March 19, 1926

LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

Let us go into committee of Supply, and you will get the information.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, when the question was asked as to the meaning of this motion it did not necessarily involve a long discussion on the merits or demerits of the government's defeat yesterday. That discussion was precipitated by the Minister of Customs (Mr. Boivin) who felt that something had to be done to revive the waning spirits of the gentlemen around him.

I have been listening for some reasons as to why the motion before the House can be said to be in order. The minister states he has some doubt whether this estimate is killed or whether it is not killed. Well, if it is not killed, of course no motion is necessary. That seems to follow very reasonably. If the estimate is killed, then the motion is

futile, because undoubtedly an estimate which is killed can be revived only by representation. There does not seem to be much room for argument about that. The Prime Minister says, "We do not admit it is killed." Then why the motion? The motion cannot help the estimate; if it is killed it is a futile effort to revive it. There is a method of reviving it, and that method the government apparently does not want to resort to. That method is merely to bring down another estimate to this House.

So far I have spoken on the merits of the point of order raised by my hon. friend to my left (Sir Henry Drayton). Discussion has taken place as to whether the government ought to suffer the ignominy of yesterday's vote, or whether it can escape by a certain amount of additional boasting to-day and by the imputation of motives, schemes, plans and all the rest of it. I happen to know it was the desire of my hon. friend to move his motion earlier than he did, but many members on this side of the House who did not know of this desire continued discussing the point of the motion that was before the committee, and therefoie he delayed until close around ten minutes to six. Consequently what my right hon. friend says is entirely untrue. It is true that the hon. member for West York intended to make the motion, and he would have moved it at half past five but for the discussion which was then proceeding. But the fact is this, governments depend upon the result of motions as to the quality and dependability-

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Will my right hon. friend excuse my interrupting him? He says that the motion was to have been moved at half past five. Does he mean it was prearranged?

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Some time shortly after half past five. I know this because I was by his side at the time, but hon. members who knew nothing about his intention continued the discussion. Do hon. gentlemen opposite contend that in cases in Great Britain where governments have been defeated it has been because their own supporters went and voted against them? They have been defeated many a time, and taken the consequences, because their supporters had no more interest in their proceedings nor in the government they were supposed to follow and did not bother attending in the House. When a government finds itself in such a position in England it usually realizes that it is about time to retire. But there is one virtue this government has never yet attained, and I do not believe it ever will

Customs and Excise

until some super quality of political dynamite is invented, and that is the virtue of resignation.

We are not urging this discussion now. All I want to say is that the judgment of yesterday was no more a snap judgment than many a judgment in Great Britain, and I think one or two in Canada, upon which governments have acted; no more a snap majority than the majority obtained by this administration time and time again on votes designed by themselves. They may call it whatever they like in the press, but the people know that this government is in a precarious position, and they know as well that if hon. members voted on the government's record and their own opinion of it, and on the results of the late contest, this government would have been out of office two months ago. They know they were permitted-and quickly availed themselves of the opportunity-to present to this House a new programme consisting of a series of new promises especially addressed to hon. gentlemen who were not elected to support them, in order to bring to their side that support. Because they were so permitted and entirely without precedent in the parliamentary history of this country or of any other British country, they sit in office today.

I submit again that the government cannot revive an item killed in the estimates by the mere process of a motion. It does not matter to us as a party what the position is, but surely it is of some consequence to parliament that if we have regulations and rules we should be bound by them, and this government cannot escape from those rules merely because they do not propose to study them.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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LIB

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

Liberal

Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Minister of Justice):

Mr. Speaker, the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Meighen) following the example of the hon. member for Fort William (Mr. Manion), appealed to the precedents established in England, and said that in England any government suffering what this government suffered yesterday would have immediately resigned. I intend to read a very recent statement-

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I did not say that at all, as a matter of fact.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

My hon. friend is still

misquoted, but his words will appear in Hansard.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Will the hon. gentleman

permit-

No.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I thought he would not.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I am glad my hon.

friend knew I would not. My hon. friend has a queer custom of interrupting members of this House all the time. I never interrupt my hon. friend, and I do not think it is a good practice to be followed in parliament, if my hon. friend will permit me to say so. The former Prime Minister of Great

4 p.m. Britain, Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald, when he assumed office on February 12, 1924, made a speech, which is reported in the British Hansard at page 749 of the Debates of that year. His very first words were as follows:

