June 3, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)

UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Shelburne and Queen's):

Mr. Speaker, this Bill passed through the committee stage at three o'clock this morning, and the moving of the Bill to its final stage at this moment; simply illustrates the condition into which the public business has fallen. I am obliged to object to this motion and to register a protest (I know it will be ineffective) against the scandalous manner-the adjective is not too strong-in which parliamentary business is being conducted today under the direction of the Government. We are told that the Prime Minister desires to go overseas to attend the Prime Ministers' Conference. We all realize that that is the right hon. gentleman's duW, and I do not think there is any desire on the part of anybody in this House to delay him. But, while I admit that it is the duty of the right hon. gentleman to go, I cannot admit that that is a reason why we should conduct the public business with the indecent haste that has been exhibited during the past week. The right hon. gentleman will not be the first Prime Minister to go overseas to attend to Imperial business; there have been others, and they have left under somewhat similar circumstances. They have gone to perform their public duty with the good-will and blessing of the Parliaments they left behind them, but they have delegated the conduct of the business to their colleagues, and the business of the House has been closed decently and in order.
The business of this Parliament is not being done in a decent and orderly manner to-day, and we are having evidence of it in many ways. My right hon. friend (Mr. Meighen) is really acting like a slave driver in conducting the business of the House. Yesterday, this House sat eleven hours, including seven hours consecutively at night, finishing our work at 3 o'clock this morning. The right hon. gentleman is making Parliament meet morning, afternoon, and night, and at every stage we find business pressed forward with undue and unreasonable haste. In this Bill noiw before us we have a matter of a very important character. It introduces legislation entirely new, it imposes enormous taxation, much more than many people imagine, and is well worthy of grave Consideration, but it is pressed forward in the way I have described. If you want further evidence, look at what occurred to-day in regard to the Bill relating to the dairy industry of this country. I have no particular knowledge of that industry, and I speak with deference to the views of hon. gentlemen who are familiar with it. We have had for the first time a discussion to-day on that Bill, and hon. gentlemen on the Government side have declared that the matter is not only one of grave importance, but one hon. member, representing an extensive farming district, declared that it might mean the ruin of the dairy industry of this country. Yet the measure was brought forward today practically for its first discussion and rushed through its several stages to be sent to the Senate, and the two Houses are expected to deal with the Bill in twenty-four or thirty-six hours. Will the people of Canada think that proper treatment of a question dealing with the dairy industry of the country? Will the farmers believe that their interests are receiving due consideration? I express no opinion on the merits of the Bill, but I do say that the forcing through of legislation of this kind at the last moment is entirely to the discredit of the Government and of the House. I do not think it is necessary that there should be this indecent haste in order that the right hon. gentleman may get away. I must offer no opinion as to the ability of his colleagues to conduct the public business, but I would say that it would be far better that, the right hon. gentleman should proceed to the conference and leave ^ the business of the House to be wound up in a decent and orderly way.

This is the King's Birthday. By a statute of Canada the birthday of the reigning sovereign is declared to be a public holiday. The people of Canada are expected to pay, in one form or another, due respect to the occasion. We require by law our banks to close. But while we do that and while we expect the people of Canada to honour the day, we have Parliament' sitting here on the morning of the King's Birthday up to three o'clock, meeting again at eleven o'clock, and again at half-past two, and sitting again to-night until God only knows what time. I say without the slightest hesitation that that manner of conducting the public business is not likely to lead to Parliament having the respect which it ought to have from the people at large.
As a further reminder, I want to say that last session we voted ourselves a very generous indemnity, and the ground upon which the vote was placed was that the duties of Parliament were so exacting and the sessions were becoming longer. Now, this is not a long session. We have been here only a little more than three and a half months. I believe it will be found, with the growing importance of this country, that you will not be able as a rule to do the business of this Parliament in less than four months. I do not think that four months at any time hereafter will be deemed a long session. And yet the business has been rushed through in this way.
I think the least we can do for the generous indemnity we are receiving is to stay here and attend to the business of the country. For myself at all events-and I speak for myself only-I respectfully offer this protest, and I say that the manner in which the public business is being carried on is not a credit to the Government, nor is it a credit to Parliament. We have large sums of money yet to be voted, including the Estimates of the Post Office Department, one of the most wide-reaching departments of the Government, involving large sums of money and involving interests which come close home to every hon. member. I believe we have not yet touched those Estimates. Some time to-day or tomorrow we will be asked to pass them.
These things have only to be mentioned to make the impression which I hope they will make on the public mind, and I do say without the slightest hesitation that this rushing through of the business of the country in the last few days of the session is a discredit to the Government and to Parliament.

Topic:   CUSTOMS AND EXCISE
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
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