February 25, 1921

UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

There must be a Government. -

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UNION
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Therefore, does not a vote for the amendment mean voting that the Opposition should be in instead of this Government?

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UNION
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

There must be a Government whether there is an election or not.

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON:

My right hon.

friend could, I presume, advise the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

But there must be a Government. [DOT]

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON:

My right hon.

friend would look after that. I do not think he is so very touchy, so thin-skinned, that he would not be willing to continue in office for a little while in order to get things straightened up and until the people

could pronounce on the question whether he was to continue or not. Governments, even after they are defeated in the country, always continue to hold office for a short time.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

It is not a case of being thin-skinned or thick-skinned; it is a case of proper practice. Will the hon. gentleman undertake to support me in a course of that sort?

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON:

I am not supporting my right hon. friend anyway, and I do not purpose allowing him to coax me into supporting him unless he changes his views very much on the financial question, the question of the tariff. Many things might happen. It would be the duty of my right hon. friend, not mine, to decide what the consequences would be. He might, if he saw fit, ask for a dissolution of Parliament and carry on the Government, as he should, until after an election took place. He might, if he saw fit, resign. In that event, the Governor General would, I understand, call on some one else whom the right hon. gentleman would suggest. I think the usual practice is for the Governor General to ask the Prime Minister for a suggestion. My right hon. friend understands these things all right.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I think I do, but I

was trying to lead the hon. gentleman to understand them too, and not to vote heedless of the consequences, and not to say that he is not voting confidence in someone else when he votes want of confidence in this Government.

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON:

I am not voting confidence in anyone else when I vote want of confidence in this Government. The course which I have mentioned is open to my right hon: friend, and he knows it is open to him. He might resign and undoubtedly he would be asked to name his successor. He might name anybody he likes, but that is not of my business. The question then would be whether the man he names would undertake to form a Government, and indeed the matter might again come back to my right hon. friend. So many things might happen that I purpose doing my duty and letting the consequences take care of themselves. My right hon. friend drew me off the track, and I will try to get back to it although I do not think he wants me to deal with the subject.

In the four by-elections in constituencies formerly held by the Opposition, the seats

are still held by the Opposition, and 1 think I am right in saying that the Government had so little confidence in themselves and in their popularity

11 p.m. that they did not dare to put up a candidate in any one of those four constituencies. Twelve other seats were vacated which were formerly held by the Government, having been carried in 1917 by most tremendous majorities. Indeed, if providence had handpicked them for my right hon. friend, he could not have done better. In four of those twelve constituencies newly-appointed ministers were candidates, and any of us who know anything about election matters know that such by-elections are not real tests of public feeling. There is always a disposition to support a newly-appointed Cabinet minister, and that is a very hard thing to overcome. It is very seldom that a newly-appointed Cabinet minister going back to the country for re-election has been defeated. Another thing that hardly ever happens is that the majority by which such a man was elected in the previous election is reduced, and, indeed, I cannot think of many cases where that has happened. I am sure there is no case on record in any civilized country where the majority has been so tremendously reduced as it has in this case.

As regards these four seats, in the 1917 election, one went to the Government by acclamation and the other three were carried by the Government by a gross majority of between 20,000 and 21,000. This is worth considering for a little while, and I invite my right hon. friend to pay attention to it if he wants to know something about consequences, because it is of a very great consequence. In the byelections, one of those four seats went by acclamation to the Government. I have not been able ,to get the official figures, but so far as I can gather, the total majority received in the other three by-elections was somewhere around 7,000 or 8,000, so that the majority in those constituencies, where they were electing newly appointed Cabinet ministers, was reduced by about 12,000 or 13,000. Such a thing has never been heard of before in any civilized country in the world. There never has been so clear an indication to any ministry that ever existed that it was not wanted any longer.

But that is not all. Outside of those, there were eight other by-elections in constituencies formerly held by the Government, formerly carried by tremendous majorities or by acclamation. Of these

eight, three were carried in 1917 by the Government by acclamation, in two others the opposition candidate lost his deposit, and in another he came about as near as he could to losing it without actually doing so. He was saved by only a few votes. In another election the constituency was carried by a majority of 2,157. In only one of these constituencies was there anything in the nature of a normal majority, and in that case the Government candidate had a majority of 308. To sum up, in the by-elections the Government won just one solitary seat out of eight, and in that constituency the Government candidate won by acclamation in 1917 and in the by-election the Government candidate only had a moderate majority. What about the others? In one of them the official Opposition candidate won. What about the other six? Why, the other six candidates are sitting right around me here.

Who has the confidence of the country now? How anyone can deceive himself to the extent of making himself imagine that the present Administration has the confidence of the country is something I cannot comprehend. It must be remembered that in three of these by-elections the Government had the advantage of entering a three or five-cornered fight. That meant that the opposition was divided. In West Peterborough, for instance, there was not a candidate in the field, so far as I know, except the Government candidate, who did not pronounce himself on this question of the Government's mandate. All, except the Government candidate, declared that the Government had exhausted its mandate and should go to the country. In that constituency the Government got about one-fourth or one-fifth of the vote, and 75 or 80 per cent of the people pronounced on -the very question we are dealing with here, and declared that the Government should go to the country. I apply the same language to this election that I used in the case of constituencies that ministers were contesting, and say that in this whole civilized world there has never been a case where the people showed so clearly and conclusively that they had no confidence in the Government. I challenge any member on the Government side to quote a single case.

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UNION
UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. LEVI THOMSON:

My hon. friend

can go to Ireland if he wants to. I am

not going there just now. I prefer Canada.

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UNION

Matthew Robert Blake

Unionist

Mr. BLAKE:

They have declared want

of confidence in the Government there?

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. THOMSON:

I believe that what I

have said would fully justify anyone in voting for this amendment, but I am not voting on these grounds alone. So far as I am concerned, the pronouncement on the tariff in the speech from the Throne is such that I, with my views, whether they be right or wrong, could not consistently vote for the Government on the question before uS. In fairness to myself, and to what I believe to be the views of the majority of my constituents, I could not possibly vote with the Government on this occasion as, to my mind, it would be a vote in support of the fiscal policy of the present Government. Whether I like it or not, I feel that I am compelled to vote for the amendment. I am not satisfied with it in some particulars, but I had nothing to do with its drafting; none of our group had a word to say with regard to it. We have to take the question as it stands, and in view of what I have said I cannot do otherwise than support the amendment.

On the motion of Mr. G. C. Wilson the debate was adjourned.

On the motion of the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen, the House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.

Monday, February 28. 1921.

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February 25, 1921