Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Prime Minister) :
Mr. Speaker, I was about to proceed
with a motion when the first question was called, and I thought it well to conclude that order of business before proceeding with the motion which last night I indicated I proposed to make.
I move, seconded by the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) that an humble address be submitted to His Excellency the Governor General in the following words:
To His Excellency the Right Honourable the Earl of Bessborough, a member of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council. Knight Grand Cross of The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Dominion of Canada.
Address to The Governor General
May it please Your Excellency:
We, His Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Canada
in parliament assembled, assure Your Excellency of our deep and sincere regret at the approaching termination of your official connection with our country as the representative of His Gracious Majesty. At the same time we hasten to add the hope that this official termination will not mean the severance of those ties which have so happily been established between Your Excellency and our country and its people.
During your term of office Your Excellency has never spared' yourself in your efforts to secure accurate and intimate knowledge of all parts of our dominion. You have, accordingly, gained an understanding of our problems and our possibilities, as profound as it has been sympathetic. Your assiduous devotion to the affairs of state, and your deep and human interest in the widespread activities of our people have won for you the warm regard of all Canadians. Your encouragement of dramatic art, an important but often neglected aspect of our national development, will be felt for long years to come.
Your Excellency has been with us during a period of world-wide economic depression and social strain. You have seen the effects of that depression on our national economy. You have, however, also seen its failure to destroy our national morale. Amidst the tribulations of economic distress, as in the stern test of war, Canada has stood firm, and, with renewed courage and determination, is ready again to continue her forward march.
Our expressions of regret at Your Excellency's departure would, indeed, be incomplete if we did not associate in that regret Her Excellency, The Countess of Bessborough, whose graciousness and charm have won for her an affection throughout Canada which is both deep and widespread.
We beg that on your return to your homeland Your Excellency will convey to His Majesty the assurance of Canada's steadfast loyalty to the crown and devotion to his throne and person, so strikingly demonstrated in the recent and unforgettable celebrations attendant upon His MajestyV silver jubilee.
I think it possibly desirable that I should make a few observations before the house adopts this motion. I say that because of the apparent misunderstanding that has arisen in some quarters as to the methods adopted' in the appointment of a governor general and1 the duties and responsibilities connected with that office. It will be recalled by all who are familiar with our institutions that at confederation the British North America Act provided that the executive authority in this dominion should continue to be vested in the queen, now the king, but inasmuch as the king cannot be present in Canada for the discharge of the duties of chief executive of the state, it becomes essential that he should designate and appoint some person to represent him. That person is, by our constitution, designated the governor general, and under the letters patent
issued by successive sovereigns the office is constituted in the terms of "governor general and commander in chief of the Dominion of Canada." Obviously, the appointment of such an official is one of very great importance, for it involves two questions; first, the conclusion by the sovereign that the person designated is one possessing his confidence because it involves an appointment with consequences similar in many respects to those which follow from the granting of a power of attorney to a person whom one may select. Once the sovereign was satisfied that- a particular person commanded his confidence and was in every way worthy in his opinion to be designated as his attorney or as governor general in fact of this dominion, the next question of course was to determine by whom the recommendation should be made for the appointment.
Up until the last appointment the recommendation in point of fact came from the British government, and the recommendation to the sovereign was the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. After the conference of 1926 and the statute of Westminster it of course is clear that the recommendation for the appointment of a governor general is no longer made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain but by the Prime Minister of the dominion affected.
A few days ago I was reading a dispatch that came from London, indicating that there was a profound misunderstanding as to the method followed in connection with the appointment of a governor general for this dominion. Henoe I make these observations.
The appointment thus being made the instructions given to the governor general by His Majesty constitute his letters of authority, just as a power of attorney which may be given by one person to another is the document that controls the extent to which the powers and responsibilities and functions are to be exercised.
