Mr. C. E. FERLAND:
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative party, through its leader, is asking us to adopt an amendment to the address in reply to the speech from the throne. This amendment, which is very indefinite and might appeal to various shades of public opinion, is full of promises of exemption from military service.
I will nevertheless vote against this amendment because, fundamentally, it is a motion of want of confidence in the present government. Besides, the promises made by the Conservative party are seldom worth very much. I am afraid that the promises contained in the amendment moved by the Conservatives is not worth the paper on which they are written. When I was called to the bar of my province in 1917, I have had the occasion for a certain period,
The Address-Mr. Ferland
in 1917, and especially in 1918, prior to the end of the war, to appear before military tribunals on behalf of a great many farmers. I successfully defended eight or nine hundred of them, and we believed then, as well as we do now, that farmers would help to win the war and would serve their country better by remaining on the land.
Now, in the conscription act of 1917, the Conservatives had promised exemption to the farmers. They even were to organize tribunals. There were local tribunals which heard all cases in the province of Quebec under the chairmanship of two officers. There was besides an appeal tribunal presided over, in each district, by a judge of the superior court. After the tribunals had granted a great many exemptions to farmers, the Conservative government which was then in power, passed an order in council cancelling all decisions given by such tribunals which had been sitting under that act to exempt farmers. And to-day the same Conservative party, after twenty odd years, is asking us to withdraw our confidence from the Liberal party, and to place it in them, because they will exempt farmers, and will grant all kinds of exemptions, and their war effort will be much more satisfactory than that of the Liberal party.
However, Mr. Speaker, to those who find that our war effort is too great, I would say that the Conservative party asserted its position on Friday afternoon through its leader who stated that if the present Conservative amendment is adopted, it will lead to an increased war effort. Many people believe at this time that our war effort cannot be increased and that we have reached the ultimate limit of our ability to share in this war.
Mr. Speaker, under our constitution and our parliamentary law, the speech from the throne is not subject to amendment. It is impossible to amend a motion for adoption of the address. All that can be done is to oppose government policy, to move a vote of want of confidence for the purpose of condemning the whole government policy and, if such a motion of want of confidence or if such amendment by the opposition carries, the government is defeated. That is why I shall vote against the present Conservative amendment.
That is also why I cannot support the other amendments and I have voted against the amendment moved yesterday by the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy) who had thought that, because a pastor who seems utterly devoid of discretion and but poorly endowed with common sense, has written and published abusive articles against the Roman Catholic church and against our spiritual leaders it
constitutes a valid grounds for the hon. member to propose a motion of want of confidence. He asked us to defeat the government because that pastor had insulted our church. What a genius! What a sum of intelligence was required to ask for the defeat of the government on a question of religion 1 However, I know full well why the amendment was moved. It was because our hon. friend from Gaspe expected to embarrass us. He knew the government would not be defeated on the amendment but he probably expected that his friends in the' province of Quebec would later say of him: "See how staunch a Catholic our member is!"
Subtopic: GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH