February 25, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)

UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. THOMSON:

We are hearing them
all the time, and my hon. friend cannot fail to have heard them. I refer to the slurs that have been cast at the United Grain Growers, Limited. Now, what is the offence of that organization? Its offence is that it stepped in when conditions were all wrong, when we believed that we were being robbed on all sides in connection with the marketing of our grain. That organization' stepped in and handled the grain business so well and so economically that to-day it has secured a very large poi'-tion of the business. No new organization can get the business of the country unless it does that business better than the older organizations did. That is the reason for the success of the United Grain Growers, Limited. I have grown grain long enough to know what the conditions were before we had that organization, and even before we had the Manitoba Grain Act. I have sold first class wheat at 35 cents a bushel, and I have no doubt the middlemen got more out of the transaction than I did. Those conditions have been changed, and the people who used to get those big profits do not get them now, and consequently they are stirring up this terrible row. That is the reason why they are so anxious to get as many hon. members as possible to cast some slurs at the United Grain Growers, Limited. And why do they find fault with the buying and retailing of different kinds of goods by that organization? Simply because the United Grain Growers, Limited are doing that work more cheaply than it was ever done before, and have cut down the profits of the older concerns. The United Grain Growers, Limited, handle farm implements, and some time ago a very good supporter of the present Government, who has been in the implement business for some years, assured me that since the United Grain Growers, Limited, started into the business they have sold implements on less than half the commission that was previously charged.
fMr. Thomson.]
1 hat is where all the trouble conies in, that is the reason of the noise we hear and of the mud we see slung at the United Grain Growers, Limited. Those other people have had to cut down their profits, and naturally they are very much aggrieved.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have in the past in this House and in the provincial legislature adhered pretty closely to the two party system, in fact, our whole election machinery and procedure is framed to suit the two party system. That we are getting away from that system is plainly seen in the late elections, not pnly the by-elections for this House but the recent provincial el?c-tions. Whether the group system is right or wrong I shall not discuss at the present time, but we have to face the fact that we are departing from the two party system and getting into the group system Therefore, we should frame our election machinery and our procedure for the conduct of the business of this House with a view to the altered conditions, for it would be folly to attempt to ignore the change that is taking place.
I wish to say a word in this connection with regard to proportional representation. It seems to me that we should arrange at as early a day as possible to have the principle of proportional representation adopted in our cities and other congested areas where its application is practicable and desirable. I agree that in the more scattered settlements the adoption of the principle might be difficult, perhaps unsatisfactory, but there is no reason why in our cities and in our more densely populated agricultural areas the principle of proportional representation should not be put into effect. I think that with the adoption of proportional representation the results of contests in cities would undoubtedly be much fairer. We know that our labouring people are becoming very much alive to the political situation; whether we like it or not, it is the fact. We have extremists among our labourers, although they are a very small proportion of the mass, and it seems to me that for our own safety we should see that every opportunity is given to the labouring classes to be properly represented in this House.
Let me take as an illustration the city of Ottawa. It is quite probable that after the next redistribution the city of Ottawa will have three members. I do not know how the city is divided on party lines, but it is quite possible that Government supporters, supporters of the Liberal party, and supporters of the Labour party may be nearly

