 1916-a request for further reports. The answer came from Sir George Perley that all hesitation was at an end .and that the change must be made:

Sir Douglas Haig remarks that although reports from Second Division not to same effect he is of opinion Lee-Enfield rifle should he issued to all three Divisions Canadian! corps. Army Council agree with this opinion and have his proposal to exchange rifles Second and Third Divisions for Lee-Enfleld pat-1 tern and steps will be taken forthwith effect exchange.

So at last, after two years vacillation and hesitation, and nothing done, the exchange was made of the Ross for the Lee-Enfield. We may be thankful that at last a decision was reached, but I am far from sure it was a wise ending. The ex-Minister of Militia (Sir Sam Hughes) stated over and over again, stated in this House not long ago, that the Ross rifle was the best rifle in existence and should have been kept. I charge against the Government this, that the experiment which was asked by Sir Joiin French never was made, so fax as this correspondence shows, and I charge therefore that no justice was done to-

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

Except with the consent of the right hon. gentlemen-

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

I asked his permission. If he does not choose to give it I will be silent, but if I have his permission I wish to speak.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order, you oan speak to-morrow.

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CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

The right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) has given permission.

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Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

The right hon. gentleman will remember that a report was presented to this House of the official tests in England, rifle for rifle, in the hands of experts for both rifles, in the hands of possible point, accuracy, rapidity of fire, freedom from jamming and everything else, the Ross rifle, out-distanced the Lee-Enfield three to one.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

I said I believed the hon. gentleman was right. I believe the Rosss rifle was the better of the two, but I have to say to my hon. friend that for some reason or other they came to a different conclusion; and I have to say further-and in this he will agree-that the test which was asked of the rifle with proper ammunition never was made, and therefore it is no wonder the rifle was condemned. But this is only reinforcing the point I make against the Government, that they did not discharge the duties they should have discharged. They should have ordered that test and applied it to the rifle and then we should have known which was the best weapon. There was no Canadian ammunition available and so the decision had to come that the rifle of the troops should be a Lee-Enfield. Be this as it may,

this in, no way discharges the responsibility of the Government, and I say to them that they are responsible for the blood which was lost on the battlefield when the troops were either not supplied with proper rifles or not supplied with proper munition. Is it conceivable that these troops were sent to the battlefield, that they were sent to meet the Germans, not properly equipped and not properly armed? They should have had not only the rifles, but the ammunition as well. They had the one but not the other. And what was the consequence?

The Government, in the face of these things, come and ask for an extension of time. Have they any right to it? Can they say: We have done our duty to the country. Do they come to Parliament with clear consciences that they have done everything they could? The record is against them, and, Sir, against that record no defence has been made which can relieve them from the strong condemnation which they receive at the hands of the Canadian people. Sir, there are many other things which I might urge against the Government, but I do not wish to press them.

Charges of graft have been made, but I do not intend to deal with them, and I will simply pass them over. I shall deal with the main point that I placed before the House, and that is that the Government cannot escape the responsibility for blood lost on the battlefield, which might have been spared, nor for the suffering of brave men who went to the battlefield, and gave up their lives and who were not properly supported by the Government that sent them.

But there is another matter, to which my hon. friend referred to-day in his speech. He made a statement in which I agree with him: that the country is in a dangerous position. In consequence of what? In consequence of the policy which has produced to-day this conscription measure. There is division among the people, and an election may create a further division. I say to my hon. friend that, for my part, I believe all these evils can be remedied by an appeal to the people. I agree with my hon. friend that there is. today a cleavage among the people in the country. The fact is there, and we cannot ignore it. It is too late to lament, and we must face it as resolute men. In a free country the only way to decide a question, and to cure all the evils that arise, is in an appeal to the people. I know that if we are to have an election, it will be one based largely upon appeals to passions and

