September 2, 1950

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

MORNING SITTINGS ON AND AFTER MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 4

LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister) moved:

That on and after Monday, September 4, 1950, until the end of the present session, the house shall meet at eleven o'clock in the morning of each sitting day, and that, in addition to the usual intermission at six o'clock p.m., there shall be an intermission every day from one to three o'clock p.m.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, no one is more anxious than I am to see the work of this special session completed as quickly as possible. In seeking an early termination of the session, however, the first consideration is to make sure that the people's business is given adequate consideration. On Votes and Proceedings today we have an indication of legislation and motions that will have a profound effect upon the Canadian economy and upon the general welfare of all our people. These matters are of a nature and a scale that call for adequate consideration by every member before he passes judgment.

If this house sits from eleven o'clock in the morning until eleven o'clock at night, it does not mean that the members are working from eleven o'clock in the morning until eleven o'clock at night. It means that any member who is attempting to understand what is being presented, and to give that measure of consideration which the importance of these measures demands, will be working from seven o'clock in the morning until well after midnight. Those measures do demand consideration. In addition to that, under our parliamentary system it is important that members who are associated in parties not only seek to understand these measures but that they have an opportunity to discuss them and gain the advantage of an exchange of ideas with those with whom they are associated.

For these reasons I believe that the work of this house will be completed more quickly, and in a manner consistent with the importance of the subjects before us, if sittings are held in the ordinary way in the afternoon and evening, leaving the mornings open for consideration of the important bills and motions which will be introduced.

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to register my objection to this motion, for the reasons indicated by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew), and for the reasons indicated yesterday in connection with another matter by my colleague the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis). In addition to those reasons, I am opposed to this motion because it seems to me to be part of a pattern, indicating the government's desire not only to get this session over as early as possible but to get parliament away from Ottawa.

That plan worries me, Mr. Speaker, because my fear is-I believe there are others in the house who share or at least understand that fear-that after we return home there is a danger of other crises arising. The international situation could worsen, or the situation on the home front could demand, in connection with rising prices for example, other measures than those which may be brought before us during this session. Yet with parliament back home the government would be powerless to deal with these crises that might arise.

I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that if there is this urgency, not only should we deal with the matters before us in a more responsible manner, as has been suggested by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew), and by the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis) yesterday, but it should also be made clear to us that if there are any further crises after the immediate business before us is over, parliament will be called back. I imagine that the government is not anxious to have another special session, but it could be that this session, following the practice pursued by parliament during the last war, could simply be adjourned so that we could be called back in the event of any crisis. I feel that unless the world situation clears before next June, as all of us hope it may, the same principle will apply then with respect to the session of 1951. Indeed, so long as there is any state of crisis facing us in this country or facing the world, the people's representatives should not feel that they are being rushed away from Ottawa but should either be kept here or should be readily callable so that they can deal with the people's business without delay.

I personally do not object to working longer hours, but I feel that the supremacy of parliament in these matters should be

Business of the House recognized. As to some of the suggestions I have made, the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) may not wish to answer at this time; but I think he should consider the whole situation with his colleagues in the government and let the house know at the earliest possible moment how the government plans to deal with other crises that could develop after we have dealt with the matters now before us.

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SC

Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. Solon E. Low (Peace River):

Mr. Speaker, we in this group want to help the government to get through the business of the house as soon as it is possible to do so. But at the same time we feel that we just cannot give to the measures that are being brought before us the consideration which they should be given if we have to sit three times a day. We are prepared to support the government in sitting on Saturdays and on every other day of the week for two sittings, but we would ask, for the reasons already advanced, that the government consider withdrawing this motion at this time.

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

We have heard only three of the hon. members of this house, Mr. Speaker, and we have had three rather diverging views. The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) does not object to the long hours. This motion has no other purpose than to provide for long hours. I am sure that the hon. gentleman is not serious in thinking that anyone here would deprive us of the pleasure of having him with us at Ottawa; but that is something which can be dealt with on some other occasion.

