July 25, 1969 (28th Parliament, 1st Session)


James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. James A. McGrath (St. John's East):

a member of this house representing one of the regionally dispossessed areas of Canada I am astonished, as I am sure the people I represent will be, that this parliament is on the verge of adjourning for three months when there are so many serious problems facing the country. We have been through a very critical session and, as has been said by many members who have participated in the debate on the rules, a very productive session. It is true that parliament will never be the same, but surely that is not to suggest that parliament no longer has a role to play.
I sat here today and listened with amazement to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) when, as is often the case, he misconstrued our motives and indeed tried to impute motives. I could not believe my ears when I heard him say that perhaps one of the reasons we were opposing a long adjournment of three months was that we had some doubts about our status when we leave this place. Indeed, the Prime Minister suggested that we would no longer enjoy the distinction of being hon. members when this place adjourns.
In my view, this is indicative of the contempt in which the Prime Minister holds parliament, the utter contempt with which he has treated parliament, because the role of a member of parliament is a long and well established one. There are ample quotations on the record and authorities on this subject. Our responsibilities as members of parliament or as 264 ombudsmen are continuing responsibilities whether or not this house sits. Indeed, we are going to have even more responsibilities during this recess trying to justify to our constituents and to the Canadian people why, in the light of so many serious problems facing Canada, we allow ourselves to take a three months' recess.
Motion to Adjourn House
The Prime Minister and the government house leader have had their way. We saw them last night as they appeared in the house, complete with white carnations, showing their utter disdain, which has been so characteristic, behaving like two bank robbers who apologize for having shot the teller because they had to get the money. They got their way. What they have done to parliament in the process only time will tell. Today, we witnessed the spectacle of the Prime Minister losing his cool, a quality which has come to be so characteristic of him. Indeed, we saw him representing himself as a great man, a great devotee of General de Gaulle whom he maligned in this house just a short time ago. But now it becomes fashionable for the Prime Minister, who loosely tosses out charges about hypocritical speeches and stupid filibusters, to behave in such a way as to leave himself open to this very type of accusation.
Perhaps it can be said of him that if he gets his way in this instance he will behave like a latter day Nero who is content to fiddle while Rome bums, because while parliament stands adjourned for three months not only do the serious problems facing this nation continue but they continue to escalate without solution. These problems will continue without reference to hon. members of this house who, whether or not the Prime Minister accepts the fact, have the responsibility of continuing to represent their constituents and to protect the national interest in the best way they can. How can I go back to my unemployed constituents and say I have three months off? They will look at me and say: We have 12 months off, the only difference is that you are getting $18,000 a year for it whereas in our case our unemployment insurance benefit expired long ago. We are relegated to having to get on our hands and knees, swallow our pride and beg for welfare from the state. What can I say to them? They are underhoused; in many instances they are under-nourished because of a lack of a proper diet, and they are over-governed. They have no opportunities and they are suffering the consequences of 20 years of unrestricted Liberal dictatorship as well as the type of arrogance that we saw manifested in this house in the last few days.
In the final analysis, these are the people who have to suffer the consequences of the arrogance of a government that has gone mad with power. I should like the Prime Minister to go to Newfoundland or to the Atlantic provinces and talk to the people who are regionally dispossessed, and who suffer the

July 25. 1969
Motion to Adjourn House consequences of regional disparity through no fault of their own.
[DOT] (3:50 p.m.)
We are moderate people in the Atlantic provinces. We are reasonable people. But how much are reasonable people expected to put up with? Poverty continues to be a major problem in this country though the government continues to ignore it. Our people continue to suffer the consequences of spiralling inflation, of high interest rates, of the lack of adequate housing, of the lack of ability to buy suitable houses, of the lack of public housing. They are beginning to realize the serious consequences of pollution and the failure of the Government of Canada to meet its responsibilities in this direction. They know from personal experience what the rising cost of living means. The working people of this country and those living on fixed incomes not only in the region from which I come but from across Canada, in the cities and on the farms from coast to coast, know the consequences of the monthly increases in the cost of living index because they experience them on a day to day basis as they go to the store to buy provisions for their families. Can you blame them for thinking: surely, the government must be able to come to grips with these serious problems over which we have no control.
We have a government which is determined to operate in a parliament whose members have been relegated to a position of rubber stamps. Perhaps this is the reason the government insists on proceeding with its plan for a three month adjournment. Under the new rules, perhaps we can get up and make a few speeches but we shall no longer be able to directly influence measures which will be brought forward for enactment. We have already given up our traditional, ancient right to withhold supply to the government. It was a sad day, Mr. Speaker, when that right left us. But at least we gave it up voluntarily. We gave up some of our debating days, too. We gave these things up because we wanted to co-operate with the government in a spirit of goodwill. We wanted to co-operate with the government because at that time we had no reason to suspect that its intentions were anything but honourable. Now, this government stands indicted by its own action.
Sure, we can come back in September and meet in committees. If the committees are anything like the committees were this session, conducted by partisan chairmen and
controlled by a government which only accepts reports with which it agrees, this exercise could easily and usefully be dispensed with. Parliament should be asked to come back in September, at least, to discuss even on the basis of the limited power we now have, the serious problems facing the country.
The Atlantic provinces are passing through a crisis unparalleled in the history of confederation. The province from which I come is on the verge of a serious financial crisis. It is a well established fact that the same applies in the province of New Brunswick and in the province of Prince Edward Island. What is this government doing? It suggests parliament should take a three month recess and expects us to go back to our constituencies and defend this action. Members opposite may laugh and jeer because they got their way in this instance but I hope that when they have to face the unemployed, the badly housed and the poor in their constituencies they can find a good explanation for adjourning for three months. If they do, perhaps they will let us in on it, because I do not know what I shall say to the people I represent. What can I say to them? Nothing has been done by the government so far. They have been retrogressive steps. We see fish plants closing all over the place. We see advantages we have enjoyed in the past taken from us. We have lost the salt rebate. The fisheries are in a crisis. Yet the government sits by and does nothing. Perhaps the government wants parliament to adjourn for three months in order that it can prepare the country psychologically for what tQ expect-

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