prejudices. This is not the first time that such a thing has happened. It has happened in every election since I have been in public life, in my province and other provinces. We have been accused in one end of the country and in the other, but notwithstanding all this, it does not shake my faith in popular institutions, and I maintain that the only thing to do is to appeal to the people and ask them to pass judgment. We pretend to fight for democracy, and indeed we are fighting for democracy. The issue of the conflict which is now going on in Europe is democracy, and it is the voice of democracy which has inspired my attitude towards the Government on this question. My heart was very deep in this question, and when war broke out I stated, without hesitation, that Canada was in the war to the end, and I repeat, after almost three years of war, that Canada is in the war to the end. But when I stated that I did not believe in compulsion-nor do I yet-it was not under compulsion that we went into this war. We went into it from higher and nobler motives, to take our share of the sacrifice to promote a good cause. We did not go into it under compulsion, and I would have hoped that, to the end, we should have remained in that position, and acted upon those higher principles, never resorting to compulsion, in order to do our share in this war. I still believe it would be possible to do our share by voluntary enlistment, by appealing to the great heart and soul of the Canadian people, all provinces included, I except none whatever.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

The Government have come to another conclusion. They said that they would resort to compulsion. When they made that statement, I said that, for my part, I did not believe in that policy. I would rather stand by the policy of the Australian people, who rejected conscription, but are in the war, as we shall ourselves be, to the very end. I asked them to refer the question to the people, after the method of the most advanced democracy, and that request was rejected. Not content with rejecting the request which I made for a referendum, today we are asked to discard altogether the sacred right of the people which is guarded by the constitution. These are no longer British institutions; these are simply, not German, but Prussian institutions, and to agree to the resolution of my hon. friend under the circumstances would be an abdication of responsible government

and a denial of democracy and of the rights of a free people.

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LIB

Michael Clark

Liberal

Mr. MICHAEL CLARK (Red Deer):

I

rise to put myself on record in opposition to a considerable portion of the views which have been advanced by my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier). I do so, Sir, as I think every one in the House will admit, with perhaps the clearest record for consistency upon this question. My right hon. friend has referred to the fact that there was a great deal of evidence at certain times during the war, that there was a disposition, on the part at least of some of the hon, gentlemen who sit opposite, to have an election. It would be pertinent for me to ask my right hon. friend, did he approve of that disposition when it was shown on the other side of the House? I do not think he did. There was a time when every one in this House was in agreement with me on this question, and at that time my right hon. friend disapproved of the election tendency of certain hon. gentlemen opposite. He now fixes his approval by imitating their course of action. Personally, I have no brief to defend those who wish for an election during war time. They sit upon that or upon this side of the House. I am certain that the course of this debate will be viewed with very considerable surprise by the people of this country. Those of our people who are gifted with any fair amount of imagination and of memory cannot fail to contrast the proceedings in this House a year ago with the proceedings which have taken place to-day. Up to a certain point, I am bound to say that the proceedings today were an exact replica of what happened a year ago. I do not think the Prime Minister of this country has ever delivered a speech with which he should have more reason to be satisfied than the speech with which he presented this resolution to the House. It was a consistent speech. It was cogent in its argument. It was manifestly sincere, and when, the events of to-day are read and weighed by the people of this country, I believe the opinion of the people will be recorded in favour of that potent and consistent speech.

I do not want to amplify-I am sure I pould not improve-most of the arguments in the speech of the Prime Minister. I will, however, take the liberty of referring to a few of them and in doing so try to meet some of the points that have been raised by my right hon. friend. There was much that he said to which I can take no exception. The position of this question is not quite the same as it was last year.-

fSir Wilfrid Laurier.]

We cannot go on extending the term of Parliament indefinitely. But, if so far as the battle-front iis concerned, there is any difference between the position of last year and that of this year, it is that the position of Canada's Itroops on the battle-front to-day is vastly more precarious this year than it was last year. This beinig the fact on .the battle-front, I am bound 'to say to my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) that I personally have not ithe necessary acrobatic qualities to take a position diametrically apposed to that which I took last year.

