January 12, 1926 (15th Parliament, 1st Session)


Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa


Mr. BOURASSA (Labelle) (Translation):

Mr. Speaker, before dealing with the subject matter of this stormy debate, .permit me to express all the happiness which I felt in meeting you again as my colleague in this House, one of the few survivors of that concourse of public men elected in 1896 and to express to you on behalf of the part-difficult to gauge-of the population that I represent, my best wishes in this second term of office, the duties of which you so well discharged in the last parliament.
While on the subject, and since after all, I must at the outset begin to somewhat criticize, I shall be bold enough to state that the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) would have, perhaps, been more in keeping with the spirit of the hour if he had opened the door to an innovation which, I think, should as a matter be grafted on our parliamentary institutions: to wit, that the office of Speaker, as in England, should become permanent. I expressed this sentiment long ago, when the idea of being returned to this House, was most remote from my thoughts, I still cling to this opinion. I am not a follower of all British precedents; however there are good ones, the latter is one of them and I trust it will become a Canadian practice.
Mr. Speaker, before plunging into the question now engaging the attention of the House,

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may I be permitted to offer to my colleagues on both sides my best wishes, not as a newcomer to this House, but as a ghost coming back to his old haunts? Ghosts are allowed some freaks. All that I will permit myself in that respect is to say that I have come here with an open mind towards all parties and their programmes, and, may I say, with an open hand and heart to all their members.
Yesterday we were favoured with a strong breeze, may I say, blizzard, from the west, a breeze none the less refreshing because it was somewhat interrupted at times by hot waves of chinook. Later on, we had the thundering voice of the cannon from the old citadel of Quebec, a cannon fully loaded at times with balls that reached their aim, and on occasion with the quantity of powder necessary either to clear the atmosphere or to blind the eyes of those nearby.
To-day, I propose to assume the somewhat unaccustomed1 role of a dove of peace, and in order to show that that is really my intention, may I be permitted to say that it is for the general advantage of Canada that we should have here worthy representatives of the various provinces, and the different political parties and groups that now divide public opinion and favour?
In addition to yourself, Sir, to whom I have expressed my personal regard in our common language, I was delighted to find here one old friend, the last of our fellow members of the House of Commons in 18%. I refer to the hon. member for South York (Mr. Maclean). Delighted I was also, as I am sure every member of the House is delighted, to see among us that veteran of public life and journalism in Canada, that Worthy representative of a worthy family, of an interesting paper, and of a marked political tradition. May I say to the hon. member for Mount Royal (Mr. White) that I for one appreciate very much his presence in the House, although I must say that I appreciate rather more the presence of the hon. gentleman than the policy of the paper which he edits with such ability, notwithstanding the fact that I agree with much of what it says. Next may I turn to my good friend the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) and say how old it makes me feel, and how happy at the same time, to find him in the position of honour which he now occupies. Many men of different sizes have occupied the various positions of honour which are placed before the public men of this country. But when I left this parliament, or rather the old one, the Minister of Justice was but a babe in public life, a promising babe,
I admit, not only in size but in spirit as well. May I say as a French Canadian, irrespective

of all political views, that I am happy to discover that, as in the case of so many sons of our race, the House of Commons has been to my honourable friend a great educator, and that he is a living evidence, to the Englishspeaking members of the Canadian parliament, of the way in which the French Canadian can adapt himself to the use of the English language. .
As to my hon. friend just opposite, the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George (Mr. Cahan), I will refrain from saying in his presence all that I feel, because if I were to allow my heart and my brain to speak freely perhaps what I should say might compromise the influence which I hope he will exercise in that part of the House. As to the hon. member for South Winnipeg (Mr. Rogers), well, the moment I saw him here I was struck with the thought that it was a ghostly reappearance of a gentleman who was once my political chieftain and, as he has always been, my excellent friend. I will not dwell upon that lest it embarrass the hon. gentleman and perhaps disturb the repose of my late friend, Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
May I say that personally and politically as well I regret the absence from this House of a gentleman whom, although I differed from him at most times, I had learned to respect and appreciate-I refer to Sir Robert Borden. And another gentleman whom I had not the pleasure of knowing as a public man but whom I met privately in Winnipeg many years ago, Mr. Crerar, I also regret not to see here. It is a matter of great regret to me, too, that the Prime Minister of Canada should be absent from the House at this time. Not from any political consideration but purely for the advantage of parliament, I trust that Mr. Mackenzie King will soon be back in the House to face his worthy opponent, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) whom, as we say in French, I have reserved for the dessert. May I say to the right hon. gentleman that although I have differed from him in most respects while I have been out of public life and since he has entered the parliamentary arena, I have learned, not only from the reading of his public utterances but from a better source, from the lips of persons who know him and whom I know, that although I may not see in him the man to whom should be entrusted the destinies of this country, I have always respected him as a thorough gentleman and an honest man, a man of hft word, however right or wrong his views ' may be. I may perhaps illustrate and sum up this preface to the remarks I am about to make on the amendment of the right hon. gentleman by saying that when Mr. Mackenzie King is back in

