February 13, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)

CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. J. MANION (Leader of the Opposition) :

Mr. Speaker, I should like to join with the hon. gentleman who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Pouliot) in congratulating the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) on celebrating his thirty-fifth wedding anniversary and his entrance into parliament. Sometimes, as I realize that the years are slipping by-because I am only a couple of years behind my right hon. friend-
I wonder if we should extend congratulations or commiserations on our birthdays and various other anniversaries. However, so far as congratulations are of any use, I offer mine to the right hon. gentleman and hope he may enjoy many more years of great happiness.
I rise a second time in the debate, Mr. Speaker, because I feel that the issue should once more be clarified. It has been to my mind so confused that the air needs clearing. I suppose, sir, it is fair to say that it has been confused intentionally. There has been an injection of extraneous matters of all kinds, attacks personal and political upon many of us on this side of the house, no doubt with the object of confusing the issue, hiding the facts, disguising the irregularities, concealing the incompetence, and distracting attention from the method of awarding the contract.
I have listened to nearly all the speeches made on all sides, and in all sections of the house on this question. While on this side of the house-and I include all parties on this side-different speakers criticized the contract and the manner in which or method by which the contract was awarded, to my mind they criticized fairly the whole proceeding. But from the other side, from the Liberal benches, there came practically no answer of any kind, except abuse. All of them were like that, except in the case of two speeches. One of those was entirely abuse, and so it is not therefore an exception. One of the two to which I last referred was a studied legal argument. The one which was worst, I am sorry to say was delivered by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie) himself. In my opinion, undoubtedly the best speech was made by the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. McGeer), who spoke on Thursday night. In fact, I think the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard was the only speaker on that side of the house who at all adhered to the charges, if we may term them such-or to the statements made by myself and others on this side of the house. He was the only one who got away from personal and political abuse,
and the only one who really attempted in a legal manner to build up a case on behalf of the government.
So far as the minister's speech was concerned, he never touched the issues at all. His speech was made up of abuse, of name calling, of protestations of honesty and of unparliamentary remarks. I have been in the house now for twenty or twenty-one sessions, I believe it is, and I say without hesitation that never in all those sessions have I heard anything approaching, in unparli-mentary language, the minister's speech.
But he was not alone in that. Here are some of the terms which flew across the house at us, from various speakers-some from the minister and some from others. These are the terms which I jotted down: "Cheap Tammany Hall politicians." "Sinister alliance" between ourselves and members to my left. Incidentally in that regard I recall that between 1921 and 1925 the right hon. gentleman who now leads and then led the government (Mr. Mackenzie King), was very glad to have alliances with the same group, the third party. It was not termed a sinister alliance at that time; what can be wrong in my hon. friends to my left and ourselves taking the same attitude on a question such as this?
Other terms used were in regard to the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth)-"a bird of passage," "Prussian mentality," "never loyal to any principle." The same hon. member who used the "bird of passage" phrase, namely the Minister of Transport (Mr. Howe) called us blackguards. Another speaker,-I think it was the hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Slaght) spoke of a political cabal. [DOT]
Those terms have been used as a defence for this indefensible contract. Fortunately-and I say it is fortunate- some of the terms used by the Minister of National Defence have been expunged from Hansard-against the rules of the house, incidentally. They have been expunged I think for the good of Hansard. It is better perhaps that in years to come readers of Hansard should not think that such terms would have been permitted in the parliament of Canada. So that the expurgated edition of Hansard is probably all to the good so far as that is concerned.
But, sir, I do say this: it is no wonder that the Vancouver Sun, ordinarily an outstanding Liberal organ, spoke of the brawling in parliament, and of the vulgar personalities cast across the floor of the house by an hon. gentleman who comes from the city in which
Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

that paper is published. They added that there is still a strong suspicion of gross political patronage in the awarding of the contract, and they say that the contract was improperly awarded, and that abuse of this kind does not hide the facts.
I want to say with all due respect that I think it is time we had decorum in the House of Commons. In the past week, I think there have been more justifiable appeals against unparliamentary language, and fewer appeals upheld, than I have ever known in the whole of my parliamentary life. If we are to build up the reputation of parliament and help the progress of public business, I suggest that more severity be used in the future, particularly in connection with name calling and unparliamentary language.
The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard I believe made the only real attempt to defend the contract and the proceedings leading up to it. He emphasized the few favourable points, and there were very few. Naturally he ignored the unfavourable evidence, and used his Celtic wit to cover up the weaknesses of his case. He quoted in favour of the case only one section of the report, that section which has been so often quoted-the one paragraph pointing out that there was no corruption.
In the Parliamentary Guide I note that the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard describes himself as by trade an iron moulder and by profession a lawyer, which to me explains a rather interesting point. When I was out in Vancouver a few months ago, being interested in this picturesque gentleman-

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
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