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


Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa



It was then I realized
that this Progressive movement, whatever form it took or might take in the future, whatever leadership it might receive, whatever formula of politics it might enunciate before the people east or west or before parliament, responded to a growing need of those western provinces and was just as necessary to the welfare and maintenance of confederation, to the growth of the spirit of confederation, as those clear-seeing men in England who denounced the policy of George III and Lord North were the real friends of England; for if their advice had been followed instead of narrow Toryism and narrow Whigism, blinding king, lords, commons and people, their follies would not have resulted in detaching from the Crown of England thirteen of its brightest jewels. I was struck then and there, Sir, with the similarity of some of the words used, some of the sentiments expressed in private conversations by men not of Yankee origin, by men not of German or Polish or Hungarian origin, but by Canadian citizens born and brought up in the British Isles who had come and settled in those western provinces, but without having had a previous contact with the people of Ontario and Quebec-I was struck with the similarity of their sentiments and those expressed four years before the American rebellion by men of English and Scottish stock in the English provinces of America against the domination of England, the selfishness of Englishmen, the narrow-mindedness of king, ministers, lords and commoners; and from that time I took the resolution, as a Canadian to whose heart every inch of Canadian land is dear, to try to understand what those people wanted, whether right or wrong; to put myself in their shoes if possible in order to do the little I could do in my good old province of Quebec'
to make our people understand that the party dictum, the programme of the Conservative party or the Liberal party, no more responded to the needs of the Canadian nation, and that a new voice was arising in the west that had to be listened to if men of good will, east and west, were at least to try to solve the problems which faced the country. Everything which is a problem in Alberta is a problem for Canada; everything which is a problem in Quebec is a problem for Canada, and likewise everything which is a problem in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick is a problem for Canadians, east and west.
To my two excellent Labour fellow-members may I say that although in many respects we probably stand at the antipodes in our conception of social life, I am happy to find them here and happy to find that a portion of the Labour of Canada is represented in this House by men of good English stock with an abundance of English culture and at the same time a sincere desire, I am sure, to adapt their ideas to the conditions in Canada. But may I be allowed to state that the organized Labour of Canada, as represented by these gentlemen, affiliated for the larger part at least with the United States labour unions, does not represent fully the labour forces, and that one of the mistakes committed by the preceding administration- I will not say that led by the right hon. gentleman, Mr. Mackenzie King, but by the Conservative administration,-through its
Labour minister, was its failure to acknowledge the fact that the growth of the Labour movement in the province of Quebec-gov-[DOT] erned, as everything in that province is, by old standing traditions of religion, of family ties, of attachment to customs three centuries oldj-^has to be acknowledged also, whether you approve or disapprove of it. There is that Catholic labour movement in the province of Quebec which has just as much right to be heard in the parliament of the nation as have the organized' farmers, the workmen affiliated with the labour unions of the United States, or any other class of people in Canada.
Now, Sir, begging pardon again for this long preface to my remarks, I wish to take up in that spirit the motion which stands in the name of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Meighen). May I say, just to introduce a pleasant feeling, that I think the government owes a great debt of gratitude to the right hon. gentleman? I leave it to their conscience and' their good heart to find a means of expressing their gratitude one way or the other, but I really think that by introducing this

