I was bound to make that mistake, and I am glad that I made it at once. It is not easy, but in this case it is easier than is often the case, to abandon the habits of six years. I should like to echo what the right hon. gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Diefenbaker), said about your qualities which will ensure that you will fulfil this important position with dignity and complete acceptability to all members of the house.
Then, I should like to pay my respects, and I do so in no formal way, and to extend my congratulations to the mover (Miss Jewett) and seconder (Mr. Choquette) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne, for what I thought was the very thoughtful and distinguished way in which they discharged the responsibilities and duties which are never easy but which they made seem to be easy. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I may also be permitted to associate myself with the Leader of the Opposition in his gracious observations about His Excellency, the Governor General, and to express the wish of every member of this house for his speedy and complete return to full health so that he may continue to discharge the duties which he has already discharged with such great distinction as the Queen's representative in this country. The Queen, whom we do not forget today of all days, is the Queen of Canada and the head of that commonwealth to which we are
all in this house, irrespective of party affiliations, devoted, and whose usefulness in the world for international peace and security we would like to see enlarged.
I would also like to extend a welcome on behalf of the government to hon. members in all parts of the house, and in particular I think it would be appropriate for me to extend that welcome to the new members who are with us. I did my small best to keep some of them from enjoying the honour and the privilege of membership but, Mr. Speaker, they got here in spite of, and perhaps even because of my intervention against them.
Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition congratulated himself-and I am not complaining about this at all, indeed quite the contrary-that during his two hour speech he showed a great deal of charity and forbearance, and for that measure of charity and forbearance which he displayed this afternoon we on this side, I suppose, should be grateful. However, he continued to show that passionate preoccupation with personalities, which he used to show on this side, and he interested himself in certain matters which I thought had very little to do with the business of parliament or the business of government at this time. In that respect I hope he will forgive me for saying so, and in respect of some other parts of his speech he showed he had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
He pleaded with me, if pleaded is not too strong a word, to give certain decisions at once on matters of policy, when I got up to reply and to announce at once the decision of the government in respect of some very important matters of policy. He rather complained that we had not done so on this side right away. Of course, Mr. Speaker, I could remind him that this government has been in office for less than a month, and I think I am being accurate when I say that during that very short time we have made more decisions on matters of policy than the previous government made in a much longer period of time.
For instance, the Leader of the Opposition complained that we have not done anything about dairy policy except to make some minor changes and to indicate that we were going to follow the policy of the previous government; but he did not point out that we had only four days in which to act after taking office in order to avoid the lapse of the whole price support policy of the previous government. He complains that in four days we were not able to work out a complete new dairy policy and a new policy on other matters of agriculture. We will do that, but it will take a little longer than four days.
The Address-Mr. Pearson
The Leader of the Opposition also indicated that we should do something now about reversing a decision regarding the abandonment of a branch line out west, a decision made as a result of hearings of the board of transport commissioners that took place last November when the right hon. gentleman was still in office.
I should point out, Mr. Speaker, that this parliament has been called together at the first possible date after the election. That in itself is a startling innovation as against the procedure after the last two elections. It would have been tempting to have postponed the meeting of parliament for a week or two so that we would have met after the NATO council meeting, which in some ways will interfere with the convenience of certain hon. members of the house. It would have been tempting to postpone the opening of parliament for a few weeks so that all hon. members who had gone through the rigours of an election campaign could have had some time to rest and refresh themselves, but we called parliament together on May 16 and this was done because the government, though technically in a minority in the house, as it is, is determined to do its utmost to move the business of this country forward at once, and that can only be done through parliament.
To the members of other parties in the house I say, Mr. Speaker, that in order to move forward the business of the country and the business of the house with the greatest possible expedition and effectiveness, which I am sure is the desire of all hon. members, the government will not be looking to any members of any party or group to give up any rights, or to act in any way against individual conscience or party principle. This government is not inviting any special arrangements and will not indulge in any special manoeuvres in order to remain in office. We do not believe that that is necessary or desirable.
We have put forward in the speech from the throne, and we will be adding to the proposals in that speech, a program which we believe to be constructive and which embodies projects for legislative action that will be to the advantage of the nation. It is my belief that this program, if parliament sees fit to put it into effect, will be for the good of Canada. I believe the program we have put forward and are now submitting to the House of Commons will enable this parliament to do a constructive job for our country and, of course, that program may be amended as a result of the decisions of the house from time to time.
I am hopeful that all of us as members
of the house will be able to look back with
some pride to the twenty sixth parliament
The Address-Mr. Pearson of Canada, and I hope the time when we do that looking back will be some years from now. In this connection I cannot forbear to point out, as a great deal of mild amusement has been created in the minds of the Leader of the Opposition and others about our 60 days of action, that in the first 60 days after the election of 1957, when the Conservative party took over, there was no opportunity for parliamentary action, nor in the 60 days after the June election of 1962.
