January 11, 1926

LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

The programme of the

war with Turkey evidently existed in the imagination of my right hon. friend. I would advise him to restrain his imagination in future as that programme certainly hurt him. However coming to the subject of the war with Turkey it brings us to Ontario and to the last group. Suppose the right hon. gentleman who leads the opposition became the Prime Minister?

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

He will.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

I would like my hon.

friend to interrupt me intelligently or not at all.

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CON
LIB
LIB
LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

I ask if any hon. member from Ontario would follow the leader of the opposition on this Turkish issue, especially after the explanatory remarks or marginal references to it contained in his speech in Hamilton. To show how impossible it would be for the leader of the opposition to form a government I will quote from the speech of one of the most Tory members elected in Ontario-I have reference to the hon. member for Centre Toronto.

Meighen's new War Policy Opposed by Thomas L. Church.

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CON
LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

I beg the pardon of the

hon. member for Centre Toronto. I should have said the hon. member for Toronto Northwest.

Former Mayor of Toronto condemns his Leader's Proposal to Hold an Election before Sending Canadian Troops Overseas.

This is what the hon. member in question said at a political meeting in Toronto:

"I do not believe in Mr. Meighen's doctrine," stated Mr. Church; "we are part and parcel of the British Empire and not a nation within ourselves. I will oppose Mr. Meighen's attitude on the floor of the House and in caucus. We do not need autonomy. That was Laurier's view, who said that he would not send men to the South African war. When Britain is at war, we are at war. All autonomy did for the Liberal party was to send it to the political graveyard. Had we had this autonomy in 1914 Canada would not have been represented in the Great War. There would have been no 60,000 soldiers in France from Toronto. There are some people in this country

Government's Eight to Office

who would like to do away with British ties. They would abolish the appeal to the Privy Council and amend the British North America Act. I will oppose with all the means in my power anything that will support the Laurier-Borden autonomy regarding the great question of the defence of the empire. I do not believe in Mr. Meighen's doctrine that he espoused in Hamilton.

I will go further and say to the members for Ontario-because my hon. friend (Mr. Bennett) took the liberty of addressing the members from my native province-your leader was either sincere when he made his declaration in Hamilton or he was not. If he was sincere, how many will stand up in this House and support him? If he was not sincere do you think for one moment that he should become Prime Minister of Canada? In conclusion, on this point, which was raised by the right hon. leader of the opposition himself, to prove his sincerity I invite him to bring in in concrete and in ordinary legislative form the proposition contained in his Hamilton speech.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

If the hon. gentleman

will permit me: He and his colleagues are in office, and as the Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Mr. Cardin) supported that declaration perhaps he will discharge that duty.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

Evidently my right hon.

friend is weakening. Now, what would be the consequences of the adoption of the amendment? The Prime Minister would retire, as I have tried to show, and the leader of the opposition would be called upon to form an administration. For the reasons and circumstances which I have detailed, it would be impossible for him to form a government.

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An hon. MEMBER:

How do you know?

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

Oh I know. It is extraordinary how far a Tory will go; and besides, even though the leader of the opposition were supported by every one of the members sitting around him-and some of them, at least, would probably forget the solemn promises given to and the sacred covenants entered into with the electors-he would have only 116 members behind him. That is not a majority.

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CON
LIB
CON

John Wesley Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EDWARDS (Frontenac-Addington):

I have followed the line of reasoning of the hon. member, which is to the effect that the leader of the opposition cannot hope to have support from many of his own members because of late differences. Following up that reasoning with my hon. friend, will he tell me how his party can

possibly get any support from the Progressives, or the members of other parties, who did not run as supporters of Mr. King?

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

It is exactly for the purpose of getting an answer from the Progressives as to whether they are willing to support this government or whether they are not that parliament has been called. They are absolutely free to express whatever views they think best. If they decide to support the government, we remain; if they decide not to support it, we go. We are in their hands. We will not force them, nor will we force parliament. This is not, as the hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Bennett) said, an auction sale or a market place. This is a place where 245 free men have met, and it is by the free decision of their free minds, enlightened as much as possible by study, by experience and by wisdom, that a solution is to be found of this unprecedented situation.

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. T. W. BIRD (Nelson):

It is with a

great deal of diffidence that I rise after having listened to the forensic eloquence of the last two speakers. We on this side of the House have been reminded that we are face to face with a proposition that is inherently difficult for us to decide upon. The amendment which is the question before the House is largely a technical matter. I agree that a moral argument enters into it, but it is very largely a technical point. However, there is more than a technical decision to be arrived at. Unfortunately we have to judge this question not so much upon its merits as with regard to its consequences. We have been told1 from both sides of the House that in reality it is a vote of want of confidence. Many of us on this side of the House think that parliamentary customs have been disregarded by both sides of the House in bringing in a vote of want of confidence at this period of the session. According to parliamentary custom the debate on the Speech from the Throne is the proper time to question the confidence that is reposed in the government. It is not the technical right of either one of these parties which is in question-not the technical, constitutional right to form a government. It is their worthiness so to do which is in question, and that is the point of view we are determined to take.