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amendment and having it substituted by force for the motion of the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe), the government has been perhaps saved. But that is a small point. Let us take the amendment. On the first paragraph I would have nothing to say, only that with a little coquetry I would like to show that a layman, an ignorant man, can touch the fine work of legality nearly as deftly as a lawyer can. It is said that in the late general election the candidates of His Excellency's advisers were defeated, and so forth.
I d[o not know that any candidate was put in the field by the advisers of His Excellency acting in such capacity. I do not presume that the sinister intention of that wording was to insinuate that His Excellency took a hand in the choice of the candidates of the Liberal party. I think in the choice of candidates a great many influences! come to bear. I know it was so in the old days; I do not know how it is now, but I have heard of leaders imposing their choice in preference to that of the people, and that in both parties. I have heard of certain portions of a constituency imposing their candidate against the will of other portions. I remember even having heard a minister of the crown belonging to the Liberal party tell me quite seriously that it was sometimes the duty of leaders! of a party to supply funds to the opponent of one of their own candidates in order to get rid of him. So I have come to the conclusion that the responsibility of leaders in the choice of candidates does not matter very much.
The right hon. leader of the opposition says that the government candidates were defeated in a "large" majority of the constituencies. Perhaps the adjective was inspired by the circumstances of the moment, but there is no doubt that both t'he Liberal party and the Conservative party stand in a minority. This has been pointed out time and again, and we must now look for the solution which such circumstances suggest or impose.
With regard to the second clause of the amendment, "that nine ministers of the crown, including the Prime Minister, were rejected at the polls and have no seats in parliament." leaving apart the very able presentations of the right hon. gentleman, the 'hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Bennett), the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe), and the Solicitor General (Mr. Cannon), from my humble point of view, and I believe I am expressing the view of a great many of the people in the country, much more numerous than the few thousands who sent me here by their votes, there is a growing feeling that the lesser the
number of ministers, the better the government. Carried to its logical conclusion I would say, Sir, that a government clipped of its head, its arms, its legs, and left only with its toes would march on the path of progress at a much quicker rate than most of the governments we have had for the past twenty-five years. But that is only as a matter of relief in the very serious situation I am going to deal with.
The next clause of the amendment reads:
That the party represented in the last parliament by His Majesty's apposition secured in the said election by far the largest support in the popular vote, and has substantially the largest number of members of any party in the present House of Commons.
The largest number of members, no doubt.
I will not follow the Solicitor General in the analysis he has made of the various nuances- there is really no English word to render the fine significance of that word. You see, French is the language of diplomacy, and1 when French diplomats want to tell each other politely, although they are in the same government, or although they are working towards the same end, that they are not of the same opinion, *or that there must be something behind the fence, they say there is a nuance. No doubt there are shades of differences between the various members on that side of the House, but I believe there are also some slight differences of opinion between various individuals or groups of individuals on this side. I do not think that iime of argument will carry us very far.
But there is one point which had just as well be looked into immediately and that is the situation of the Conservative party in the province of Quebec, and the votes given in that province. The right hon. leader of the opposition was put under the impression, when I asked him if he counted the votes given to Mr. Patenaude and his candidates in Quebec as being given to the right hon. gentleman's party, that I merely wanted to poke fun at him. He was greatly mistaken. Naturally enough, the question brought applause on this side. Conservatives must have sympathy for these gentlemen. They need some little solace of that nature, so let them enjoy it. It will not change anything. But what is serious and important is, why was the Conservative party officially absent in the province of Quebec? Why was the right hon. leader of that party excluded from appealing to the people of Quebec? He knows where I stand. I repeat, I have opposed his policy right along, ever since the war began. I opposed his policy and the policy of his party under the Union gov-

