February 19, 1926 (15th Parliament, 1st Session)


Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Air. L. J. LADNER (Vancouver South):

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that all members present will join with me in felicitating the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre (Mr. Kennedy) upon his maiden effort. To have spoken at such length, to have furnished the House with such a comprehensive review of the political situation in Canada, and to have made such an arraignment of the government and such an exposition of its demerits is an accomplishment which deserves, I think, the commendation of hon. members generally. We of the Conservative party who have been longer in parliament are pleased to find on our side in this House a number of new arrivals of such capacity, energy and ability, as will in the future ensure the vigour and the permanence of that party in this country.
I desire, Mr. Speaker, to offer a word of appreciation of yourself, and I wish particularly to congratulate the House on having in the Speaker's chair a gentleman of such superior cultural attainments, of such complete mastery of the English and French languages, of such wide experience in parliament, of such grace, dignity and knowledge of men's attributes-attainments which qualify Your Honour exceptionally well for the high position which you occupy. Having been in parliament for four years I know that on many occasions the position of Speaker has been a difficult one, calling not only for the exercise of sound judgment but for a great measure of patience and an attitude of courtesy and conciliation. These qualities, Sir, you possess in ample degree.
The Speech from the Throne brings to my attention the regrettable fact that the time will soon arrive for the relinquishment by Their Excellencies of the high positions which they hold in this country. As a great soldier Lord Byng did wonderful work in defence of the empire and of our own nation. As a statesman, as a governor general and as a man, I think I am safe in submitting to the House that Lord Byng has no peer in the annals of Canadian history. My hope is that the government and parliament as a whole may be able to prevail upon the government of Great Britain to extend their time in the high office their Excellencies now occupy

The Address-Mr. Ladner
when their period of service is concluded. We are all fully aware that their Excellencies Lord and Lady Byng of Vimy will receive from the people of Canada the hand of gratitude and friendship. I am sure they will from the people of British Columbia; we would welcome them to the citizenship of that fair province. _
The country to-day is faced with a number of grave and very serious problems. Those hon. members who have studied our history prior to 1867, when confederation was brought about, will agree that the union of Canada at that time was largely a political union of scattered states with diversified economic interests. In Canada to-day we have arrived at a time when we need new makers of confederation-not a political but an economic confederation. Throughout the lengthy and breadth of Canada we hear of growing bitterness; we hear expressions of sectional feeling and the voicing of ideas which indicate intensive thought along economic lines. In one portion of the country they would have no tariff, in another portion a very high tariff, in another a medium tariff. In one section they would oppose the export of natural resources; in another they would encourage it. So that the problems of Canada have largely assumed an economic aspect, and their solution requires the skill, the judgment and the ability of men of business, of men of affairs, if general advantage to the country is to result. In facing that situation the government necessarily plays a 5 p.m. most important part; but instead of having a government of action, of vigour, of aggressiveness and of capacity, we have a government of weakness, of inaction and of incapacity-and, I may say, without being offensive, of political expediency. It is to that phase of the situation that I desire to address some of my remarks this afternoon, in order to bring to the attention of hon. members, and ask them to give some study to, one important question which affects western Canada. I refer to the question of the natural resources and the question of western development.
Before, however, dealing with those particular matters in detail, I should like to remind the government that in the Speech from the Throne we see no reference whatever to a possible solution or proposal for solution of problems affecting our ex-soldiers. These are many and difficult. Experience in the administration of existing laws has demonstrated the necessity of changes, some of them of vital importance. Throughout the country soldiers' organizations are complaining of lack of attention to these matters. The Speech from the
Throne does contain reference to old age pensions. And it is interesting to observe that when this matter of old age pensions- for which I have always stood; I believe them to be in the interest of the country, and that the country can well afford to provide for them-came up last year, the government passed the matter to a committee of the House. When the report of the committee came in, no action was taken by the government, because the report recommended that there should be a conference of premiers to consider not only the matter of old age pensions, in which the provinces have or should have an important interest under our constitution, but also a number of other questions of importance to the provinces and to the federal government. In that connection the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) speaking on February 18, 1925, made this statement:
If I remember well the language of the Speech from the Throne, it is that a conference shall be called together for the purpose of considering amendments to the British North America Aot with respect to the constitution of the Senate and other matters. Surely this-
Referring to the resolution of the member for South York (Mr. Maclean) respecting a suggested amendment of the British North America Act to enable Canada to amend her constitution.
Surety (this would be one of the matters which the government would submit to such a conference.
And amongst other matters was that of old age pensions. The whole tenor of the debate, the attitude of the government and the promise of the ministers, was that they would call a conference to consider these questions in which the provinces had a vital interest and had to be consulted. But what has happened? Not a single thing has been done towards calling that conference. But all of a sudden the government announces in the Speech from the Throne that they have evolved a scheme for old age pensions, the value of which will only be known when the legislation is brought down. There we have another indication of political expediency. One time it is an excuse for taking one course; another time there is excuse for taking a different course.
We have heard considerable discussion in the House about the election last fall, and I shall not weary the House with details. But there are some things which I wish to bring before hon. members, because the promises of the leaders of public thought, especially the leaders of the parties, play an important part in the crystallization of public opinion, and in enabling the public to understand the attitude of the parties on the great
The Address-Mr. Ladner

