July 10, 1947

SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. E. G. HANSELL (Macleod):

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to call it one o'clock.

Topic:   SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS
Subtopic:   ADDITIONAL ALLOWANCE TO GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION LEADERS IN SENATE
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

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LIB

James Sinclair

Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Vancouver North):

If you want to waste time you might as well waste it now.

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

It is two minutes to one o'clock and I wish to speak longer than two minutes.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

Then I will go on until one o'clock and perhaps can deliver my introduction in the two minutes remaining.

I have listened with tremendous interest to this debate today because it has been extremely interesting. I was almost spellbound as I listened to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) give our friends immediately to my right the sort of tongue lashing that it seemed to be at the time. I have rather regarded those two parties as carrying on a bit of a courtship over the last few years, and as the Prime Minister was speaking I thought perhaps the courtship was coming to an end. I have been somewhat accustomed to family squabbles, not in my own home, but by reason of my profession I have sometimes been called in to help out in such situations. I remember 'being called in once to a home where they had had a squabble; I tried diplomatically to lead things up to where I might be of some help, and the lady of the house said, "Mr. Hansell, you know we do have our spats and sometimes they are pretty bad, but it's great to kiss and make up again." I suggest that when a subsequent measure comes before the house, such as the radio bill, we may find those two parties kissing and making up again.

At one o'clock the house took recess.

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After Recess

The house resumed at two o'clock.

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

Mr. Speaker, when the house rose at one o'clock we were discussing Bill 443, an act to amend the Senate and House of Commons Act, and I had only nicely started my introduction. The bill proposes to increase the present allowances to the leader of the government and the leader of the opposition in the Senate. My first reaction is something like this. Of course, I am a social crediter, and my social credit conscience seems never to permit me to vote against giving something to somebody, especially when that person or those people contribute something to the country's welfare.

Even though I have sometimes perhaps_ expressed myself on increases in judges' salaries and increases in the salaries of those engaged in the diplomatic service, I always feel a little guilty if I oppose them, because it is only increasing the benefits to the individual, and why should I not want to increase the benefits accruing to people? But of course a principle is involved. While I am a social crediter I am not living in a social credit country. I am living in a country controlled by a party that believes in a policy which will not permit of my social credit instincts functioning. Therefore it boils down to this, that living as I am in this country, apparently to vote to give someone an additional financial benefit means in the net result voting to take something away from somebody else. That is the position in which I find myself.

I can quite understand, perhaps, my friends to my immediate right being so enthusiastic about their position in respect to this bill, because, as I understand that socialist philosophy, it is that in order that benefits may accrue to the substratum of society it is necessary to reduce the benefits from those who have more than others. I do not believe that has to be done; it would not if the country were handled properly. In other words, I do not believe that you have to tear the fop fellow down in order to build up the fellow who is underneath. That is a wrong philosophy, it is a wrong mental attitude to take, and anyone who looks at a bill like this and says, "Well now, here these people in the other place, who are getting the same as we are getting, $6,000 a year, are to have another addition, which wall mean that one will get $13,000 a year and the other less, and perhaps some other additions-well, I cannot stand for that; he is getting too much"; to such a person, I say, that mental attitude is wrong.

[Mr. Hansell.)

To my mind nobody gets too much provided he is not taking it from somebody else. There is my position. I am dealing now with a mental attitude, and I would like the house to think that through some time, particularly when members are suffering from insomnia and want something to think about.

As to what has been said about abolishing the Senate, I must confess that with my present knowledge of the entire parliamentary set-up, plus the history of parliamentary institutions, I personally would not be so bold as to say at the present time that I want the Senate abolished, that they are no good- what is the use of them. You hear that sort of talk, and I am inclined to think that underlying that attitude is another principle, and that is the desire that I must not be checked in what I am going to do. That too is a mental attitude. I do not know whether it would be the best thing for a government to be elected and have an absolutely free hand, without any check whatsoever, to do whatever they thought best on the spur of the moment. I can visualize a danger there. Governments are not always right, and if the Senate of Canada were what I think it should be, they would have an excellent opportunity of checking something that governments might do which in the end would be wrong.

