February 16, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Laurier Liberal


Yes, they may, but I venture to submit that the people of Canada will not be satisfied that the editorials of the Albertan newspaper are sufficient justification for the Prime Minister to base his arguments upon. This only goes to show that when one is in a desperate situation he is ready to grasp at straws. I venture to think, Mr. Speaker, that the astute mind of the Prime Minister was rather led astray by somebody who told him that there was such a thing in the Albertan, and he jumped at a fatal conclusion. And although he will not, I know, do it publicly, I should like the Prime Minister, privately at the first caucus of his party, to tell them that anything he said about the Albertan on which he bases his case is absolutely false and falls to the ground, and that for the present the case made out by the Leader of the Opposition is entirely undefended. It is quite possible that the Prime Minister will not be disposed to listen to anything we say on this side of the House. If he were well advised by his own friends and supporters, and if he felt that the country was behind him, he would heve a perfect right as a party leader to pay little or no heed to anything we might say on this side, although it js always well to take warning and accept admonition from whatever quarter it may come, and to consider carefully whatever observations may be made by even one's keenest enemies. One would have expected the

Prime Minister, ere now, to have paid due attention to what his own best friends have said, and I think he would be wise hereafter to consider their opinions. Now, last year a dear old friend of his party, the Montreal Gazette, tendered some sage advice to them and expressed some opinions regarding the Government at that time. That paper said then:
The art of government is most difficult under the best auspices; but a leaderless ministry, destitute of policy, must be the despair of its friends. The public memory is short, and public gratitude is an unknown quantiy. The electorate Vequired a guide, a policy, an association with those who invite confidence, and the Government offers neither guidance, nor principles, nor familiarty with the people. The situation is not suddenly precipitated; it began with the conclusion of the war. Since then futile efforts at permanent coalition have more than once been made, and Minister after Minister has dropped out until the situation has become difficult for the Government, and despondent for its supporters.
That was the opinion of that newspaper about a year ago. Reference was made to the matter when the House opened last year, but the Prime Minister will probably tell me that that article has no bearing upon the present situation, that they might have been finding fault with the personnel of the Government and with the leadership of those days, but that the conditions that prevailed then have passed, a new leadership having been instituted and new members having entered the Cabinet; consequently-this is what he will no doubt contend-this criticism of last year does not apply at the present time. Well, that might be an argument. But here we are confronted with an opinion very lately expressed, and I would respectfully suggest to the Prime Minister that he burn a little more of the midnight oil and read the public press so that he may learn what his friends, at all events, are saying about him. The same friendly newspaper, the same newspaper that has always been, as far as I know, a tower of strength to the Tory party, has again spoken, as late as the 8th day of February, the day after the Government met its Waterloo at Peterborough. This is what it says:
The Government has declared its intention to live out its term, and constitutionally has the right so to do. Its parliamentary majority may prolong its existence for nearly another two years, but will it continue as a strong ministry for that period? A majority somewhat perilous when parliament prorogued has been reduced. The by-elections won by the Government mean merely the retention of seats, and indicate no new feeling of confidence, while the contested

