January 13, 1926

GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH

MOTION FOR PRECEDENCE-GOVERNMENT'S RIGHT TO RETAIN OFFICE


The House resumed, from Tuesday, January 12, consideration of the motion of Hon. Ernest Lapointe for consideration of the Speech of His Excellency the Governor General at the opening of the session, and its precedence over other business, and the proposed amendment thereto of the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen.


LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. C. G. POWER (Quebec South):

Government's Right to Office

That the Speech of His Excellency the Governor General to both houses of parliament be taken into consideration on Monday next, and that this order have precedence over all other business of the House except government notices of motion and introduction of bills, until disposed of.

To this motion the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) moved an amendment, the concluding paragraph of which is as follows:

That those who now assume to be His Excellency's advisers have among them no prime minister with a seat in either House of Parliament, and under such circumstances are not competent to act as, or to become, the committee of parliament, commonly known as the government, or to address parliament through His Excellency, and their attempted continuance in office is a violation of the principles and practice of British constitutional government.

That is the amendment which is now before us. May I s'ay in passing that inasmuch as this amendment delays the consideration of His Excellency's most gracious Speech I should imagine that it ill becomes the Tory party, the defenders of the prerogatives of the crown, to be so discourteous to His Excellency as to refuse to answer his Speech to the Commons and to the Senate. But there is more than that. What is the real effect of the amendment of the right hon. leader of the opposition? The effect as I understand it is this: If the amendment carries, the consideration of the Speech from the Throne is postponed forever. There is no longer any Speech from the Throne. In what position would we be then? My right hon. friend would become Prime Minister. Would he ask His Excellency to come down to the Senate and make a new speech, and say that the old Speech was all wrong; or would he be able to get it before this House? I do not think there is any machinery which would enable my right hon. friend to bring any further discussion before this parliament. Parliament would be dissolved; our session would be one of ten days. The leader of the opposition must either ask for a dissolution and go to the country, or ask for a new session and bring in a new speech. Or will he promise to take the old Speech?

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Evidently he will not. If he does not accept that Speech, will he himself as the king's adviser put into the mouth of His Excellency another Speech? I leave this question to the consideration of the members of this House, asking them to remember the one point that we have been endeavouring to make ever since the beginning of this debate-that the result of the defeat of the government on this particular motion would be chaos.

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CON

James Dew Chaplin

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHAPLIN (Lincoln):

To your side.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

When ray hon. friend speaks I hope he will tell us which of these alternative courses he is prepared to recommend to his leader. I do not, however, wish to con-tencf that it was not the duty, the responsibility of the leader of the opposition to challenge at the earliest possible moment the existence of the present government. The question has been debated since October 29 in every town, village and hamlet of the Dominion. Quite properly it is now before the House of Commons, awaiting our judgment.

The questions at issue are these: Shall the present government carry on, or shall a government of the leader of the opposition rule? Possibly there is a third course: shall we representatives of the people say: We cannot come to any conclusion. We are Sent here toexercise our judgment; we are sent here toexercise our discretion; we are sent here tolegislate and to govern in the name of the

people of Canada, and we find ourselves unable to do so. With reference to the first or the second possible courses of action, let me emphasize this point: that should the government be overthrown on this amendment it would then become the duty of the opposition-of those of us who are sitting on this side-to move a similar motion against the first exercise of power by the government which will replace us. The issue which we have before us has, I think, been somewhat obscured by the lengthy and interesting but perhaps too exhaustive incursions into constitutional history to which we have listened. We are not here to study history; we are here to make history, and the precedent of 1926 constituted by the deciding of this question will be quoted in days to come. The member for West Calgary (Mr. Bennett) pleaded at great length; he bisected, he trisected, he quoted authorities in his best privy council style, forgetting all the time that the question at issue, the question of law and of fact, was not to be decided by a bench of begowned and bewigged judges but by a jury of farmers. I ask those jurors to remember this. When they return to their electors, when they return to the voters! of Kindersley or Pinto Plains, or wherever they may come from, will their electors ask them: What did Bagehot report on this situation? What did King Charles do? What was the action of Queen Elizabeth? I do not think they will. I suggest that the citizens of these constituencies will rather say: Tell us not about what May said; not about what Anson said; not

JANUARY 13, 1026 F 5 :

Government's Right to Office

about all that is contained in the musty volumes or the blurred parchments of the library. The question is, did you vote for King or for Meighen, and why? They will say that the foundation and essence of responsible government is in the right of the representatives of the people to choose who shall foe the king's advisers, and it matters not if Mr. William Lyon Mackenzie King be temporarily absent from the chamber; it matters mot if Mr. Gladstone was absent for a whole session or part of a session; it matters not whether Walpole was a member of the House of Commons or Newcastle a member of the House of Lords at a particular time. You had a certain duty to perform; you were sent to parliament to decide which party should rule this country. Did you or did you not perform that duty? You are the representatives of the people. Not all the precedents quoted in the speech of the hon. member for West Calgary, not all the eloquence and not all the hairsplitting of the right hon. leader of the opposition should have swerved you from your duty. You had the power; you had the right; you had the authority. There was no power in this country, there was. no power in the Old Country-not even the sovereign himself- that could have prevented you from exercising it. Why did you not exercise it?

