Mr. Speaker, when I left the chamber this afternoon the House was discussing the motion of the member for Nelson (Mr. Bird) that the previous question should be put as soon as possible, that is. as soon as allowed by hon. gentlemen opposite. As I may be absent from the House to-morrow, I should like to say in a few words what my position is on that motion, and what vote I will cast if it comes to a division when I am here. I do not purpose to take up any of the arguments that have been raised either before or during this debate. I shall merely confine myself to the attitude which I feel I must take in regard to the motion.
I gave my vote to maintain this government in power in preference to the opposition. That was in absolute accord with the attitude I took before the people who elected me to this House. Secondly, I voted against all amendments proposed by the opposition, which appeared to me as mere catching motions for election purposes, and I propose to do so in future. Were hon. gentlemen opposite on this side of the House, in the same position as my hon. friends to my left, I would do exactly the same thing. I also voted in favour of the motion made by the government to adjourn the House after the Address is adopted, because the ministers claim that they must have a recess to enable them to reorganize their government and to carry out the mandate which has been given to them, temporarily at least, by this House.
Now, Sir, it is one of two things: either the government needs that adjournment, or it does not. If the government requires that adjourn' ment, then it should take the means to obtain it. If it does not require it, I do not think it should shelter itself behind what I would call a side motion, which does not bring on the adjournment. I said at the time I voted for the adjournment that the House would be transformed into an electoral committee,
and there would be no use in our being here.
I think this has been amply justified. But I do not think the motion of the hon. member for Nelson (Mr. Bird) at all advances the position of the government or the affairs of the country, nor does it give the House a chance to do anything useful; therefore I propose to vote against that motion. If the government needs the adjournment, I am prepared to vote for a straight motion for closure, which they should bring in if they require it. If they do not require it, then why take advantage of a process which simply lengthens the debate, and, although it prevents hon. members on the other side or hon. members of any group in this House from presenting further amendments to the Address leads us nowhere.
Some references have been made on one side or the other about liberty of speech. Quite so: liberty of speech, if it leads to something, is very desirable; but if I read well what is in the minds of the people outside of this House, I think they are more concerned about parliament doing something than about members of parliament talking individually or collectively. I do not begrudge either party all the advantage they may take; but I humbly submit that there is more at stake in the present situation than either the fate of the Liberal party or of the Conservative party.
I have been out of this House for many years. I have kept in contact with people who, I think, have a public conscience, and who are becoming disinterested more and more from day to day and more separated from party shibboleth, from party spirit. It is not, I repeat, the fate of the Liberal party or of the Conservative party whidh is at stake: it is the confidence of the people in the usefulness of our public institutions. We have been here a month and a half. I have indulged in my share of the sin of talking, but I do not propose to repeat that sin too often, or to make the sin too heavy. Therefore, I simply state to-night that I do not think the motion of the hon. member for Nelson will lead us to any practical point. I do not begrudge him the right to make his motion, and I do not dispute the sincerity of his purpose. I do not try to ascertain whether he is acting under agreement with the government or not. I take him at his word. I believe in his word of honour, and as a matter of fact I believe that if he had consulted the government they would have advised him he was not rendering them a service by proposing that motion.
Well, at least, that is my point of view. I do not think the government
FEBRUARY IS, 1926 1145
The Address-Mr. Kennedy (Winnipeg)
would make a happy move or would place themselves in a strong position morally or numerically if they tried to find shelter under the motion proposed by the hon. member for Nelson. To adopt such a motion would not improve the position of the government and would not enable them to reach the point they are aiming at, namely, to obtain the recess which they claim to be absolutely necessary for their purpose. Such a course would put them in the 'humiliating position of accepting a proposition dictated by another section of the House.
I am prepared to vote against the motion proposed by the bon. member for Nelson, but, I am also prepared-and I state it quite frankly-to take my responsibility in voting for a motion for closure, if proposed by the government, as it must be under the rules, in order to reach something practical.
Then, we would have the recess, and the government could prove the advantage and necessity of having that recess to complete their membership and come back to us on the fifteenth of March with their policy. Then, we will judge them by that policy, and we will also judge hon. gentlemen opposite on their attitude in regard to measures submitted by the cabinet.
