March 28, 1922

CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Well, what did I say? I stated that the hon. gentleman had stated his attitude to be-and I assume he spoke for the Government-not to grant any more cash bonuses.

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

The difference between the right hon. gentleman and myself is that he wants to impose his own will, whereas I want to respect the will of the Veterans.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I will leave the hon. gentleman's retort to answer itself. The point he rose to interrupt me upon was that I had misinterpreted his words. I have read his words, and they are precisely what I said. He announced as Minister of Soldiers' Civil ^Re-establishment his opposition to further cash grants, and the Prime Minister in his statement did the same thing. If, however, in the face of this debate, if in view of the position they are in to-day, the Government wants to lecant or modify its position, there should be ample opportunity to do so. If they are taking the stand, no further cash grants, let them say so. If they want to change from their attitude of yesterday, let them make the change. If they do not intend to change, if they are against further cash grants, then why by interruptions lead any hon. gentleman to any doubt upon the question. They stated yesterday they were opposed to further cash grants. There can be no doubt at all about that. Those are the words of the Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment, who.presides over the department affected. Those are the words reiterated by the Prime Minister himself, and even in to-day's debate is there any hon. gentleman who would not take it, after the Prime Minister's speech, that his Government had definitely decided against further cash grants to soldiers as intimated in the resolution of the Convention of 1919? No. Of the repudiation there is no doubt. Of the making of the pledge there is no doubt. Of its reiteration there is no doubt. Of the authority of the Prime Minister for both the making and the reiteration there is no doubt. Of the repudiation we have had confirmation by one after the other in the debate yesterday. Now, is this Parliament to decide that the making of the pledge followed by its repudiation-the first step in relation to their platform since they came into power- is to go without the rebuke of this Parliament? Shall this House by its vote declare

that that sort of conduct meets with its approval? This resolution is an opportunity for hon. gentlemen to say that it does not, and I shall vigorously support the resolution.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Minister of Finance) :

Mr. Speaker: down in my old home town some years ago a worthy aider-man won undying fame by a single sentence. He had been present at a discussion occupying considerable time, at which speeches had been made very much like the one to which we have just listened by the right hon. leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen), and at last he said, "Mr. Chairman, I move that we quit nonsense and proceed to business." We have business to do in this Parliament, hut my right hon. friend and his supporters seem to think that some good end will be served by interrupting business with the motion that has been made to-day, and I pay it a very excellent compliment when I speak of it as nothing worse than nonsense. Does my right hon. friend think any good purpose is to be served by constantly reviving the campaign issues? Does he think he can stand examination on these tests himself?

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CON
LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

I venture to say that if any one takes anything like the pains he has taken to look over the work and the speeches preceding the election, he will find cases where my right hon. friend has made statements which have not been followed by results.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I invite the hon. gentleman to pursue the inquiry.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

My right hon. friend makes a serious denial. I will remind him of an incident in this House that most people will remember. The right hon. gentleman gave what was equivalent to a pledge that there would be no dissolution of Parliament until there had been a redistribution.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I invite the hon. gentleman to quote my words, and he will find that he is not correct.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

I did not expect this "nonsense," and, therefore, I have not the quotation, but if this debate goes on, or perhaps a similar debate, I will produce the passage, and I will show what the hon. gentleman said in this House, at the opening of last session, during the debate on the Address, when he was asked to dissolve the

Soldiers' Bonus

House, and when it was argued that the government did not represent the people. The Montreal Gazette at that time endorsed the position of the right hon. gentleman and declared that it would he an outrage to dissolve Parliament until the West had obtained its representation. The hon. gentleman told us very truly that the West was going to be entitled to so many more members, and he said "If we were to dissolve the House on any issue in advance of that time we would be doing a great injustice to the western provinces." He has done that injustice. He has perpetrated what the Montreal Gazette declared would be an outrage by the dissolution of Parliament. We are going to have a period now of five years during which the western provinces are going to be denied proper representation. My hon. friend has asked for an instance, and I give it to him now. With further investigation, we might give him other instances. Soon after my right hon. friend became Prime Minister he went out west and in Calgary made his declaration in regard to the tariff policy, saying that the country had a right to know what tariff they were going to have, and declaring that before Parliament was dissolved they would have before them a tariff revision in black and white.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Better get the speech and quote it.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

Does the hon. gentleman deny it?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

He is not correctly quoting what I said.

