February 2, 1944

INQUIRY AS TO INTRODUCTION OF LEGISLATION AND WORK OF SESSION '


On the orders of the day:


NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GORDON GRAYDON (Leader of the Opposition):

I should like to make an observation and, founded upon that observation, to ask the Prime Minister one or two questions with regard to the session, if Your Honour and the house will permit me to do so. It appears likely that this year the debate on the address will be less extended than it has been in previous sessions.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

I hope so.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Air. GRAYDON:

I have expressed that hope also. This is not the first time the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Mackenzie) and I have hoped for the same thing, though sometimes we have differed when it came to realizing our hopes. In any event, Mr. Speaker, I believe if that were to happen it would meet the wishes of the public, which I am sure the house desires to do. The country wants us to conduct its business with efficiency and dispatch, and I hope that the example we may set in this debate will be followed throughout the session. The duty of the opposition, as you know, sir, is to scrutinize and criticize legislation and to audit the expenditures. I do not think -this house should be made a sounding board for political programmes and party plans, and all that sort of thing.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Air. GRAYDON:

I noticed that most of that response came from the section to my left which is more accustomed to do that

very thing. However, I should like to say that so far as the Progressive Conservative party is concerned we are trying to organize to do a job, in connection with our house activities, that will be acceptable to this house and to the country. The tempo of the whole session of course is set largely by the government, and for that reason I am asking the Prime Minister to bring down at an early day the legislation envisaged in the speech from the throne. The rules of the house will permit that to be done, as a result of the reservations contained in the motion adopted on the opening day of the session giving right of way to the address in reply to the speech from the throne. I hope the Prime Minister will see to it that this legislation is brought down, if possible this week. There is no reason why legislation which is envisaged in the speech from the throne should not be ready, and if it is, I would ask the Prime Minister to bring it down. -I would ask also that all committees be set up this week, if possible. It does not take very long to introduce bills or set -up committees, and that work should be undertaken at once.

I have given the Prime Minister notice of these questions, and I should like to ask something else. I presume that when the debate on the address has been concluded we shall take up the war appropriation -resolution. Last year we had -the budget first, but this time no doubt the war appropriation resolution will come ahead of the budget. I should like to inquire of the ministry whether, when that resolution is brought down, they intend to pursue the course that was followed last year; that is, if they intend to consider it department by department. I think that worked out well last yea-r, with one exception; and therefore the details of all the items coming under that resolution should be brought down before we attempt to deal with the resolution itself, as was done last year. Then I should like to ask the Prime Minister at what stage of the session the government intends to bring down the budget, and also what legislation the government has in mind other than that mentioned in the speech from the throne. All this has a general bearing upon the whole scheme of our parliamentary system. I should like to know also whether, when the Prime Minister goes to the conference of commonwealth prime ministers, it is his intention to ask for an adjournment of the house while he is away.

I am asking these questions only with the idea of trying to formulate, earlier in the session than we have done before, some plan by which the work -may be facilitated and the

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session shortened, because there seems to be a tremendous volume of work ahead of us and I believe we should plan carefully in order to take care of it.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I need hardly say that I am in complete accord with my hon. friend in his desire to have the business of the session conducted as rapidly and efficiently as possible. He may be sure that the government will make every effort in that direction. I regret that I have not the vision of a prophet or a seer and therefore am unable to give my hon. friend direct assurances with respect to all that is going to happen in the course of the session. I shall indicate to him in general terms the course which the government intends to follow, though naturally how the session proceeds will depend, among other things, upon circumstances beyond the control of parliment, to begin with, and, within parliament itself, certainly beyond the control of the government. However, it is gratifying to realize that hon. members of all parties appear to share the hope of the government that the debate on the address will not be prolonged unduly. I have no desire in any way to curtail the right or privilege of any hon. member to speak in any debate, but I do believe that in previous years the debate on the address frequently has run on much too long. Last year it continued for a month or more, and I believe the public deprecated the length of time it took the House of Commons to conclude that debate. If there is general agreement in the view that the address should be voted in short order, I can assure my hon. friend that other legislation is ready now to be taken up immediately the debate is concluded.

As to the general business, if hon. members will look at the speech from the throne they will see that it falls naturally into three parts. The first part refers to the war and the importance of war measures receiving consideration ahead of all others. There can be nothing as important as the winning of the war and making every necessary provision toward that end at as early a date as possible. Then follow the measures that relate to the period of transition between the close of the war and the establishment of peace. The fact that the speech from the throne dwells at some length on these measures, and on others, must not be taken as an indication that the government entertains any belief that the war is going to end suddenly, or soon. The contrary, as I said the other day, is the view of the administration. I believe the war will last much longer than most of us have assumed it would.

However, it is part of the government's obligation to anticipate, so far as possible, situations which may arise in any eventuality. And for that reason we have had already to take carefully into consideration, as did committees of the house at the last session, those situations which will arise once the war is at an end. The first of the new situations would be that arising from the conditions in devastated areas in Europe, conditions in countries which have suffered, and which will experience need of assistance from the united nations, in order that their peoples may be enabled to reestablish themselves.