Mr. W. \\ . KENNEDY (Winnipeg South Centre): Probably I could suggest to the hon. member for Labelle (Mir. Bourassa) an answer to the question which he has propounded to this House. He advances the argument that the hon. member for Nelson (Mr. Bird) could not have sought counsel with the government in taking the action that he did, because if he had done so, and if they wanted to close the discussion in this House, they would have introduced closure and would not have adopted closure by the less direct method. I should like to say if the hon. member has followed the conduct of this government in the past four years he would have observed that the record of the government is neither one of courage, nor of direct action. This is not a government having the courage to do what it wants to do, but as enunciated by its leader, the Right Hon. Mackenzie King, on many platforms. it believes in the policy of the middle way, the policy of political expediency; J suggest to the hon. member for Labelle that perhaps, following that same policy by which it has been guided for four years, the same policy which has put it into the dilemma in which it finds itself to-night, by virtue of that same sort of policy it finds itself supporting the motion of the hon. member for Nelson.
In view of what the hon. member for Labelle. an old and distinguished member of
this House, has said as to prolonging this discussion, I naturally feel, as a new member, a little diffident about continuing the discussion further. But, Sir, were it not for the circumstances under which the government of the day seeks to adjourn this House, I would not at this late day and at this late hour take part in the debate. What are the circumstances under which the government seeks to adjourn the House? A committee of this House is investigating the gravest charges which have ever been preferred, I understand, in this House of Commons for two generations and under these circumstances the government asks this House to adjourn, and, as I am informed, to leave that committee without the power to function effectively. If there were no other reason beyond that, Sir, I submit that that in itself is reason enough, not only for members on this side but for members in all quarters of this House, to take part in this debate with the object and with the intent that this government shall continue to sit; that this parliament shall continue in session so that witnesses may be examined here and be forced to give the evidence which is necessary in order that the committee may effectively proceed.
Mr. Speaker, in venturing into this debate I am conscious of many handicaps which are normally incident to the first effort of a new member of this House. Some thirty years ago I believe, Sir, you yourself, were in the position of a new member, and like myself, "with all your troubles to come." Perhaps when I recall those days to you, you will be able to recall some of the handicaps to which I refer.
Let me say, first, that there is borne in upon me at the beginning of my speech a consciousness of the comparative futility of talking at all. I say that for this reason: I have heard in this House, and you have heard, members of this parliament of mature experience bring forward matters of national interest and of national concern, bring them forward and elucidate them with outstanding ability; yet when the time came to vote no weight of argument, no amount of logic, no reason would stand up against the crack of the party whip. Does this House desire an illustration? I will give it two. We had, in the first instance, in this House a motion tantamount to a motion of want of confidence in the government. We heard expressions of opinion from all corners of this House; we speculated naturally as to the result. I for one when I heard the hon. member for Southeast Grey (Miss Macphail) declare that she had no confidence in this government, thought: "There
The Address-Mr. Kennedy (Winnipeg)
is one against them". But like many others, I counted wrong. When I heard stated in this House the opinion of the government entertained by the hon. member for Rosetown (Mr. Evans), and as expressed by him before he came down to this House, I thought: Well, the hon. member for Rosetown will not vote confidence in this government-and so with many others. Yet when the time for division came, all but five of the Progressive group in this House-and mark you, all but five of those hon. members who throughout the campaign recently closed talked and fought against this government and declared to their constituents that they had no confidence in it
all but five of them stood up in this House and voted confidence in the government.
In passing, let me remark as to the attitude taken by these five, without naming them. Within so short a time as I have been in politics I have come to realize that it takes considerable courage to get up in this House and vote against your party; and when five members of that group virtually take issue with the other members of it, I must say that I find only admiration for their courage.
One other example. We had a vote yesterday on the question of the treaties contracted by this government. Everyone in this House is aware that the amendment voted on referred particularly to the Australian treaty. I am informed and believe it is correct that when the same Australian treaty came up for discussion before in this House every one of the present members of the Progressive party who then sat in this House voted against it; yet when 'the vote came yesterday they all voted tantamount to endorsation of the treaty.