equal in numbers. Let us suppose that in Ottawa, entitled to three representatives, there should be 38 per cent of one party,
34 of another, and 28 of another. The most reasonable thing would be that each party should have one representative; that would be the only possible way in which you could have the city fairly represented. But it would be quite possible to cut up the city in such a way that instead of one representative being elected for' each of the parties, the party 38 per cent strong would get the whole three representatives. That would be quite likely to happen; but would it be fair that 38 per cent of the electors of the city should have three representatives while the other 62 per cent should have no representative at all? I do not propose to deal with that any further at present.
Another question which might very well be taken up in this connection is that of the transferable vote in single constituencies where there are three-cornered contests, or live-cornered contests, as was the case in West Peterborough. It seems to me that the idea of adopting some such principle is worthy of our consideration if we are to legislate in the best interests of the country. It is not well that we should have minority representation to any greater extent than is absolutely necessary.
There is another .thing in connection with this change from the two-party system to the group system that has been referred to on different occasions in this House. Under the present system the Government feel that if there is an adverse vote they are, in most cases at any rate, bound to resign. I think it is in the interests of the country that we should make such arrangements for carrying on the business of the House that every member may feel that he is at all times in a position to vote on any question that comes before the House, on its merits. If the majority in the House, voting on a question on its merits, are obliged to vote in opposition to the Government, and at the same time do not wish to defeat the Government, there is no reason why they should not so vote and the Government still remain in office. I merely refer to these things by way of making suggestions; I shall not dwell upon them to any great extent.
With reference to the amendment, I agree with the hon. member from Marquette (Mr. Crerar), my leader in this group, when he says that the present ministry are not usurpers in the position they take and that their course is constitutional. I cannot agree, however, with my hon. friend from
Macdonald (Mr. Henders), when he intimates that it is inconsistent on the part of the leader of this group to start out with different premises from those adopted by the leader of the Opposition and still arrive at the same conclusion. I do not think my hon. friend was very logical when he made that suggestion; nor do I think he will be logical if he says that I may not start from different premises than those adopted by the leader of the Opposition and still arrive at the same conclusion.
If my hon. friend reviews his own conduct he will find that he has sometimes started from different premises from those upon which some others with whom he was associated were working, and yet arrived at the same conclusion. If my recollection serves me rightly, when we were discussing the amendment to last year's Budget resolutions, my hon. friend, who has very different fiscal ideas, I think, from those held by the hon. member for North Simcoe (Mr. Currie), and the hon. member for Brantford (Mr. Cockshutt), started from very different premises in considering those questions, yet landed in the same place. When you, Mr. Speaker, uttered those magic words: "Call in the members," and my hon. friend from North Grey (Mr. Middlebro) went out to rustle his flock, my hon. friend from Macdonald was rustled in along with the hon. member for North Simcoe and the hon. member for Brantford. They came in together and they all slipped down into thf same berth. The "bairnies all cuddled doon thagither;" there was no kicking at all, no trouble. They started from very different premises; they had very different views as to what the tariff should really be, but they landed in the same , place. 1 do not see, therefore, why my hon. friend should not accord to the hon. member from Marquette and to myself the privilege that he extends to himself. What is fair for one is fair for another.
While I do not look upon the present Administration as usurpers, and while I agree that they may have the confidence of this House-or, at least, it is quite possible that a majority of this House may feel that they are bound to express confidence in them-and I would not question their sincerity in doing so-it seems to me that when any one in this House says that he believes the present Administration enjoys the confidence of the country, he must intend it as a joke. It would be a reflection on the intelligence of any member of this House to say that he be-

lieved anything- of the kind, and I do not like to reflect on the intelligence of hon. members. Anyway, the thing is too absurd; it is utterly impossible.
We have heard a good deal about the by-elections. Apparently some supporters of the Government are able to get some rays of comfort out of those by-elections. Well, I have heard of the time when there was a company formed to extract sunbeams from cucumbers, and it seems to me that that would be a more reasonable task and one more likely of accomplishment than for any supporter of the Government to endeavour to get any comfort from any of the by-elections, even the best of them.
Before I deal further with the question of the by-elections, I wish to remark that some of the hon. gentlemen following the lead of the Prime Minister seem to think the Opposition is just as much on trial as the Government is. I never heard of such a doctrine. If we in this group support the amendment, it does not mean that we are voting confidence in the regular Opposition-not for one moment; we are not doing so. The only question before us is whether we have confidence in this Government or not. That is undoubtedly what this amendment means. By voting for or against this amendment we are voting either want of confidence or confidence in the Government; we have no other course open to us. The supporters of the ^lovernment seem very anxious to becloud the issue by reference to what has happened to the opposition in the by-elections. That is not the issue; but if it were, I think they will get very little comfort from that, because the odds are tremendously in favour of the Opposition in comparison with the Government. Since the war there have been sixteen by-elections. Four of these seats were formerly held by the Opposition and they still hold them.

Topic:   THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
Subtopic:   ADDRESS IN REPLY
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