February 13, 1939

?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Go on.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
LIB
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Do I understand that the hon. gentleman has the unanimous consent of the house?

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Then the hon. member must resume his seat.

Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. J. MANION (Leader of the Opposition) :

Mr. Speaker, I should like to join with the hon. gentleman who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Pouliot) in congratulating the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) on celebrating his thirty-fifth wedding anniversary and his entrance into parliament. Sometimes, as I realize that the years are slipping by-because I am only a couple of years behind my right hon. friend-

I wonder if we should extend congratulations or commiserations on our birthdays and various other anniversaries. However, so far as congratulations are of any use, I offer mine to the right hon. gentleman and hope he may enjoy many more years of great happiness.

I rise a second time in the debate, Mr. Speaker, because I feel that the issue should once more be clarified. It has been to my mind so confused that the air needs clearing. I suppose, sir, it is fair to say that it has been confused intentionally. There has been an injection of extraneous matters of all kinds, attacks personal and political upon many of us on this side of the house, no doubt with the object of confusing the issue, hiding the facts, disguising the irregularities, concealing the incompetence, and distracting attention from the method of awarding the contract.

I have listened to nearly all the speeches made on all sides, and in all sections of the house on this question. While on this side of the house-and I include all parties on this side-different speakers criticized the contract and the manner in which or method by which the contract was awarded, to my mind they criticized fairly the whole proceeding. But from the other side, from the Liberal benches, there came practically no answer of any kind, except abuse. All of them were like that, except in the case of two speeches. One of those was entirely abuse, and so it is not therefore an exception. One of the two to which I last referred was a studied legal argument. The one which was worst, I am sorry to say was delivered by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie) himself. In my opinion, undoubtedly the best speech was made by the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. McGeer), who spoke on Thursday night. In fact, I think the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard was the only speaker on that side of the house who at all adhered to the charges, if we may term them such-or to the statements made by myself and others on this side of the house. He was the only one who got away from personal and political abuse,

and the only one who really attempted in a legal manner to build up a case on behalf of the government.

So far as the minister's speech was concerned, he never touched the issues at all. His speech was made up of abuse, of name calling, of protestations of honesty and of unparliamentary remarks. I have been in the house now for twenty or twenty-one sessions, I believe it is, and I say without hesitation that never in all those sessions have I heard anything approaching, in unparli-mentary language, the minister's speech.

But he was not alone in that. Here are some of the terms which flew across the house at us, from various speakers-some from the minister and some from others. These are the terms which I jotted down: "Cheap Tammany Hall politicians." "Sinister alliance" between ourselves and members to my left. Incidentally in that regard I recall that between 1921 and 1925 the right hon. gentleman who now leads and then led the government (Mr. Mackenzie King), was very glad to have alliances with the same group, the third party. It was not termed a sinister alliance at that time; what can be wrong in my hon. friends to my left and ourselves taking the same attitude on a question such as this?

Other terms used were in regard to the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth)-"a bird of passage," "Prussian mentality," "never loyal to any principle." The same hon. member who used the "bird of passage" phrase, namely the Minister of Transport (Mr. Howe) called us blackguards. Another speaker,-I think it was the hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Slaght) spoke of a political cabal. [DOT]

Those terms have been used as a defence for this indefensible contract. Fortunately-and I say it is fortunate- some of the terms used by the Minister of National Defence have been expunged from Hansard-against the rules of the house, incidentally. They have been expunged I think for the good of Hansard. It is better perhaps that in years to come readers of Hansard should not think that such terms would have been permitted in the parliament of Canada. So that the expurgated edition of Hansard is probably all to the good so far as that is concerned.

But, sir, I do say this: it is no wonder that the Vancouver Sun, ordinarily an outstanding Liberal organ, spoke of the brawling in parliament, and of the vulgar personalities cast across the floor of the house by an hon. gentleman who comes from the city in which

Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

that paper is published. They added that there is still a strong suspicion of gross political patronage in the awarding of the contract, and they say that the contract was improperly awarded, and that abuse of this kind does not hide the facts.

I want to say with all due respect that I think it is time we had decorum in the House of Commons. In the past week, I think there have been more justifiable appeals against unparliamentary language, and fewer appeals upheld, than I have ever known in the whole of my parliamentary life. If we are to build up the reputation of parliament and help the progress of public business, I suggest that more severity be used in the future, particularly in connection with name calling and unparliamentary language.