The additional reason I direct attention to this is because a condition arose when the present governor general took over his duties in Canada quite unparalleled in our history so far as I have been able to ascertain. It will be recalled that in 1926 His Majesty issued his letters patent to Lord Willingdon, now viceroy of India. In the ordinary course of events he would occupy his position until the fall of 1931 or at least until some time in the year 1931. In 1930 when it was apparent that a new governor general would have to be selected I discussed the matter with thie British authorities and it was then believed that there would be no possible likelihood of the office being vacated in Canada
Address to The Governor General
before the expiration of the usual term of the governor general, but later owing to difficulties that need not here be mentioned the British government by cable asked us whether or not there would be any objection to their suggesting the name of the governor general of Canada, Lord Willingdon, to His Majesty as prospective viceroy of India. Lord Willingdon was advised in the sarnie sense, and the government of Canada had to decide whether or not, having regard to the public interest as a whole, it should give its consent to such action being taken as would prevent the usual term of office being completed by the then incumbent. We chose of course, the course that involved the appointment of the Earl of Willingdon as viceroy of India. We believed that with his experience in India as a governor of I think two of the provinces it was desirable that he should serve the greater cause and become viceroy of India. He was thereupon appointed.
It was not possible on a few moments' notice .to appoint a successor, and it is in that regard that I now diesire to make a few observations. When Lord Willingdon left these shores and went to England he still continued to be governor general of Canada, and it was essential that he should so continue until his successor arrived in Canada and took office, whereupon his commission terminated. Lord Willingdon left Canada on January 15, 1931, and immediately the responsibility fell upon this government under the new practice to take immediate steps for the appointment of a successor. Obviously had we not been of the opinion from the information received that that contingency would not arise action would have been taken to deal with the matter in the fall of 1930 when members of this administration were in London. But the matter had to be dealt with, and it was dealt with, as speedily as possible, for Lord Bess-borough arrived in Canada on April 4, 1931. For the first time the .procedure became different from what it had theretofore been. For the first time the recommendation of a governor general had to come from the Prime Minister of Canada, and not from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and obviously the powers that had always been exercised by the sovereign had to be exercised much more rapidly than had theretofore been the case, because there was no opportunity to discuss matters personally in London with those who were interested.
Names were submitted to His Majesty. So far as I know all of them were satisfactory to the king. But the question of securing the willingness of any person thus named to come to Canada was an entirely different matter.
Lord Bessborough, out of a sense of public duty, and in order to deal with a problem of great difficulty so far as we were concerned, accepted the office, and the recommendation having been made he was duly appointed. For the first time the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs countersigned the commission under which the governor general was appointed, it being handed to him on his arrival in Canada for, as he is sworn in the commission is read, and later published in the Gazette. I mention this because there was an interval of about six weeks only in which it was possible to secure a governor general for this country. The usual practice has been to designate the governor general about six months in advance so that he may be able to conclude his business and make arrangements for an absence from home of what may be five years. To any of us that would be a matter of importance, and much more so to those who may be concerned with business and with affairs of many kinds, and who have to look forward to leaving their own homes for so long a period. However, yielding to the request that was made, Lord Bessborough was appointed and accepted office, arriving here on April 4, 1931. The date has a profound bearing upon subsequent events because in the ordinary course it is not usual for a governor general to arrive at that time of year. It is an inconvenient time for reasons that will at once commend themselves to members of this house. When His Excellency's term of office had reached four years he had to deal with the problem in one of two ways. If our request that he should remain until the spring of 1936 were given effect to, Lord Bessborough would terminate his office here in the spring of next year and remain until the fall by arrangements that could be made and thus permit his successor to follow the usual course of commencing his term of office in the fall. But there were other conditions which made it desirable that the other alternative should be adopted. I think I should say frankly that medical advice indicated that it would be rather difficult for the Countess of Bessborough to remain in this country another winter. His Excellency with the full approval of the government requested the king to permit him to retire this fall. His Majesty, in view of all the circumstances and having regard to the delicate matter to which I have referred, agreed that this action should be taken; hence it is that Lord Bessborough is terminating his office now rather than at a later period.
