February 8, 1923

LIB

Andrew Ross McMaster

Liberal

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.

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. A. W. NEILL (Comox-Alberni):

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will excuse my speaking from a seat that is not my own, but, owing to this bedroom drapery effect that has been wished upon us in our absence, we miserable members who are condemned to sit on the back benches are perpetually in a state where we are deprived of light-either the light of day or artificial light, and when we do wish to speak we have to emerge from our caverns and stand blinking in the light of day or artificial day. The same condition prevails with my hon. friends on the back benches opposite, and I think we will soon

qualify under the description contained in the lines of that favourite old hymn:

The race that long in darkness pined Have seen a glorious light.

While I am on the subject I also wish to enter a protest against the colour scheme of this arrangement. It is a well-known scientific fact nowadays that in cases of mental or nervous diseases and disorders the colour of the apartment has a good deal to do with the patient's condition. For instance, red irritates a man and blue has a soothing effect. I cannot conceive of any effect that perpetual association with this colour scheme will have on the unfortunate member except to lead him to commit suicide. I never saw a colour like it except in an undertaker's parlour. If the government find the percentage of suicides is greater on the back benches than on the front, they will know the cause.

Now, it is late, and my state of health prevents me dealing with the subject matter of the Speech from the Throne at length. I only wish to touch very briefly on the two amendments, but before I do so I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Independent party in this House on the large and important accession to its numbers of late. I say to the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Shaw) that he will find in that party great opportunities for preferment and promotion. The position of whip to that party is vacant to-day. It can be had at a word. The position

of chairman of the caucus is also vacant and I would even dangle before him bright hopes of becoming leader of the party. No doubt at the first caucus that will be a subject for our most earnest consideration. I recall some years ago in British Columbia a similar condition occurred. There was a party there of two; I was not one of them. The party consisted of two Liberals, and a divergence of opinion arose between them as to who should be the leader. Unfortunately they brought their dirty linen to wash in the House, and it was described how they had squabbled as to who should be leader. One man said to the other, "Look here, Tom, the position of leader is one of some social standing, and you have to be able to wear a dress-coat and talk to the Lieutenant-Governor. I have a dress coat, and you know, Tom, you have not. Therefore, I think I should be the leader." The other man retorted, "I do not know about dress-coats or about the Lieutenant-Governor, but I can swing a better paint brush than you anyhow." They quarrelled so bitterly over the leadership that one of them became the

The Address-Mr. Neill

leader, and the other left the party and affiliated himself with the Conservatives, since when he has never been heard of politically. In view of his youth and Apollo-like figure, and the fact that my friend is a bachelor-I think he is; he looks like one-I am prepared to make this deal with him, for I am always ready to make a deal and to make a public one: I will give him the social element. He can be the leader at society functions. I will yield the party's dress suit if we find we have only one, to him on such occasions, if he will leave to me the more arduous but to me the more congenial task of carrying on the leadership in the House, and then we will have that most beautiful of things, peace and harmony in our young and vigorous party.

Coming to the amendments the one that will be taken first, I presume, has been well termed the economy amendment. I rather fail to understand why the government might not have accepted it. It is one of such a purely academic nature that nothing particular would happen if the government accepted it. It is true we want economy and thrift and honesty and virtue. These are all admirable qualities, and an academic recital of them would not have done the government any harm, and possibly would have pleased a certain number of members. However, I presume the government have a good precedent when they take the stand that it must be regarded as a vote of want of confidence. Before I pass from the subject of economy, I might mention that during the last recess I have been instrumental through representations to the government in having four official positions cut out in my district, and if I am left alone I will have some more cut out, in the direction of economy. These men have not been discharged, but their positions have been done away with, resulting in an aggregate saving of $4,000 a year, and I have only begun. I have saved the amount of my salary, and if the members of the Progressive party have done the same-perhaps they have, I do not deny it-the aggregate saving would be a quarter of a million dollars. I think that would be an evidence of a more genuine demand for economy than coming before this House with a brick loosely wrapped around with a resolution for economy in one hand, and a demand for the completion of the Hudson Bay railway in the other. Of course, I only take a small view of these things, but that is my idea of economy, putting it into practical effect as we go along.

