January 25, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Rodolphe Lemieux



pious Tory editors are anxious to 'have a national government. Mr. Speaker, a national government is overdue. It is not a revolution that will take place, but a revulsion of feeling, when the Liberal party will again he placed at the head of affairs. The right hon. gentleman who leads the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) will be able ito form, not a Nationalist Government, but a truly national government.
I agree that during war time the discussions in Parliament should be as harmonious as p'ossible, that there should be no party wrangling and that the Government measures should he given a fair hearing and generally the Cabinet should be given fair play. But, Sir, you are too good a parliamentarian not to admit that if during ordinary times, in peace times, criticism is healthy and necessary in order to secure a proper administration of the affairs of the country, in war time, when there is a huge expenditure going on, criticism is even more needed in the interests of the country and of the Treasury. If it had not been for the healthy criticism of His Majesty's loyal Opposition last year, do you believe that we should have to-day the Imperial Munitions Board? No, we should still be saddled with the old Shell Committee. En passant,' let me say that I congratulate the Imperial authorities upon having confided the war orders of Canada to the present Munitions Board. I believe that with Mr. Flavelle and Mr. Gordon at the head of the Imperial Munitions Board, the country need not be nervous; the affairs entrusted to that Board will be run in a businesslike way, and with honesty of purpose. Again, I say that even during war times a loyal Opposition should not abdicate its duties and functions.
The other day I listened to the right hon. gentleman, the leader of the Government (Sir Robert Borden) when he was speaking about the probability of a general election. He told us that it would be sad indeed if we were to send the ballot boxes into the trenches. Would you believe it? Why his words are still ringing in my ears when, sitting in the old Commons chamber, the right hon. gentleman charged the leader of the Opposition and all those who questioned the propriety of sending the ballot boxes into the trenches, with returning officers passing over the graves and the crosses of our boys who had laid down their lives at the front, charged ns with disloyalty. I remember that his slogan-if it was not his, at least, it was that of the Minister

of Militia at the time-was: for each gun, one ballot. It was refreshing to listen to the Prime Minister the other day. Thanks to our criticism of that objectionable law, the right hon. gentleman realizes to-day that it is improper to give it effect. Sir, the Opposition should never Abdicate its function-in war time less than in any other time. Who did not hear, year after year, the criticisms levelled at the Roes rifle in this House. When war began, during, not the short session of 1914, but the session which followed, at the very opening of the House, I called the attention of the 'hon. Minister of Militia of that day to an item which had appeared in the Canadian Courier, a paper published in Toronto. In that item it was reported that one of the soldiers, a Canadian, writing to his father, had said that when our boys had left Shorncliffe, the first thing they had done was to discard the Ross rifle. I asked the minister whether the statement was true or not. He denied it. Later on, complaints and criticisms were made. Finally, in the month of May last year, if I mistake not, there appeared mysteriously, perhaps, in the Ottawa Citizen, the letter of General Alderson condemning the Ross rifle with which our boys had been equipped. Mr. Speaker, can you say that it was not the duty of the Opposition to find out whether or not the facts mentioned in the letters from our boys at the front concerning the national weapon of Canada were true -or not? When that letter was read in the House, my hon. friend, the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Rogers) who never goes half way, stated that if the name of the civil servant responsible for the leak of the document became known he would take it upon himself to send the delinquent to the tower. After prorogation, my hon. friend the Solicitor General (Mr. Meighen) made several speeches throughout the country in one of which, speaking of the Ross rifle, he said: Of course we shall be taken to task for having equipped our soldiers with the Ross rifle. Defending the position of the Government in advance, he went on to say that they were bound by the contract entered into between Sir Charles Ross and the Laurier Government. Probably my hon. friend the Solicitor General knew at that time the contents of the report made by Sir Douglas Haig. What are the facts to-day? I do not state that Sir Charles Ross is right or that he is wrong; I say that if the Opposition had not fulfilled its true function of criticising the 'Government,

