October 14, 1957

HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATES

OFFICIAL REPORT


House of Commons debates



Speaker: The Honourable Roland Michener


FIRST SESSION-TWENTY-THIRD PARLIAMENT


The twenty-second parliament having been prorogued on the twelfth day of April, 1957, and dissolved by proclamation on the same day, and writs having been issued and returned, a new parliament was summoned to meet for the dispatch of business on Monday, October 14, 1957, and did accordingly meet on that day. Monday, October 14, 1957 This being the day on which parliament is convoked by proclamation of His Excellency the Governor General for the dispatch of business, and the members of the house being assembled: Leon J. Raymond, Esquire, O.B.E., the Clerk of the House, read to the house a letter from the secretary to the Governor General informing him that the Honourable Patrick Kerwin, Chief Justice of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy Governor General, would proceed to the Senate chamber to open the first session of the twenty-third parliament of Canada on Monday, the fourteenth of October, at eleven o'clock. A message was delivered by Major C. R. Lamoureux, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, as follows: Members of the House of Commons: It is the desire of the Honourable the Deputy of His Excellency the Governor General that this honourable house attend him immediately in the chamber of the honourable the Senate. Accordingly, the house went up to the Senate chamber, when the Speaker of the Senate said: Honourable Members of the Senate, and Members of the House of Commons: I have it in command to let you know that Her Majesty the Queen does not see fit to declare the causes of her summoning the present parliament of Canada until the Speaker of the House of Commons shall have been chosen according to law, but this afternoon, at the hour of three o'clock. Her Majesty will declare the causes of calling this parliament. And the house being returned to the Commons chamber:


ELECTION OF SPEAKER

MR. ROLAND MICHENER, MEMBER FOR THE ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF ST. PAUL'S

PC

John George Diefenbaker (Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prime Minister):

Mr. Raymond, what is uppermost in the minds of us all today is the opening of the twenty-third parliament by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It is a great and joyous occasion, a shining moment of rededication to all the traditions and a living exemplification of our history. I do not rise on this occasion to memorialize this historic event, but only to make possible the participation of this house in that event. I know how eager we are to hear from Her Majesty, but having not as yet elected a Speaker we have no voice to speak on our behalf or no means of communication with Her Majesty. Indeed, according to law, the House of Commons is not constituted nor has it any status until that has been achieved. The representative of the crown has reminded us that Her Majesty the Queen does not see fit to disclose to us the reasons that have caused her to bring us together until we have selected a Speaker.

All this is in the tradition of parliament, for at this moment, and on this what I choose to call the Queen's day, the members of the Commons and of the Senate as well will walk with history. There is no need for me to tell you that the highest position that can be conferred on anyone, that of the first commoner, will be in the custody and keeping of that person who is chosen as Speaker. He is the link with the crown and in olden days, as the records show, the function was an arduous one, requiring great courage on the part of those chosen.

Election of Speaker

Those were the days when the Commons faced the overwhelming sovereignty of the monarch. Because of the fact that the Commons never did sit with the crown and the Lords, the practice was, and it goes back to the fourteenth century, of having a spokesman speak on behalf of the Commons. As an example, almost 400 years ago, in 1562, Speaker Williams, during the reign of Elizabeth I, spoke on behalf of the rights of the commoners. He asked for the right of free access to the Queen. He asked for the right to interpret the wishes of the members of the House of Commons. He asked for the historic and prerogative rights of the Commons in these words:

That the assembly ot the lower house may have frank and free liberties to speak their minds without any controlment, blame, grudge, menaces or displeasure, according to the old ancient order.

Finally Speaker Williams said:

.. .the old privilege of the house be observed, which is that they and theirs might he at liberty, frank and free, without arrest, molestation, trouble or other damage to their bodies, lands, goods or servants, with all other their liberties, during the time of the said parliament, whereby they may the better attend and do their duty; all which privileges I desire may be enrolled, as at other times it hath been accustomed.

That was under Elizabeth I. Today parliament is supreme, and the throne, while losing its apparent powers and authority, has gained in dignity and significance and in the hearts of the people, and this function is no longer one of concern.