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eminent. I opposed his policy when he was Prime Minister. In my own humble organ of opinion I have discussed and analysed every speech of his, but I may claim I have always done it in the open, that such strokes as I gave him I gave him in front, and not below the belt. I do not want to be counted among those who, sheltering themselves under the traditions of the great Conservative party, or appealing to prejudices or to the racial feelings of Quebec, as against the Liberal party, or as against the right hon. gentleman, have been pursuing the most sordid domination and stabbing the right hon. gentleman in the back. *I do not appeal to gentlemen opposite any more than I do to the representatives of the western provinces, but simply because I knew the men and the circumstances, I have no regret, either as a Canadian, as a Freneh-Canadian, or as a friend, in the 'broad sense of the word, of both political parties, in having helped the Liberal-Conservative party to rid itself, if it has learned the lesson of that last election, of that sordid domination which has been exercised over this group in Quebec by Lord Atholstan and the 'Montreal Star for the last twenty-five years. They should now realize that the influence of the Montreal Star is great indeed, but that it operates against the usual law of nature. If you want to be sure that a minister will be defeated in Quebec, that a group of men will be defeated in Quebec, that a policy will be repugnant to the people of Quebec, get the Montreal Star to uphold it and you may be sure of its fate.
I am not in the secrets of either party; but I know this: long before the Patenaude movement was organized, a gentleman connected with the Conservative cause came around a friend of mine, associated with the paper of which I am the humble founder and director, as-I am not so well up in biblical language as the hon. member for Mount Royal (Mr. White)-what is it?-as the roaring lion, or the insinuating serpent?-to get the influence of that paper in favour of a certain railway policy. There was a big national programme to cover up that policy. I do not know how many sheets of paper were filled with declarations of principles, as to the salvation of Canada, the adoption of a national policy, down with imperialism, down with Mr. Meighen's policy! But in that big display of fine words, there was a little black spot; and it was that the gentlemen who would accept a candidature under that national programme,-and plenty of money to support it-would have to accept an engagement -with regard to the railway policy

in question. They would be allowed to denounce the empire, to throw the flag down and get rid of Mr. Meighen, provided they made it safe for the holders of Canadian Pacific Railway shares to get, some said, ten per cent, others, seven per cent. That is the main reason why I came out from my long retreat, to help-I will not say the right hon. gentleman, I will not say the Libera! party, but all the good and right-thinking men belonging to both parties-to help rid the Canadian people, the province of Quebec and the city of Montreal of that gang of financial buccaneers and their attempts at blackmailing public men, governments and parliaments in order to secure certain sordid ends. I may say here, Sir, that I feel sure that if anything of that nature was presented for the approval of the right hon. leader of the opposition he repulsed it. For that he has my esteem and respect and that of all other Canadians who think of the honour of their public men before they think of party differences.
Now we come to paragraph four which is I understand the substance of the motion: Because the Prime Minister is not in the House of Commons or in the Senate there is no government, there ought to be no government. I listened with a great deal of attention and pleasure to the debate yesterday between the hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Bennett) and the Solicitor General (Mr. Cannon). I have enough of the lawyer's temperament in me-thank heaven I was prevented from becoming one-but I have some of the instincts of the lawyer especially on all matters of constitutional law. Really it was a treat for an old parliamentarian, for one who knows something of the development of the constitution more as a casual reader or as a Canadian citizen or British subject than as a legal man. It was a delight for me to listen to the able presentation of both sides of the case by the hon. member for Calgary and the hon. the Solicitor General. I was reminded of my namesake-that is the only resemblance there is-Henry IV, le Beamais. He was one day listening to a trial in the parliament of Paris, which as hon. gentlemen know, was more of a court of justice than anything else. There was a very able presentation by one of the lawj'ers on one side and with his bearnaise petulance Henry IV got up and said "Mr. Judge, it seems to me the case is heard." They were very familiar in those days; it was as a mere spectator that the king was present. Then the other side was presented and Henry IV got up and said "Mr. Justice, I am very glad to be only