No Prime Minister has ever met the House of Commons in circumstances similar to those in which I meet it. For the time being no party in this House has a majority. The party opposite is the largest of the three, but on account of the circumstances of the election, it is impossible for this House to ask them to remain in power. As the second party, the Labour party has accepted the responsibility of office. I think that that will necessitate some alteration in our House of Commons habits. I think that we will have less to say about party and less to think about party than we have had hitherto, and that we shall lay more and more emphasis upon the responsibility of individual members of this House of voting as responsible members of the House and not merely as party politicians. That is all to the good, as far as this House is concerned. It puts me in this position, however. I have a lively recollection of all sorts of ingenuities practised by oppositions in order to spring a snap division upon a government, so that it might turn it out upon a defeat. I have known bathrooms downstairs utilized, not for their legitimate purpose, but for the illegitimate purpose of packing as many members surreptitiously inside their doors as their physical limitations would allow. I have known an adjoining building, where there happens to be a convenient division bell, used for similar purposes. I have seen the House, practically empty when the bells began to ring, suddenly transformed into a very riotous sort of market-place by the inrush of members, doing their best for their nation, for the House of Commons and for their party, to find a government napping, and to turn it out upon a stupid issue.

I am going out on no such issue. I am sure that no one would enjoy the engineering of those snap divisions more than my hon. friend opposite.

One might almost think the hon. member for West York (Sir Henry Drayton) was facing Mi-. MacDonald at the time.

He could do it. On this occasion he will not bag his prey. The Labour government will go out if it be defeated upon substantial issues, issues of principle, issues that really matter. It will go out if the responsible leaders of either party or any party move a direct vote of no confidence, and carry that vote. But I propose to introduce my business, knowing that I am in a minority, accepting the responsibilities of a minority, and claiming the privileges that attach to those responsibilities. If the House on matters nonessential, matters of mere opinion, matters that do not strike at the root of the proposals that we make, and do not destroy fundamentally the general intentions of the government in introducing legislation-if the House wished to vary our proposition, the House must take the responsibility for that variation-then a division on such amendments and questions as those will not be regarded as a vote of no confidence.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

Customs and Excise

I think, Mr, Speaker, that this principle as enunciated there is certainly a sound one, certainly when a House is composed as the present House of Commons is. Every member of the House knows how easy it is to spring a snap vote, even when the government has a large majority. It would have been' easy in the last parliament, as well as in former parliaments. No one can expect every member of the House to be in his seat during every sitting of the House. Members of parliament have their correspondence to look after; they have visitors to receive; they have departmental business to attend to, and as far as the members of the government are concerned, we have to work even during sessions of the House. It very often happens, Mr. Speaker, that I am asked by hon. gentlemen opposite to go to my room and meet them on some particular business, and my colleagues have had the same experience. We have even been asked by my hon. friends opposite to meet their constituents on business. Am I to expect that when I am there, at the request of my hon. friends opposite, their associates in the House will take advantage of my absence and take a snap vote? I do not think that would be fair.

I may also say that I think this incident of yesterday may induce hon. gentlemen to consider the inconvenience of having committees sitting while the House is in session, because these committees attract not only the members who compose them, but when interesting matters are being brought up, other members of the House, who naturally go and are interested in the business. I do not think my hon. friends opposite may commend themselves upon this little experience of yesterday. If they want to defeat the government they will have to defeat it on serious matters, in a serious way, and not by reducing parliament to a game of hide and seek.

Hon. J. W. EDWARDS (Frontenac-Ad-dington) Mr. Speaker, the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) has referred to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in connection with this matter. I would remind the hon. gentleman of what happened to Ramsay MacDonald when the people had an opportunity of getting after him. I hope my hon. friend will take that to heart, and realize in good time just exactly what will happen to him and to his party when the people have a chance to get at them. The Prime Minister offered the excuse for the vote yesterday that hon. gentlemen opposite were home at supper which of course means that those hon. gentlemen thought more of their supper than they did of the government. We know that they

are hungry-not merely physically hungry for that occurs to all of us-but hungry for office. They have shown that very clearly to the country. The facts simply reduce themselves to this, that parliamentary precedents cut no figure whatever with this government. When they find themselves at war with the constitutional precedents and the rules of the House they propose to make new rules and establish new precedents to get them out of any difficulty in which they may become involved. That is the situation before us at the present time. The motion made yesterday by my hon. friend (Sir Henry Drayton) was warranted in every particular. It had reference to a department which at the present time is attracting the attention of every person in this Dominion, and I say it was our right under the circumstances, when the government was asking for a vote for this very important matter of the preventive service, to move the motion which was adopted yesterday and the motion was moved. With all due respect to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the rules are established as to the correct procedure for reinstating the committee, and I do not think that the action of the Minister of Customs in making the motion he is making at the present time is in harmony with those rules