I do not want to bring in my friends to my immediate right, but they were wrong in their attitude towards the war when the war broke out. There is no question that time proved they were wrong, just as wrong as anyone could ever be. Of course that was on a negative proposition; they did not want something done that was about to be done. But suppose they were in office and desired a positive thing that was just as wrong; I do not know why a properly functioning body in the other place would not be a good thing.

I am perhaps thinking out loud now when I mention those particular things. I can visualize, under this party system, a government being elected on a tremendous emotional appeal at a time when people's hearts and minds were tremendously confused and the country was being saddled with an irresponsible government. I am not now referring to my hon. friends opposite. They may or may not be. I do not care about that. I am visualizing a situation which might easily arise, where the country is confused and dissatisfied and a great emotional appeal is made to the people. They are fed up with what they have and they are taking a chance on something new, something of which perhaps they have little knowledge, and an irresponsible government is elected with no check whatever on what they do and the methods they take.

Senate and House of Commons Act

They may be well-meaning; they may have good intentions. They desire to reach a certain objective, but in trying to do so they pass legislation and devise methods of reaching their objective which might very well wreck this whole country. I say it might be as well if we had some little check through the medium of the Senate.

There is another point I should like to make here. There does seem to me to be some justification for increasing the salaries of the leader of the government and the leader of the opposition in the Senate. What I mean is this. I understand that they now receive the same remuneration as all other senators. It seems to me that their responsibilities are heavier and that they should receive something more than the other senators receive. I am not opposed to an increase. Whether the increase should be the amount provided, I am not prepared to say. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) spoke he pointed out that the leaders in the other house are under additional expense. Perhaps the government leader in the Senate has to maintain a residence in Ottawa. Those arguments are all right, and I am not opposing them; but the Prime Minister did not refer to another phase which I think is worthy of consideration, namely that under the present system all senators are appointed for life. One cannot compare them with the leader of the opposition in this house, for instance, or the Prime Minister, or any other minister, because their tenure of office may not be long. They do not know how long it will last, while the senators have economic security for the rest of their lives. That should be taken into consideration, I think, when an amount is determined.

There was another thing which struck me, and it was this. All that the Prime Minister said, even though we grant it to be true, has been true for the last thirty, forty or fifty years. I cannot quite understand why at this session the government has suddenly decided to increase the salaries of those two leaders. If they need that increase today, they needed it last year and they needed it twenty years ago. That is a point which I think is worthy of noting.

With respect to that part of the debate which has emphasized Senate reform, I have just a word or two to say. I certainly believe that we need Senate reform. I would go farther; I would say we certainly need parliamentary reform, and the Senate is part of parliament. I once said that I thought senators should be elected. I still think so, because upon their election they would be sent to the Senate to represent the will of the people.

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At the present time, when they are appointed by the government in office, they naturally feel that they must be loyal to those who appointed them. But they might be loyal to those who appointed them and not loyal to the people. If they are not elected I think that at least the provinces should have something to do with the appointments. Is it not passing strange, for instance, that although there is in Alberta a government which has been known as a Social Credit government, holding a different concept from that which the present Liberal administration holds, a Social Credit government which swept out all its opponents twelve years ago and has been in office ever since, yet the Liberal government here in Ottawa has been appointing Liberal senators from that province from that day twelve years ago up to the present.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

There has not been a Liberal government there for twenty-five years. .

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre reminds me that there has not been a Liberal government in Alberta for twenty-five years.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

There will be next time.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

What a hope!