As to the technical point at issue, I think many of us on this side of the House are quite willing to confess our inability to enter into the intricacies of constitutional law. I found, Mr. Speaker, on visiting the library that the constitutional experts of this House had appropriated all the constitutional works in that institution. These wonderful speeches

Government's Right to Office

that we have listened to have been made with scissors and paste-every one of them-and they are asking us laymen to decide upon a question which an ordinary court of law would take a couple of months to decide. A purely technical question is brought forward at this time, and is entangled with the important question as to which minority group in this House will form a government. I am not so sure about this question. When this debate started, my head was pretty clear on the point at issue, but after each subsequent speech the thing became more complicated, and the apex of the curve was reached just somewhere about the middle of the speech of the hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Bennett). Counsels have been considerably darkened while the debate has proceeded. It seems the debate is something like the British constitution; it has slowly developed from precedent unto precedent, and I do not know what precedent will be quoted next, or whether it will throw any more light on the question than the other precedents which have been quoted. But the point is, can parliament function without a Prime Minister? I am not going into any constitutional argument, but I feel that deep down below these dead integuments of precedent and custom there must be some live kernel of common sense somewhere. It is a characteristic of the British constitution. It seems to me the question whether this parliament can function without a prime minister is about as sensible as the question, can parliament function without one of the pages? Parliament is something like democracy. The right of the people to rule is inherent. Why you have only to challenge it to know that. It evinces itself, and anybody who challenges the right of parliament to do anything it likes within the British North America Act will speedily find that tire powers of this parliament are very wide indeed. So I think there can be no question about the power of parliament to carry on. I do not want any precedent to be quoted to convince me of that.

What about the numerical argument? What about the argument from the point- of view of the numerical size of the minority groups in this parliament? Has any minority a right as such to form a government? Is mere numerical size any criterion of right to form a government? Counting heads has not much attraction for us here. We want to know what is going on inside the heads before we come to a decision, and we are finding out, as the debate goes along, what is going on inside the heads. Personally I am not going to be deflected from my judgment by any appeal to numbers. It is declared policies alone that will appeal to me. I listened to the argument of the hon. member for Kindersley (Mr. Carmichael) to-day and also to the argument of the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen). I think it is true-I have not investigated, but I will accept the figures-that seventeen of our group defeated Liberals, but it is also true that more than twenty of our group defeated Conservatives. The difference is not worth speaking about. You cannot gain any information along those lines. The fact of the matter is that this group is altogether indifferent to an argument of that kind, because we had opposed to us a strenuous Liberal opposition and a strenuous Conservative opposition. We defeated seventeen Liberals, it is true, but we defeated twenty or more Conservatives, so that the argument from arithmetic does not have any influence on this side of the House.

What about the argument as regards political records? We are asked to look at the record of the Liberal party and at the record of the Conservative party and to form our judgment. You members of the House of Commons and the public can sympathize with us. Standing face to face with the record of those two political parties, we are called upon to say who has to be the government of this country. The choice between tweedledum and tweedledee was distinctly marked in comparison. We know during the last four years the Liberal government bitterly disappointed us, disappointed the country, as is evidenced. But the Conservative party backed them up in everything they disappointed us in. These technical considerations, numerical considerations, historical considerations, do not cut any ice on this side of the House.

They say: What about the election? It la true that Mr. Mackenzie King travelled the west and travestied the Progressive party. That is sadly true. No such egregious error was ever made by a statesman as the attack on principles constituting a party such as ours. It was from such movements as ours that Liberalism sprang, and for a leader of Liberalism to travesty the existence of our party as he did was a great mistake. It i3 also true that the Liberal machine in Saskatchewan rode over our Progressive organization like a Juggernaut car, and some of the finished products are here-bright, polished, machine-made members in place of the poor home-made Progressives w'ho sat here in the last parliament. It is all true; but what did the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) do? He, to his credit, did not attack us, so far as I know, in the west, or our party

Government's Right to Office

organization. But he did attack our party policy, and if there is anything to choose between the two there is not much. Our party policy is more vital than our party organization, because our party policies arose not out of the brains of politicians but out of the felt needs of the producers of the western country. If we have to choose between the two, we would rather sacrifice ourselves, we would rather go into oblivion, than sacrifice our policies.