seats like East Elgin and West Peterborough have swung to the Opposition and weakened to that extent the strength of the ministry. Governments are not constitutionally upset by the loss of a by-election or two, but no govern-m nt can disregard the hand-writing, and above all no Government can gain in the present nor survive in the future that does not owe its existence to popular support. It happens that at the moment the time is propitious for an election, save that supplies have not been voted. The creditors of the Crown, meaning civil sn van's and those ' ho have nprforaed serv.ee still unrepaid and still unprovided for, are entitled to payment for service without regard to the quarrels of politicians, with which they have no part. Parliament will meet within a week. Its first duty is to provide for the services and maturing debts. If time permitted a tariff might be introduced and the Government appeal to the country upon it. If more time permitted. Parliament might have another session and after a redistribution of seats dissolve the House. In ordinary course this would be the " ay of procedure, the way we have hoped would be persued. But in the circumstances of adverse results from the recent by-elections, the situation has changed, and the advice we have to give to the government is to proceed with the supply bill and then permit the electorate to express its preference for parties in order that stable administration and confident policy may be carried on.
The situation is now uncertain, tlie life of the Ministry hangs by a thread, and under this circumstance strong and effective administration of affairs is impossible.
That, Sir, is the same authority continued. It had given its opinion of the old Government under the leadership of the Right Hon. gentleman (Sir Robert Borden) who has gone out of office, and it has now tendered its advice and its opinion as to what the present Administration should do. This expression of opinion is added to the many authorities which were quoted here yesterday by the leader of the Opposition.
I am not fond of reading in this Chamber, for I am not a good reader, and although other quotations can be cited I will merely refer to them. I hold in my hand a clipping from the Ottawa Journal of February 9th, 1921, and in an editorial of that day practically the same language is indulged in, practically the same advice is given, and the Government is told that it should at once, in view of the result of the elections in Peterborough and other places, dissolve Parliament and go to the country. True it is held that there was a division of the vote in Peterborough and. there was not a decided majority for any party, taking the vote as a whole; but the editor of the Journal-whom we all know to be a staunch supporter of the present Government, and of every Tory administration in this country for many years- tells the Government that whatever else the people wanted they did not want the present Administration. That is made perfectly evident.- The Journal says the people may have voted for the Labour man, for the Farmer candidate, and for the Liberal -and they did vote extensively for those candidates-but the last thing on earth they wanted was to have anything to do with this Administration. Now, Mr. Speaker, that advice, coming from a friendly paper like the Ottawa Journal should have some weight with, and some hearing from, hon. gentlemen opposite; and it bears out, I think, the idea which I have expressed-that there is no pride or satisfaction in being the leader, or being a member, of a Government that has not the confidence of the people. The only source of satisfaction is when the man who is at the head of affairs, and those who sit with him in the Government, have the honour of representing the people. When that condition ceases there is no honour attached to the position, and the representation that the people and the country sould have is lost.
Since the advent of the Union Government to power the Winnipeg Free Press has been an ardent supporter of it, but now the Government is considered to be a sort of patch work. Somebody beside me suggests, "a crazy patch work," but I would not go so far as to say that. At all events the Government is a makeshift for the time being, and a sort of amalgamation of some of the material which formed the old Administration. I take it that the Winnipeg Free Press is friendly to the present Cabinet. I see nothing to lead to a contrary-opinion, except that in its editorial of the fifth of February that journal undertakes to say what it thinks of the election in West Peterborough. Let me quote from an editorial of that date:
The result -in West Peterborough is capable of no explanation which gives the least gleam of comfort to the Dominion Government. Prom whatever view point it is regarded it is a knock-down and a drag-out for the Administration. .
The editorial is lengthy and I will merely read a few lines further from its closing observations:
Once Mr. Meighen is convinced-and we should think West Peterborough would remove the last of his illusions,

that there is nothing to be gained beyond the mere holding of office for a few additional months, from hanging on, he may decide that in the long run the interests of himself and his party will best be served by an immediate election. The Government will meet Parliament without authority of prestige. It will have a majority so precarious as to make it a highly dangerous

business for it to .submit legislation of a controversial character; dt will .be subjected' to the constant taunt which will embody the truth, that it is usurping a power which the country does not wish it to exercise-and the net result must be a steady dwindling of whatever strength it may have in parliament and country. It is quite possible that the Government will act upon the advice tendered it by the Montreal Gazette; and go to the country after securing the passage of the Supply Bill by Parliament, leaving tariff revision and other difficult questions to the new parliament the probable outcome of the West Peterborough by-election will be a general election in the early summer.
Sir, those are the quotations which I regard as being in point, quotations from papers which are entirely friendly to the Government and whose opinions should be regarded by the Prime Minister and his colleagues as worthy of the greatest possible consideration.
Yesterday we were told by the Prime Minister that there was no need to move an amendment to the Address but that there could be a division upon the Address as it stood. Let me say that I am not familiar with any practice by which a vote could be taken without some amendment to the Address; and I think the Prime Minister's suggestion to his followers in that regard is entirely wrong. Before an expression of opinion could be given on the Address it was necessary to have an amendment. We do not want to vote that the Address be not passed; we want to pass the Address with an amendment which expresses our views.
It was very noticeable throughout the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday that he was not exactly upon the ground that he wanted to be. He realized that if he could get us over on the ground of the tariff that would be a better fighting position, and therefore he was apparently very much dissatisfied at the omission to say anything about the tariff in the amendment. Last year gentlemen on this side did say something about the tariff in an amendment to the Address, and I remember well the then leader of the Government causing a great deal of merriment among his friends because we suggested that the Speech from the Throne should say something about the tariff, and that the subject should be discussed on the debate on the Address. The then Prime Minister found fault with us for even suggesting such a thing. Well, we have a right to suppose that there is a continuation of ideas on the other side, and therefore this year we do not trouble them about the tariff. But