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

It is nice to dream about these things we should like to see happen. But let the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Mackenzie) come out there and do all he is able to do; I am afraid he will not have much effect. I have great regard for the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner). Speaking of eloquence, he can really move the people. But a few days before the last election he was in my home town. After he had spoken-and the theatre in which he spoke was crowded to the doors-I went, around the next day feeling I was surely defeated. But when the people went to the polls I received more votes from that section than from any other. So if the government wants to send the ministers out there again, it is all right with me.

I believe that Senate reform is essential. There is one thing I think we look to the Senate to do, and that is to protect the rights of the provinces. Yet it is possible for a province to have a government which is unalterably opposed to this government and still have no senators representing the views of that provincial government. I do not think that is right. I believe some body should be set up-first I thought of a joint parliamentary committee of both houses, and then in terms of a royal commission, but somehow or other

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I do not rush too quickly into suggesting it should be a royal commission-for the purpose of going into parliamentary reform, with the .[DOT]specific view of bringing about such reforms as will ensure that at all times the will of the people is reflected. That is not what happens today; positively it is not. The other day we had a bill dealing with old age pensions. Would anyone say that the means test reflects the will of the people of Canada? It does not. So I say there is need for Senate reform.

In conclusion let me say that I do not like to oppose a reasonable bill. I am not saying I oppose an increase for these two public servants who sit in the Senate. However, I think my position will have to be that of the leader of this group; that what we want is a bill embracing the over-all picture of parliamentary reform. If that is done, and something of this sort is brought in, it will meet with more favour as far as I am concerned. I shall have to take the position my leader has well taken, and oppose the bill. I do so on these grounds, not necessarily because I do not believe in some further consideration being given these public servants.

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LIB

Daniel (Dan) McIvor

Liberal

Mr. DANIEL McIVOR (Fort William):

I have just one brief observation to make. It is well known that there are many members of this house who will never go to the Senate. We are all interested in social security; but I know of many hon. members who have passed through this house who have not even the hope of the old age pension. If we are to have social security then I believe that at another session some consideration should be given hon. members who serve in this house for a number of years just as faithfully as those who are appointed to the Senate.

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CCF

William Irvine

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

Mr. WILLIAM IRVINE (Cariboo):

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IND

Jean-François Pouliot

Independent Liberal

Mr. JEAN FRANCOIS POULIOT (Temis-couata):

Mr. Speaker, I have just a word to say in reply to my hon. friend (Mr. Irvine) who has made as usual a delightful speech. He says that the Senate does not always reflect public opinion. It is a respectable view, but I think that my hon. friend is wrong, because in the Senate there are twelve or fifteen owners of newspapers. They establish public opinion, and therefore the views of the public must be in conformity with their own.

At first I was opposed to the Senate. I said to myself, so long as Senator Dandurand and Senator Aylesworth, dear Sir Allen, are there, I will not go further with the suggestion of abolishing the Senate. But if the government has not done much that has been seen in the reform of the Senate, the senators

have taken it up themselves and they have reformed themselves to a great degree. We see that they are very active now and they show some independence. In the Senate we see some dignified old Conservatives and some Liberals who are really democrats. They unite together to make some profitable suggestions to the government,

I must say, sir, that I am honoured in counting amongst my friends some old gentlemen who sit in the Senate and who are just as worthy of sitting there as any hon. member is to sit here. The Senate has done no harm in the past, and now it is starting to do some good. The only thing is to warn the government to be very cautious about the appointment of a future leader in the Senate. The present one stated one day that the Prime Minister would lead the small nations at the peace conference, which was just flattery. It was not interesting, it was not worth listening to, and he got his place. But there are others who practise flattery in order to replace the present incumbent. I will name no one, but it is clear and evident that the practice is followed. The Prime Minister has too much experience of men not to read between the lines when something of that sort is said to him.