My right hon. friend, in the course of his remarks, said that he did not attach undue importance to the constitutional question. In his impassioned and eloquent peroration, he made the constitution everything. He stood upon the constitution of this country and upon it alone. That is an inconsistency which I leave with himself, but I take the liberty to refer, nevertheless, to the constitutional question. Does my right hon. friend, or does any hon. member on this side of the House, contend for a moment that they have no regard for constitutional or parliamentary procedure in Great . Britain? Where did we-where did the world learn constitutional and parliamentary procedure? I have heard my right hon. friend discourse, in terms the most eloquent, on the mother of parliaments, which we all imitate. What are the facts about the mother of parliaments? The people of Great Britain do not forget the constitution there. They have Zeppelin raids over the city of London. They have bombs dropped amongst the children in the schools there. They know what the war means, and they are apprised, as my right hon. friend was for two years apprised, of the war's seriousness. The Parliament sitting in Westminster today has been seven and one-half years in office, and next November, when its present terms expires, it will have been eight years in office. That is my answer upon the constitutional question. They knew something of constitutional and parliamentary procedure in Great Britain, and that is what they have done.

I want to pass on to endorse a few more of the positions of my right hon. friend the Prime Minister. He said, very correctly, that the inevitable result of a general election would be a division of the country. We have that now, I admit, and the fault for it does not lie in Alberta, but I am prepared to contend that we would have not only a divided country, but a paralyzed country as the result of a general election.

My hon. friend from St. John (Mr. Pugs-ley) says that we have division now, and that an election would he a Sunday school picnic compared with the division we have. He says that the 'business of getting recruits has been taken out of the hands of the Government; that it has been taken out of the hands of Parliament; that it has been taken out of the hands of the people. Is that the only war work that is going on in the country? What about the Patriotic Fund, *a fund in support of which Liberals and Tories throughout this country, forgetting their party differences and centering their activities only upon the great issue which is before the world today, the greatest which has ever occupied the attention of civilized man and civilized nations, have united in public meetings and are uniting every week, almost every day of every week, in public meetings and in picnics to raise money voluntarily, and so shoulder at least some of the terrible burden that is being borne by our boys in the trenches? Does my right hon. friend contend that during the two months during which an election is going on those meetings will be held? Those people who are at present engaged in those meetings will then, on the contrary, be engaged perhaps in the discussion of the respective blame attaching to the two parties as to the merits of the Ross rifle. Has my hon. friend from St. John not heard of Red Cross work? Has he not heard of Belgian Relief? I contend that the inevitable result of a general election during the war will be to paralyse the efforts of our people along all those lines, yes, and to paralyse them in a way which will make it almost impossible to resume them.

I go further that that. What is to be the issue in an election? What is the dividing issue upon which we are to fight? On the great and pverwhelming question of to-day there is only one issue. It is " Win the War." Every one on that side *says so-not every one on this side says so. But, my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) says so. He has said so in so many words in the speehh which he has delivered to the House to-night. Then, there can be no issue before the people on the main questions, the only questions which are engaging the attention, not only of this country, but of the civilised world to-day. Then, what will be the issue? What *is the alternative policy to winning the war? There is only one possible answer. It is " Winning the elections." If we analyse these things down to the bottom, we are

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compelled, with all charity, to conclude that this election is being forced on at this time by a refusal of extension, with a view, not to helping the war, not to saving the Empire, but to exchanging the people who are in office for those who are opposed to them for the purpose of securing the sweets of office. In other words, those who are notoriously doing least to win this war are forcing this country into the turmoil of a general election, when the world and all that is best in it are being animated by the spirit of service, of sacrifice, and of unselfishness, and those people are doing so for the most selfish of all reasons-the satisfaction of petty, personal ambitions, when the isafety of the world and of civilization is at stake.

I, Sir, should hesitate to stand as one of a group of the only utterly selfish men to he found in the British Empire or in the civilized world at the present time. If there is no issue of policy in an election, upon what does an election necessarily turn? We have not been left in any doubt in this House to-night as to that point. The election necessarily turns on personalities. It must do so. If there is no difference of principle-and there is not between my two right hon. friends, because they both say: We want to win the war- the election inevitably degenerates into a strife of personalities. We have had ample evidence of that to-night. The die is cast on the principle laid down by my right hon. friend (Sir Robert Borden) and endorsed by my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier). We are going to have an election. The leader of the Opposition has got his work in early; he has delivered his first election speech to-night. I do not purpose following his example very far. At the same time, the merits of the Ross rifle constitute a subject upon which my right hon. friend is skating upon very thin ice. I do not know exactly what he thinks about the Ross rifle, because in one breath he told us that its use had cost us the lives of many of our boys, and then in the next breath he agreed with the ex-Minister of Militia (Sir Sam Hughes) that it was the better rifle of the two. I suppose he remembered at that moment that the Ross rifle was the precious pet of an hon. gentleman now gone from us who for many years was Minister of Militia in the Liberal Government. If he does not remember it, I remember very well hearing the hon. member for Pic-tou (Mr. Macdonald) engage in an impassioned defence of the Ross rifle in this House of Commons, and indulge in jeers at those in England who ventured to ques-

