July 1, 1926

CON

Henry Lumley Drayton (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

My hon. friend

says "all very well." What I said was there was no such statute. My hon. friend has referred to an oath which he says is required by statute, and there is no such statute; that is all. My hon. friend might get a little closer to the facts sometimes.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
LIB
CON

Henry Lumley Drayton (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

Absolutely

right.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
LIB

John Campbell Elliott

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

No, he knows that he is

not right. If he is right then I would ask him why do the members of the cabinet take the oath? Why does the Minister of Justice suggest-and he stated what the Minister of Finance now denies-that if he were a real minister, that, is a live minister-a minister into whose being had been infused the breath of life-he would have to take an oath of office? Being only an imaginary, spurious, unreal, visionary minister, how could he come here and seek to get control of the money of the people of this country without taking any oath of office? I do not want to labour the point. I am sure that my hon. friends realize by now that they have no existence as an administration, that they are absolutely without the powers which are necessary in order to entitle them to exercise the functions of government, to entitle them to receive supply, and to carry on the business of the country.

I want just at this stage to deal with another phase of the argument that has been presented to you, Mr. Speaker, during the course of this debate. In doing so I hope that I shall keep away from matters that are personal and endeavour to argue the question out on its real (merits. Because, after all, Mr. Speaker, this is a serious question. What the people of Canada are concerned with today are not recriminations back and forth from one member of this House to another, but the very serious problem of how the affairs of the country are to be administered, how their money is to be expended, and the status of those by whom that expenditure is to be made. That is a serious question and- it should be argued seriously. It is not enough,

14011-334J

I submit, for some hon. gentlemen opposite to say: "You are taking up a lot of time, you are taking it up at the close of the session when we should be at home." I agree that we should be home, we should have been home months ago, but why are we not there? We are not at home because my hon. friends opposite spent weeks, yes months, in the attempt to convince the members of this House that a government could not function if it had a prime minister who was not a member of either House of parliament. My hon. friends did not argue that the late government had ministers not entitled to* carry on the administration but they argued that the fact that the late government did not have a qualified prime minister was an absolute bar to its constitutional functioning. It is not sufficient for hon. gentlemen to say that we should not take up a few hours, or a few days, for that matter, in discussing a question of this kind. It is not sufficient for them to say to us: "You are doing this just to get into power." Is that why my hon. friends opposite occupied all the early months of the session in useless discussion which did not get them anywhere or assist the members of this House in the solution of the problems which confront this country?

I think that my hon. friend (Sir Henry Drayton), who at times is reasonable, will, when he comes to consider the situation, realize that he and the other members of the visionary cabinet neglected to follow the constitutional procedure which would enable them to carry on for a short time. The matter is too serious to be treated in that way. Are the representatives in this House of the people of Canada going to submit to this proposition; that the affairs of this country Shall be conducted in this way, that the moneys of this country shall be expended by a government clothed with less authority than any government that has ever assumed control of a self-governing country among any of the British dominions? I submit not.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
CON

Otto Baird Price

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PRICE:

Clothed with less authority

than the government my hon. friend has been supporting? Why, the ideal

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order, order.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
CON
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order, order.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
LIB

John Campbell Elliott

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

Really, Mr. Speaker, it

amuses me when my hon. friend even suggests that he has an idea. It is quite new. I do not propose to get into any cheap argument

5274 COMMONS

Supply-Formation oj Ministry

with my hon. friend. That is not what I am here for. The time of this House is too valuable to be taken up in that way.

I wish again to urge that it is quite impossible for this government to function. If they do not take the proper course and get their house in order, they cannot carry on the affairs of government and are not entitled to be given the full power of a governmental administration.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. FERNAND RINFRET (St. James):

I must admit at the commencement of my remarks that I approach this problem with a good deal of diffidence. After listening for a couple of days to arguments presented by legal minds, you will understand, Mr. Speaker, that a layman such as myself cannot discuss a matter of this kind without first craving the indulgence of the House as to the manner in which he treats it. At the same time, I consider it the most momentous question that has been before us this session, and I will say more. I have sat in this House for seven sessions, and I have had the great honour of sitting in the press gallery for a number of sessions, and this is the first time in my experience in this House that a question of privilege has arisen in which it could be said that all the members of this House were collectively interested. It must be a very important question when Your Honour had to admit that the House had a collective interest in it, and that every individual member was permitted to protest against such a serious situation, which affects every one of us, and through us certainly affects the whole of the people of Canada whom we represent.