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the king of France instead of being in your place." ,May I say without any wish to violate the canons of good taste, that in this case in some respects I prefer being judge than king. But on the other hand I admit that if I had to exercise the little knowledge I have on constitutional law and decide just on that issue with either the member for Calgary or the Solicitor General I would feel as much embarrassed as I am sure most of the members of this House feel although some, perhaps the lawyers especially, will not have the humility to admit it.
But there is something else involved than merely the application of a certain number of British precedents to the present case. Those gentlemen have gone back in English history for three hundred years. I was tempted- that is the result of the bad instincts of my nature-to go back to the time of the Wit-enagemots which, as all hon. gentlemen, the English members at least, should1 know, were the origin of both houses of parliament. But I have thought it would not be proper to inflict that revenge of a layman against the lawyers upon the whole House. Without having time to go to the library in order to see if those books which were piled un here yesterday were back again, I simply had recourse to my school boy memory, and also to the days when I was a member of parliament and lost no opportunity of learning something about British history and the British constitution. I was reminded of some reflections of Mr. Lecky, a good old Conservative and what is a great deal better than that, a great writer, a philosopher and historian but of very strong Conservative tendencies. In his work Mr. Lecky was marking the evolution through which power, as everybody knows, had passed from the lords to the king, and back from the king to the Commons. And then the outgrowth of the British cabinet to which the hon. member for Calgary referred yesterday. My little historical knowledge coincides absolutely with his legal authority that the cabinet and the office of the Prime Minister really took birth in the life of British institutions at the time of George I and Walpole. By the way may I say it was quite an accidental circumstance that imposed upon George I the choice of a government composed primarily of members of the House of Commons and led by a distinguished member of that House. As everybody knows, Queen Anne, before her death, felt somewhat anxious about what would be asked of her on the other side of this life for what she had helped in doing to her old father, and she wanted to undo that to a certain extent by favouring the re-establishment in England of the Stuarts in the person of the Pretender. Naturally all those great families and those masses of the people who had supported the great Revolution of I68S were determined that no Catholic king, no Catholic family should ever reign in England, therefore most of the great families turned against the Stuarts. But most of them also dreaded the association of the Hanover crown with that of England. They foresaw the complications that would arise from the concentration upon one head of the responsibilities and the exercise of power by a German monarch, and (that of the traditionally insular kingdom to the north of Europe which had relinquished all ideas of conquest and (possession on the continent with, of course, a back thought of recouping itself on other continents. Walpole became prime minister, and the cabinet existed because George I, a German by blood, by education and language, found necessary to chose a thorough Englishman, a member of the House of Commons, as his main adviser, in order to find in the middle classes what support he could not secure from the old aristocracy, Whig or Tory. And thus a new turn -was given to the process of evolution through which political power, first wrested from kings by the aristocracy, was finally transferred to the people. Eventually, that power was absorbed, or nearly so, by the cabinet. Some twenty years ago, I was struck with the observation of Mr. Lecky, that the cabinet and its chief, the Prime Minister, threatened to absorb and monopolize all powers of legislation and government, showing that by this process, the classical land of political liberty was being drawn in the direction of what is now designated as Fascism.
Now, sir, I think this aspect is just as important as the enumeration of the precedents established on such a day, in such a year, which enabled Mr. So-and-so to keep his seat-not a seat like this, because they are more humble in England than we are-but to keep a place on the benches of the House of Commons, for three or four weeks more or less. It seems to me it is much more 4 p.m. important for us to get at the root of the question, and to ask ourselves if really the problem is whether Mr. So-and-so will be three weeks absent from the House or not, or whether we are going to seize this occasion to throw light on the problem and bring it home to the intelligence of all the classes of the Canadian people.
From the time I came to parliament, some thirty years ago, to the present time, and especially after each visit to England, after each conversation I have had with British
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statesmen or jurists, I have been struck with the fact that when British jurists study eases of this kind, when British historians look over them, they always look to the broader aspect of things. They do not think only of the past but of the future, relying steadily upon the sound sense of the people of England. They look to the present for a practical solution of pressing problems and to the future for the maintenance of the glory of England. But here, with the development of that strange mixture of Americanism and colonialism which characterizes what we call British loyalism, we are always looking at the small aspect of British affairs, always trying to borrow British precedents and to interpret them in the manner in which a Chinese tailor interpreted the needs of a traveller. A British officer was once in China. The ship had stopped in a certain Chinese port, and the officer wanted to get a new coat. He knew the ability of the Chinese tailors as well as all Chinese mechanics. He went to one of them, gave him one of his old coats, and said "I want a coat similar to this." The tailor began cutting up the stuff and putting on the embroidery and so forth; but after it was finished, the coat was so glittering and fresh looking compared with the old one that the Chinese tailor thought it would not answer; so he took a slice of pork and rubbed it over the collar of the coat to make it resemble the old one.
Some of our colonials, who seem to assume that they carry the burdens of the British commonwealth, past and present, on their shoulders, who are prepared to launch the people of Canada, north, south, east and west, upon all war ventures of the empire, when it comes to applying the traditions of Great Britain to Canada, seem to lose sight of what is much more important than precedent, much more important than an enumeration of facts and dates, and so on, namely, the maintenance of the basic principle of all British institutions. They know about all British precedents established in the past. They know from the tip of their fingers, just as our friend the Chinese tailor knew, what was required of him-of the written laws of England as at present printed and contained in certain bound volumes that will be found in the library here and in every legal library in Canada. They know equally well of the customs of the past. But those laws, written or unwritten they interpret as Persian magi or Turkish muftis