The hon. member for West Calgary will in all likelihood-if he pays the slightest attention to my remarks-reproach me as a representative coming from the province of Quebec, and particularly from the city of Quebec, in whose constituency were laid the very foundations of this country, for uprooting traditions and laying aside ancient customs. But in our province, whilst we do not worship progress because it is new, neither do we reverence tradition because it is old. We believe that in our constitutional machinery there should be a brake, but we also believe that this machinery cannot function without having an accelerator as well. We know, too. that within the past ten years our notions of constitutional government and of the rights and freedom of the people have received such rude shocks that we are rather inclined to feel that precedents are made only for certain purposes. We are rather inclined to ask, where was the precedent for the abolition of the liberty of the press during war time? Where was the precedent which allowed the censorship of free speech even in this chamber? Where was the precedent which took away from hundreds of thousands of British subjects the right of the franchise? If these thing? could be done without precedent, to suit party 14011-81

purposes, surely, even if there are no precedents, we may lay aside usage in the time of the country's need. Mr. Speaker, whilst our hon. friends from the west are spending their time in lengthy caucuses and compiling more or less useful questionnaires, the country is crying out for action.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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CON

James Dew Chaplin

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHAPLIN (Lincoln):

Why didn't you let the vote come last night, then?

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Do I understand that my

hon. friends opposite were prepared to vote last night?

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CON

James Dew Chaplin

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHAPLIN (Lincoln):

Sure.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I presume, then, I may"

conclude that the hon. gentleman is convinced that the offers of his leader's henchmen have: been accepted. Ever since the beginning of this debate Conservatives, one after the other, have spoken in order to make known to the members of the House and the people of the country what were their special claims and their special qualifications. The hon. member for West Calgary, whose pleasant smile I am very glad to see, on Monday evening during the course of a portion of the speech of the Solicitor General was also smiling, and I detected during another portion of the speech of the Solicitor General a smile even on the ordinarily stem countenance of the right hon. leader of the opposition. The hon. member for West Calgary would like to be one of those who are in at the death, in order to get a portion, if not all, of the honour and glory for the overthrow of the government. I can almost imagine hon. gentlemen on the other side joining in the chorus of "Who killed Cock Robin?" "I," will say the hon. member for West Calgary. "I sent my messenger boy with a gramophone, and when he did not succeed. I scattered the dust of centuries over it, and the government was overthrown." "I," will say the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie). "I had been a member of their camp, and I knew their tricks. I went to the other side, and the government was defeated." "I," will say the hon. member for Frontenac-Addington (Mr. Edwards), when he returns to his lodge with the government scalp hanging at his belt. "I slew them with the hammer and the wedge. My hands are red with popish blood." "I," will say the hon. member for South Winnipeg (Mr. Rogers), a former Minister of Public Works. "I smiled, and seven little Progressives smiled with me." Mr. Speaker, this is no time for jocularity, this is no time for making a game of politics.

lie

Government's Right to Office

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

The country has decided

in its wisdom to send certain representatives here not sufficient in number on either side, so far as the old parties are concerned, effectively to rule the people of this country. The people ask us to find, if possible, a solution, and it is our duty to seek it. As I said before, an endeavour has been made by the government towards that end. This is not the time, nor am I prepared to discuss it on this motion, but may I in reply to certain remarks which have fallen from the lips of hon. gentlemen opposite with reference to the market place, with reference to the auction block, wuth reference to bids, simply call attention to the fact that both here and in the Old Country political leaders and political parties have at times found it impossible to carry out to their logical conclusion all the different parts of their programme, and they have on many occasions accepted, in lieu of that, honourable compromise. On other occasions political leaders have even completely reversed the stand they had previously taken, and though something may have been said about them during their lifetime or at the time they reversed their position, the verdict of history -has not been unfavourable. I do not think any member of the House would say that the lustre of Wellington was dimmed because he accepted Catholic emancipation, which he had fought for thirty years. I do not think anyone will censure Grey for championing the Reform bill which he had at first opposed. I do not think we will even blame Peel for having finally advocated the repeal of the Corn laws. I do not think anyone in this House, and particularly the hon. member for South Wellington, will -blame Gladstone for having finally gone in with the Irish and accepted Home Rule. I do not think any member of this House will say that Lloyd George was wrong when two or three years ago he signed the treaty of peace with what afterwards became the Irish Free State. I do not think any member of this House will reproach Macdonald and Brown for that part which they took in bringing about confederation, a part which was to the honour and glory of them both. I do not think any of those men who for the greater good of the country were willing to sink party spirit and party prejudice, will be blamed in any way when the verdict of history comes to be rendered; and, Mr. Speaker, I think that even out of this present political situation good may come. We are on the eve of a cycle of prosperity. We should not by vain recrimination or empty denunciation retard the wheels of