Oliver Goldsmith, exemplifying what parliament stood for and the right of the rule of law in parliament, said:

The Englishman Is taught to love the King as his friend, but to acknowledge no other master than the laws which he himself has contributed to enact.

What are the functions of the Speaker? I am not going to review what has been said in the past by my predecessors in office. Summarizing the position of the Speaker, it is this: to preside over the House of Commons, to be the jealous guardian of its prerogatives and rights, without which its prestige would suffer and ultimately freedom would be endangered. The Speaker must be impartial. He must know the rules of procedure. He should have parliamentary experience for that reason. He must exercise his office with scrupulous and rigorous impartiality. He must be firm and yet patient and incisive, courteous and ever vigilant to guard the rights and privileges of the individual member.

My predecessor in office, the right hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. St. Laurent), spoke of this on the last occasion a Speaker was chosen. Other prime ministers have done the same. What are the qualifications of a

Speaker? Well, as one reads the ancient records one finds that they embody those qualities that make a Speaker almost above ordinary humanity. Lord Palmerston asked the editor of the London Times, 'What do you require in a Speaker?" This was the reply:

Imperturbability, good temper, tact, urbanity and, if possible, a training in the law.

Mr. Raymond, in my opinion, such a man is among us in the person of Roland Michener. He was born in Alberta, where his father took part in public life, and afterwards, for many years, was a distinguished member of the Senate. Mr. Michener was a brilliant student and was awarded a Rhodes scholarship from Alberta; a queen's counsel and a member of the Middle Temple as well as the bar of Ontario, and with wide experience in government and public service as a private member of this house and as provincial secretary in Ontario; and, above everything else, whose friendships are not circumscribed by party limitations.

It may be appropriate at this time

it has been mentioned on several occasions

when we have the Queen amongst us and when our thoughts are on our traditions and history, to point out that there is a difference between our system of the choice of Speaker and that in the United Kingdom in the mother of parliaments. There it has been the custom to keep the same Speaker as long as he retains his seat in the house. The opinion has been expressed that we should have a permanent Speaker, but up to the present time the practice of Canada has not been to do so. Our practice, as constituted, is governed by the character and historic basis of our country. Under it, with few exceptions, the Speaker in one parliament is of French origin, followed in the next parliament by one of English origin. Whatever our personal views may be as to having a permanent Speaker, only parliament can make that decision and then only when there is generous unanimity in that regard.

Mr. Michener speaks French fluently. I hope he will receive the approval of the house as being a fit and proper person to be Speaker of the twenty-third parliament. Mr. Raymond, I therefore move, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. St. Laurent):

That Roland Michener, Esquire, member for the electoral district of St. Paul's, do take the chair of this house as Speaker.

Topic:   ELECTION OF SPEAKER
Subtopic:   MR. ROLAND MICHENER, MEMBER FOR THE ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF ST. PAUL'S
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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Raymond, when the Prime Minister approached me to inquire if I would like to second his motion for the appointment of Mr. Michener as Speaker, I readily agreed to do so. I have been a member of the House of Commons since 1942, and in all the time I have been here we

have had Speakers who have worthily upheld the finest traditions of our British parliamentary system.

In the years since Mr. Michener was first elected to this house he has been, as those of us who were here then were able to observe, diligent in his attendance and scrupulous in his observance of the rules of the house and all its ancient usages. His background, which has been referred to in such fitting terms by the Prime Minister, his record as a member, and what we know of him as a man will, I feel, all commend themselves to us as good auguries for the future.

In the confident expectation-and I stress those words-that the house will be well served by Mr. Michener as its Speaker and that he will preside over us competently and with dignity and impartiality, I am happy to second the Prime Minister's motion.

Topic:   ELECTION OF SPEAKER
Subtopic:   MR. ROLAND MICHENER, MEMBER FOR THE ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF ST. PAUL'S
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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

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

Mr. Raymond, as is customary at this time I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. St. Laurent) in supporting the nomination of a new Speaker for this parliament. The Prime Minister expressed to the house and indeed to the country what are the functions of the Speaker in this parliament and in the parliaments like it throughout the commonwealth. I noted that he stated that one of the functions of the Speaker was to see that every individual member was properly protected and properly treated in this house.