Simultaneously there will also be the most important work of the demobilization of our own forces, and making provision for their reestablishment in orderly fashion. Certain measures will be necessary in that connection. I might describe these measures as illustrative of what is related to the transitional period.

Then, following that, measures by way of reforms will be required, if the new era is to be an improvement on the old one-and we certainly hope and expect it will be. Many measures of social reform will have to be carefully considered. But they cannot be considered by this House of Commons alone because, as hon. members well know, under our constitution certain obligations are assigned to the federal government, and others to the provincial governments. Close cooperation will be required between provincial and dominion authorities if we are to bring into being a nation-wide programme of social security and human well-being.

I do not wish to discuss a matter which might be the subject of debate, but may I point out that in his amendment my hon. friend opposite has stressed the importance of the dominion in its social and fiscal measures not invading the jurisdiction of the provinces. When my hon. friend, the leader of the C.C.F., was speaking in the debate he said-the speech from the throne indicated a first-rate example of passing the buck from the dominion to the provinces. I leave hon. members to judge for themselves as to just in what position the government is placed when dealing with these matters. I, myself, cannot find any sure path to follow, other than that laid down in the constitution of our country as a guide, and what in the way of cooperation will, we hope, be the attitude of all governments in Canada at this time in seeking to meet situations which will lie ahead of us all.

So, speaking broadly, we find the legislation for this session divided into those three fields, namely that which relates immediately to the prosecution of the war, that which relates to the transitional period, and that relating to

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social problems which will also follow immediately after the war ends, and in larger measure as we enter the period of peace. The government will seek to introduce its legislation, broadly, on those lines.

The measures we wish to take up first of all are those related to the prosecution of the war. Then, as I have said, we will proceed to those matters arising immediately from the war and in the post-war period, and other measures will follow in due course. I am not laying down a hard and fast line. As hon. members know, there are some subjects, the discussion of which will take a longer time than others. There are some we may wish to discuss immediately, and then allow some time to intervene before renewing discussion on them. There are always miscellaneous measures. They will be interspersed. The government will have to judge in respect of those matters what it thinks will best serve to meet the general need. Broadly, however, I have outlined the position.

The leader of the opposition (Mr. Graydon) asked if we can have all these measures introduced this week. I do not think he is serious when he prefers a request of that kind. No administration has ever brought down its whole programme within the first five days of the session-unless it was intended that the session should last about that length of time.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

That is not the only reason.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

However, we will keep the house plentifully supplied with legislation, and if hon. members feel they have not had the time necessary to consider certain legislation before debate is opened in the house, they have only to ask that they be given a little time, and it will be afforded. That is what we seek to do. We do not wish to congest the order paper with a large number of measures, but rather it is our desire to bring before the house in an orderly fashion and in accordance with the plans I have indicated first of all the measures which are the most pressing.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

Of course, the introduction of bills does not congest the order paper.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My hon. friend has his responsibility with respect to the introduction of bills, and I have mine. I should not wish to see measures brought down at other than what I regard as the most appropriate time. The government must be the judge of that.

The next query raised by the leader of the opposition was as to whether we can have all committees appointed this week. May I say to him that that depends on him much more

than on me. It depends on other hon. members and other parties in the house rather than on the government. The complaint has been made that last year a long time elapsed before some of these committees were established. I shall not at this time go over the reasons for that, but I would point out in passing that one of the reasons was that, time and again, when we hoped to be able to proceed with a motion related to the appointment of some committee, we were prevented from so doing by a motion from the other side of the. house, occasioning at different times debate which ran on for some days, and the opportunity to get committees appointed was precluded from day to day and often from week to week.

Then there was a further fact-and this is important-namely, that there was a desire on the part of some hon. members to start debates on the several motions to establish committees. On one or two occasions I was asked to please hold over my motion to constitute a committee-the committee on war expenditures was one-because it was the desire of certain hon. members to have a debate upon the motion.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

Of course the Prime Minister knows why that was.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I have forgotten it-if I ever did know.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

Well, I can tell him, if he wishes to know.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I am no longer interested as it belongs to the past; but what I wish to say now is that- if hon. members are prepared to allow these committees to be constituted without debate, and that is the position they will take with respect to each committee as its appointment is proposed, I would undertake to say that practically all committees will be established this week. As hon. members will have seen, notice appears in Votes and Proceedings of motions for most of committees that remain to be constituted.. If it is the wish of the house-and it would be very helpful in every way if such proved to be so-I believe those committees could be established at once. If there could be an understanding that there would be no debate-no lengthy debate-on the establishment of the committees, I am sure we could forward them in such fashion that practically all standing and select committees would be established this week.

My hon. friend asked if it was the plan of the government to go on with the war appropriation measure, immediately after the conclusion of the debate on the address. That is the intention. As soon as the debate on the

Business oj the House-Legislation

address is concluded the war appropriation resolution, now appearing on the order paper, will be the first item for the consideration of the house, with the possible exception of some routine motion or motion respecting the appointment of further committees. The bill based upon the resolution is ready to be introduced, and it is the intention with respect to the discussion on the bill to follow the same order of procedure as was adopted last year. That is to say, the estimates with respect to the war appropriation resolution will be broken down, as before, and the debate will proceed on the different branches of the service, taking one service at a time.