tion the omniscience of the Government, it being the Government of my right hon friend who now leads the Opposition. I do not say that to get the other side of this [DOT]argument right, I say it to give an illustra tion of what is going to happen in a general election. If you cease to fight on principles you descend to personalities. Does my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) view that with equanimity? That question is bound to be asiked. If we come to that-point, does my right hon. friend contend that with the driving force behind him, if he becomes Prime Minister of this country, he will have a more coherent force, a more determined force for the winning of the war than is now sitting behind my right hon. friend the Prime Minister? Does the coherence of his force, does the strength of the determination of one considerable portion of his force, show itself by driving a Cabinet Minister who is at present in favour of winning the war into the refuge of a cabin on board a steamer, for taking a particular view as to how it should be won. Does my right hon. friend contend that he will derive enormous strength for the conduct of this war from people who chase a British soldier from Fletcher's Field in Montreal, into a tramcar, and then break the windows of the car? There will be many more subjects arise when we descend to a personal fight than the subject of the Boss rifle. If it was left to the question of the Ross rifle, I am not at all sure that my right hon. friend would not have the better of the argument.

But the question will inevitably be asked, if you determine to settle this on the line of personalities: Who are the people most likely to conduct this war to a satisfactory conclusion? And I venture to say that, so faT as clearness of motive is concerned, so far as determination is concerned, so faT as working in season and out of season, day and night, with a single eye to victory, for the great principles that are at stake upon the battlefields of Europe to-day, there is no man in Canada who is fit to stand in the same company as my right hon. friend the leader of the Government.

We have ample evidence given to us that the faults of the Government will be the main subject of a general election. Will the exposure of the faults of the Boss rifle from the Atlantic to the Pacific, will the detailing of incidents or supposed incidents such as have constituted the first electioneering speech of my right hon. friend the

VHr. M. Clark.]

leader of the Opposition, help to win this' war? Will it encourage recruiting? I venture to think that a campaign conducted by my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition, pure as are his own motives, great Imperial statesman as he has been-and I say it without one single reservation, I say it with a full heart and with full sincerity-but pure as are his motives he knows that to expose these facts from, one end of the country to the other must have the effect of deterring recruiting and making people wonder whether this w.ar is worth pursuing; and paralysed as his hands will be during the war by what must be one of the main origins of his power; lacking the driving force on grounds that I do not want to amplify, but which I look upon with sorrow, he will not be in a position, he cannot be in a position, to go on with this war with the determination that has characterized the composite supporters of the war.

For the good of the country, for the purity of our politics, the next general election ought not to be fought upon the faults of the Government. Every Administration suffers for its faults, and this Administration will be no exception to that rule. But when, the exposure of the faults of the Government take the mythical form of stories of the jamming of rifles and the weeping of men in the trenches, it constitutes not only an ignoble campaign but an obstacle to the further successful prosecution of the war, and I venture to think that a general election carried on by my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) along the lines that he has taken to-night will not only divide Canada, but will paralyse Canada; it will put Canada out of the war and mark her as a degenerate and inferior portion of the British Empire.

Now I come to another of the arguments of my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) as to the absence of the soldiers and the impossibility of taking their votes. My right hon. friend descanted eloquently upon democracy. Has he no regard for that portion of democracy that is across the seas? Has he no regard for the 400,000 men who have given up everything they have, or are prepared to give it up? My deepest rooted objection to an election in war time -and this was the ground upon which I opposed the Soldiers' - Voting Bill, because I held there should be no election during the war

is that we propose to conduct an unseemly wrangle for jobs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and concerning how the

country should he governed in the absence of those heroes but for whose efforts we should not have any country to govern.

