Mr. H. H. STEVENS (Vancouver Centre) :
Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) has brought up this subject -not that I agree with him, but in order that I may have this opportunity of expressing the view of one who comes from a great distance and is forced to remain in Ottawa practically during the whole session. It is all very well for hon. gentlemen who live within a few hours' journey from the Capital and who can give fair attention to their private affairs while the session is in progress to be anxious to restrict the hours of sitting of the House. But it is exceedingly unfair to those of us who come from a distance, who have to remain here during the whole session and who have no opportunity of attending to private business, that there should be two days of the week during which very little business is done, namely, Monday and Friday-the result of an ancient tacit arrangement between both sides of the House. It is generally understood that no contentious business will be carried on during those two days. When the House meets on Friday we note
that there has taken place a general exodus of hon. gentlemen who live eastward in Quebec and in eastern Ontario, and who leave Ottawa on the 3.30 or 4 o'clock train on Friday afternoon and remain away until Monday or Tuesday. On Friday night about nine o'clock nearly all the Ontario members, or a very large number of them, living west of Ottawa, in the vicinity of Toronto and in western Ontario, leave the city, and return, as a rule, on Tuesday morning. I submit that this is exceedingly unfair to those of us who are not privileged to communicate with our business associates at home or with our families. Now, I have no apology to nlake for speaking as I do, because during the thirteen sessions-I think it is-that I have been in the House I have only on one occasion missed more than seven days in a session; in many sessions it has been three or four days. I speak, therefore, with some conviction and with a considerable degree of feeling. I do not wish to make personal references, but I know how it is with myself. Business has suffered very seriously, and this condition could be remedied somewhat if hon. gentlemen attended the sittings of the House on Mondays and Fridays and evidenced on those days the same degree of interest in the business that they do on the other days of the week. If, moreover, we were to cut the speeches on ordinary occasions-excepting, perhaps, those of the mover and the seconder of a motion-down to about twenty minutes or half-an-hour, I think that would be a move in the right direction. But I submit to my hon. friend who moves this motion that nearly all the late sittings are occasioned by the participation in debate by hon. gentlemen who take very little interest in the business and who come in at the last moment when an important vote is about to be taken. I have seen it scores of times, and my hon. friend has seen it oftener than I have. An important subject is under consideration-we will say, the Budget, the speech from the Throne, or some other important matter-and it is generally understood, after a debate of perhaps two or three weeks, that a vote will be taken, say, on Tuesday. Well, under ordinary circumstances it is expected that the vote will be taken during the evening, but, one after another hon. gentleman whom, perhaps, we seldom see in the House and whom we seldom hear, get up and the debate drags on until two, three or four o'clock in the morning. That is invariably the case, so the condition which prevails is not the fault of those who regularly attend the sittings of
the House; it is not the fault of those of us, I contend, who come from the remoter sections of the country. It is largely the fault of such hon. gentlemen as I have described.
Now, I would not favour restricting the hours as suggested by the hon. gentleman, because it would simply mean the prolonging of the session and the imposing of greater hardships upon those who attend regularly the sittings of the House. In my estimation, the adoption of this proposed rule would do no good. But I would like to see the rules amended, as I moved in the House about two sessions ago, so as to restrict the length of speeches in debate. That, I think, would tend greatly to facilitate the business of the House. I further would like to see this unwritten law of no serious business being taken up on Monday and Friday entirely done away with, so that during the five days of the week that the House is sitting we may accomplish as much business as possible.
Subtopic: WEDNESDAY SITTING. REGULAR ADJOURNMENT AT ELEVEN O'CLOCK