At this moment the only question is whether or not the business of the house will be more efficiently dealt with by sitting three times a day or by sitting twice a day. The leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) told us that it would be dealt with better and more expeditiously by sitting twice a day. There are a great many who do not share that view. We all have the same concern about having the business properly and seriously considered, but we do not all agree as to what is the best method to adopt in order to achieve that end. I think that the diverging views will have to be determined in the ordinary way, that is, by the acceptance of those which are shared by the majority of the members of this house.

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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. A. Ross (Souris):

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) has said that he has heard from only three members. I had not intended to say anything, but I endorse all that my leader has said. I am one of those who naturally would like to be at

home at this time of the year, but I was elected a member of parliament; and I have certainly had a bit of a gruelling experience in this past week, in my humble way, with the house meeting three times a day. Certainly it was extremely important, but we did not have time properly to study and to consider the legislation that was before us. It just cannot be done, even if you forgo your regular meals and grab a snack on the run.

When we met here for an emergency session this week, the government had not their legislation prepared. They have technical advisers whose assistance we in the apposition do not have, and they certainly have a great advantage over us. Even when they were asked questions yesterday, they said they were considering several matters and had not yet made a decision on them. The country therefore will surely understand that we of the opposition are at a disadvantage in that respect. I am sure that all the important legislation that is to come before us cannot be given the consideration which it deserves if we meet three times a day.

It has teen pointed out that the several parties have to hold caucuses.. The government do not yet know what their legislation is. In fact I am reminded of the definition of a member of parliament which I heard as I was leaving to come down here. The definition was this: one who was elected by the people to represent them in parliament, but whom this government did not like to see in Ottawa any more than they have to, until they got themselves into a real mess and then they put on an airlift to get him here to help them out of the mess.

I also agree with one of the other speakers -not of this party-who said that world conditions are extremely serious. But I would ask you to remember this, Mr. Speaker. It was common knowledge that this government did not intend to call us here until the last week in September or the first week in October in order to deal with the very matters we are now debating, namely, national defence and the Korean situation. Until this railway strike came on us as a great crisis, they had no thought of calling us here for another three, four or five weeks. I therefore do not know where the consistency is when they tell us there is all this urgency to meet three times a day, thus affording no time to hon. members to give consideration to the legislation which is presented to this house. I hope that the members will be fair about this matter, if we have to decide it by a recorded vote.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. Angus Maclnnis (Vancouver East):

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to add much to what I said yesterday, but I am glad that others

are beginning to feel as this group did then. I would draw to your attention and recall to your memory the roar of nays that was heard from the opposite side of the house and the opposite end of it yesterday when the matter was put to a vote. But today we have nothing but empty seats. Certain members are extremely anxious that others should sit here on Saturday, but they are not sitting here themselves on Saturday to look after the people's business. Those who have so little regard for the people's business as to absent themselves from the house have no business to vote when the question comes up as to what hours we should sit.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the points made by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) are well taken. We just cannot give the proper consideration to the measures that are coming before us if this motion is adopted. These measures are important. Notice is given today of a measure that I cannot remember having seen before. We cannot consider these matters properly if we are to sit from eleven o'clock in the morning until eleven o'clock at night. I would ask hon. members on both sides of the house to give us the time to deal with these measures as they deserve to be dealt with.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. M. J. Coldwell (Roselown-Biggar):

As

the mover of the motion yesterday, Mr. Speaker, having to do with hours of sitting, may I say that I concur in what the hon. member for Vancouver Bast (Mr. Maclnnis) has just said. I regret that I did not ask for a recorded vote yesterday. The roar from the benches opposite was such that I immediately took it as the view of the house, but today the benches from which that roar of nays came are empty. I say that members who are present this afternoon have a just cause of complaint at the absence of so many government supporters.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. M. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

I should like to ask the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) a question, and I hope he will believe I am asking it in good faith. It was perfectly intelligible to us all why we should sit three periods a day when the railway strike was before us. It was urgent; it was necessary; every hour counted. It was my own leader who suggested that we should give up our lunch hour and sit right through.