I have tried to amplify a few of the arguments of my right hon. friend the Prime Minister. I hhve said that in the presentation of those arguments, the debate lost nothing in dignity from its character of last year. This afternoon when the Prime Minister sat down, I expected a repetition of what happened last year. I expected a repetition at least to this extent: that my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition would have followed the right hon. gentleman who leads the Government. I thought we had come to the moment of abdication on the part of my right hon. friend. Last year the speech of the Prime Minister was backed up by the leader of the Opposition in a speech of moving and stately eloquence. Canada was committed to undivided efforts for the winning of this waT, and that speech of moving and stately eloquence was so able and so cogent that it deprived the rest of this Assembly of any desire to speak. But what happened this year was that a lieutenant (Mr. Graham) of my right hon. friend arose and made what I venture to characterize as a dilatory and by no means straightforward motion; that is why I voted against it. Everybody in this country, fortunately for myself, knows that I favour the substance and principle of his amendment, but it was a right amendment introduced at a wrong time. Having sp far endeavoured to attain, and I think having attained, .some character of straightforwardness in the minds of the Canadian people, I thought I could venture to run the risk of any misinterpretation that *might come by my vote, by being straightforward still and running no risk of being thought to have taken part in what after aP was more trickery than statesmanship. I am naturally precluded by the rules of this House from saying anything on that amendment, and I had no great desire to speak to it because I have spoken on it again -and again, and the people of this country know where I stand on the question of direct taxation and the conscription of wealth to the war. Following the speech of the hon. member for South Renfrew (Mr. Graham) we had a speech from my hon. friend from St. John (Mr. Pugsley), and then finally we come to the main subject before the House.

I did think when I rose, that I would make an appeal to the right hon. gentlemen who lead the respective sides in this House. I cannot help contrasting what

happened last year with what has happened this year. No one can turn his back upon his previous opinions with more delightful grace than my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier). Long practice brings one to perfection along certain lines. However, I am bound to say that if the people of this country will read the speeches of last year and will read the speeches of to-night they will come to the conclusion that the Prime Minister's position is the same, that the conditions are the same in the main, that the needs are the same, but that the change is in my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition. What that change is, I have already characterized, and I do not think the people of this country will be in any doubt about it.

I wish that, even now, the two right hon. gentlemen who lead the respective parties in this House would consider a moderate proposition. I have stated, taking my illustration from what was said by my right hon. friend who preceded me (Sir Wilfrid Laurier), that an election on the grounds I have mentioned would be a misfortune for the country; I have said that it should not be fought upon the faults of the Government; I have said that it cannot be fought upon a difference of issue as to policy, because both sides pretend to have the same policy. It would be a splendid thing for this country if, even now, moderate counsels should prevail, and a course of procedure that would redound to the lasting honour of Canada. What should the next election be fought upon? When .the war is nearing an end, of which there is no sign at the present moment, the question of the reconstruction of Canada will come up for consideration, because it must be remembered that the party returned to power in an election now will be in power for four or five years and will have the direction of the destinies of this country along certain lines of policy. When the war is nearing a conclusion, and when the passions raised by it are being hushed by the process of time, the issues of reconstruction will arise; and then old divisions, old landmarks dividing the one party from the other would re-appear. I say it would be a splendid thing for this country if we have maintained our union as to the war to the finish-such union as we have had-if we had kept our people at least united, because after all it must be remembered that any disunion there is, is largely inside this House. Our people are still united. I get as many protests against an election in war time from Liberals as 1 do from Conservatives. I may say I get even more, be-

cause Liberals naturally writ-e to me. Our people are still united, and it would be a splendid thing to have kept that union up until the end of the war, and not allowed those other issues to arise. Fix a time-a more limited time than the Government proposes, if you like-and let those issues be debated at another session of Parliament, knowing that those are the things which divide the two sides of politics in this country; and having put our policies of reconstruction before the nation, go to the country upon them.