progress, but should rather by our united efforts endeavour to bring about an impetus and acceleration of that progress.

May I, before taking my seat, call particular attention to one point which I wish to make in all humility, and -to one suggestion which I wish to offer to my western brethren. For many years we in the province of Quebec, those of us particularly who sit on this side of the House have been, under the tutelage, and afterwards under the spell of the presence and even of the name, of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He preached to us the great doctrine of toleration and moderation. It was on account of -this doctrine that in 1911 we accepted and fought for the reciprocity treaty, by reason of which the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier was defeated. It was because of those doctrines of moderation and toleration that -from 1921 onwards we became associated, if not allied to a certain extent, with -the hon. gentlemen of the Progressive group. During the last election I should say ' almost every member sitting on this side of the House from the province of Quebec was reviled, cartooned, and assailed in the press and on the platform on account of his association, -or supposed association, in policy with the hon. members who formed the Progressive -group.

There was no newspaper of the opposition, no newspaper even of the Patenaude group, which did not day in and day out, continually and continuously, call attention to the fact that we had made certain compromises in order to please the Iron, members from western Canada. At the opening of this session, at the request of our leader, and particularly of the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe), than whom no better friend of western Canada exists, we were prepared- to accept certain suggestions to which, perhaps, we had hitherto not been very much attached. Let me call the attention of my hon. friends from western Canada to the fact that we have done so. Let me remind them of this: They have told us that they

are the judges in this instance. To-morrow the sixty-one members for the province of Quebec may also be the judges in another instance. We have at the request of our leaders made certain concessions. We have done so already and are prepared to do so again. But there is growing already in the province of Quebec an opinion which says that there have been too many compromises. We have not, as have men from other sections of the country, taken a sectional stand; and -this opinion will not prevail so long as hon. gentlemen who are now sitting in this House remain in it. But other members may sue-

Government's Right to Office

ceed them and those members, whether they sit to the right or the left of the Speaker, in whatever party they may be, instead of being guided by those principles of moderation and tolerance of which I speak, will perhaps remember a motto which is well known in the province of Quebec-aye, which is inscribed on one of the public buildings in my own city:

Je suis un chien qui ronge l'os,

En lc rongeant je prends mon repos.

Un temps viendra qui n'est pas venu

Que je mordrai qui m'aura mordu.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. J. MANION (Fort William):

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) will pardon me if I do not follow him into the whole of the discussion he carried on. We all listen to him invariably with pleasure, though some of us rarely agree with himi. He is one of those for whom we have a real affection, and I have no quarrel to make with many of his statements. I might, however, if I were to take up the time, disagree with a number of them: his remarks about bide for example. If the whole Speech from the Throne is not a complete bid for the support of my hon. friends from the western provinces, and nothing else, then I know very little about that Speech itself.

I am simply going to refer to one remark made by the hon. member for Quebec South and to express my disagreement with it, namely, his suggestion that if the government was defeated-that is if the amendment carried

it would mean the immediate dissolution of the House. Of course that view has been put forward- by my hon. friends opposite, particularly for the 'benefit of the Progressive members, and in that respect they are following the lead of the Prime Minister who out through the prairie provinces took the attitude, according to the press, that the Progressive members were so fond of their $4,000 a year that they would not think of voting the government out. The purpose of the threat is evident, but it is not well founded. If the House of Commons to-morrow, or whenever the vote is taken, passes the amendment as proposed by my right hon. leader it would simply mean the retirement of the present government. The Prime Minister would offer his resignation to the Governor General and the right hon. leader of the opposition would then be called upon to form a government- which he would do, as was stated so eloquently by the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) yesterday. That is what would happen. The details as to what would happen to the Speech from the Throne are immaterial.