May I say that I regard one of the principal functions of the Speaker to be not only to protect the individual rights of each member of this house, but to protect groups who may be in minority positions. As a matter of fact, throughout the long period of British history when, as has been indicated, the Speaker occupied a position not only of some responsibility but of some danger, that function on occasion has been the primary function of the Speaker of the day.

I am reminded, as I often am, of one of the greatest Speakers of the British parliament, namely Mr. Speaker Lenthall. I recall again today, as I have done on former occasions, that when Charles I came to the House of Commons in 1642 and demanded that he have the right to arrest five members who had displeased him, it was Lenthall who turned to the king and said:

I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place but as the house is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.

Thus the Speaker established his position as the protector of the rights of a small minority. In this chamber today there is a house much different from any in which I have had the privilege of sitting, for this is my sixth 96698-14

Election of Speaker

parliament since 1935. There are not majorities in this house; there are a number of minorities.

Consequently the Speaker will have a particular function to fulfil, and I believe that in Mr. Michener we shall have a Speaker who will try to carry out his responsibilities impartially and give the minorities in this house, whether large or small, the proper consideration and protection they deserve.

The Prime Minister said the Speaker would occupy the chair. The Speaker of the House of Commons is, of course, no mere chairman elected for the supervision of debates. He is the champion of the legislature, against whom? Against the executive. I would remind the government-the executive -of that important function of the Speaker, to protect the house against the executive. The Speaker is custodian of the rights and the privileges that have been handed down to us through a very long period of history and of struggle. Indeed, as the first commoner he is a principal part of the very constitution under which we live and in a very peculiar way which we are recognizing today when Her Majesty the Queen opens this parliament.

So I rise to join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in supporting the election of Mr. Michener as Speaker of this parliament, and to assure him that we shall give him all the co-operation we can. I believe and I pray that his period as Speaker may be a very distinguished one and that he may function according to the historic precedents which have been so well laid down from time to time in the mother of parliaments as well as this younger institution of our own.

Topic:   ELECTION OF SPEAKER
Subtopic:   MR. ROLAND MICHENER, MEMBER FOR THE ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF ST. PAUL'S
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SC

Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. Solon E. Low (Peace River):

Mr. Raymond, I rise at this time to indicate to you and to the hon. members of this house that the Social Credit party feel that Mr. Roland Michener is a fit and proper person to assume the office of Speaker and the position of first commoner. We have confidence in Mr. Michener that has been born of our close association with him for some years.

When the Prime Minister outlined to the house the background of Mr. Michener's experience which fitted him to assume this very high and important office, he told the house that Mr. Michener was born in Alberta. We think that was the most important thing which fitted him to be the first commoner and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

We realize that the new Speaker, when he is elected, will have a more difficult time, perhaps, than other Speakers have had for some years because of the very fact, as

Election of Speaker

pointed out by the leader of the C.C.F. party (Mr. Coldwell), that this house is now a house of minorities. By force of circumstance one of the minorities now sits at the Speaker's right, and we realize that it will be difficult for him to see the members of this group, occasionally perhaps mistaking them for members of the government. But we draw attention, Mr. Raymond, to the fact that it would be desirable for the Speaker, when he is elected, to get an extra long-range lens in the right side of his glasses so he can see the members of this group when they rise and recognize that they do have a right to speak.

Mr. Raymond, in all seriousness we do feel that in Mr. Michener a good choice has been made-one which will uphold the great traditions that have been built around the Speakers of the British parliaments and we wish for him a period of happy and fruitful presidency over this chamber. We will, to a man, give him the best support of which we are capable, always remembering that the rules are here to be obeyed and we shall obey them.

The Clerk of ihe House declared the motion carried in the affirmative, nemine con-tradicente, and Roland Michener, Esquire, member for the electoral district of St. Paul's, duly elected to the chair of the house.

Mr. Michener was conducted from his seat in the house to the Speaker's chair by Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker and Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent.

