Mr. ANDREW McMASTER (Brome):
Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to speak in this debate; but the placing in the discussion of the two amendments, and my attitude to one of them, makes it, it seems to me, incumbent upon me to utter a few words. As regards the last amendment moved by the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Shaw) in favour of economy, I find these words in the Address itself:
A strict economy in all public expenditures continues to be a necessity in the existing financial situation.
These words being incorporated in the Address, I cannot see the raison d'etre or real necessity for the sub-amendment and therefore I will vote against it. As regards the amendment moved by the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Hoey) I find myself obliged to take another position. I do so with considerable regret because I shall have to run counter, I am afraid, to the greater number, if not all, of the members of my own side of the House. Is there any objection to the material of the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Springfield? The amendment merely deals with the question of the reduc-
tion of customs duty and the desirability of having a downward revision of the tariff at this time. As the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding), in his instructive .and most able speech the other day, himself said:
The general sentiment contained in these two motions is largely of a sound, sane and sensible character.
With this certificate of character of the amendment given by the Minister of Finance himself, it is unnecessary, it seems to me, to labour the point and to insist upon the desirability of the amendment. The question which has been brought up by the Minister of Finance is the propriety of urging this resolution at the present time. I have taken some time in studying this question and I have come to a conclusion somewhat different from that arrived at by the minister. I advance my arguments with a certain amount of diffidence in view of the long experience and the great public services which the Minister of Finance has rendered to this country. The Minister of Finance takes the view that the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne and the debate connected with it are really a matter almost of form rather than a matter of real importance. "It is simply a resolution," he states, "politely acknowledging the speech which His Excellency has kindly addressed to the House and giving him the assurance that whatever matters are brought before us will receive our respectful consideration." That is quite accurate as a statement of form; I respectfully submit that it is not accurate as a statement of reality. In reality the Speech from the Throne does not emanate from the Governor General at all; it is merely put into his mouth by his advisers. The Speech from the Throne is the more or less sketchy pronouncement of the government as to their legislative programme for the session; and our discussion of it is not, I take it, merely a courteous interchange of compliments with the Governor General. It is a debate in which the mind of the nation is to be expressed, and I think that it is the more modem reality rather than what may have been and no doubt was in the past the fact. The question is to my mind an interesting one and I would refer the House to three authorities that I have before me. The first is Parliamentary Government in England by Todd, Vol. II. I find therein expressed the view which has been so well placed before the House by the Minister of Finance. On page 364 the author states:
Accordingly, it has gradually become the practice to refrain from moving an amendment to the Address in answer to the royal speech unless some great political objects were in view, and likely to be attained-
The Address-Mr. McMaster
Even under that interpretation of the situation, I take it that there is some great political object in view in the desire of a great number of the members of the House to have a downward revision of the tariff.
-or unless some assertion were made in the address to which the opposition found it impossible to assent.
And just while I am referring to this authority I should like to point out that amendments to the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne have been moved and been accepted by the government.
On January 16, 1840, the Duke of Wellington moved an amendment to the Lords' Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne wherein Her Majesty's approaching marriage with Prince Albert was announced, for the insertion of the word "Protestant" before the name of the Prince. Having shown that it was in conformity with precedent, the amendment was agreed to, notwithstanding the opposition of the Prime Minister. But the success of this amendment was attended with no political consequences, though the matter gave rise to much discussion, both in and out of Parliament.
I would next refer the House to a very much more modern .authority, Anson's Law and Custom of the Constitution. In Volume I on page 67 I read:
To this Address-
The Address we are now discussing-
-amendments may be moved, and thus the general policy of the government, as indicated by the Speech from the Throne, is brought under discussion.
