June 14, 1926


Motion agreed to.


OLD AGE PENSIONS

MOTION BY MR. NEILL TO ASCERTAIN ACTION TAKEN BY THE SENATE


On the Order for Motions:


IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

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

That this House take the necessary steps under rule 86, to search the journals of the Senate in order to ascertain if any action has been taken by the upper house with regard to Bill No. 21, an act respecting Old Age Pensions.

He said: For the benefit of members who

would prefer, perhaps, to see the motion in print I may say that they will find it under "Notices of Motion and Questions" in Friday's Votes and Proceedings. I think this motion is thoroughly in order under rule 86, to which I would refer the House. I admit that of late years it has not been much taken advantage of, it has somewhat fallen into disuse. Nevertheless it still remains there to be available for our protection if we require it, and I think this is one of the occasions on which it should be properly invoked. There are two purposes that will be served by this motion. One, of course, is the very obvious purpose stated in the motion. I think it would be better if the motion had read "what action, if any, has been taken", but nevertheless I suppose the wording will cover the purpose aimed at. It seems a remarkable thing that at present we have no channel whatever whereby this House can receive

official information of the rejection of any of its bills by the Senate, or perhaps I had better adopt the conventional words that have come to be regarded as proper in speaking of the Senate and that is "another place". I had better use these words hereafter. But if any of us were to ask the Clerk to-day what has become of this bill-or any other rejected bill for that matter but decidedly so as far as the present bill is concerned-his answer would have to be officially "I do not know." If a bill is accepted by the other House and is returned here we know when that happens because we receive a message to that effect and the same if it is amended. But if a bill is not accepted no message returns and the Clerk of this House is forced to conclude, by some Sherlock Holmes method, that something has happened to it, and that it has been thrown out. That is the exact procedure to-day. If a bill does not come back from the Senate there are several reasons that might account for it. It might have been lost in transit, or one of the papers, when a clerk was collecting a number to send here from the other place, might have slipped out of the folder, have been picked up by the char-woman and by her, in ignorance of its value thrown into the waste basket. The present bill, to all intents and purposes, is in the same position as if it had been in that category. Human nature is liable to make mistakes and something might have happened to the measure on the journey between the two Houses.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

Some hon. gentlemen seem to think the matter is one for laughter but it is within my recollection at any rate, as it must be within the recollection of several other members, that in the last parliament covering only four sessions such a thing as that happened practically twice. I do not say that the whole bill was lost in its transit from the other chamber but in one case an important section was lost between the two Houses. In the other ease some provision was either left out or put in; I think it was put in on the way back. It is not desirable, it is wholly undesirable, that this haphazard method of communication should prevail. I therefore desire that this House should be informed when any bill so important as this has been rejected or whenever any action whatever with respect to it has been taken by the Senate.

The second purpose that I seek by this motion is somewhat along the same line. I wish to correct, or perhaps correct is not the rigffit word; it can only be corrected by

Old Age Pensions

changing the procedure as it at present exists -perhaps overcome would be the better term, an anomaly in the present procedure. The procedure to-day is that when a bill has been sent from this House to the other chamber and it has been accepted, a message to that effect is sent back. Supposing it has been amended in a slight degree, it is returned to this House with a message indicating what the amendments are and the report is placed on the orders of the day and can then be debated. Three courses are then open to this House: We can accept the amendments proposed in the other place or we can reject them, or we can call for a conference which, as the House knows is practically a joint committee of members of the two houses to see if an agreement can be reached. Now all this procedure, this careful and thorough procedure exists to take care of an amendment even of the most petty Character. It may be only the dotting of an "i" or the crossing of a "t" but that procedure is gone through in order to maintain our right, at least of making representations, in case of any difference of opinion between the two legislative bodies. But here is the anomaly, here is the peculiar situation. If it is a case of the total rejection, not of some comparatively unimportant feature but of the whole principle of a bill then none of these safeguards exist at all I Now, if a careful procedure be necessary when a comparatively unimportant amendment is in question, how much more necessary is it when the whole principle of a bill is at stake. I believe that rule S6, which I have invoked in this case, allows us, within certain limits, to which I propose strictly to adhere to debate this subject. In the present case such official as we would send to do what is required would come back and make his report. On receipt of that report we might, if necessary, stretch the rules a little, and base upon it an expression of opinion of our right to make further representations and ask for a conference. If that conference were not successful in determining the issue raised in the other chamber it would at least have the effect of impressing upon its members that we are determined to proceed with the legislation.

There are some further remarks I want to make on this subject. I may be sailing rather close bo the wind in connection with the matter of being out of order. But I very carefully framed my remarks so as to keep just within the line, and as long as I am within the line it matters not how small the margin may be. I will anticipate any criticism which may be made on that score

by referring the House to rule 16, page 50, paragraph 203:

Allusions to debates in the other House are out o orderand so on. I propose to adhere strictly to that. I do not propose to make any allusion to debates or anything else that has transpired in the other House at all. I may also call the attention of the House bo rule No. 19, page 62 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules, paragraph 234 (b) which says that a member of the House cannot:

refer to any debate in the Senate-

And mark this:

but he may refer to the official printed records of the upiper house, though they have not been formally communicated to the lower house.