The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard I believe made the only real attempt to defend the contract and the proceedings leading up to it. He emphasized the few favourable points, and there were very few. Naturally he ignored the unfavourable evidence, and used his Celtic wit to cover up the weaknesses of his case. He quoted in favour of the case only one section of the report, that section which has been so often quoted-the one paragraph pointing out that there was no corruption.

In the Parliamentary Guide I note that the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard describes himself as by trade an iron moulder and by profession a lawyer, which to me explains a rather interesting point. When I was out in Vancouver a few months ago, being interested in this picturesque gentleman-

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

You are interested in pictures, too.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

So is Judge Davis; he is interested in pictures. My hon. friends opposite are not interested in pictures. All they are interested in is the one part of the report exempting them from corruption. They showed a very distinct disinclination to discuss the rest of the report, which is made up of pictures. ,

But, as I have said, the Parliamentary Guide has described the hon. member as by trade an iron moulder and by profession a lawyer. When in Vancouver I asked about him and his ability as a lawyer, and somebody said that the lawyers claim he is a very good iron moulder, and the iron moulders claim he is a very good lawyer.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

That is smart.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

However, I agree with the iron moulders. I agree with them that he is a very good lawyer, if I may judge from the case he put forward the other day.

[Mr. Manion.)

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
LIB
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I just wanted to say I had so much confidence in him as a lawyer, after listening to him defend this case, that if I am ever accused of murder-and particularly if I am guilty-I will hire him to defend me.

There is one other speech I wish to mention, and that is the speech of the Minister of Transport, who, I regret, is not in the house. He was the one who used the word "blackguarding," and called the hon. member for Waterloo South "a bird of passage." The Minister of Transport has been in the House of Commons and in the public life of Canada only about three and a half years. Prior to that time he was in business, looking after his own affairs as an engineer, and, if rumour is correct, building up quite a comfortable fortune. Over a period of twelve years the hon. member for Waterloo South has been serving in the parliamentary halls of this country- nearly four times as long as the Minister of Transport has served. I think therefore that some of the minister's speech was more particularly out of place, because of that fact. I suggest that in all probability the hon. member for Waterloo South, who has served twelve years, will still be serving in the parliamentary halls of this country when the Minister of Transport is not.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

In what party?

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

At the present time he

is supporting ours, and I have no doubt that he will continue to support ours. The fact that a man changes his party is no disgrace. Wasn't it Lincoln who said that anybody who has not a little more brains to-day than he had yesterday has no brains at all? And I believe it was Morley who once said, "Anybody who wants my discarded opinions can have them," and I say the same.

In the case before the house the Liberals have ignored the issues altogether. They have ignored the report with the exception of three paragraphs which deal with members of parliament and senators not profiting by the contract, and with the "no corruption" paragraph.

They based their replies largely on personal and political abuse, on affection for the minister, and on the tu quoque argument, that from 1914 to 1918 there was graft and profiteering in war contracts. I know nothing about that. I do not deny it, but I do say this: if that was true in war time, it is all the more important in peace time that we should avoid all grafting and suspicion of grafting.

Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

My book was also quoted freely by hon. gentlemen opposite, and I have no objection to that. In the book I pointed out some of the duties of an opposition, but there are men much more prominent in public life than I who have discussed that question. I well remember that Stanley, the so-called Rupert of debate, said that the duty of an opposition is to oppose, and that dictum has been often quoted. But in quoting my book hon. gentlemen opposite omitted to mention entirely a paragraph which shows that when I wrote that book, at a time when I was not even dreaming of being leader of this party, I had the same opinions that I have now with regard to profiteering in munitions. This is the paragraph, to which I refer:

If ever again men are compelled to risk their lives at a dollar a day, others who do war work at home should be put absolutely upon the same basis, and no one permitted to profit in any manner whatsoever by war.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
LIB
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Frankly, I do not know.

I have not read the book, I was so sick and tired of reading the proofs.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
LIB
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Well, you do not have

to read it. In fact, I warn my hon. friends over there that if they go on quoting from my book I am going to take revenge by turning some of my party on the Prime Minister's book. I tried to read it myself, and as I once told the right hon. gentleman, I got only half way through. That is as far as I ever got.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Which one of the three books?

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Permalink

February 13, 1939