If appears, therefore, that argument is futile; but if futility of argument as affecting the result were a conclusive reason as to whether or not a man would speak in this House, I submit that the record would not
10 p.m. contain nearly the number of speeches that it does; and when I say that I refer not to one side of the House alone.
Another handicap. Sir, is the attitude, of which I do not complain, of the members opposite, and it applies to a new member speaking either on this side of the House or on the other side. A new member realizes that he is facing old and experienced parliamentarians who are watching, perhaps in a kindly way, but nevertheless watching his every step, and as he proceeds, questions apparently innocent in themselves are propounded with the object that the feet of the unwary may be trapped. The only armour
fMr. W. W. Kennedy.*
that a man can carry against such tactics is the armour of belief in his cause and sincerity in the arguments he puts forward. I hope, Sir, whatever else I may be accused of, that hon. members in all parts of this House will concede to me when I am through at least this measure of merit, that I have tried to be fair in my discussion of this Address.
There is also the matter of one's friends. After ailL, one's friends have a right to be critical, and they are.
Through the obscurity of all this maze of difficulties there comes one beckoning light. That, Sir, is the kindly features and the gracious mien of the honourable and honoured Speaker of this House. It may be a platitude to say that first impressions are lasting, but in this case it is indeed fortunate, for whether my time in this House be long or short, I shall carry with me always pleasant memories of your attitude towards the young members of this House, and of the kindly reception accorded to new members by this House on all sides and from all quarters.
I had heard, Sir, before the election and during the campaign something of the Liberal party. I had heard some pretty harsh things about them. I had heard too about many hon. gentlemen opposite whom I now see, but I have since learned not to think so badly of them, and, Sir, having become acquainted with you, by virtue of your position, perhaps a 'little better than with most of the others, I am encouraged to hope that, as you came from out among their ranks, perhaps when we get a little better acquainted we shall find many, many other hon. gentlemen whom we shall be delighted to know. I have met some of the hon. members outside of this House, and it has been a distinct pleasure. I must remark though, Sir, that in this House they seem to be an entirely different kind of people from what they are outside. Outside, in the corridors or at meat, they are human, likeable, lovable, but here they seem to be operating under some strain, under some handicap, under some overshadowing cloud. Then I endeavoured to speculate as to what the reason might be, as under the caucus system, no one outside of one's own caucus is allowed to know what takes place at those meetings. It has occurred to me that it might be because of this irksome alliance which they seem to have made with the Progressive party.
Objection, I think, has been taken in this House to their relationship being called a coalition. Some have called it co-operation. I saw a cartoon the other day where it was pictured as "A marriage of convenience". I
The Address-Mr. Kennedy (Winnipeg)
think, though, that when they call it a "marriage" they go a little bit too far. I doubt whether it is as permanent even as a temporary marriage. I doubt whether a decree of divorce will be necessary to put an end to it. Perhaps, Sir, it might be more properly described as a liaison. I do not know whether the hon. member for Brandon (Mr. Forke) will object to that term. If he does object he hides his feelings very well indeed for he smiies pleasantly as he sits opposite to me.
In any event, whatever the alliance may be between the government and the Progressive group, it is one that is very definite in its working whenever a division occurs. No amount of denial from members among the Progressive group or from any other part of this House will prevent the country at large from believing that there is a distinct working alliance for a certain purpose, and that purpose is to maintain the Liberal government in power. It is not by chance that hon. members of the Progressive party, or of the Labour group, who time and time again have expressed opinions very critical of the party in power; it is not by chance, I say, that hon. members who have so expressed themselves support the government in every move in this House.