So I am thoroughly in order in referring to the alleged printed records of the other House. I use the word "alleged" advisedly, because I have in my hands what purports to be minutes of the other House but there is nothing in it to certify to its correctness or to its authenticity at all. It is not signed by any clerk or certified to by anyone. There is a small note at the very end of it to say that it is printed by the King's Printer, but there is a lot of stuff printed by the King's Printer that I would hesitate to endorse as authentic. There are also speeches delivered in this House for the accuracy of which I hope the King's Printer is not responsible. I use that word rightly when I say that it is alleged to be the printed minutes and I therefore assume that I am correct in referring to that printed record. The record, page 279, shows that the bill was defeated, or sup posed to be defeated, by a vote of 45 to 21 a majority of 24. There are 96 members in the other chamber. At present there are three vacancies. The presiding officer reduces that number by one; so that there are ninety-two members competent to vote, and when I say, competent to vote, Mr. Speaker, I mean able to stand up. That is the only requisite required there; so long as they can stand up they can vote. Out of 92 members competent to vote 66 actually voted, about two-thirds. The same record discloses the fact that this was the 24th day this session that a meeting had been held in that chamber. That means 24 working days in five months, an average of less than five days each month.

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

Whose fault was that? It was the government's fault.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

And let us consider how

short a lot of these sessions were-

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

No business for them.

Old Age Pensions

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Nr. NEILL:

-and during a great part of the session some of these members were pawing over the nauseous details of divorce bills which should never have been introduced into parliament at all. If there had been any party advantage to gain I can visualize the kind of vote/ that would have been taken. In this House with our 245 members, at times we have seen practically a complete vote recorded in matters of far less importance than the question under discussion. Although only 66 votes were recorded on that occasion, the same record I have referred to shows that 77 members were present in that chamber at some time that day; so that 11 were present who did not vote. Now I may be prejudiced in discussing this matter, but I will try not to be.

The first reaction to my mind when I read the news in the paper was that this was the result of an arrangement by the Conservative party in this House with their friends elsewhere to defeat the measure. That was my first suspicion, and I must say that that suspicion was somewhat strengthened by the proceedings the last time this bill was before this House. When the bill came before us in its early stage I cannot say that it was welcomed with acclaim by the Conservative party, but many hon. members announced openly their approval of it and stated that they intended to support it, but when it was before the House on the last occasion, it was remarkable to see how hon. members on the other side of the chamber who spoke united to condemn it. I took down some of the language used. One hon. member stated it was utterly disappointing. Another hon. member alluded to it as absurd. Another one called it a wash-out, and another hon. member characterized it as abortive. I remember saying to the hon. member sitting beside me at the moment that I could see the finish of the bill in another place, owing to the attitude of hon. members opposite. Further strength is lent to that suspicion- and it may be an unwarranted suspicion- by the fact that- in the other place all the Conservatives present save one solidly voted against the measure, which would point to such a unity of action as would almost presuppose some pre-arranged plan. At any rate, be that as it may, the Conservatives have the largest body in that other place; certainly they could have put the bill through, and certainly they did not, and they must share to a large extent the responsibility for its defeat.

But there were other people in that august body besides the Conservative party. Without reducing the responsibility of the Con-

servative party, let us consider the action of the Liberals in that connection. The Conservative majority, as I gather it, in a full House would have been 12. I am told it is less than that, but certainly not more. Why then was there a majority of 24 when only 66 voted? That calls for investigation and analysis. There are supposed to be 40 Liberals in that place; 20 of them voted for the bill, 3 against it and 17 were absent. Of that 17 it is noteworthy that 7 w'ere in the House that day and did not vote. Some of the absentees may have been sick, but it is not reasonable to suppose that all of those 17 members were sick, and besides that we know that the 7 were present. Have they forgotten the Liberal platform and convention called in Winnipeg in 1919, where a policy was adopted to guide the party in years to come, not to be put into force in a day or a week or a year, but as circumstances warranted? The government of the day thought the time and the circumstances were ripe and introduced the measure. Was it not the duty of the Liberal- senators as henchmen or supporters of that policy, to adhere to the principles of that policy? If they had stood by their principles and by their platform the vote would have been, 42 Conservatives against 40 Liberals for.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

Although my hon. friend may be technically within the rule, I submit he is establishing a very dangerous precedent in referring in terms lacking in respect to members of the other chamber. Certainly he does not show great respect in using the language he has used. I have no objection to the motion, but I do think there should be some limitation of the language which an hon. member may use in speaking of members of the other House. I think the expression he has used is against the spirit of the rule.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I would ask the hon.

member to withdraw the expression "henchmen." Although it is a proper expression under certain circumstances, yet as the hon. member for South Wellington says, it is not very appropriate when referring to members of the upper house. There are certain amenities in parliament which are not to be ignored. I would call the attention of the hon. member to rule 19 which reads:

No member shall speak disrespectfully of His Majesty, nor of any of the Royal Family; nor of the Governor or person administering the government of Canada; nor use offensive words against either House, or against any member thereof.