Even when I was opposed to the Senate because at the time they had not started their own reform I never complained bitterly about them as some of my hon. friends did today. The senators are able men who represent a good1 slice of mankind. They do not pretend that they are any better than the commoners but they live a life that is more boring when they wait for legislation that takes so much time to come from the House of Commons. They deserve our sympathy; they deserve our assistance; they deserve our help, and it is to be hoped that in the future the Senate will not be castigated by the House of Commons any more than the Senate does this house, but that there will be a spirit of cooperation between both houses. That spirit is highly desirable. It is unfortunate that at times there are closed walls between both houses. There should be more frequent communication and exchange of views between the senators and the members of the House of Commons. When that is done there will be no more complaint about- the Senate.

This bill is a trivial matter; it is just to increase by a few thousand dollars the amount that is paid to the leaders of both parties. I am not very well acquainted with the leader of the government in the Senate. I believe that he is doing a good' job in his

Senate and House oj Commons Act

position; but I am well acquainted with the leader of the opposition in the Senate, who has been here for a very long time. He is a dignified old gentleman and works very hard. I remember that Senator Dandurand, although he was very old, used to wake up at four or five in the morning to start his day. As the Prime Minister said, 'he had no extra pay to lead the government in the Senate; it was quite meritorious of him to be up so early in the morning to start his day. I know some other senators who are public spirited just as much as any other member of any group in the house. They express independent views -perhaps because 'they are in the other house, I do not know; but they express independent views for the welfare of the community and on this account deserve highly from the country.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

This morning the leader of the opposition asked the Prime Minister if any plans were being made for the reform of the Senate. Is the Prime Minister not making any reply in closing the debate?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

There is an amendment before the house, and I have already spoken to it. I presume that I am precluded from speaking again on the amendment. If it is a question that is being asked, I would say to my hon. friend that I have had several conversations with the leader of the government in the Senate and with some of the senators as to the possibility of some immediate reforms -being made which would enable the Senate to play a more important and effective part in the business of parliament. As a result of these conversations I understand that there has been consideration by hon. members of the Senate of some of the matters raised and that at the present time they are receiving favourable consideration by members of the Senate.

I might mention one question. I had suggested that I thought it would facilitate further cooperation between the two houses if ministers of the crown were granted permission to appear on the floor of the Senate chamber when important government measures were being presented and that they should have the right to participate in the debate and to answer any questions which might be asked. I believe that that reform would be most helpful and I have reason to believe that it is one which will be favourably entertained by the Senate.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

Would the ministers, like it?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It is not a question of who likes this or who likes that; it is

a question of what will most effectively further public business. That is the purpose of the particular bill before the house. Many references have been made to the necessity of Senate reform beginning in the Senate itself. As hon. members know', all public bills have to pass both houses. It seems to me appropriate that the Senate should as far as possible initiate measures for the reform of the Senate.

Reference has been made to pledges exacted from members going to the Senate. The only reference in that connection that I can recall is the matter of senators being prepared to favour a shortening of the years during which service would be given in the Senate. Many Liberal members who went to the Senate after this government came into office gave their word that they would favour a shortening of the term, that is, instead of having a life term that some age limit would be fixed. That was not in the nature of making a rubber stamp -out of the Senate; it was if anything to ensure that Liberal members who went to the Senate would be helpful in bringing about that reform. That was a mere understanding, a gentleman's agreement with some of those who went to the Senate at the beginning of my term of office as Prime Minister. Of late years I have not felt it was necessary to suggest this reform to any senator; I believe many already favour it.

I have always looked upon every member ' of parliament, whether he was in the Senate or in this house, as being independent in the matter of expressing his views, and I hope this measure will help to further that same independence.

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PC

Grote Stirling

Progressive Conservative

Mr. STIRLING:

I understood the leader of the opposition to indicate this morning that he would like the Prime Minister to state his views with regard to the suggestion made that a joint committee composed of members of the Commons and members of the Senate and representatives of the provinces be set up to consider the reform of the Senate.

I further understood my leader to indicate that unless there wras a probability that such a committee would be set up to examine the question of the reform of the Senate, this party would reconsider the decision which he expressed in favour of the bill.

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July 10, 1947