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LIB
LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

The Speech from the Throne promised tariff revision. So far as that is concerned, the hon. gentleman monkeyed with the tariff question for years. They had Sir Thomas White telling the House that the tariff revision was overdue and that it ought to come that year, but it did not come, and then another year passed, and it did not come. Then they had the Tariff Commission which wandered all over the country. They made a solemn declaration in the Speech from the Throne that during that session they would bring down tariff revision. Is that statement true, or do I invent it?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

If the hon gentleman invites an answer, I will give it. The words he quotes were not used. What was stated was that a tariff revision would

be brought down in due course. The interposition of the American situation on the tariff question was good and sufficient reason for postponing it.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

The right hon. gentleman not only put in the Speech from the Throne that statement, but instructed the then member for Prince Edward Island, Mr. Mclsaac, in moving the address, to declare that the tariff revision was imperative. It was said, "Now is the day of tariff revision." Was that true? With that promise in the Speech from the Throne they let the session go by, and dissolved Parliament without a tariff revision at all. What right has the right hon. gentleman to talk of the honour of Parliament in the way he does, after these two instances I have given? My hon. friend did these two things, and I have no doubt if we would make an investigation we would find many more. Again I say, he cannot afford to challenge discussion along these lines. The question whether that resolution with regard to the soldiers' bonus at the convention of 1919 was or was not a wise one,

I am not going to discuss, but this I do say, that it was not an issue in the recent election. If it were correct that it was an issue affecting the elections recently held, there would be some ground for the hon. gentleman's complaint, but we all know that, whatever may have been said at that convention, at the time the election came on that question had ceased to be an issue in this country. I had the pleasure of taking some part in the election. I spoke at a number of meetings. I never mentioned the soldiers' bonus, and never heard it mentioned. My opponent never mentioned it. It never was an issue at all. So that I say, Mr. Speaker, that there is no reason in the world why that should be treated as an issue affecting the election.

My right hon. friend talks of the appeals to the people on which we won the election. He cannot talk on any appeal on which be won his election. Whenever he appealed he was met from ocean to ocean, to a degree tnat was never experienced before in the history of Canada, by a repudiation of his Government. The soldiers' bonus was not an issue in the election, so far as any knowledge of mine goes. I never spoke of it, and my opponent never spoke of it. I spoke at many meetings in many parts of the country, I never heard it mentioned. I was never asked a question about it. It may have been an issue in former times. The country accepted the judgment of the

Soldiers' Bonus

committee of the House, presided over by that excellent member, Mr. Cronyn, as a settlement of the soldier bonus question. Before that committee the door was opened to consider any matters that might arise in connection with soldiers. But when he says that was an issue at the last election, and that on that issue we came back to power, I tell my hon. friend he is entirely mistaken.

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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Hon. T. A. CRERAR (Marquette) :

I do not propose to detain the House for any length of time in a discussion of this matter which has been pretty vigorously threshed out by my hon. friends on both sides of the House. The crux of the amendment moved by my right hon. friend is that it levels the charge of insincerity and of disregard to the niceties of political honour against the Government and my hon. friends who sit opposite. That is a very serious accusation to level, and if I were convinced that it had substantial foundation. I would have no hesitation in supporting the amendment of my right hon. friend. But, Mr. Speaker, I am not so convinced, and I will very briefly give the House my reasons. I do not now propose to enter into any discussion as to whether the resolution dealing with this matter passed at the Liberal convention, 1919, was passed in good faith or not. I have no reason to believe that it was passed other than in good faith, and for the reason that every one in this House and out of it knows that at that particular moment, in the midsummer of 1919, our soldiers were being demobilized, they were being returned from Europe and there was a feeling throughout the whole Dominion, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, that everything we could do for the returned men who fought so gloriously overseas was only what Canada should do for them. That was the atmosphere at that time. But if I say to the Government, " Because you had a resolution approving the principle of a soldiers' bonus at your convention in 1919, you must disregard all that has taken place since then and implement that resolution," then I am going a little too far. That is the position I take in this connection, and let me very briefly state my reasons. The Liberal party then in Opposition in this House might be, and probably were, perfectly consistent at that time. But if public opinion throughout Canada has changed upon that question in the last three years since June, 1919, and if other things have intervened, then, in