there is no hope of satisfying them; when you give them one thing they want another, and even if they got both they would not be satisfied.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have no intention of discussing the tariff at this stage. I have been in this House for pretty well on to twenty years now, and during that time I have never shrunk from discussing the tariff, whether I was supporting my party while in power or in Opposition. When the proper time comes to express an opinion on the question of the tariif, if my opinion is worth anything, I shall be ready to express it. But six years ago we were promised by the Administration which immediately preceded the present one that an inquiry would be conducted throughout the country, which would be followed by a tearing down or a bolstering up of the tariff, as the case might require. That promise was not implemented until last year, when this Government appointed a tariff commission. We are told in the Speech from the Throne that the report of that commission will be submitted in due course. Does the right hon. the Prime Minister think that it would be fair to us to discuss the tariff before we have the advantage of considering that report? If so, why did he waste thousands of dollars of the people's money in sending a commission from the Atlantic to the Pacific to gather up what they are pleased to call information, which is to be put in the shape of a report and to be laid on the Table?-and, I hope, printed and distributed among hon. members so they may get the benefit of the peregrinations of the hon. the Minister of Finance.
But the Prime Minister says: Why wait for anything of that kind?-we are not going to pay any attention to it. In effect he will follow the advice that was once given by the right hon. gentleman (Sir George Foster), who now sits beside him, when he said that these commissions and their reports were as thick as blackberries and were all pigeon-holed, no further attention being paid to them. I suppose this is another blackberry that is being matured. Nevertheless, I think we are justified in waiting until that report is produced. It is at all events a courtesy to the Minister of Finance that we should wait. We will be more courteous to him and to his commision than was the Prime Minister, because the latter went from the Atlantic to the Pacific declaring what the ta.riff policy of the Government was going to be, notwithstanding anything that this

