May 24, 1961 (24th Parliament, 4th Session)


George James McIlraith


Mr. Mcllrailh:

Well, then, Mr. Speaker, I do desire to say something about the substance of the argument of the Prime Minister and to answer it because I feel that if the argument was allowable and was permitted to be made it surely is in order to reply to it.
The substance of his argument was his usual line, an indirect attempt to ridicule the small numbers in the opposition. That was the line of argument. Then he went on to say that they should trifurcate themselves in order to make sufficient numbers to attend the committee sittings.
May I remind the Prime Minister that notwithstanding his rather skilful method of handling this, in the way he did, he did not deal with the real point. Yesterday morning at 9.30 the attendance of 42 members of the opposition would have been required in committees, and that is making no allowance for any meetings having to do with legislation in the house that we are going on with at the present time, or in preparing ourselves for legislation. He will recall that on Monday and Tuesday of this week legislation was brought before the house on very short notice. He must not only recall that but he must assume responsibility for it.
I would hope that the Prime Minister would take enough time from trying to make those rather appealing arguments that may or may not be wholly relevant to the point to see whether he could not give some attention to the better organization and presentation of business to the house and to committees in an orderly way that would try to meet this difficulty. I invite the Prime Minister to give some real thought and care to that subject rather than always seeking to use diversionary arguments which, by the way, he does very skilfully.
I am not suggesting it is out of order for him to follow that course if he wishes to do so, but I respectfully suggest that he should devote a little attention to the whole question of the preparation of legislation in proper time so it can be submitted to the house in an orderly way, and also the question of the arrangement of sittings of committees in such a way that we will not have the spectacle we had the other day with respect to legislation concerning the transport department, or the situation we had a few days earlier when the agriculture committee was sitting to deal with quite important matters at the very time an agricultural bill was being debated in the house. I suggest that these matters are worthy of his attention.
In making his remarks today the Prime Minister based his argument on the smallness of the opposition, and I should like to remind him of something he said on that very subject

Starred Questions
on an earlier occasion. He was quoted in the press on August 11, 1953, as having made this statement:
There is nothing much that one can say, excepting that I would have liked to have seen a powerful opposition in the House of Commons. After all, a strong opposition to the government is essential to our democratic way of life. The load that rests on the few that have been elected is almost impossible for the average individual to understand.
I simply suggest to the Prime Minister that in the light of that background we are now free to interpret his remarks today as an appeal to the voters in the four constituencies in which by-elections are being held.

Full View