March 8, 1911 (11th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Hugh Guthrie


Mr. H. GUTHRIE (South Wellington).

Mr. Speaker, the question before the chair seems to be a simple one, and not one which

invites a general discussion of the main issue. Therefore I think we might limit ourselves to discussing the single question whether, in view of what has recently transpired in the Congress of the United States, it would be well for the parliament of Canada now to halt, or whether we should proceed. I believe the wording of the motion is that in view of the failure of the United States Congress to approve of the proposed trade agreement, the discussion of the matter in this House should be postponed, and the matter should be referred to the people. Now, we must all agree that the question is to-day fairly and squarely before the parliament of Canada. I think it came properly before us. It was the result of negotiations which took place between Canadian ministers and negotiators on behalf of the United States government.
It does come before us 'and is launched in the regular form, and we are discussing it, I assume, as a serious matter and one on which we expect to reach a definite conclusion one way or the other. Is it not more dignified to discuss this as a matter pertinent to Canada and Canadian interests, independent altogether of what in the meantime Congress may or may not do. The fact that the 61st Congress has not seen fit to deal with the matter ought not to influence this parliament. If this pro-nosal be a good proposal for Canada, why halt in the discussion? If it be not a good proposal, then let us refuse to entertain it; but to my mind, no proper logical reason has been offered for postponing that discussion. The 62nd Congress will be just as powerful and potent as the 61st. Its session will probably last- two, or three, or four months. True, it may deal with other questions besides the tariff. That is the privilege of a special Congress of the United States; but it has been convened for a single purpose, the trade arrangement with Canada, and it is very probable that that arrangement will be given precedence. We can, therefore, reasonably expect that the Congress about to be convened will pass upon that arrangement one way or the other within a very limited range of time. Then why should we halt or hesitate in dealing with it or discussing it? There has been no attempt on the part of this government to limit the discussion in any way. I have heard no threat of closure, and I think I am correct in saying that there is no rule of closure really applicable to the proceedings of this House. We can, I think, fairly say that it is the desire, not only of the government, but of all members on this side, to have this matter most fully threshed out before a vote is taken, and we are having a most full discussion of it, not only here, but throughout the country, and in the press of the country, so that all the people and their representatives, if they pay any attention to what is
going on, will be fully aware of all the aspects of the proposed bargain now before parliament.
My hon. friends opposite, however, give as their reason for delay that they want to submit the question to the people before this House passes on it. Well, I am just as thorough a believer in the voice of the. people as any hon. member of this House, and, perhaps, just as often as any other hon. member have I consulted my constituency with regard to matters which come up in this parliament, and I would have no hesitation in submitting this matter to my own constituents at any moment.
I am satisfied that there is a very strong opinion, in that part of Ontario at least, in favour of this proposal. But is it proper or necessary that in so many of these questions the will of the people should be directly taken? I submit it is not. I cannot accept the doctrine that we are mere delegates of our constituents. I believe that we are here in a representative capacity to_ exercise our own judgment, after discussion and deliberation, and we are in a position to do this more fully and effectively than our constituents, and we are consequently in a better position in all probability to pass on this question. But if we are mere delegates to register the wishes of our constituents, there is no necessity for our being here at all. A letter would serve the purpose just as well as our presence. We are here, however, as representatives, and as such we have the right to deal with this matter if we see fit so to do. During my experience in this House I remember that when the Transcontinental railway question was up it was said that we should have had a mandate from the people. Again, when the new northwest provinces were being established, it was said that we should wait for a mandate from the people. And, lastly, when the naval proposals were before the House, we were equally told that we should have waited for a mandate from the people before submitting them to parliament. Why, if appeals to the people had been granted in all these cases, we would have had a succession of general elections and no time to discuss the business of the country. For these reasons I submit it is not necessary that on a question of this kind we should go back to the people for a mandate. Surely we have a mandate with regard to the regulation of trade, the raising of taxation, the arrangement of our fiscal policy. Surely the arrangement of our fiscal policy is one of the first reasons for sending us here at all. On this matter, therefore, if on no other, we have authority from the people to act as in our best judgment we feel warranted in doing. I think that is about all that can fairly be said on the motion before the Chair. Are we to postpone or go

ahead? I see every good reason for our going ahead with this discussion without curtailing it in any way, and I see no good reason for postponing it. It is said that when the 62nd Congress of the United States meets, in all probability we shall receive better terms from that country than under the proposed arrangement. Well, if I understand the arrangement, better terms will not affect it so far as Canada is concerned. The tariff may be lowered, the free list may be as much more extended as the United States Congress may see fit to enact, but so long as we get what we have agreed for the agreement will stand. In other words, there may be as much plus as possible, but no minus.

Subtopic:   P. C. KNOX,
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