Complaint has been made by the leader of the Progressive party, the hon. member for Brandon, of articles appearing in the newspapers throughout this country imputing to the- party of which he is leader reasons for supporting the government which do not reflect credit upon it. He has complained of that somewhat bitterly. Complaint has also been made of certain terms used in this House by which it was attempted to describe the reasons, which in the opinion of the hon. members in question, actuated the majority of the Progressive group in supporting the government on the motion for the adoption of the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. Well, hon. members may be prevented from using here such words in the English language as, perhaps, most fittingly describe their thoughts. Yet throughout the length and breadth of this country the people will not be prevented from placing their own construction upon the situation here. If such a construction has been placed upon it by hon. members of this House, or by the people of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, I say to the hon. member for Brandon that he and his party have no one to blame but themselves. I a.m not finding fault with them for resenting the construction which is placed upon their conduct. However, the reason lies at their
own door. Any time a man in either private or public life attempts to sail or fight under two separate colours, there is bound to be some misconstruction as to his real intent; and from hearing the speeches of the hon. member for Brandon in this parliament, as well as reading those made in previous parliaments, I can come to no other conclusion than that he is an out and out supporter of the Liberal party at all times. Therefore I say that if the hon. member for Brandon were sitting in his right place here it would not be at the head of the Progressive group, but where he is sitting now, just opposite me among the government benches. I will name another hon. gentleman, the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown). The hon. member for Lisgar has no more right to the name "Progressive" than I have. If he were as open and frank as he would lead us to believe he is, he would get up from his seat, walk across the floor, and take his place with the government on that side of the House. Coming to the hon. member for Rosetown (Mr. Evans), who sits here and declares that he believes the best policy for Canada is a policy of absolute free trade, I ask hon. gentlemen, I ask the members of the Progressive party, what right has such a man to a place in the Progressive ranks? He does not belong there; I submit he should be in a party by himself.
I think it was the hon. member for Nelson (Mr. Bird), who deems himself, apparently, to be a reincarnation of Robin Hood, who gave us a lecture last night upon the duty of man in this world. He himself declared that he was like the mythical Robin Hood. He was actuated by a consuming desire to right wrong wherever it might be found, and to uphold the weak. To use his own classic phrase, "he was always for the bottom dog". That has long been the express attitude of a number of members-I do not say of all-of the party to my left. Since they came into being they have always posed as being the one party that was in parliament to right the wrongs of the downtrodden of Canada; the one party that did not believe in election campaign funds; the one party that did not believe in election caucuses, but did believe that the older parties had outgrown their usefulness; and that they themselves were in parliament to purify politics. But has their conduct fulfilled their promise? Some of the hon. members of the Progressive party may think I am unfair to them, but I will state my reasons before I get through.
Perhaps I may take some liberties with the Progressive party, because I come from the part of the country that is just on the fringe of their field of operations. I have the honour of representing the constituency of Winnipeg South Centre. During the recent campaign, and for the last number of years, I have had the privilege of moving about and mixing with them-sometimes fighting with them, sometimes against them-and I will say this: I believe that in their hearts most of them are sincere, but for what purpose? Sincere in righting the wrongs of Canada as a whole? Sincere in bearing up the weak of Canada as a whole? I say no. I say that the Progressive group is fundamentally and in fact an economic group that has for its definite object the advancement of the interests of that particular group, the grain growers of western Canada. I doubt if in their heart of hearts many of the Progressive members will disagree with that. I want to say more: I do not blame them as an economic group for endeavouring to advance their interests; but let them frankly acknowledge that they are an economic group in this parliament for a definite purpose in the interest of that group, and then we shall know where they stand. That is why I say that they are fighting under false colours.
Now I come to the Speech from the Throne. While I have read it, I do not say that I understand it all. Part of it I understand, the rest of it I can only use as a basis for assumption. I will not say that there is no merit in the Speech from the Throne. It foreshadows certain legislation with which I am in accord, and I propose to advance some reasons why I am in accord with those measures. But first, what is the purpose of the Speech from the Throne? What is it intended to contain? It appears to me that the Speech from the Throne is the vehicle through which the Prime Minister, after consultation with his trusted ministers constituting the government, presents to parliament a forecast of the legislation which the government intends to introduce, based upon the national needs of the country. Accepting that as the test of what we should look for, I am going to point out later on some things in which I think it is lacking. This Speech does not find favour with many in this House because it does not represent the considered judgment of this government translated into terms which would indicate what it thinks itself is best for this country, and because it does represent largely such legislation as this government believes would attract to it suf-
ficient support in this House to pass the Speech from the Throne and thereby clothe it with some semblance of authority as a government. I suggest that it is an obvious compromise between what the government of this day thinks Canada needs and what the Progressive group, assisted by the Labour and Independent groups, demands should be placed in the Speech. In saying that I am not finding fault with the Progressive party as an economic group. Once we get the point of view of what they are here for, not so much blame attaches to them. Once we take the view that they are an economic group here for a definite purpose, namely, t.o get legislation which they desire to have enacted, I have little fault to find with their attitude. In fact, I am not surprised at the stand they have taken, because many of them have intimated as much.