"What is written, is written." I would suggest to my venerable and sympathetic friend from Mount Royal

(Mr. White) that here is the time to apply the biblical advice that he gave us regarding British precedents. Those legal pontiffs interpret the British laws, written or unwritten, according to the letter that killeth and not according to the spirit that giveth life and will maintain life. They forget the old maxim that a constitution is made for the people and is supposed to adapt itself to all circumstances in the life of a nation and the people, and is not to be circumscribed within the four corners of a more or less obsolete or inapplicable precedent.
They seem to imagine that in a circumstance like this, or in all other circumstances, the duty of the representative of the crown or that of its advisers, whether the advice is right or wrong, or of any government or parliament, is not to adapt themselves to cases as they come but to treat the Canadian people, their liberty, their guarantee, their safeguard, as Procustes treated his victims. He had a certain number of beds. They were all excellent beds, of the same length and width. He did not accommodate the beds to his guests, but those who were too long to occupy them were beheaded, and those who were not 'ong enough to fill them were stretched so that they could adapt themselves to the bed's dimensions.
I coincide entirely with my hon. friend the member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) in saying that there is a principle much more important than British precedent, and that is the British spirit in interpreting laws and in adapting political conditions, temporary or permanent, to the temporary or permanent situation arising out of new cases. On many occasions I have opposed British policy. On many occasions I have run risks to stand by what I consider to be the rights of my country against the exigencies of the rulers of England. But in the midst of the war I wrote a sentence which I will never disavow. The British Empire is indifferent to me, but British traditions are as dear as, and, from a certain point of view, dearer to me, perhaps, than they are to most English-speaking Canadians. With me this is not simply an inherited instinct; it is an acquired conviction, strengthened by thirty years of study, by travels in various countries, by a close contact with rulers of different nations-the conviction that the maintenance of the British spirit of progress and of stability, of advancement and of balance, is one of the greatest moral, political and social assets of Canada. The value of that great asset which you of English stock can claim with pride, has not

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been lessened because in this country, as in the Old Country, it has been leavened by the shrewdness and the more vivacious spirit of the Celtic races and, as regards Canada, by the penetration of the French spirit of logic, the rectitude and fine moral turn of mind which two million French Canadians have preserved not for their benefit alone but for yours as well as for ours, for the benefit of the whole of Canada. It is in that association of British traditions with the Ceitic turn of mind and the French shrewdness that lie the elements of the greatness of this country. I am quite sure that the right hen. gentleman is just as desirous of preserving British traditions as members representing the old province of Quebec on this side; as those old friends of our race and province, the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George (Mr. Cahan) and the hon. member for Mount Royal (Mr. White). I am sure all hon. members here have the same desire and would manifest it the more clearly if these things were always presented to them in their tine colours not with any idea of pandering to this race or to the other, but with a view to preserving the best moral and political asset of this country and best elements of the great races that compose it. There lies our duty as legislators and as patriotic Canadians; there lies the duty of those who hold high positions of office as statesmen.

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