possibly our soldiers to-day would still be equipped with the old Ross Tide. It is due to our criticism that the hand of the Government was forced, and that we have the report of Sir Douglas Haig condemning the weapon with which our soldiers were equipped. It is all very well to speak of a union of hearts, of a national government; but no national government, no coalition government, would tolerate a defective rifle for our soldiers.
The Government are spending huge sums, of money, and in that respect their acts should be very seriously scrutinized. A speech was delivered not long ago by the Minister of Finance, in which he said:
If every citizen of Canada would save to the utmost of his power in these days of high world prices for our produce and enormous munitions expenditures at home, I believe that notwithstanding the huge increase in our national debt which the war will bring, the people of Canada would be stronger financially when the war is over than before it commenced.
Further on he said:-
I believe the people of Canada will rise to this as to all other occasions, and that the men at the front will not suffer for lack of shells so far as the industrial facilities of Canada are able to provide them. Let us economize. Let us save. Let us make our savings serve the purposes of the war. Let us make our dollars fight the Hun.
I agree with the Minister of Finance, but while he preaches economy I say that he does not practice it, and the example of economy should coime from the gentleman who holds the strings of the purse. I was shocked last year, Mr. Speaker, when, during the hours preceding prorogation, the Government brought forward a measure authorizing them to spend something like six million dollars on the purchase of the Quebec-Montmorency, Quebec-Saguenay and Lotbiniere-Megantie railways, and this at a time when two transcontinental railways were declared in so many words to be bankrupt, at a time when a railway commission of experts was being appointed to investigate the whole railway situation of Canada, at a time when every man, woman and child in this country was being urged to save and economize, not only on their own behalf, but to aid the Belgian Fund, the French Fund, the Serbian Fund, the Patriotic Fund and the Red Cross Fund. At that very moment, Sir, the Government were asking Parliament for authority to spend six million dollars in order to disentangle some promoters from mysterious railway difficulties below Quebec. That
policy was nothing less than scandalous, and I hope that the Government will think twice before they pay the amounts that are being asked for the purchase of those railways.
There are many problems apart from the war which are very important and require solution. From every part of Canada reforms are being urged.. I have here, for instance, a copy of the resolutions adopted the other day by the farmers of the West, a body representing sixty thousand affiliated farmers. In spite of the war, they think that some reforms are overdue. For instance, they ask for an amendment of the tariff laws by reducing the duty on goods imported from Great Britain to half the rates charged under the general tariff, and they urge further adjustments in the remaining tariff, such .as will insure complete free trade between Great Britain and Canada within five years. They ask that the tariff he so amended as to give free agricultural implements, free farm machinery, free vehicles, fertilizers, coal, lumber, cement and illuminating, fuel and lubricating oils. They urge all of these reforms, and it is not because w'e are at war that the Liberal party should not voice them. It is our duty to bring these questions to the attention of Parliament and the public.
This much having been said as to the duties of the Opposition during this war, let. me refer to the all-absorbing question -the question of the war-and the firm determination of the Canadian, people to win that war. First of all, let me tell you that I am a British subject and a Liberal. It is because I am a British subject and a Liberal in the British sense that I stand for the Allied cause in the present gigantic conflict. I resent any imputation to the contrary. I do not care-I may just as well say so frankly-to be labelled a loyalist. The. appellation "British" is good enough for me. As my hon. friend from Edmonton (Mr. Oliver) stated the other evening, in the very excellent address which he delivered, loyalty is proven by deeds and not by word of mouth. Might I recall to this House the words of a famous woman who played a part during the French Revolution- Madame Roland. As she was brought to the guillotine at the Place Royale, she passed on her way the Statue of Liberty, and as she bowed reverently while passing before that statue, she exclaimed: "Oh liberty, how many crimes are committed in thy name!" I say to these ultra loyalists who are always parading their lip loyalty:

Oh loyalty, many crimes are committed in thy name! I ana a Liberal, and I say that since the beginning of the war the Liberal party has adhered to the pledge which was given by my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Lanrier). Prior to August 4, 1914, that right hon. gentleman said:
I have often declared that if the Mother Country were ever in danger, or if danger even threatened, Canada would render assistance to the full extent of her power. In view of the critical nature of the situation, I have cancelled all my meetings. Pending such great questions there should be a truce to party strife.
There, the word "truce" was first uttered by my right hon. friend. The answer was a statement made at a ward meeting in the city of Toronto by the present hon. Minister of Militia (Mr. Kemp), who said:"Why speak of a truce? There was never any truce and will never be any truce." That was the loyal answer made by a gentleman who has now a seat in the Cabinet. It is true that we have had from an honoured member of the Tory party in Toronto, Mr. McNaught, a declaration to this effect: Oh, during this war some Liberals may be loyal, but their leaders have not been loyal. Mr. McNaught was a member for the city of Toronto of the Ontario Legislature. The Liberals of Eastern Ontario met at Ottawa during the month of November last, and they passed the following resolution in answer to the onslaughts made on the patriotism of the Liberal party by such Tory heelers as Mr. McNaught:
RESOLVED: That this convention of representative Liberals of Eastern Ontario, in session asembled at Ottawa this 16th day of November, takes this earliest opportunity of placing upon record its unswerving loyalty to the King and Empire and pledging ourselves to assist in the ultimate success, and at the same time to record our resentment at the reported remarks of certain Conservative politicians inpugning the loyalty of the Great Liberal party, which remarks we consider as entirely unjustifiable and an insult to the thousands of true Liberals who to-day mourn their sons and brothers who have given their lives at the front as proof of their loyalty and love of the British Empire;
And that this Convention express its condolence and heartfelt sympathy with all Canadians who have lost their sons and relatives at the front.
What has been the official attitude of the leader of the Liberal party since the war began? His attitude has been to educate public opinion in his province, and such education was needed because it had been shamefully poisoned by at least three of the members of the present Government. Mr.
Speaker, the sentiments of the leader of the Opposition are well known. They were expressed lately in a manifesto which was issued on the first of January, and from which I may read later on.
At six o'clock, the House took recess.
After Recess.
The House resumed at eight o'clock.

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