The other night the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr., Brown) likened the Speech from the Throne to a berry patch, and so did the hon. member for Nelson (Mr. Bird). They said: If we find the berry patch offered by the Liberals more alluring than that offered by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen), no blame should attach to us for going to the better berry patch. It is true the Speech from the Throne as originally brought down did not contain anything by way of special allurement to the Labour group who are represented in this House by two friends of mine from the city of Winnipeg. But they were not asleep; matters did not go very far until the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) came into this House with a letter from the Right Hon. Mackenzie King before the first vote was taken, promising his party what they Want. If they are here as another economic group seeking certain legislation for that group, I do not know that any particular blame attaches to them. But the sum and substance of the whole matter is that this Speech is not such a one as represents the studied judgment of the government; it is a Speech such as by inducement shall win the support of two other groups in this House, which, during the election, were antagonistic to this government.
I wish to refer briefly to the matter of rural credits as suggested in the Speech from the Throne. I belfeve the question of rural credits is one of primary interest to the farmers of western Canada. I believe it is legislation that is essential in the interest of the farmers, not only of western Canada but of the whole country, for this reason: Our banking system as it is to-day is modelled for the purpose of supplying, not long term, but short term loans. You go to the bank to borrow money
The Address-Mr. Kennedy (Winnipeg)
and, if you get a loan, you get it on your note for a term of three months. At the end of three months, you either pay off the note or renew it with a renewal charge, and so on until it is paid off. That is all right in mercantile business and other lines of industry; but in farming there is only one occasion in the year when the farmer, out of his produce, can meet his liabilities at the bank. Although some of my friends may not give me credit for knowing much about the farming industry, I grew up on a farm and I know something about farming. When a farmer needs money to put in his crop in the spring, he goes to the bank in March for a loan. Although he borrows the money until June, he knows and the banker knows he is not going to pay it back in June. He pays a renewal charge and the loan is carried forward until September, although the banker knows and he knows that he is not going to pay it back then. Then it is again renewed until December. Thus, you have three renewals, all with expense to the farmer, with this absurdity; that throughout all these proceedings both parties to the transaction know that the money will not be paid on the date originally agreed upon.
Do hon. members need any further proof that the farmers of this country need some other system of borrowing money? They need a system of loans placed at their disposal whereby they know, when they borrow money, they will obtain it for the period required and they can pay it back when they say they will. That, I submit, is the basis of the demand for rural credits which, shortly, is some system of placing at the disposal of the rural parts of this country credit whereby the farmers can obtain money upon such terms as to time and repayment as will be suitable to the conditions of their industry. As to what form that legislation will take, this House has no inkling. It is true that the leader of the House (Mr. Lapointe) has been asked for information on a number of occasions and to all such questions he has blandly told us to wait until the legislation is brought down. Perhaps that is not an unreasonable answer if the legislation is not ready; it is not an unreasonable answer if the government does not yet know what it intends to do. But probably some of us on this side of the House may be pardoned if as new members we are labouring under the impression that when a government proposes legislation in the Address it knows just what that legislation is going to be.
However, I will say that in the province of Manitoba we have had some experience in the matter of rural credits, and if the proposed legislation which this government intends to bring down is of the nature of that which has been in force in Manitoba I for one shall vote against it. In that province the money was placed at the disposal of the farmers in such a way and on such terms that it was, frequently, not the thrifty farmers who needed it, that got it, but those who happened to operate in certain cliques and circles. The result has been that although the law has been in operation in Manitoba only a few years the government of the province is obligated for loans to farmers there to the extent of $3,000,000 of which already $700,000 is gone, a loss to the province. The hon. member for Brandon (Mr. Forke) nods his head and he knows that I am right. I think he knows too that before the end of the story at least half of that $3,000,000 will have been lost to the province.
I do not want to interrupt, for I am enjoying the hon. gentleman's speech, but I do not like the expression that certain cliques are operating in the province. On second consideration the hon. member will not repeat that expression. I know that mistakes were made but I do not think the hon. gentleman should say that.