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


Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)


Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, my first remark is that I consider that the speech of the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) delivered under these circumstances, is most unfair to the Administration-I ihad almost said unfair to myself. There has been no attempt of the Government whatever to rush the business of Parliament. There is the natural attempt of both sides towards the end of the session to have as little delay, as little irrelevant discussion and as little obstruction as possible, because at all stages of a session
mostly from the Opposition, naturally; sometimes even from the Government side -there is discussion of the nature of irrelevant matter or of obstruction.
What has the Government done that is "indecent" and "out of order"? I have made the statement that I felt it my duty to attend the session of this Parliament until the work is over. I feel it my duty still. If either on one side or the other there is a substantial feeling that it is too early to prorogue to-<morrow, we are ready to wait and be here next week. I do not think the Empire is going to fall apart, or that we are in any danger or dire peril if I do not leave on Monday. I have made no attempt to stampede the course of business in this House or to rush things through with indecent haste" in order merely that I may get away on Monday morning. In all efforts we have made to advance the business of the House, not with indecent haste, but with due expedition having regard to the importance of the business, we have acted in harmony with the Opposition.
What has been the subject matter that has been dealt with so rapidly and with such utter disregard of the interests of the country? Has any one observed, in the disposition of any Bill so far before this House, scant consideration of its provisions? If so, I do not know when it was. There has been consideration for hours at a time, very frequently late, it is true, because hon. gentlemen towards the end of the session, particularly when committee work is over, are prepared to sit late, and it is then that we exert ourselves to the uttermost and consideration is given to public business at the expense of great physical and mental effort on our part. That has been the history always as regards important legislation towards the end of a session. All measures that we have to do with are important; some not

as much so as otheTS, and much of that character is being considered just now. There is some that we have (not been able to reach, not because we did not want to, but we have not been able to get to it sooner owing to prolonged discussion on other matters.
Now, as to rushing business because we commenced business this morning at eleven o'clock and sat until three o'clock last night, let me remind the hon. member of this fact, that this is the first session, I think, in the history of our Parliament, that the holding of forenoon sittings has been left to as late a date as this. The Government has not suggested that Parliament sit in the forenoon except for the last two days of the session, and only for approximately a week have afternoon sittings commenced at two o'clock. It is true that we have had two or three late sittings, but I would like to know when Parliament did not sit late at night towards the end of a session when committee work was over. I say again that we have deferred morning sittings longer than ever before. Certainly never since I have been in the Hoiuse-and this is my fifteenth session-have we waited until the last two days before asking the House to sit in the forenoon. I do not think there is any precedent for waiting so long ibefore sitting on Saturdays as we have waited this session.
Now, my only statement is this. We have sought to act in harmony with the Opposition in this matter, and therefore I consider the remarks of the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's directed against the Government as entirely unfair and uncalled for, and I am surprised at his making them. Let me repeat, while I might be justified in leaving the conduct of the House and go overseas when there is nothing left for discussion of an important character, nothing over which there may be serious contention, I do not think I would be justified, merely to get away on Monday, in leaving this House before its prorogation, with important or contentious matters left over. But there is nothing of a dire character going to happen if there should be delay, and although we have had a general understanding that we will endeavour, if we can with justice to public business, close on Saturday, let me say again there is no more desire on the Government side than on the other side, to prorogue then, and we are quite willing to co-operate with the Opposition in a friendly way and meet
with them next week if it is necessary for the due and proper discharge of business.

Full View