report might contain. That is hardly a justifiable course for him to take when his commissioners are collecting information on the fiscal question.
I am not going to make any attempt at the present time to discuss the tariff, but I am going to throw out an idea which I think must be acceptable to every .broadminded man, and to every man who has any sense of responsibility, as to what the government of this country must do. This is a vast country, over 3,000 miles wide, extending from the frozen zone down to the American line, a country equal to if not greater in size than the United States. We have varied interests and different classes of people, and no government can attempt to pass a tariff without giving consideration to the interests of the country as a whole. No government can expect to frame a tariff that will suit everybody; it is an impossible thing to do; but there is enough strength of thought in this Parliament and out of it to know that some happy medium can be reached by which the people's interests, both east and. west, will receive due and proper consideration. That, Sir, is the line of action that I would take myself if I had any responsibilities in this matter; and while I am here I shall always have the responsibility of my vote. It is no use for any government to press home the idea that any particular section of the country is opposed to manufacturing and other interests which must necessarily exist here in order to maintain our national standing. Such a spirit is not abroad at all. But there are different ways of coming to conclusions, and we do say this Government has done reckless things, and that a better management and readjustment of matters could be accomplished by a government that had the confidence of the people and could act on its own initiative. I use the phrase "on its own initiative," Sir, because we on this side, at all events, believe that this_ Government never was its own master, is not its own master now, and will not be its own master while it continues with its present support in this House. We say that in 1911 it came into power backed up by many of the big interests, and that those big interests sent their man into the House as Minister of Finance because they would not trust anybody else with the handling of their money. He stayed here, Mr. Speaker, until the job was done, and then he moved out and told us to go to the cats as far as he was concerned, after they had got the last dollar of what was coming
to them. That is what I mean when I say that this Government is not acting on its own initiative. It is acting _ as the schedule is prepared for it and as its path is blazed out by the big interests. _
We are anxious to protect the big interests in a legitimate way, we are anxious that every man who has a dollar invested in this country shall be protected, and we are anxious that every industry shall prosper; but we are not anxious that the mil-licnaire class shall have the people of this country by the throat and dictate the course of government. Such conditions are intolerable to a free people. Therefore, we purpose to wipe out this Government and to put in a government which will represent the people and will deal fairly and equitably with every man, whether he is a millionaire or a sidewalk cleaner, tor we are all free and equal before the law.
I say without hesitation that we cannot get the confidence of the people in our parliamentary institutions restored while the present Administration remains in power. It may not be all true that this Government is so shackled by the big interests as the idea is abroad in the land, but the Great War Veterans, if you choose to begin with them, believe they have nothing to hope for from this Administration; the labouring classes do not believe they . have anything to hope from this Administration; the farming comunities, as their representatives in this House show, do not believe in this Administration or in anything that will be initiated by it. Even the big interests themselves have no great confidence in their protege now, for they have withdrawn their representative in this House, which, diplomatically, is always a signal of war.
These, Sir, are reasons why there is no confidence in the country. The wheels of progress are not moving as rapidly as they ought to move, and, confidence being shattered, those who have money to invest will not invest it. Why?
Why? Because labour is at war with this Government; and what is the use of talking investment or progress unless labour and capital will work harmoniously together? This Government have placed themselves on the side of the capitalist. They thought that was all that was necessary, but they reckoned without their host. So far as the progress and prosperity of the country are concerned the capitalist is helpless without labour; both must work together. About two years ago we had an instance of

the degree of friendship that exists between the present Prime Minister and labour in this country. When the Peace Conference was in session at Paris the then Prime Minister (Sir Robert Borden) was psalmsinging with the rest of them down there and telling about all the great things they were going to do for labour-what a blessed lot the labour fellows were. At the same time we had the spectacle of the present Prime Minister, with a gang of policemen, breaking into the houses of poor labouring people in Winnipeg at the silent, dark hour of midnight, and hurrying them off to the Stony Mountain Penitentiary. That is one reason why labour in this country believe they cannot expect sympathy or justice from the present Prime Minister or the present Administration.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a good deal of talk as to what our attitude is as a party, as to what we shall do if we get back to power, and what the country is to expect from the Liberal Party. We have only to point, Sir, to fifteen years of power, fifteen years of administration the like of which there has not been in Canada since Confederation. There was nothing different in the Liberal policy then from what we have now; there was nothing different from what has been in existence since this Government came in. But we left the country in a splendid condition. So excellent was the condition of business in every department of the country's activities that the then leader of the Opposition, when he went to the country in 1911, found fault with us because we were talking about trade with the United States, and said: "Let well enough alone." Everything was in such splendid condition that he wanted nothing disturbed. All that we say, Sir, to the Government, and to the people of this country; all that we say to the West and to the East and to every part of Canada, is that the great Liberal Party have their interests at heart; that they have the same policy and the same principles, the same desire for the advancement, the freedom, the contentment and the happiness of the people of this country that they had during the fifteen years they were in power. There is not the 4 p.m. slightest difference between our policies, our beliefs and our principles then and those which we stand by now; nor is our desire any the less to rule this country faithfully and properly and well. We have nothing else to offer to the people, but that we are prepared to
offer to them; and we believe that when the opportunity is given to the people the present Administration will be wiped away, horse, foot and artillery, and the place that knows them now shall know them no more forever.
Right hon. Sir GEORGE FOSTER (Minister of Trade and Commerce) : Mr. Speaker, I am very sorry that, following on the heels of custom, I had the impression that we were to meet to-day at three o'clock instead of at two; therefore I have been deprived of an opportunity to hear part of the eloquence of my hon. friend (Mr. McKenzie).

Full View