The Government is asking for a year's extension. The longest extension which has ever been given in the Old Country is eight months. The two right hon. gentlemen have a great responsibility. One has discharged his responsibility. I leave my Tight hon. friend beside me (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) to deal with his in his own way. They enjoy in an unparalleled degree the confidence of their fellow-citizens, and I say it would be a great thing for Canada and the Empire if they could get together yet and agree to an eight months' extension, which would take us over until next June. In all probability by that time the war will have passed out of its acute stages, and the considerations which arise to-day will not then exist. I put this to my right hon. friends in the best spirit, as a patriot, as a lover of the country, as a lover of the Empire, and as a lover of the great cause at issue in this war. I feel, however, the appeal will be in vain. If they do not come together, we are going to have a general election. Well, in that case, we shall have to say, let it come. Let the graves of our dead be desecrated. There are twenty thousand or thirty thousand Canadian soldiers at present lying in British and French hospitals. Let their hearts be wrung, as their bodies have already been wrung-so that we may settle which side is most to blame for the Ross rifle, and whether it would not be well to have a change in the personnel of the Government at the present time. My views as expressed in these few words are perhaps better put in an article in the London Daily News and Leader, of April 18 last; which I will read to the House,-The Daily News and Leader is not too indulgently friendly to the present Government at Westminster, and April 18 was the day after the extension was carried in the British House. It said:

The Bill further prolonging the life of the present Parliament passed its second reading yesterday. There was no serious opposition to the proposal, and there should be none. An election at the present time would be an out-TMr. M. Clark.]

rage, which the country would very justly resent. There is no issue before the constituencies, and there is only one task for Parliament. It is to get on with the war. An election, so far from promoting this object, would very gravely interfere with it, and would' raise political issues which the country does not want to see raised now and which cannot be settled in the midst of the dominating preoccupations of the war. We hope this will be the last extension necessary, but this extension is, on every ground, imperative.

As I said, I have not much hope of my appeal bearing fruit, after the very firm and determined stand taken by my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition, and we shall have to face an election. We shall have to go on with it. Well, the responsibility will be fixed by the people of this country, and I do not think that, after the issues are fully debated and the circumstances fully understood, there will be much doubt as to where to place the blame or how to judge the motives which have brought about the election. For my part,

I would say, if the die is cast the sooner this debate comes to an end the better. Let us clear our minds of cant, and let us clear our conduct of sham. Let us get to the election. If there is to be an issue, let us get to it. If this matter should go to a vote, I would vote for the extension of Parliament. I should be afraid to do otherwise. I should be afraid to take any step, and I have not taken any step during nearly three years; which would cast ' any doubt anywhere that any but one public object I cared for at the moment, and that is the winning of the war.

I should be afraid to take any step which would lead me to fear that the thirty thousand Canadian corpses in France and Belgium might possibly rise out of their graves in the shape of ghosts and point their gaunt fingers at me as having at the end of the third year of the wan given up the great task, or tried to persuade Canada to give up the gregt task of being a united country and doing her full share for victory, peace, freedom, justice and humanity.

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Frank Oliver

Liberal

Hon. FRANK OLIVER (Edmonton):

Mr, Speaker, it has certainly been a most interesting experience to find our most pronounced and thorough democrat in this House (Mr. M. Clark), or, I suppose he would claim, in the Dominion of Canada, appealing to the dead in France and Flanders as the justification for his opposing the most elementary principle of democracy. For all of my hon. friend's approval of the speeches and actions of the right hon. the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Borden)-and I am willing to agree with him as to the high

motives and great ability of the Prime Minister-I want to say to him that it is not the Prime Minister, it is not this Government, it ,is not this Parliament that is fighting this war. It is not they who are paying for this war. It is the people-the common people-of Canada, the taxpayers, the men and women who have fought the war as far as it has been fought, who will have to fight it as far as it will yet have to be fought, iand whom we will have to trust to fight it. Surely these are people whom we can trust to govern themselves. Are the people of Canada to be guided by the precedent of England in all matters political? It has seemed good to the people of England to go through a portion of this war experience without a general election, although a general election was due.

It has seemed good to us in Canada to do the same up to the present time. But there is this radical difference. In

11 p.m. England every constituency that became vacant has been filled at a by-election. The opinion of the people has thus been taken from time to time. But there are twenty-three seats' in Canada vacant to-day; some of them have been vacant for ,a year or two years, and there has been no by-election.

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July 17, 1917