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BOIVTN:

I have something to say

if no one else desires to speak.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. ROBERT FORKE (Brandon):

I do

not know that I can add very much to what has already been said by hon. gentlemen on both sides of the House. However, I want to give expression to what I would call a common sense view of the situation. I do not claim to be a politician. I have been now four years in this parliament, and I know something more than I did when I first came to this House; but I am perfectly certain that were it possible for the people of this country to be seated in the galleries and watch the proceedings that have happened this afternoon the dignity of parliament would suffer considerably.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. FORKE:

I have no fault to find1 with the opposition for having moved the resolution which they moved yesterday, and I am not blaming them for feeling rather good because the resolution was adopted. At the same time I think a great deal more importance is being attached to the fact than is warranted under the circumstances. We all know what those circumstances were. , Of course, if it is going to do hon. gentlemen to

Customs and Excise

my right any good I am quite willing to let them enjoy the incident to the fullest extent. At the same time I might mention what happened in my own case when the vote was taken. The Honourable the Speaker of the Senate and Mrs. Bostock were holding a little reception, and I sauntered down the lobby to spend a few minutes there, and I think I remarked to the Liberal whip whom I met at the reception, "What will happen if there is a vote taken in the House just now? We know what will happen.'' "Oh," he said, "there is no danger." That is exactly what happened so far as I am concerned personally, but I cannot understand how hon. gentlemen could attach so very much importance to a vote of that kind. However, it is up to the government to keep members in -their places and look out for situations such as that.

I cannot understand why taunts are always being directed at those hon. members to the left of the opposition, and why that should be a part of the proceedings every time a debate takes place. The right hon. leader of the opposition knows very well that if he were in the government to-day he could not carry a majority in this House without the help of some of the other parties. Why then in the face of such a situation should the taunt always be thrown out that the government is being carried on by the aid of a third party? It is the only possible way for the government of the country to be carried on in view of the present situation. The right hon. leader of the opposition knows very well that it would be pretty difficult, in view of the situation that has existed during the past few years in parliament, for him to command a majority.of members in this part of the House. I am not speaking for all of us, I do not know what they would do under certain circumstances, but why the constant repetition of the taunt to which I have alluded as if there was something disreputable or dishonourable in some of us supporting the government at the present time. We are supporting the government upon its legislative programme, and we are prepared to support them upon that programme. Is there anything dishonourable in that? I would ask hon. members to my right if there is anything wrong with the programme the government is bringing before the House or with the item that was before the House yesterday afternoon. Why not defeat the government upon that item?

An hon. MKMBER: We did.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE OF CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ESTIMATES
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H011-109

?

An hon. MEMBER:

You are not here

to vote for them.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   H011-109
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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. FORKE:

Well, now Mr. Speaker, hon. members to my right keep repeating the statement that "they did." They know very well they did not do any such thing. It really is surprising that grown up people should play upon words to the extent that they do in connection with what happened yesterday afternoon. I am a little diffident sometimes about talking in this strain because after I had spoken on one occasion the right hon. leader of the opposition characterized my speech as "sanctimonious complacency." Well, I am not so frightened of that term now as I was on the occasion referred to. I was a new member then and my right hon. friend did not have very much mercy on me because I ventured to offer a little criticism with respect to some of the proceedings in the House. But I know how business is carried on now, and I want to tell hon. members on both sides that I am not afraid of anyone here. I hope that we can get down to business, and if the government is going to be defeated upon its legislative programme let it be defeated. That is the way I feel about the matter. I have often made the statement, and I think it is a proper one, that a government should not be defeated except upon a motion of want of confidence. That is when an administration should be really defeated and upon no other vote except one of that character.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   H011-109
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

We have not had a

chance yet.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. FORKE:

Some hon. members seem

to be anxious to get a general election. Well, I am not a mind reader but I have an idea that there are a great many members to my right who are not very anxious for a general election at the present time.

Topic:   COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
Subtopic:   H011-109
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March 19, 1926