March 7, 1910 (11th Parliament, 2nd Session)


George Halsey Perley (Whip of the Conservative Party (1867-1942))

Conservative (1867-1942)


I take great pleasure in supporting the amendment of tlie leader of the opposition on this occasion. It seems to me that in the critical state which exists at present in Europe, we ought to do something to show the mother country and the world where we stand, and that we are willing to help the mother country in case of emergency. As to whether there is an emergency or not, I will quote the words of Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, a man better fitted than any other to understand the true position of affairs:
When the German programme is completed Germany will have a fleet of thirty-three Dreadnoughts. That fleet will be the most powerful the world has ever seen. This' imposes upon us the necessity of rebuilding the whole of the fleet. That is the situation. If we were to fall into a position of inferiority we should cease to count for anything among the nations of Europe, and we should he fortunate if our liberty were left, and we did not become the conscript appendage of some stronger power. That is a brutal way of stating the case; but it is the truth.
These are not the words of a jingo or a scaremonger, but of Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary. Under these circumstances, I say, it is our duty to show Great Britain and the world that we are prepared to assist her in an emergency of this kind. This we can do of our own free will, and it would in no wise compromise our autonomy, which we are all as anxious to maintain as the right hon. Prime Minister himself. There would be no promise of an annual contribution, and the question as to what we might do in the future would be left entirely in abeyance. This would enable our people to have time to really understand this question before finally deciding what Canada ought to do. Wh:it strikes me, I may say, most forcibly in this matter, after hearing all the discussions in this House and talking it over with many people outside, is how little the people understand it. It has not been before us long enough for us to thoroughly grasp it, and there is no doubt in my mind that the ideas of the people regarding it have not yet been crystallized, although it is generally recognized that Canada should assist in her own naval defence according to her ability. The acute stage of this question has only lasted about a year, and there have been no debates or meetings throughout the country at which this question has been expounded so that the people might have a chance of hearing and understanding all sides before making up their minds. How can we possibly expect that the people should thoroughly understand this question when those of us who have studied it most carefully find it exceedingly difficult to make up our minds what method would be the best for us to follow? It strikes me that the question is one which

requires plenty of discussion, and I do not think that a plebiscite would be the best way in which to accomplish this purpose. That would give us no chance for discussion and explanation. The only real way in which the people can reach an understanding on this problem is to have it taken up in a general election. If we had a plebiscite or referendum, there would be no reason why any one should go out on the platform in the cities or the country districts to discuss this question from all sides and enable the people to understand it, whereas if we had it discussed in a general election, the fate of the government would depend on the issue, and we would be all out trying to have the people look at it as we do, and the people would really have a chance of learning something about it.
In conclusion, I would say that I have the honour to represent a county with a mixed population, in almost exactly the same proportions as are to be found in the Dominion. I firmly believe that both the French and the English would vote to protect their own homes and firesides if they only understood this question. I believe that the great majority of the people of all classes are in favour of the British empire and the maintenance of our British connection, but I am sure that they do not want to contribute regularly or annually_ to the defence of the empire without having some say regarding the questions of war and the methods of using their contributions of ships or money. To my mind, this is the greatest question which has been before this parliament for many a day, and consequently our decision cannot fail to be most important. It will be one which will affect the course ot events, not only in this country but in various parts of the British empire, for many years to come, and it seems to me that the people of Canada should be given ample time to thoroughly understand this question and to give it their cool and calm judgment before it is finally decided.

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