The subject is a very delicate one, and I would ask the hon. member to kindly live up to the letter of the rule. I do not think

Old Age Pensions

that the use of the word "henchman" is an insulting expression, but I would not like to be called a henchman under circumstances such as the present. He could say that a member was a supporter of a certain party but "henchman" is too strong an expression in my opinion.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

I have not the slightest

hesitation in withdrawing that word, I had never thought it could be regarded as offensive.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I never thought the hon.

member intended to be offensive.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

If I had intended to be

offensive I would have used much stronger and more appropriate words. I suppose I adopted the word after reading some of Sir Walter Scott's novels, where it is used and where it was considered to be a compliment for a baron or knight to be called a stout henchman of the king. I think probably that is the way it came into my mind, but I certainly will avoid calling any member a henchman hereafter. I was analyzing the vote, and without adding any adjectives I will say; had the vote gone as I suggest it should have done, it would have read like this: Forty-two Conservatives against, forty

Liberals and one Conservative in its favour, or forty-one against forty-two. It would have lost by a majority of one, and a loss by a majority of one would have been satisfactory in this respect that it would surely predicate the passing of the bill at a session in the immediate future. We know there are three vacancies and they possibly would have been filled up before next session by men who would be inclined to support the measure. If that body had rejected it by a majority of only one there would not have been very much complaint, because educative forces would have been brought into play and no doubt they would have been prepared to pass it in the near future.

It has been suggested in the press-and I suppose I can allude to it-that possibly the government were animated by improper motives in introducing this measure in this House, the suggestion being that they had been held up-that language was used from time to time-by certain Labour members in this House as the price of their support. May I in parenthesis make the remark that in this House there are other members sympathetic to labour besides the two Labour members from Winnipeg who represent labour? On both sides of the House there are many members who owe a large measure 14011-281

of their support to labour and who are not found wanting in connection with anything that can be done to advance the views of labour. In any event I do not know that it would be a very great crime if the government had yielded to wishes presented by a considerable section of this House in reference to legislation. That is a method adopted by most governments. If we hold views of that kind we are apt to get into a discussion as to whether the dozen members of the cabinet constitute a body of super-human beings and the ordinary members are here only for the purpose of recording the wishes of the government, or whether, as some people hold, the 245 members of parliament are to regard the cabinet merely as an executive body to carry out the people's wishes as expressed by them.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I rise to a point of order. The resolution reads:

That this House take the necessary steps under rale 86, to search the journals of the Senate in order to ascertain if any action has been taken by the upper house with regard to Bill No. 21, an act respecting Old Age Pensions.

I think such a discussion as has been proceeding for the last five minutes is entirely out of order as being irrelevant and not pertinent to the resolution, and I ask for a ruling.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Does any other* hon. gentleman desire to s^eak on the point of order?

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

On the point of order I would say that there is not any. This motion refers to the old age pension bill, and within limitations, without making reflections or especially without referring to the debate elsewhere, I consider I am per'f-ctly in order. At the particular moment when the hon. member interrupted me I was dealing with newspaper rumours as regards the motive for the introduction of this bill which motive the newspapers said might have influenced members elsewhere. I think that is a legitimate subject of comment in dealing with the subject generally. I was analyzing this vote which I took from the printed record alluded to before. I submit I am in order within the judgment of this House in dealing with that phase of the matter.

Mr. SPEAKER. Bourinot at page 357 says:

It ds also a part of the unwritten law of parliament that no allusion should be made in one House to the debates in the other chamber, a rule always enforced by the Speaker with the utmost strictness. Members sometimes attempt to evade this rule by resorting to ambiguous terms of expression-'by referring, for instance, to what happened "in another place"; but all

Old Age Pensions

such evasions of a wholesome practice should be stopped by the Speaker, when it is evident to whom the allusions are made.

Bourinot adds.

It is perfectly regular however, to refer to the official printed records of the other branch of the legislature, even though the document may not have been formally asked for and communicated to the House.

So far 1 think the hon. member is referring to those printed records and speaking of the printed record of the occasion referred to.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I was referring to the fact that having dealt with the action of the Senate, the hon. member seemed to me to be reflecting upon the motives of members of this House and members of the government with regard to the introduction of the bill in question, the manner in which it was introduced and the action taken. This seemed to me to be irrelevant as regards the resolution submitted.

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June 14, 1926