Mr. A. M. CARMICHAEL (Kindersley):
Mr. Speaker, after the friendly admonitions of the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Beaubien), I will try to speak loudly enough so that at least he can hear my voice. We are met together in this parliament under circumstances that are unique in the annals of Canadian history. I doubt if any parliament since confederation has met under similar conditions, and it is doubtful*if any future Canadian parliament will be confronted with such a situation. It had not been my desire to enter into this debate so early in the day; in fact I should have preferred to keep silent and to listen to the views of others so that I might obtain necessary information. Indeed, that was my object in adjourning the debate. I had almost come to the conclusion that a division of the House was looked for on Friday evening and I was
not then in a position to cast an intelligent vote. I had hoped that a number of speakers on either side of the House would reveal their position so that an intelligent opinion might be formed respecting the matter at issue. The Situation, however, is such that I am compelled to address the House.
During almost the whole of our history we have had the two party system in Canada. From the time of confederation until possibly the year 1919 Canada knew nothing other than the two party system of government. In 1919 there was the commencement of a third group in this House. It was small at the beginning, consisting as! it did of some dozen or more members, but in 1921 those numbers were greatly augmented so that the group to which I have the honour to belong had a following in this House of some sixty or more members. In the recent election, it is true, the public dealt harshly with us and we have come back here with considerably reduced numbers. Nevertheless our position is one of great importance. I doubt if any other group holds a position of such primary importance as that held by the Progressive group in this House. The largest group sitting immediately to your left, Mr. Speaker, is composed of 116 members; the second largest group, sitting to your right, comprises some 101 members, and our Progressive group numbers twenty-four. We also have a fourth group. It was in the last parliament and it is in this parliament; it is known as the Labour group, and is composed of two members. I believe we have the head, heart and tail of another group, composed of and concentrated in one individual known as an Independent. I am not sure but what we have a second Independent group, and if that be the case, all these go to make some six groups in this House.
During my time in this chamber it has been our custom and practice to go by majority rule. A majority of the House decides a question. Usually it was a majority in the House that carried on the government, but at present we have the second largest group bringing down a legislative programme and functioning as the government. I am not just sure whether or not we are establishing precedents in that respect. I recall the Prime Minister's pre-election statement that with 117 members in this House he was too dependent on the Progressive group of some 60 members to be able to carry on his government properly; and yet we have the strange situation of some 101 members coming back to this House, eager and anxious to function
Government's Right to Office
as a government while depending upon the support of some 24 Progressives. If a vote is taken in this House, as it will be shortly, assuming that all Liberals in the Liberal group, some 100 in number, record their vote; that both Labour members support the government and that each of the two independent groups do likewise, then in order to have an even division it would require, at the very least, that 18 Progressive members vote with the government. That is the present situation. In other words, the turning of seven Progressive members and the casting of their votes with those of the group to your left, Mr. Speaker, will defeat the government. Do we realize what an important position we hold in this House when seven Progressive members can decide the governmental fate of the country? It causes us who comprise this small group to think very seriously of the position we occupy.
On Friday last a motion was proposed by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe), seconded by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Macdonald, Antigonish-Guysborough), as follows;
That the speech of His Excellency the Governor General to bo-th houses of parliament be taken into consideration on Monday next, and that this order have precedence over all other business of the House except government notices of motion and introduction of bills, until disposed of.
To that motion we had 'an amendment moved by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) which I need not read, seeing that it is already on record. However, looking at the substance of it we note that the second paragraph makes the statement that a large number of Liberal candidates were defeated in the last general election. I am prepared to agree with that statement. The next paragraph states that nine ministers of the crown, including the Prime Minister, were defeated. I believe that this statement also is correct. In the next paragraph it is stated that the Gonservative party received the largest popular vote, and I believe that in speaking to the amendment the leader of the opposition mentioned some 200,000 of a plurality as having been given in favour of that party. That statement- also, I have reason to believe, is correct. The last paragraph takes up the constitutional objections to the position of the Liberal forces on the treasury benches. Well, I am not prepared to enter into that field of discussion when I see such individuals as the Minister of Justice taking one view very decidedly and the leader of the opposition taking the contrary view. In the circumstances I hardly think it consistent on the part of anyone in this small group to venture 14011-3
Subtopic: MOTION FOR PRECEDENCE GOVERNMENT'S RIGHT TO RETAIN OFFICE