The Leader of the Opposition singled out for special attention not only the proposal in the speech from the throne but other ideas of his own to improve the processes and the effectiveness of parliament, and to improve the process for electing Canadians to the House of Commons. I am glad he did so.
Mr. Speaker, we on this side hope-and indeed we are confident-that the committee which will be set up under your leadership and which, of course, will be a committee representing all parties in the house, will make recommendations not only to improve our day to day operations and strengthen parliament by making parliament a more efficient mechanism, but perhaps Your Honour will see fit to look into the whole structure of parliamentary government to see how that structure can be strengthened. This is necessary because there is no way of making parliament-which is so essential to the free countries today, and against which so many attacks are being made-stronger in the minds of democratic people than by increasing the effectiveness of that institution and bringing it into harmony with modern conditions. When we were in opposition last session we put forward certain proposals with regard to measures we thought would be of immediate value in speeding up the business of parliament. Now we are in office we still consider those proposals to be good, and perhaps proposals of that kind could be proceeded with fairly rapidly.
The same considerations with regard to strengthening parliament apply to the strengthening of our electoral procedures and electoral machinery. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, it is becoming very expensive and very exhausting, and perhaps it is not necessary any longer-we have both spoken of this before-to take the length of time that is now required to choose a parliament of Canada. That length of time was laid down in 1867, when communications were not quite as rapid as they are today, when the media of communications by which candidates could get in touch with their people were not as efficient as those we now have, and which perhaps we sometimes think are too efficient. As far as expenditures are concerned, we on this side are on record, and have been on
record for a good many years as part of our party platform, as desiring to do something about this question so that expenditures can be limited and covered by regulations which will have to be carefully laid down by the treasury. I hope in this parliament progress will be made in that regard.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about redistribution, which should have taken place before now, following the last census. In the redistribution we will never perhaps, under this federal system of ours and in this country so diverse in its elements and so vast in its expanse, be able to apply any exact mathematical criteria to our constituency representation; but it is of course important to correct, and correct as soon as possible, some of the anomalies which now exist. This may require, as I understood the Leader of the Opposition to say, some addition to the number of members in this House of Commons. He suggested this might require us to give up our desks and get a little closer together. I do not know whether this means closer together politically, or only closer together physically. However, I gather from his observation that perhaps we could indulge in this kind of, if I may put it this way, legislative bundling where you would have less legislative bungling. In any event it is an idea that I am sure will be pursued by the house and by the committee of which you, Mr. Speaker, will be chairman.
The Leader of the Opposition had something to say about the items in the speech from the throne. He asked me a good many questions, some of which I hope to deal with during my remarks. If they are not dealt with by me, they will be dealt with by my colleagues who will be taking part in this debate if it goes to its appointed day. According to the Leader of the Opposition the speech from the throne was noteworthy for its generalities rather than its specific proposals. I gathered the impression that he felt the speech from the throne contained certain dangerous tendencies toward centralization and toward a bureaucratic control of the economic life of this country. In that respect he was worried because it showed socialist inclinations on the part of hon. members on this side of the chamber. At other times this afternoon he expressed worry because we on this side are now becoming too deeply involved with big business in this country. It is perhaps a tribute to our agility that we are being criticized both for being too socialist and too big business at the same time.
So far as centralization is concerned, there is nothing in any of the proposals in the speech from the throne or in the legislative enactments which I hope will follow the
speech from the throne, which will lead to the wrong kind of centralization in this country. We do not want that in our kind of federal state. We want to give to the provinces all the jurisdiction and all the powers they have under the constitution, and the means to carry out and exercise those powers.
I hope the Leader of the Opposition will remember when he says, as he did this afternoon, that centralization has been the dream of the Liberal party-I have his words here -"ever since the days of Macdonald", that you do not have to go into Canadian history since the days of Macdonald to discuss centralization, because the greatest centralizer of them all-and in the light of the conditions of that time he may have been right-was Sir John A. Macdonald, who favoured a legislative rather than a federal union in the origins of our political society. That dream, if it was ever held by Sir John A. Macdonald-and he certainly expressed it on more than one occasion-would today be very inappropriate indeed.
The Leader of the Opposition went through some of the detailed proposals in the speech from the throne. I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that these proposals, or the most important of them, are already on the order paper in the form of resolutions for legislative action. I ask the right hon. gentleman to compare that kind of action with the situation which existed when we confronted him from that side of the chamber, when he was prime minister; I ask him to compare it with the order paper on the first day after the opening of a session.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY