June 13, 1922 (14th Parliament, 1st Session)


Lucien Cannon



The great reproach
which we adressed to the then government while we were on the opposite side was that constitutional liberty and freedom was not properly safeguarded by them. During the election, pledges were given and promises were made that should a Liberal administration preside over our national affairs constitutional liberty would be restored and Parliament would again enjoy all its privileges. I have full confidence in the Government to restore that liberty in Canada, and in the course of this session the administration has given many evidences of its willingness to give to the House of Commons all the privileges to which it is entitled. But I take the liberty of calling

the attention of the Government to certain facts of great importance, and I say that the Government will have to bring down some legislation that will show to the people of Canada that when the Liberal party gives pledges or makes promises, those pledges are redeemed and those promises are respected. In Canada our forefathers fought on many battlefields to obtain the liberties of which we are so proud to-day, and we, their children, have one solemn duty to perform. That duty is to safeguard those liberties to the very utmost of our ability. The basis of constitutional and responsible government is that every minister in the government shall be answerable to the representatives of the people for acts done by the government in the administration of public affairs. If we wish to have constitutional liberty in its completeness, if we wish to have governmental responsibility in its integrity, we must have every department of public affairs responsible to the House of Commons.
I call the attention of the members of the Government to one fact. To-day, as a representative of the people I am responsible to my constituents for the conduct of public officials in my constituency. If the administration of public affairs in that constituency is not what it should be, the responsibility rests upon my shoulders, and on no other man's. But although I am charged with the responsibility for the administration of public affairs in my constituency, I have no control over the appointment of those officials. Now, Mr. Speaker, I say, not in the hope of being in a position to distribute favours, not in the desire to take revenge-no, sir, my object is very much higher than that-I say, to the Government that if we wish to have responsible government in this country civil servants must 'be responsible to Parliament. We should have responsible government in Canada and have it in its entirety. But can we have that government, as it is understood in England, as it has always been understood in Canada, and as it should be understood everywhere where British institutions exist, if, for instance, we have the immense system of railways, owned by the people in this country, controlled by a commission altogether independent of Parliament, and when the Minister of Railways has absolutely nothing to do with their management? We should have in connection with our railways a policy that would put that immense

The Budget-Mr. Cannon
system beyond the range of patronage. But, on the other hand, no minister should be able to get up in this House and say that he is not responsible for that policy. Mr. Hanna, the President of the Canadian National Railways, is not elected of the people. He has never been elected by any constituency; he has never even been chosen by this Government. Why then, should he be a czar, in absolute control of this immense system, in such a way that my hon. friend the Minister of Railways (Mr. Kennedy) should have nothing to do with them? If we want to have responsible government in the real sense, if we want to have that constitutional liberty which is so lauded, and rightly, by the leader of thi3 Government, (Mr. Mackenzie King) let us have a responsible system in connection with the civil service and with the Government Railways. Before I leave the subject of the Canadian National Railways I wish to express one hope, and that is that the Government will very soon appoint another board. We cannot have at the head of the Canadian National board a man who said that the Prime Minister of Canada did not tell the truth to the people of this country. We cannot have at the head of the Grand Trunk board a man whose scandalous profits during the war brought upon his shoulders the opprobium of the whole population of Canada. If these boards are to be maintained, let the personnel be changed; and the sooner it is changed the better.
Before resuming my seat I want to say a few words to my Western friends. I come from the province of Quebec. That province, in 1921, when the call came to choose representatives, sent to this House 65 Liberals out of 65 constituencies. Why? The province of Quebec elected those 65 members because it wanted to send to Parliament liberal, broad-minded men who desired to work in harmony with every other section of the country for the common good of the Dominion at large. Unfortunately, in this House, the representatives of one section do not know the representatives of another section as well as they should. Another great evil is that public men in Canada are prone to forget past history and look only to recent events for their guidance. I wish to tell our western friends that we members of the Liberal party in Quebec have fought since 1896 the fights of western Canada before our electorate.
When in 1896 the great question came before the Canadian people as to whether provincial autonomy was to be maintained, or if the small, weak province of Manitoba was to be crushed, the man who got up before the people of Canada and asked that liberty be given to Manitoba and used the slogan "Hands off Manitoba!" was a man from Quebec who wanted political and religious liberty to prevail. In 1896 we in the province of Quebec battled for the rights of western Canada. Did western Canada forget, or was she grateful? In 1904 we fought again for western Canada when we wanted the great transcontinental railway to be constructed through the West. Again in 1911 Laurier fought for the western farmers of Canada. There was no Progressive party at that time, and those who fought for western ideals were again the Liberals of the East, the Liberals of Quebec. And a fact not to be forgotten by our friends on the other side is that while Laurier was battling for his life, while he was putting up probably the greatest battle of all his career, part of the West went back on him. The Liberal party in the East never went back on the principles underlying the development of western Canada and western trade. Those principles were always carried by us in the East; but unfortunately when we were fighting the battles of the west, the West was not united with us.
Those are the battles of the past. We have now to face the future. The eloquent member for Battleford (Mr. McConica) said, "We want our condition improved, we want remedies applied to our hurts." I ask my Progressive friends, is there one among them who, putting his hand on his heart, will say that he can hope to obtain any remedy or any improvement of condition from the Tory party? Is there one member of the Progressive party, be he from Ontario, from the prairies, or from British Columbia, who will say that the Tory party, whose basis is selfishness, ever thinks of the ills of others? The hope of the West, the hope of Canada as a whole, is founded in the Liberal ideas of her citizens. If we want to reconstruct Canada, if we want to pay our immense debt, if we want to continue the era of prosperity begun under Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but interrupted by the Tory party in 1911, the time has come for every man, be he Liberal or be he Progressive, if he is sincere in his desire to put into practice the principles for which he fought, to take the common road

The Budget-Division
that lies ahead of us-the road of Liberalism and Progressive ideas.
Nothing would please our Tory friends better than to see the Progressive forces of Canada divide. Why should they divide? The amendment brought by the right hon. leader of the Opposition will certainly not be supported by this House. There remains the budget. The Tory party tell the Minister of Finance, "We cannot support your budget because you go too far in the way of reductions." If the Tories cannot support our budget, the Progressives ought to sustain it.

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