But there is the situation. Can you ask us to judge these parties on their electioneering records? I do not think ever before an election was fought in Canada where less statesmanship was revealed on the platforms of the country. As far as I could learn, as far as I could read and as far as I could hear -'because I heard most of the speeches- there was nothing in the nature of constructive statesmanship at all, and yet we are asked to judge upon the records of these two parties. We decline to do that. We have a reverence for our constitutional practices. We cannot express our sentiments as eloquently as other people, but we are just as devoted to the traditions of our country. We may be auctioneers as alleged, but there cannot be auctioneers unless there are bidders, and a party that will classify us as auctioneers will thereby classify themselves as bidders. But we have no wares to offer that are our own; we are not asking the parties to outbid each other. What are we asking for? We are asking for a frank, open statesmanlike confession of what your policies are. What are your policies? You have said so in the Speech from the Throne. Have you? We will see whether you have said it or not. This is the tragedy that arises from this small spirit of partisanship that runs away with parliament in its first hours, that has not the decency to wait, that will waste days at the start in order to get party advantage. Without having the Speech from the Throne before us in debate, we are asked to decide which minority group shall exercise authority in this House. We have not yet had an opportunity to debate the policy of either party. This is our position. Somebody said: The Pro-grressives are in a position of great power. Some gentlemen have even said that we are auctioneers. We are in a position of great power, are we? We are not making very much of that at any rate. What we are concerned about is the amount of resistance to our power, for our power does not amount to very much. I do not agree with the member for Kindersley (Mr. Carmichael) that we are in a very important position; we are in no

more important .position than are any other members of the House. We are not going to blazon abroad any suggestion that we have the key to the situation, nor shall we make any unreasonable demands of any party. The only demands that we are going to make are such as any statesman, if he is a statesman, will be glad to accept on their merits. We ask for nothing more. We are in a minority, just as are the other parties in the House, and we cannot abuse our position by trying to get more than we are entitled to. We do not represent the whole of Canada; neither do the other parties. There is no party in this House that can rule as it likes during this parliament.

It seems to me that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's example is one of great and singular value to the Canadian parliament at the present time. Some time ago we saw in England a party, which had been pledged to bring Great Britain under a socialist regime, returned to office in a minority, and which, putting aside for the time being the dream that had inspired its creation, and forgetting in the general interest its own academic theories, sought to give the country a national government. Ramsay MacDonald, in spite of the limitation of his party in point of numbers, was able to give Great Britain a truly national administration which will go down in history as one of the best national governments that country has ever enjoyed. In a few short months, because parliament for the first time in history was in control, the government found it possible to transform the international relationships of Europe in such a way as to establish an epoch in European affairs.

As I see it, it does not matter whether Conservatives or Liberals come into power at the present time. Here is an opportunity which will not be repeated in the lifetime of any one of us, an opportunity to put aside partisanship and to seek to govern the country along truly national lines. And this is possible because parliament is really in control at last, in control for the first time in Canadian history. Neither this party nor the other is in power, but all parties combined can render the country a satisfactory administration. That is the meaning of this resolution; it is the test of parliament. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, that Whatever the decision may be it will be the decision of parliament, and in spite of all arguments that may be used before this debate is over, parliament will have evinced its inherent right to control the destinies of the country.

I am not prejudiced in favour of either party. No one can point to anything that

Government's Right to Office

I have said or done that has revealed any bias on my part towards either Conservatives or Liberals. But whatever party may come into power during the next two or three years,

I should like to see it adopt a national policy in the truest sense-not a policy framed in the interests of a privileged few but one that will appeal to the people of Canada from sea to sea and heal as far as possible some of the bitterness that has almost rent this country into sections. I scorn some of the implications that have been made in this discussion, as for instance this talk about the $4,000. The insinuation in reference to the indemnity ought never to have been made, for surely the $4,000 is a consideration that does not weigh for a moment with any one of us. If it does, then we deserve extinction at the earliest possible moment. It is Canada that we have in view, not a part of Canada; we are interested not in the farmers only, nor in the manufacturers nor in the coal miners nor in the fishermen of Canada particularly. Surely we can do something that will satisfy these warring sections of the country; surely we can bring them together by doing something that will carry with it the marks of statesmanship rather than of partisanship.

Let me say in conclusion that my vote on this question, like the votes of a good many on this side, will be confined strictly to the constitutional aspect. I know it is almost futile for me to make the statement, but I make it nevertheless: our confidence in the government or in any party will be shown when they frankly and honestly state what their legislative programme is.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA (Labelle):

Mr. Speaker,

I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I suggest, Mr. Speaker,

that the same order prevail to-morrow and that we go on with the debate.

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January 11, 1926