So that I do not wish any misunderstanding in that regard: to my mind, whether the amendment carries or does not, there will be no dissolution of the House.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I ran across a quotation the other day that fitted so well the condition of the present government that I thought I would read it for the amusement of the House. It is nearly one hundred years old, and was written by Henry Olay on Andrew Jackson.

He said:

Never, Mr. President, have I known or read of an administration which expires with so much agony, and so liftle composure and resignation, as that which now unfortunately has the control of public affairs in this country. It exhibits a state of mind feverish, fretful and fidgety; bounding recklessly from one desperate expedient to another without any sober or settled purpose.

I should not have read that but for the fact that the rumour has gone round through the balls of this building that some time to-day a statement will be made by one of the members of the government that if this amendment is defeated the government will not accept it as a vote of confidence. They will merely continue carrying on as they are and proceed to discuss the Speech -from the Throne. The report is ridiculous on the face of it; and I shall quickly stop discussing it if some member of the government will deny that there is any foundation for it. Otherwise I shall be obliged to waste a few moments of the time of the House in a reference to it. I regret the necessity of doing that, but apparently none of the members of the government intend to deny the rumour. I wish to show that this motion as we have it to-day is a distinct motion of want of confidence. It is written with the purpose of being a want of confidence motion in this government. The-Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) the whole government and the whole House know that that is the purpose of the amend1-ment. The country knows that that is the purpose, and the Minister of Justice, the member for Quebec East, stood in his place in the House the other day when the amendment was moved by my right hon. friend (Mr. Meighen) and said:

This motion is a pure negative of the other motion which is already before the House.

The motion of the hon. minister was a motion of confidence in the government, and this amendment is a pure negative, as he says. I could quote from a number of different parts of his speech, but I will simply refer to one or two sentences. He says:

I say that this government does not want to remain in office one day or one hour, unless the parliament of Canada approves of it. As I said we took the first

Government's Right to Office

occasion open to us to acquaint the House with the question before us. We are discussing the same issue on the amendment of my right hon. friend, and it is just as agreeable to me. It is important that the issue should be settled at once.

And on page 25 he says:

And I add that when this vote is taken, when the issue is settled, no Canadian can deny that both government and parliament have done their duty in the matter. I hope that the discussion may be brief.

And yet last night when the discussion closed nobody rose on this side of the House, and the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) moved the adjournment of the-debate to fill in time so that the discussion should go over till to-day.

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LIB

Frank S. Cahill

Liberal

Mr. CAHILL:

Order, order.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

The hon. member moved

the adjournment of the debate until to-day; so that it is correct to say that he made the motion to carry the discussion over till to-day.

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LIB

Frank S. Cahill

Liberal

Mr. CAHILL:

I do not think it is in order for an hon. member to say that any member of this House made a motion to fill in time. If that is so, I would like to ask the hon. member what he is doing now?

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

When I look back at the parliament which functioned from 1917 to 1921, I recall that my hon. friend on many occasions did not show much courtesy to the House. * The extract I was reading continues:

I hope that the discussion may be brief. We all desire the situation to be regularized in order that we shall have a government with full, moral and political authority for the tasks, domestic, imperial and international, that lie before it.

Could anything be more plain? I am going to quote from the remarks of another member of the government-and then I shall cease *quoting-to show that if this amendment [DOT] carries it is a vote of want of confidence in the government, and if it does not carry it is n motion of confidence in the government. The Minister of the Interior yesterday, at page 102 of Hansard, said::

At all events, Mr. Speaker, so far we have carried on, we have presented to the House our programme and we have not asked th-f House to deal with that programme. We are content to abide by the decision upon the point raised by my hon. friend in his amendment-

I am going to repeat that, because it is very important in view of this statement.

We are content to abide by the decision upon the point raised by my hon. friend in his amendment, and if the decision is in his favour then of course he will prepare a programme and carry on.

He has turned that around, I think.

We have not attempted in any particular to usurp any function and we do not want to remain in office one moment longer than the moment at which a deci-

sion can be reached on this question. If we are sustained then I can say to hon. members of this House that we will do our level best to carry out that programme. We will try to give the same kind of government in the next two or three years that we have given in the past.

After hearing hon. gentlemen to my left discuss the government's action for the past two or three years, I do not know how any of them could possibly support this government.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is all I intend to say with regard to that rumour, but certainly it will be just another breach of faith if the government should attempt to carry on in the face of an adverse vote on this motion, and it will certainly be a motion of confidence in the government if the members to my left vote against the amendment of my right hon. friend the leader of the opposition.