This thought is more fully developed in another modern authority The Procedure of the House of Commons by Redlich, with an introduction by Sir Courtney Ilbert, who was one of the Clerks of the House of Commons at Westminster. At page 59 I read:
The King's Speech gives in broad outline the legislative programme of the session, comments upon the position of foreign affairs and the state of the Crown Colonies, and, in a special paragraph, of nearly invariable form, addressed to the Commons only, it promises an early submission of the estimates for the wants of the coming year. The course of the deliberations of Parliament is thus indicated, and they begin regularly with a debate upon the Speech and the Address in reply thereto. The general political character of the King's speech leads to the result
12 m. that the course of the debate upon it is untrammelled as to subject matter, a circumstance to which the modern adoption of the principle that general debates should be as much as possible avoided has given great importance. General criticism of the government from all imaginable points of view', demands for redress of grievances, the statement of aspirations and proposals of all kinds, are rendered possible. The whole policy of the country, domestic and foreign, is open to discussion. The form of procedure adopted is that, immediately upon the speech being communicated to the House by the Speaker, a motion for an Address in reply is proposed, by some member chosen beforehand, generally some young member on the government side, and seconded by another. Formerly the Address in reply followed closely the wording of the Speech, but in recent years it has become usual to frame it as a brief expression of the thanks of the House.
The further debate is carried on in the strict formal manner characteristic of English parliamentary procedure. Any body of political opinion represented in the House, any member who wishes thus early in the session to influence the Government's legislative programme at any point, or to call the attention of ministers or the public to any question, brings up what is desired in the form of an amendment to the address, proposing the addition of some words having reference to the question. .
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would respectfully submit that those are precisely the circumstances which confront us to-night. I take it that when this book of Todd's was written, some fifty years ago-the author's note to the introduction is dated Ottawa, February, 1869-it was considered proper even at that time for the government to accept an amendment. Surely when this custom has developed into the holding of a general debate and the making of proposals of all sorts, the government is not precluded from taking any of these suggestions which they may deem best and making them their own. That leads me to the conclusion that those of us who think it is proper to introduce this resolution at this time are not only following what, it seems to me, is indicated by common sense, but also is sanctioned by the best modern constitutional practice.
Why is it wiser to introduce this resolution now rather than during the budget debate? It would seem to me, and I submit it with a considerable degree of confidence, that the budget is reached as a rule somewhat late in the session and represents generally the final decision of the government as to the manner in which it proposes to raise money for the use of the state, and that when that moment has arrived it would require a considerable amount of grace and forbearance on the part of the government, after all their plans had been laid and arrangements made for the raising of money for national purposes, to revise their plans and accept suggestions coming from another quarter. Therefore it does seem to me that this is the time when we can hope by respectful representations to influence the government in taking the view of the matter which a number of men in this House do take.
I am very anxious that this should be done, for two reasons. First, because I think it is of primary necessity in the interests of the whole country that there should be a downward revision of the tariff. At this late hour I am not going into the reasons which lead me to that conclusion. They are precisely the same reasons which have led the Liberal party since 1878 to hold that lower tariffs were in the interest of Canada; the same reasons which led the Liberal party in the great con-
The Address-Mr. Neill
vention of 1893 to take that position before the country; the same reasons which led the Liberal party in 1919 to reaffirm those same principles; the same reasons which led the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) within the last few years to place on the pages of Hansard his reason for believing that the protective principle was not the proper principle on which to base the tariff laws of this country. That is one main reason. The other is this: I am afraid that if the government do not accept this proposal they lay themselves open to the charge which has already been made, that in refusing to put this proposal of tariff reduction in the Speech from the Throne, and in neglecting to make any firm statement that that is their idea, they will leave the door open for people to say that they have abandoned their trade principles. That, I think, would be an unfortunate thing for the Liberal party. That, of course, is something which I, as a humble member of that party, can do no more than respectfully urge my leaders to follow. But although I have no power more than any other member to influence them, I have the power to see that no one can throw that charge in the face of the member for Brome. I think at this time when parliamentary institutions, nay, representative government, are on trial, it is of the utmost importance that there should be no possibility in the public mind for even the suspicion of the thought that public men say one thing in opposition and do another when in power. I am making no charge that that is done or is being contemplated. I do say that the adoption of the suggestion which I make with all seriousness, with all respect, would obviate the very possibility of such a contingency.
Mr. Speaker, I know the hour is late. I have said what I have got to say on this subject. I commend it to the attention of the House and trust that those who have listened to me will be impressed with what I regard as the soundness of my argument.