As regards the other amendments, what is known as the free trade amendment, there is a form of free trade policy to which I would heartily subscribe as I heard it enunciated in the House the other day by my hon. friend from Selkirk (Mr. Bancroft), whom I have the honour to sit beside. In his excellent speech, short, but full of sound common sense and logic, he enunciated the tariff proposition that he was in favour of wiping out the present high tariff tax on woollens and boots and shoes, and like a true diplomat he stopped there. I am prepared to go with him any length along these lines. Like Agrippa, I was inclined to say: Paul!

Paul! Almost thou persuadest me to be a Progressive. If he and his party had stopped there I would have been with him. to use a vernacular expression in the West, "till Hell froze over"; but it does occur to me that perchance the fact of my hon. friend and myself being perhaps fair-minded men, open to reason and argument, occupying the same desk for the last twelve months day by da3' and month by month, perhaps indulging in quite friendly arguments, has at last resulted in a sort of compromise frame of mind between us by which he was led to modify his earlier extreme political tariff views to a point where I could meet him half way. I submit, without any desire for recompense in my behalf, that idea to the government. It might be worked out along similar lines next session. We might find the hon. member for Brantford (Mr. Raymond) associated with the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown) and see what effect that would produce, or the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) with the hon. member for Lunenburg (Mr. Duff), or even the hon. member for Victoria and Carleton (Mr. Caldwell) with the hon. member for St. John (Mr. Baxter), or the hon. member for Sherbrooke (Mr. McCrea) with the hon. member for Centre Winnipeg (Mr. Woodsworth). Such an arrangement might produce a new and desirable frame of political mind in this House. At any rate, the idea is one that is possibly worthy of consideration by the government.

On the economy resolution, I propose to vote with the government, but with a good deal of reluctance, but on the other amendment, I shall certainly vote with the government with great cheerfulness, because I cannot come down here and stultify myself as regards the people who sent me here to look after their interests, and not play a political game. I have been here zealously in season, and, possibly some members of the government will say, out of season, clamouring at the

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door of tlie Finance Minister for protection for various infant industries in British Columbia, demanding from the Public Works department appropriations for my large district- and not only large, but growing. When you get a district with between 9,000 and 10,000 miles of waterfront and the people are active and progressive, the first thing they need is wharves, and wharves mean a large expenditure of public money. I can hardly come down here and ask for appropriations and tariff protection on the one hand, and then vote for the very opposite under these amendments. For that reason I feel justified in supporting the government. It is all too true, I am sorry to say, that I have not received anything like the measure of justice my district is entitled to. I say it with regret and reproach, and perhaps with the secret idea that the reason may be that too large concessions were being given to my friends to my left. Perhaps that is why British Columbia has had to go more or less hungry in these matters.

Let us glance for a moment into the future and see where the passage of this amendment would lead us. Suppose-W'hat shall I call it?-this unnatural union-between the party of high tariff on the one hand and low tariff on the other, political inexperience on the one hand, and political subtlety on the other-suppose it produces a majority against the government to-night, what will be the result? We know that under constitutional law the government will have the right to appeal to the country. That will mean loss-loss of money, expense and loss from the derangement of business, and as an hon gentleman sitting on this side of the House said, "It does not agree with my personal arrangements either ". But there are moments when we have to place the benefit of the country before your own particular desires. I feel that it is desirable here and now that the question should be settled, at least for two or three years to come, whether the minority in this House is going to dictate the tariff policy of this country. If it were any other party but the gentlemen to my left I might be inclined to say it was only a political gesture, that they do not intend this resolution to pass. But I know so well the character of the hon. member for Springfield who moved it, and many of the other gentlemen behind him, that I realize they are sincere. I say it with all sincerity myself, I believe they are sincere and absolutely prepared to take the consequences of their action, and therefore it is the more fitting, the more necessary, that we should have

a show down to find out in this country just where we stand, at least for some years to come.