I mention this for another reason. There was a vague rumour, I am not quite sure whether it was published, that His Excellency
Address to The Governor General
was leaving Canada earlier than, usual because of differences with his Prime Minister and the government. Nothing that I can conceive of could be more wholly inaccurate than that. For many years I have had occasion to have official relations with men in high office and I say frankly that I have never been on terms of greater friendliness and friendship with any official than I have been with the governor general of this dominion. I make that statement because in fairness to him it is not right that a rumour of that kind should find credence or circulation without being denied, His Excellency not being in a position to make a statement himself.
It was essential that a period of months should elapse in which his successor designate should find an opportunity to make arrangements to come to Canada. I shall not deal with that more than to say that the Governor General Designate of Canada, Lord Tweedsmuir, will in ordinary course be here this fall to begin his duties under the new procedure which I have taken some time to describe to the house.
_ The position of governor general of Canada is not an easy one. There is an opinion on the part of some that it consists of the discharge of very few duties and the enjoyment of much leisure. Such is not quite the case. In the first place, the governor general is the personal representative of His Majesty the King, which is indicated to the public by the king's flag that is flown wherever he may be at any time in this dominion. The governor general has great and onerous responsibilities in connection with the administration of government. Proposed measures are submitted to him for his consideration. If he has had much experience, his advice and counsel are of the utmost value to those who are responsible for the conduct of government. In this case, Lord Bessborough had been for years a member of the British House of Commons. On the death of his father he succeeded to a seat in the House of Lords, where, while in England, he had been rather generally in attendance. That gave him a very wide knowledge of the working of our institutions, a very wide knowledge of parliamentary practice and procedure and enabled the prime minister of the day, whoever he might be, to discuss with one who knew by practice and not by theory the difficulties that governments have to encounter in dealing with problems of legislation and allied problems that concern governments in any British country. In this instance the experience of Lord Bessborough has been of the utmost value. I desire to pay my tribute to his interest in everything that concerned the wel- ;
fare of this country from the standpoint of legislation and to his willingness at all times to assist those responsible for government with his counsel and advice and with the benefits of his wide and extensive experience.
I can say that also with respect to another matter. His Excellency had had wide experience in business. Before he came to these shores he was interested in many undertakings and his wide business experience in close association with financial leaders in the city of London have been of the greatest possible value to the Dominion of Canada. By maintaining personal contact, by correspondence with his former associates in London, he is sometimes able to correct misapprehensions and misunderstandings which have existed. When matters of business are discussed with him, as they have been, out of the large experience that he has had in the city of London he has rendered great service to our country. I desire to give my personal testimony upon that point.
As to the interest which Their Excellencies have had in the welfare of Canada, it is not my purpose to do more than refer to the terms of the address itself. They have visited every province in the dominion and have seen conditions as they really exist. They have talked with people on the farms, with the fisherman by his boat; they have talked with those in mill and factory, as well as those working in offices and the financial institutions of the country. They have derived in a large measure first hand information of all that concerns our well-being. In moments of depression it has been the privilege of the governor general to make suggestions that have encouraged the people and enabled them to take up their burdens and task with renewed determination in meeting conditions which confronted them. All these observations as to the manner in which the duties of a great office have been discharged I know are unnecessary for me to make, but I desire in my place here to pay a tribute to the disinterested character of the services rendered by His Excellency to this dominion in times of great difficulty.
I need hardly say that there was a peculiar affection for the Countess of Bessborough on the part of the Canadian people when she first came to these shores. The subsequent birth of a son gave cause for an increased sentimental attachment on the part of our people and the fact that the boy bears the name St. Lawrence is a constant reminder of his having been born in the province of Quebec and of the great part which the river
Address to The Governor General
bearing that name plays in the economic life of Canada. I have trespassed longer upon the time of the house than I had intended but there were some misapprehensions and misunderstandings which I felt should be cleared up. I shall content myself with saying that for disinterested service, for a high conception of the duties of a great office and in the performance of these duties and responsibilities with dignity and zeal, Lord Bessborough will rank among any of his predecessors, and the gracious charm of his consort, the Countess of Bessborough, will never be forgotten by Canadians who have been privileged to make her acquaintance. I move the adoption of the address I have just read.
Subtopic: THE GOVERNOR GENERAL