We see in this House a group of members endeavouring to administer the affairs of the government, when those hon. members have not taken the oath of office, nor have they been appointed regularly to their positions as acting ministers; and yet they claim that they have the right to conduct the business of the House, and the right to exact from us the voting of the public moneys, one of the most important functions that parliament is called upon to perform. What is the situation? Can we compare it with the situation in January last when we met in the first days of the session? My hon. friends would want us and the country to believe that they are in the same predicament as the government at that time was, and that the conditions are the same as those which obtained when we met in January. On that occasion there were on the other side of the House, sitting on the treasury benches, members of parliament who had been properly sworn in, who had every right to exercise the prerogatives of ministers of the Crown, and who could properly and with dig-

nity conduct the business of the House and administer the affairs of the country; yet because their membership was not complete and there were certain vacant portfolios, my hon. friends opposite claimed that that government had no right to function and should be dismissed. We find every one of those members who on so many occasions protested against what was a perfectly constitutional position, rising now to defend their own position, which is perfectly indefensible, and taking objection to our attitude on this occasion during a couple of days, when for two full months they protested against the situation which previously obtained.

We all know the result of the last federal election. There were three main groups of members elected, one group having 116 members, the government having 101; but there was a sufficient number of independent members elected to swing the majority one way or the other. The Liberal government was then in power. What was the Prime Minister to do after that election? What was he to advise His Excellency? And what took place at the time? The then Prime Minister advised His Excellency that in his opinion the proper course was not that he should retain office, was not that he should be considered as being still in power, but merely that parliament should be called at a convenient moment and the representatives of the people allowed to decide which party should administer the affairs of the country. That is what took place, and although the ministry was perfectly and regularly in order; although the members of the government had been sworn in and had taken office according to the best principles of our constitution, out of respect for the rights of the people and of public opinion 'they carefully refrained from entering into any act of administration until parliament had been convened to decide that issue. Yet what stand was taken then by my hon. friends opposite, these ministers without portfolio, without oaths, or without anything else that could qualify them as ministers? They claimed that every right had been violated; they claimed that the House could not function because the Prime Minister was absent from it. They claimed that there was no via media through which we could communicate with His Excellency and His Excellency be advised.

That was the stand my hon. friends opposite took then. What are the facts to-day? We have but a shadow government, but a temporary government, on their own admission and also on the admission of everyone else. We have but a group of men who have not been properly sworn in, who have taken no oath and who have not been properly

Supply-Formation of Ministry

appointed by the council,, because in that council only one minister sat who had any right whatever to be there. The government which obtained the vote of confidence of the House in January last carried on for a number of months and succeeded in obtaining successive votes of confidence on the Address, on the budget and on the main measures of its political programme throughout the session. But when it found that the support upon which it could rely from the independent groups in this House was tottering, when it found that majorities were dwindling to one or two, becoming the expression not of the House, but merely of whatever members happened to be in the House at the time the votes were taken; when it found that it had become impossible to carry on, although the government had not been defeated, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) went to His Excellency and advised dissolution, and dissolution was refused. What other course was there for the present leader of the opposition to take than to resign and to make way because he could not obtain dissolution?

The minister of so many portfolios that 1 do not know by which to designate him, the hon. member for Fort William (Mr. Manion) tried to demonstrate this afternoon that in a number of instances dissolution had been refused in the past. He said that he was going to cite sixteen instances. You have heard them, Sir, and you have noticed that every one of those cases was either concerning a colony, not a dominion, or concerning a province, not a dominion again, and that all of them date back over fifty years ago in the history of British institutions. If my hon. friend is willing to go back fifty years in the history of the liberties of the British dominions we on this side of the House are not. We stand for the liberties as we have them to-day; we stand for more liberties that may come to-morrow, but we shall certainly never go back to dead books or to forgotten periods of past history for examples of what we should do to-day. This is why one after the other we rise in our place on this question of collective privilege to protest against the situation which now obtains.