my judgment, the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and my hon. friends opposite are not acting dishonourably in stating that the time has passed for the giving of a bonus to the returned soldiers. That is the position I take.

What are the reasons? We have our financial situation for one thing. I speak so much about it, I am afraid I make myself wearisome sometimes upon the point; but I think anyone who studies the financial position of Canada is aware that it is one of the gravest things facing this country. We know that the finances of Canada will not, at the present time, stand a vast contribution by way of a soldier's bonus. We recognize that fact; we recognize also the fact that three years ago a definite policy was followed by the government of the day, in my judgment a wise policy, a policy endorsed by Parliament at that time, for giving assistance to returned soldiers, and already a sum amounting to almost a hundred million dollars has been spent in the soldiers' land settlement scheme. My right hon. friend (Mr. Meighen) brought in the soldiers' land settlement scheme; I supported him at that time, and I think yet that, while th6 scheme may have had defects in its operation, it was soundly conceived. I am quite willing to admit that my right hon. friend, and the then government of which he was the head, endeavoured to administer that scheme in the best interest of the returned soldiers of this country. For these considerations, I cannot agree with my right hon. friend and the mover and the seconder of this resolution, that because the present Government, in view of changed circumstances, cannot come forward and provide a cash bonus for the soldiers, it is acting in bad faith or dishonestly. I am anxious, as I am sure all other hon. members are, that good faith in matters of public policy should be observed. I must, however, confess that 1 am afraid there is possibly a little bit more behind the moving of this amendment than the mere vindication of political honour in this House, and I am led to that conclusion by a statement made by the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens) who spoke to the resolution. In that statement, my hon. friend said to the Government: "You should either implement the plank in your platform, or state that you took an unfair advantage of us in the election." That is placing the reasons for a consideration of this question upon altogether too low a level

Soldiers' Bonus

and, consequently, I cannot agree with my right hon. friend and his supporters in the amendment which they have moved. The amendment, as the leader of the Opposition has stated, is a direct vote of confidence in the Government-

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Want of confidence.

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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

Yes, I would scarcely expect my right hon. friend to move a motion of confidence in the Government. It is a direct motion of want of confidence in the Government. What does that mean if we look at the situation fairly? If we carry the thing to its logical conclusion, it means that if this motion carries, this Government is out and we shall have another election. I do not think my hon. friends to my right for a moment expected or desired that this would be carried to that conclusion, and for that reason I shall oppose the amendment of the hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Arthurs.)

A good deal has been said in the debate about the conduct of the election. I trust that in this House we shall soon get away from an examination of what happened prior to December 6. I could tell you, Mr. Speaker, in all confidence, and I will state it here for the full information of the House, that if I and my hon. friends around me desired to pursue that line, we could bring a very emphatic indictment against not only my right hon. friend who leads the Opposition (Mr. Meighen), but some of my hon. friends on the other side of the House. Possibly in the course of the election I may have said something; for in the heat of elections, we sometimes get beyond the bounds of political proprieties or what should.be the political proprieties. But I cannot see that much good will come to this House from continuing these discussions.

As I have already stated, this Parliament has very serious business to do. Let us get down to the consideration of that business. When my hon. friends opposite are not pursuing a course that I conceive to be in the best interest of the country, then I stand here to tell them so, and to oppose them in that course. That is the angle from which I approach my duties in this House; and because the amendment moved by the hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Arthurs) approaches it from another angle, I cannot support him, and I shall oppose it.

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March 28, 1922