I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate so far. I do not intend to deal with the matter from the point of view particularly of a constitutional lawyer or even of an ordinary lawyer, because I am as much of a layman on this question as any of my hon. friends to my left. They and I are in exactly the same position, so far as this discussion is concerned; we are laymen, and looking at it from that point of view I propose to deal with the question of what Mr. Mackenzie King should have done under the conditions which prevailed following the events of October 29 last. But before doing so I would like to point out in a few words the steps by which we reached the stage of representative government to which we have now attained-simply naming them, in order to recall to the minds of all of us those historical developments which are of particular interest in connection with the question now before the House.

If one wishes to go back to a real beginning he must advert to the year 1215, because the event which marked the genesis of the development of parliamentary government was probably the wresting from King John by the barons of the Great Charter of 1215. Further steps ensued down through the eventful seventeenth century when the stupid Stuarts insisted on their pretensions of divine right to such an extent that one of them lost his head on that account and the other his throne. The obtaining of the habeas corpus was another step; then the coming of William and Mary and the enforced abdication of James was another. Then we (have the American revolutionary war and the French Revolution -because the American war was brought about by the attempt of George III to tax the colonies without representation; and the

Government's Right to Office

French revolution had its effect on thought and action in the British Isles. Then finally we come down to the removal of religious disabilities, mentioned by the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power); the emancipation of religious minorities, and the Reform acts of 1832 and 1867. These reforms brought us to the stage in which we find ourselves to-day; those important incidents in history were all stepping-stones upon which we built up our present parliamentary institutions, and anybody who forgets or ignores them is merely endeavouring to turn back the clock of parliamentary development.

Now, Mr. Speaker, because of those stepping stones by which we have advanced, in Great Britain, in every British dominion, in the United States, in France and a few other countries there has been a realization of those democratic principles in which we believe. We have attained a democracy which we believe in and frequently refer to, but of which we very often speak in a hazy way. I would like just here to refer to a few of the statements made by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth), when he derided our party system-and he was followed, I am sorry to say by one or two other speakers in the same strain. I hardly mean to say he derided it, but he implied that we could improve conditions by changing it. We should not forget that no great advances have been made in democracy except in countries which have had parliamentary party institutions much as we have them to-day. England has been the great mother of parliamentary and constitutional development. France has aided very materially, so has Italy and the United States, and certainly so have the British dominions, so that without the party system the advances we have been able to make would not have been possible. Hon. members will remember that those countries without constitutional parliamentary systems, such as we have to-day, though modified slightly, of course, in their operation, are backward and reactionary. They are such countries as Russia, China, the Balkan States, Austro-Hungary, and Germany, the author of the Great war. Germany had supposedly an imitation of our constitutional party system, but it was in the control of the kaiser and the chancellor and they precipitated the Great War. That is just an aside, but I wish to say that word in justice to the party system which, to my mind, is more important than my hon. friend made out. He and I may differ in a friendly way in that regard.

I would like to give just two definitions of what we call democracy at the present time.

Lincoln in his time said that democracy was "government of the people, by the people and for the people." But, unfortunately, that is a little indefinite. Mr. Bryce, later Lord Bryce, gave a definition which is more specific; He gave this definition:

Democracy after all is the government of the whole people of a country expressing their sovereign will by their votes.

That is a very fine, explicit definition, and I doubt if ever there stood in any of the parliamentary halls of Great Britain or our dominions a man who was better able to give a definition of that kind than Lord Bryce. How can you carry out the definition of the government of the whole people of the country by the expression of their sovereign will by their votes except by the will of the majority, because in no country on any question can you get all the people to vote alike. Therefore, the only way in which you can carry out a democratic system of government based upon that principle, which is the great principle of democracy, is by the rule of the majority, by the minority acquiescing in the supreme will of the majority. I see the Solicitor General (Mr. Cannon) nods his head. I knew he would agree with me. The rule of the majority is the fundamental principle upon which all our governmental institutions are based. It is the sheet anchor of our type of government. It is the bulwark against mob rule, anarchy, any of those things we do not wish to have in our country. It is the basis of all law. Outside of this you cannot have law, because if the minority insist on having their way, it means that the minority start a revolution. A statement was made by the Solicitor General-and I congratulate him now at my first opportunity on the high place he has attained. I am afraid it will not last long but it will last probably as long as mine did the first time. My second, I hope, will }ast very much longer, although I probably should add, in all modesty, when it comes. That was a faux pas. The Solicitor General made the statement that they were submitting this whole question to the highest tribunal in this land. I wish to differ from him. This parliament of Canada is not the highest tribunal in this land. The highest tribunal legally is the last court to which a legal question can be put to be judged. I think any lawyer will agree that that is correct.

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January 13, 1926