The leader of the opposition was criticized very severely because after tendering his resignation he did not advise His Excellency as to his successor, or did not make it easier for his successor to carry on the business of the House. How could he do so, when the very advice that he was giving was that no one could carry on, neither himself nor any other leader in the House?

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
CON

Donald Sutherland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SUTHERLAND (South Oxford):

Why did he not resign right after the election when he was defeated at the polls?

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
PRO
LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

My hon. friend cannot

have followed me, because this is the very point I- have been trying to make so far. I should be glad to repeat my argument, but the rules of the House prevent my doing so.

I may tell my hon. friend, if he finds any comfort in it, that rvhatever I said about this matter I said nothing about the Australian treaty.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
CON
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

I certainly will. I should

like to hear the question, but I cannot possibly reply to it unless it is put. The reason why I made this remark to my hon. friend is that whatever we discuss in this House, whether it be the Address, the budget, rural credits, old age pensions or anything else, when it comes to my hon. friend it always revolves around the Australian treaty-.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
CON

Donald Sutherland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SUTHERLAND (South Oxford):

My

hon. friend will not find me renouncing all past rules and establishing new precedents on a question of this kind, precedents that have never before been heard of in this or in any other British parliament.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

That is my hon. friend's

opinion, and naturally he is entitled to it; but if he had the same idea of the liberties of members of this House and of the rights of the common people as we cherish and foster, instead of making the statement he made he would protest against this House being ruled by a government formed of temporary members who have no right whatever to administer the affairs of this country. My hon. friend was so much concerned over certain problems that they perhaps prevented him from giving the fullest attention to a question like this which, in my opinion, is much more momentous than most of the questions to which he gave so much time during the course of the session.

I was arguing that it was impossible for the present leader of the opposition to recommend to His Excellency the name of a possible successor who could carry on the business of the House, when his very reason for recommending dissolution was that there was no such possible successor. That 9 p.m. is very plain. He may have been wrong in believing that; he may have had a wrong insight into conditions in

527(1

Supply-Formation oj Ministry

this House. But certainly he was logical, and the last thing we could reproach the leader of the opposition for is the course that he followed in that instance. How could he advise His Excellency as to the fact that he wanted a dissolution because no one could carry on, and in the same breath say: If dissolution is not granted, then I suggest that the leader of the Tory party can carry on. That would have been most illogical, and when my right hon. leader is criticized for having embarrassed the affairs of the country and of my hon. friends by the stand he takes, I cannot consider that argument seriously.

Is it not a strange thing, after we have been here for six months, being obstructed in every possible way, by every device that my hon. friends could imagine, to find that after they have claimed to hold power for two days they already feel that we are creating much embarrassment to their shadow cabinet. I shall remember all my life the scene which took place on Monday last when the then leader of the government got up in his place and, in a voice which betrayed the gravity of the moment, read to this House the document through which he was announcing that his cabinet had resigned. Before a minute had passed, the first thing that came to the mind of the then leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) was to rise and say: Well, now that you are out of it, I pray that you make it as easy as you can for us. Certainly we are not going to do anything merely to delay the business of the country. But in his time the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Meighen) was devising every means he could think of to prevent the estimates being voted and to keep bills from' going through the House. Yet, so soon as the late government resigned, having before him the vision of a cabinet under his own control, the first thing he thought of in the gravity of that situation was reliance upon the benevolence of that very group of men against whom he had devised every scheme his fertile imagination could produce to make it difficult for them to carry on.

Do not let hon. gentlemen suppose that we are taking this stand to-day with any idea at all of embarrassing this government. As a matter of fact during the past couple of days this House has done some business. But when we were informed last evening of the procedure by means of which hon. gentlemen opposite came to occupy their seats, we had to rise in protest, not for any advantage that we might gain, not in the interests of our own party, but from the standpoint of the people at large. We could not allow

such a situation to exist without comment. It has been shown by every text which has been quoted in this discussion that ministers, whatever their capacity, may be appointed only by a quorum of council. And a quorum comprises four ministers. Yet these bon. gentlemen, temporary ministers, acting ministers, and soon departing ministers, were appointed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Meighen) himself alone. He is the only minister who has been sworn in, and he, sitting by himself, presiding over himself, personally passed the orders in council appointing this acting ministry.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink
CON
?

An hon. MEMBER:

He never did that.

Topic:   HOll-332
Permalink

July 1, 1926