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this House I hope there will be not only a fair interchange of opinions between himself and my right hon. friend, but that, now they are out of political conflict, they will both give to their utterances a somewhat broader and loftier tone than that which characterized the speeches of both of them during the electoral contest. In saying this I do not seek to blame either of these gentlemen; I know what the exigencies are of politics, of party and of partisans. But I think we have come to the point where statesmen should strike in their utterances not the note that appeals most to the lower feelings of their partisans but the note that appeals most, above and beyond the party spirit, to the best conscience and the highest sentiments of the Canadian people. It is in that spirit, and bearing in mind my oft-repeated sins as an active politician in the past, that I shall endeavour personally to maintain relations with the various parties that compose this House.
May I say to hon. gentlemen opposite that I am happy to see the old Conservative party regaining some of its vital forces. It seems to me that, in order to give to the country the full benefit of its great traditions and of those principles which were laid down, and which are engraved in the hearts and memories of the Canadian people, by the Macdonalds, the Cartiers and the Tuppers, the Conservative party should apply itself to be less of an Ontario party or a Nova Scotia party or an Imperial party, and should cherish rather the ambition to become again, what it was at the time of confederation,-and I say this unhesitatingly as a descendant of four generations of Liberals-a great national constructive party. [DOT] To that end, therefore, I comment; the language used recently, I will not say at Hamilton but generally, by the leader of the opposition when he spoke to and of the people of Quebec. In such language as he has used on these occasions he has shown his patriotism and his statesmanship, because, given the circumstances of the recent election, the right hon. gentleman must have had a good deal of courage and self possession to resist the temptation of playing Quebec against Ontario or Ontario against Quebec. He must have learned also from the lessons of that election that if the great Conservative party is to become once more a national party it must appeal, not to the low feelings of Quebec but equally to the better feelings not only of Quebec but, as well, of Ontario and of all other parts of Canada.
There are in the province of Quebec certain principles and certain traditions that have been closely associated with the history and the life of the Canadian nation ever since its
birth; and no party, no man, no government can afford to rob Canada of the wealth of moral traditions of Quebec, even allowing for the faults and the weaknesses of the people of that province. The people of Quebec are just as necesary to the prosperity and the moral superiority, to the growth and the progress of Canada, as are the people of the great province of Ontario, or the progressive people of the western provinces, or the people of the dear old Maritime provinces, especially, so far as I am personally concerned, that province by the sea which is dearest to myself, the province of Nova Scotia, the first one I had the pleasure of knowing upon going beyond the borders of my native province.
The Conservative party has rendered great service to Canada, because it was a party of principles. But since, unfortunately, it has sacrificed so many of its principles for the sake of appealing to this section or that section, since it has renounced the solid nationalism of Macdonald and Cartier to stamp itself in the minds of the people of Canada as the standard bearer of imperialism, although it may have acquired some political advantages here and there, it has lost a great deal of its raison d'etre as a national constructive party. You may say, Sir-no, you would not say so, because you must be impartial, but it may be suggested-that the Liberal party has sacrificed at least as many principles as the Conservative party. But as one who renounced pretty early in his political life the shibboleth of Liberalism, may I say, Sir, that the position is not similar? The essence of Liberalism is to have no principles. I do not mean this in a personal sense or in its application to this special group at this particular time; but the essence of Liberalism either by way of doctrine or in its political application is to try to do the best thing, to find its path between various conflicting principles and policies, governed by the rough common sense of the British people as in the British Isles. Liberalism has produced much good. It has tempered and humbled the Tory party in its pride and in its idea that everything which was British was Tory or ought to be Tory. But I admit that Liberalism has in itself a tendency to deliquescence which must be looked after not only by the Conservative party thinking of the faults of Liberalism-especially when there is a chance of taking the place of Liberals-but also by some people who, having renounced one shibboleth without acquiring faith in the other, think there is something to be made use of in the inspiration, in the instinct, in the disposition of these great parties, provided,

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of course, that they are kept from falling into the natural path of their worst instincts.
With regard to my friends from the west, may I say, just as the right hon. gentleman on the other side (Mr. Meighen) said, without any idea of pandering to their favour or sympathy-and for an excellent reason: I have nothing to expect from them-that I have followed with a great deal of sympathy their movement, from its inception. I began learning something of it in 1913, when I travelled through the western provinces for the second time and delivered some lectures in various centres of those three great provinces. It was then (that I heard for the first time of Mr. Crerar; I think he was secretary of the Grain Growers' Association.

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