January 17, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)


Michael Clark



out there and destroyed the good seed which the farmers were trying to sow upon that mind of his. Whatever the influence, we have not got the market yet, and I very much fear that up to the present point in our history the historian will record about this bountiful harvest that Providence smiled upon the efforts of the farmer, that the farmer did his duty in producing the stuff, but that we had a government in power that was so "unwise that it did its hast to thwart both Providence and the farmer by not opening a market to the south.
I want to congratulate. the Government upon the fact that they have, I think, correctly interpreted the mind of the 'country in regard to the holding or not holding of an election during the time of War. I offer them my very sincere congratulation upon that interpretation and upon the change of heart and attitude which that interpretation indicates in themselves. It would not be in human nature-it certainly is not in mine-not to refer in a good natured way to the fact that there is very grave doubt whether this attitude of mind on the part of the Government existed last spring. 1 should be shutting my eyes to obvious facts if I did not assert that I know it did not exist. Why, there was one impatient member sitting behind the Treasury benches, the limit of whose patience was expressed in the term of twenty-four hours for this young and impetuous electioneerer said he would not wait twenty-four hours before having an election in the spring. I am certainly in order in congratulating that hon. gentleman, so far as he supports the Government, on his admirable change of heart. The Minister of Public Works, I think, made the discovery in the middle of last session that the people of this country were 'frothing at the mouth almost to tear the Senate in pieces. I think that during the summer he made the discovery that, in so far as there was any desire to tear anybody to to pieces, it was not the Senate of Canada', so far at any rate as his own province is concerned. The ferocious fangs of the people of Manitoba seem to have been iwhetting themselves for quite a different prey.
My right hon. friend the Prime Minister himself was not free from the suspicion of holding over us on this side of the House, the bludgeon of a general election. He waxed angry with my right hon. leader because he and those of us who sit behind

him, ventured to criticise the Budget, even to the extent of introducing an amendment to it. Now, for my part I have no regret about the criticism or about the amendment, especially that portion of it which referred to the raising of additional obstacles against trade from Great Britain at this particular crisis of the Empire's history. I would appeal to my hon. friend the Minister of Finance, to whom I have never appealed without receiving careful attention, whether our criticism of that particular part of the Budget of last year has not been justified in the event. It cannot be pleasant to him-I am sure it is not-that at this- moment the imports from Great Britain to this country should be disappearing almost to the vanishing point. This decrease in British imports into Canada comes at a moment when we know that Great Britain needs,'for the particular purposes 'of exchange, to be sending more goods into Canada. The imports into Canada from Great Britain at this moment are disappearing almost to the vanishing point, to the enormous hindrance of Britain's complete efficiency in carrying on from a commercial point of view the war in which we are at the present time engaged. It is perhaps fair to warn the minister and the Government that in the event of any further proposals of a similar nature we should consider that we were neglecting our duty, as members of this House and as loyal sons of the Empire, holding the views we do, if we did not once more raise the strongest protest and submit any such proposals to the strictest criticism, even to the point of a division if the need called for it. As I say, these things are ample evidence that there has been a salutary change of heart on the part of the Government in regard to the desirability of- an election while the war lasts. If, last Spring, when Parliament prorogued, you asked any prophet who was supposed to be in the inner circles of the confidence of the Government, when the election was to take place, there was not one who did not answer with the utmost certainty of the tipster: June is the time that you have got to look out for..
I do not want to pry any further into ministerial secrets, but I should be guilty of being untrue to myself if I did not admit that there were honourable exceptions. My hon. friend the Minister of Militia (Sir Sam Hughes), since he put his hand to the plough in this war, has never taken it off. I might mention others whom I strongly -suspect of having been opposed to this trend

in the party opposite. I am perfectly sure that my bon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Sir George Foster) could neveT have smiled upon the prospect of an election while the war was on. I know that my hon. friend from St. Antoine (Sir Herbert Ames), who has done such splendid work in connection with the Patriotic Fund, knew, from the point of view of that fund alone, the damage that would be done to the country, the distraction and confusion that would be caused; and he was always opposed to an election. But I very much fear that the exceptions to those who have undergone this change of heart were like the righteous in Sodom: too few to save the city.
So far as this side of the House is concerned, so far at any rate as I am personally concerned, there has been no change of attitude. I believed at the time the first shot was fired in this war that during the continuance of the war, an election in Canada would be a public calamity, and 1 believe it now. Who is there that does not believe it? Our ladies are assembling all over the country, irrespective of politics, to knit their eyes out when they are not weeping them out, making comforts for the soldiers at the front. Who is there that would throw a bomb of contention into assemblies like that; distraction and confusion are terms most admirably chosen to describe the conditions which would prevail; conditions which can receive no justification whatever on grounds of policy, because on the ground of the policy of prosecuting this war to a successful termination there has never been the slightest difference of opinion between those on this side of the House and those on the other. Yet, although that is our attitude, we cannot absolve ourselves and do not wish to absolve ourselves for a mom'ent from the duty of bringing to bear the best political ability we have, on any measures for the prosecution of the war, which are brought before this House and this Pairliament. I cannot conceive, as I said a year ago, that any member of the Government could wish to avoid criticism. Mr. Asquith, from the very beginning of the war, not only excused criticism but invited criticism. What is Parliament for? What is an Opposition for except to engage in criticism, not necessarily in destructive criticism-and in this ease I should say net destructive at all towards the political prospects of a government -but helpful and co-operating criticism. That is the kind of criticism which we thought we were giving when we went to the point of a division in regard to taxation last 3i
session. We thought that an extra tariff upon British goods was bound ito affect deleteriously the entran.ee and the amount of goods entering Canada from Britain. That criticism has been justified in the result. It was not hurtful criticism; it was helpful criticism, and the country and the Empire would have been in a better position to-day if the Government had conceded our point, and had withdrawn an impost of which P do not think they are very proud at the present moment, and for which I am perfectly sure they will receive the condemnation of history.
Now, we are embarking upon the third war session of this Parliament, and the Government is once more facing Parliament with propositions which are unprecedented in the history of Canada. I hope that we shall never forget on this side of the House that they are unprecedented. The Government is asking Parliament to sanction their commitment to enormous responsibilities in regard to the raising of men for this war and the raising of money for the support 'of those men. Now, I just want at this stage in the session to tell the Government quite bluntly that, so far as I have been able to observe- and I have been up and down the country a great deal, both east and west

there' are two things which are agitating the minds of the people in regard to these propositions of the Government. There are certain things that are exercising the public mind very widely, from east to west, in Canada. In regard to recruiting, I do not think that the people of this country will have the Slightest objection to the Government naming half a million men as the figure at which we should aim for the present in our recruiting efforts.
I do not think so, though I agree with my leader in questioning whether it was wise to name a specific number. I have always held and proclaimed in this House that in the event of the Empire being at war, Canada would be behind the flag with all her moral and material and human resources- that she would be there with the men and there with the money. There was a time, if I wanted to be controversial, when our hon. friends opposite were not so sure about the -men. I do not wish, however, to press that point, or to raise any controversial point in regard to the defence of the Empire at present. That has been our attitude so far as I, a humble member of the Opposition, have had an opportunity to declare it; and I repeat that we on this side have no holding back as to the number of men that should be sent. It might have

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