My hon. friend asked me at what stage of the session the budget would be brought down. I cannot answer that question offhand because that will depend upon how much time is taken up with the other war measures which will be brought forward in succession. Following the war appropriation measure, without a very long delay, there will be brought down a measure with respect to mutual aid, This year this measure will relate to aid in the nature of relief to countries in Europe as well as to war supplies. I would hope that both of these important war measures might be disposed of before the budget is brought down.

In referring to these matters I think I ought to stress the tremendous load that necessarily falls upon the shoulders of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Ilsley). Most of the measures of defence in a time of war are financial in character and the Minister of Finance will have a heavy load to carry in bringing forward these measures one after another. But he tells me that he feels he is equal to it. If the house will, as it has done before, cooperate with him I think we can have these measures brought along fairly Boon.

There are also the estimates. They will be ready and tabled shortly. The government hopes to get on with the estimates a little more rapidly this year than has been the case in previous years. It is an open question as to whether more progress is made in the end by having one particular measure discussed at considerable length until it is completed or to break up the discussion and take on other measures in the interim. I am inclined to believe that perhaps it is better not to stick too closely to any one measure through every day in the week but rather to vary the programme in some particulars, while holding in the main to getting through a particular measure. We should I think introduce other bills, some of which may be of minor importance, and have discussions on different

subjects so that the discussion on a particular measure may not become too monotonous. The estimates can be taken up on. one or more days in the week and we shall hope to begin with them at an early stage of the session.

The leader of the opposition has asked me what legislation the government intends to introduce other than that mentioned in the speech from the throne. I cannot indicate to him at the moment what further legislation there will be. There is one bill with respect to the disposal of obsolete war materials which will be brought forward and there are other measures I cannot recall at the moment. There may arise a number of measures in the course of the session. At this moment I am not in position to tell my hon. friend what they will be. The speech from the throne does not usually make mention of all intended legislation.

I have been asked whether it is the intention to adjourn parliament while I attend the conference of commonwealth prime ministers. Here again I cannot speak with any degree of certainty because I do not know when this conference will take place. It is likely to be some short time hence, but whether it would be advisable to adjourn will depend, first of all, on the time at which the meeting takes place and, next, on the progress that meanwhile has been made with the different war measures.

I should point out to the house that before very long the government hopes to have a conference between the dominion and the provinces. The government has been ready ever since the last conference with the provinces to have another dominion-provincial conference and we have reason to believe that the provinces now are ready and willing, some of them I understand quite anxious to meet with the federal government in conference to discuss some of the social problems and financial questions that they along with ourselves have had necessarily to consider. It may be that an adjournment would be advisable in connection with a conference of the kind. It might be possible to arrange to have it take place at the time the meeting of prime ministers is taking place in London. However, I cannot say as to that at the moment or whether it will be necessary or advisable to have an adjournment at the time. I do say, however, that the fact that we are faced with the possibility of an adjournment gives an additional reason why this house should in the interval seek to make all the progress it possibly can with the war measures.

The last question my hon. friend asked was whether there were any other general sessional

Business oj the House-Legislation

plans which the Prime Minister would care to disclose to the house. I have not any in in mind at the moment. If any should develop I shall be glad to acquaint my hon. friend with them.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

Mr. Speaker, I think all hon. members wish to expedite the business of the house. During the past several sessions, however, there have been no private members' days, and opportunities are few for private members to bring forward the ideas that their constituents often wish them to bring forward. To my mind the debate on the speech from the .throne offers an opportunity which is now seized by hon. members for that purpose.

I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) could expedite the business of the house if he would say whether it is the intention to move the various committee reports that were tabled on the last day of the last session. If it is not, then I shall object most strenuously to the suggestion that all the committees be set up -this week. With regard to radio and war expenditures particularly I am certain that some discussion should be undertaken in this house. If we have -the assurance that the reports are to be moved, then perhaps there would not be any need to enter into a debate when we are setting up the committees. But if we have not that assurance, members will naturally seize the opportunity-I know I myself intend to do so-when we are setting up the committees to discuss matters concerning radio and war expenditures. Other members may have other reports in their own minds.

As for -this house being a sounding board, I take it that this democratic institution affords the right to every member of parliament to bring forward matters which he considers of interest to his constituents and to the country. Therefore I object strenuously to any suggestion that the house is being used improperly as a sounding board.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

I was just cautioning my hon. friend against it.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

If I may

answer the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, my impression is that reports made at any session must be dealt with at that particular session. It would require the unanimous consent of the house or the adoption of a special resolution to permit of discussion at this time of reports made at a previous session. I am not therefore in -a position to give my hon. friend an assurance.

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QUESTION AS TO PAYMENT OF LOST PARTICIPATION CERTIFICATES

February 2, 1944