With regard to the present matters before us, while they are very urgent, I think it is fair to say that they hardly have the hour-to-hour urgency that the railway measure had. *

I should like to point out that we on this side of the house feel very earnestly what the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) said,

Business of the House namely, that it is hard for us to consider measures which presumably have been considered for many hours by the government with their expert advisers, and which are then brought to us here. We, on the other hand, have very inadequate time at the best of times, with only a fraction of the expert assistance which the government has, to do our best to consider these methods. I assume that one of the reasons why we do not ordinarily sit three times a day is that it is recognized we do not spend the morning in junketing, but that we do spend it in consideration of measures which are before us.

I say very respectfully but earnestly to the Prime Minister that not only has nothing been said to indicate why we should depart from ordinary routine which has been followed during the life of parliament, but I suggest that on the contrary next week is a particularly inopportune time to do that, because, as has already been pointed out by my leader, next week we shall have to consider perhaps more than the usual number of difficult and perplexing matters.

I repeat that if it were a matter of hour-to-hour urgency to reach a decision I do not think my leader ever would have raised the question. We honestly and sincerely ask the government: why, then, depart next week from generations of parliamentary practice? For this ho reason has been suggested that I have been able to grasp. I ask why next week we cannot have the time which it is ordinarily considered desirable for us to have to consider the measures before us and to do our duty.

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IND

John Lambert Gibson

Independent

Mr. J. L. Gibson (Comox-Alberni):

It is

rarely that I have had occasion to criticize the wisdom of the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and of the government, nor am I today particularly criticizing his wisdom. But I appeal to both his wisdom and his generosity and ask him to give some consideration to what has been said here this afternoon.

As an ordinary member of parliament I have the feeling that we private members have not had an opportunity of considering the vast program of legislation that is being brought forward and will be on the order paper next week. I would be grateful for a little more time to give it major consideration next week rather than have three sittings a day.

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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. Robert Fair (Battle River):

As one who

has sat in the House of Commons for almost fifteen years and has often seen days wasted on matters that did not amount to a hill of beans, except for political reasons, I would ask the house to get down to sane business methods.

Business of the House

As has been pointed out already, in the coming days we shall have matters of grave importance to this country to deal with. For the life of me I cannot see why the house should have three sittings a day. Let us put in our time usefully and sensibly rather than talking politically, as many hours and even days have been wasted in the past. I hope we shall get down to sane business methods now and, commencing Monday, proceed with two sittings a day.

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LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

If the Prime Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

I do not want to be offensive to members of parliament, and I still think we can give fair and intelligent consideration to these matters with three sittings a day; but I do confess that the resolutions which are in Votes and Proceedings have appeared for the first time this morning. So that we shall have no ill feeling about it, may I suggest that I have permission to defer this motion and bring it up again, and then substitute for "Monday" whatever may be the appropriate day. I would then hope that after hon. members have had time to consider these resolutions, and after we have had some opportunity on Monday to deal with them, hon. members will feel differently about the advisability of having further mornings for consultations.

One hon. member said that when we did not sit in the mornings it did not mean that the morning was wasted. Usually the morning is devoted to meetings of committees. No committees have been set up, and there are therefore no committees sitting at that time. I shall not say any more about it at this moment. If it is preferred by hon. members that they have until three o'clock Monday afternoon to look at the terms of the resolutions which are now in Votes and Proceedings-

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

Let us decide by vote now.

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

If there is any challenge to a vote at this time the government is quite prepared to have it recorded; but if the attitude is that we do not want to quarrel, and that we all want to arrive at the best possible method of considering these matters, it might be agreeable to suggest that we defer a decision upon this motion until I ask to have it called again. If that is not agreeable, I am quite prepared to go on with it. But if it is agreeable, I am prepared to have it deferred to be called again either on Tuesday or Wednesday, because I think hon. members will come to the conclusion, after having con-

sidered the matter, that they would not then have the same objection to three sittings a day.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

At the special session in September, 1939, three o'clock was the opening hour, and there was war.

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

Perhaps the hon. member has the advantage over me. I was not here at that time.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Neither was I.

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September 2, 1950