I admit that the amendment is modestly worded-that is to say it does not go the whole length to ask for free trade. I confess that it is different from what I think they had in mind; but when we come down to a question of this kind we have got to go beyond the present amendment, we have got to get down to the final analysis, and I think I am justified in saying that the fiscal policy of the Progressive party is one of absolute and unadulterated free trade. I do not think that can be gainsaid. You have only to look at the debates of last year to prove that. But you do not even need to do so-the speeches that have been made this evening bear me out when I say that in the final analysis the aim, the aspiration, the goal to which the Progressives are finally committed is free trade and absolute free trade. They have served notice on the government that if they wish to secure, or to have continued, the ever wavering and always uncertain support of the Progressive party, they must carry out the fiscal wishes not only of an extreme party but the fiscal wishes of the extreme members of that extreme party; and it is for the government and for the country to decide whether a party which, after all, numbers only 27 per cent of the total membership of this House is to dictate to the other 73 per cent. That is the question which presents itself to me in connection with this matter. If it was any other party I might use the term political " extortion " but I do not do so because I have too much respect for these gentlemen to my left. Many of them are men of my own kith and kin, we are of a common origin, and I share their views to a very large extent except on the question of the tariff. We have many views in common, and have learned our lessons in the bitter, grinding school of experience; that is why we have so much in common on almost every point of view with the exception of the tariff. Therefore I will not use the phrase "political extortion," but rather the milder term of "political extraction." But, Mr. Speaker, there are times when we weary even of the painless dentist.

Now I have spoken of the situation as it presents itself here to-day. A number of years ago-too many years ago I am afraid, at any rate a long time ago-in Australia in the state-it was before the period of the Commonwealth-of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, there was an election where

The Address-Mr. Neill

the new premier of the day found himself in office with a very slim majority. He had been elected on a popular policy but the party which he opposed was strongly entrenched. Being in power he proceeded to carry out the policy on which he had been elected. The opposition were fully aware that it was dangerous and fatal for them to go to the country, but at the same time they proceeded to aggravate, and annoy, the new ministry, and to obstruct to the fullest measure of their ability. They would bring in amendments and the government would not know if they were going to be defeated or not. The opposition endeavoured in every way not only to embarrass the government in carrying out its policy, but at the same time by insidious propaganda to represent that the more or less vacillating conduct of the government was due not to their obstruction but to its inherent weakness. The premier was supposed to be a man lacking in political experience and they thought they could play that game with him. He went along with the policy he had outlined but one fine night the opposition found to their intense surprise that they had defeated the government. In six weeks, however, the administration was back in power again with a sufficient majority. The premier had arranged the thing with a couple of his followers, and, in slang parlance showed the opposition "where they were at," and it has been a lesson to me ever since.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

Had hon. gentlemen opposite allowed me to finish my remarks they would have heard me say it was a lesson to me not merely politically but in all phases of life, for I have ever found that a bold progressive policy always gets a man farther than one of hesitating for fear he gets his feet wet. I believe-and I believe it is as true here to-day as it was in Australia at that time-that this country wants a policy of moderate protection, a policy of protection to the young and struggling industries in all parts of the country, particularly of the West, also a tariff policy that will ease up and reduce the heavy protection now existing on the older and better established industries. I believe that if the government appealed to the country on such a policy they would get an ample and sufficient mandate to carry it out.

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CON

James Dew Chaplin

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHAPLIN:

I was paired with the

hon. member for Welland (Mr. German). Had I voted I would have voted for the subamendment.

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CON

Murray MacLaren

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

I was paired with the hon. member for East Simcoe (Mr. Chew). Had I voted I would have voted for the subamendment.

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PRO

John Wilfred Kennedy

Progressive

Mr. KENNEDY (Glengarry and Stormont) :

I was paired with the hon. 1 a.m. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges (Mr. Ouimet). Had I voted I I would have voted for the sub-amendment.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I was paired with the hon. member for East Hamilton (Mr. Mewburn). Had I voted I would have voted against the sub-amendment.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I do not suppose it is really intended to go into committee tomorrow?

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

No, it is the usual formal motion made at the opening of the session.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I merely call attention to the fact that it does not seem necessary to be made. It is not in order now, we are not under motions.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

This motion is always made at the beginning of every session. It is merely a declaration on the part of the House that it will grant supply at a later time.

12i

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I just call attention to the fact that it should be made under motions. We are under the Orders of the Day now.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING:

It always follows immediately after the adoption of the Address. My hon. friend will see that if he consults the record.

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CON

Motion agreed to.


WAYS AND MEANS


On motion of Hon. W. S. Fielding (Minister of Finance) it was ordered that the House resolve itself- into a committee to-morrow to consider of the ways and means for raising the supply to be granted to His Majesty.


ADJOURNMENT-BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE


Mr. Mackenzie King moved the adjournment of the House.


February 8, 1923