Topic:   ELECTION OF SPEAKER
Subtopic:   MR. ROLAND MICHENER, MEMBER FOR THE ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF ST. PAUL'S
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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Hon. members of the House of Commons, in the time-honoured formula, I beg to return my humble acknowledgments to the House of Commons for the great honour you have been pleased to confer upon me in electing me unanimously as your Speaker.

Being conscious of the responsibilities of that office and of my own inexperience, I am doubly grateful for the gracious and encouraging words in which my nomination has been proposed by the right hon. Prime Minister and the right hon. Leader of the Opposition, and supported by the leaders of the C.C.F. and Social Credit groups.

My aim will be to understand and interpret the will and the moods of the house; to secure the transaction of public business in an orderly manner; to protect the minority; to enable every member to express his opinions within the limits necessary to preserve decorum; to prevent unnecessary waste of time, and above all to be non-partisan and impartial in my decisions. If my service to this house is to contribute to the projection

of its great traditions, it will come about only because of the sympathetic support, advice and co-operation of every member.

We all expect the cross-fire, the vigorous cross-fire of debate. My only request is that you give me time to try my wings before you start shooting in this direction.

(Translation):

May I say to my French-speaking colleagues how I wish I could answer them in their own beautiful tongue every time they rise to address me. However, in spite of all my willingness-of which I should like to assure them at this time-it may be that, during the first few months of my probation period in the chair, I will have to use the language I understand best.

I do toil and take pains, but alas, I am poorest in my basic knowledge of your tongue.

Nevertheless let me assure you that I love your tongue and respect the equal status of the two official languages.

Once again I thank the members of the house for the great honour they have been pleased to confer upon me.

(Text):

Topic:   ELECTION OF SPEAKER
Subtopic:   MR. ROLAND MICHENER, MEMBER FOR THE ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF ST. PAUL'S
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SITTING SUSPENDED

PC

John George Diefenbaker (Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, might I suggest that the sitting be suspended until three o'clock this day.

At 11.50 a.m. the sitting was suspended until 3 p.m. this day.

Topic:   SITTING SUSPENDED
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SITTING RESUMED


The house resumed at three o'clock. OPENING OF THE SESSION Mr. Speaker read a communication from the Governor General's secretary announcing that Her Majesty the Queen would proceed to the Senate chamber at three o'clock on this day, for the purpose of formally opening the session of the dominion parliament. A message was delivered by Major C. R. Lamoureux, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, as follows:


PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

It is the pleasure of Her Majesty the Queen that this honourable house attend her immediately in the chamber of the honourable the Senate.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker with the house went up to the Senate chamber.

Then the Hon. Roland Michener, Speaker of the House of Commons, said:

May it please Your Majesty:

The House of Commons have elected me their Speaker, though I am but little able to fulfil the important duties thus assigned to me.

If in the performance of those duties I should at any time fall into error, I pray that the fault may be imputed to me, and not to the Commons, whose servant I am, and who, through me, the better to enable them to discharge their duty to their Queen and country, humbly claim all their undoubted rights and privileges, especially that they may have freedom of speech in their debates, access to Your Majesty's person at all seasonable times, and that their proceedings may receive from Your Majesty the most favourable construction.

The Honourable the Speaker of the Senate, addressing the Honourable the Speaker of the House of Commons, then said:

Mr. Speaker, I am commanded by Her Majesty the Queen to declare to you that she freely confides in the duty and attachment of the House of Commons to Her Majesty's person and government, and not doubting that their proceedings will be conducted with wisdom, temper and prudence, she grants and upon all occasions will recognize and allow their constitutional privileges.

I am commanded also to assure you that the Commons shall have ready access to Her Majesty upon all seasonable occasions, and that their proceedings, as well as your words and actions, will constantly receive from her the most favourable construction.

Then Her Majesty the Queen was pleased to open parliament by a speech from the throne.

And the house being returned to the Commons chamber:

Topic:   SITTING RESUMED
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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to report that, the house having attended on Her Majesty the Queen in the Senate chamber, I informed Her Majesty that the choice of Speaker had fallen upon me, and, in your names and on your behalf, I made the usual claim for your privileges, which Her Majesty was pleased to confirm to you.

Topic:   SITTING RESUMED
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OATHS OF OFFICE

October 14, 1957