issues of the day. In the election of 1925 we saw repeated many of the practices which were common in 1921. Local issues became the dominating subjects of contest in the various districts. In 1925 in British Columbia, and particularly in greater Vancouver where there were four candidates, the question raised by the Liberal candidates was that of freight rates. There the Liberals claimed the championship of lower freight rates, and the tariff was not an issue. They were all agreed that we ought to have a protective tariff. The propaganda engaged in by the Liberal press and candidates, as well as by advertising, was to the effect that the Liberal party was the champion of lower freight rates and that the Right Hon. Mr. Mackenzie King had given an assurance that there would be a still further reduction. It was stated also quite incorrectly and unfairly that the Conservative party stood in the way of that reduction. I have before me a number of election advertisements as well as some of the speeches delivered by the candidates and reported verbatim, and one of the most interesting of those speeches is that of Mr. G. G. McGeer who ran against my distinguished colleague the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens). When Mr. McGeer made his speech we had a stenographer report it and a copy of that report I have here. I desire to read for the benefit of the House an extract from Mr. McGeer's speech so that hon. members may appreciate the nature of the campaign in Vancouver and the difficulty of the public in grasping the real issues in that contest. Speaking at the Libera! convention on September 22, 1925, Mr. McGeer said:
I believe we have accomplished a great deal. We have secured freight rate reductions that have shown to the people of western Canada the value of freight reductions, and the difficulties under which we have laboured in the past. We have done this: we have roused in western Canada a sense of public resentment and we have made equalization of freight rates the foremost national subject in the Dominion of Canada to-day. But more than that, we have received from the Prime Minister of this Dominion a declaration that he will give to western Canada equality of treatment and see that they get impartial justice and fair play. This is the first time this has been accomplished in this Dominion.
We now have the opportunity as electors to accept the Prime Minister's word or we can repudiate his promise, and that is going to be the issue in this coming election. There are wrongs to be adjusted; there are rights to be declared, and we can go on if we will appealing to the Board of Railway Commissioners and the other courts of this Dominion, but I say to you, there is one court in which this issue can be finally settled; there is one place where the people of Canada can get lasting and final justice, *nd that is in the court of public opinion, and, when that is done, it will be written in the lists of the parliament of the Dominion. As your counsel-

Mr. McGeer happened to be counsel for British Columbia in connection with freight rates.
-to-day I advise you to take the Prime Minister at his word, accept his declaration and his new national policy, and send a representative to parliament that wili see that that is written in the statutes of the Dominion.
Hon. members who have studied the question know perfectly well that it was not the intention of the Liberal party nor of the government to write in the statutes of the Dominion anything further with respect to lower freight rates. They should have brought this about in June last; they started to make a reduction which would be of equal advantage to the Pacific' coast and to the people on the route going from the prairies eastward. But they failed to give justice to British Columbia. In the election practically every candidate and every speaker in the district focused his attention and his discussions upon the question of 'freight rates, distorting the position of the Conservative leader and of the Conservative party, and putting into the mouth of our leader phrases and opinions which he never uttered. Consequently they perverted the facts so that the electorate hardly knew what those facts really were.
_ I mention these things because they are so significant of the campaign generally throughout the country, serving at the same time, as they do, to recall to us something of what occurred in 1921. In my judgment the government in this contest, through their candidates and their speakers, should have discussed their record of the past four years, but they said not a word in that respect either in defence or in approval. In 1921 the declaration of policy was that there would be severe economy in public expenditures. Of that, in the election of 1925, we heard not a word. In 1921 they promised to bring into effect the League of Nations principles in regard to labour, as set out in their platform; but so soon as parliament assembled and the business of the House got under way they forgot all about their promises. In 1925 they had no statement to offer on this subject. In 1921 they promised an adequate system of unemployment insurance together with old age pensions, widows' pensions, and even maternity benefits. They were going to take care of everybody. But hon. gentlemen who were here during the past four years know perfectly well that, apart from old age pensions, no serious discussion took place on any of these questions; not a single proposal was submitted by the government to parliament. Of all the promises made in 1921, and which

The Address-Mr. Ladner
no effort was made during the course of the last parliament to implement), the Liberal party, in promising cash grants or bonuses to soldiers' dependents, in addition to the gratuities already granted, assumed probably the greatest and most responsible obligation -an obligation to a class of people who had given their service to the country and who waited in anxiety and with some confidence in our public men who had made these promises to have them fulfilled. To the disgrace of the Liberal party and of its leaders,
I say that during the whole of the four years they were in power in the last parliament they never uttered a single word in recognition of this particular promise, never gave any explanation of their delinquency in the matter, and never brought down a single line of legislation. When the election of 1925 came and we charged the government with default in this and all the other respects in which they had failed to live up to their promises, they had nothing to say. Of course they could say nothing, for they had done nothing. As a matter of fact, during the four years that parliament sat under the direction and control of the Right Hon. Mr. Mackenzie King and his government not a single pledge of the 1919 platform, nor a single assurance given in the 1921 campaign, was actually honoured; not a single one. I leave it to the fair judgment of any hon. member who has studied these questions to determine whether or not my assertion in this respect is justified.
Perhaps the real spirit of the policy of the Liberal party in 1919 and in 1921, a policy of political expediency, can best be understood in the light of that classic dialogue of questions and answers which took place at Saskatoon at a meeting addressed by the Prime Minister, when somebody in the audience interjected in the course of the right hon. gentleman's speech a number of ques-. tions, the answers to which revealed his attitude when faced with the actualities of statecraft and the problems before the electorate. I am not going to cite many of these things, but I do desire if possible to impress upon hon. members the necessity for the leaders of our parties to carry lOtut their pledges in a statesmanlike manner instead of bending to the whims of sectional influences and of sectional inducements. That meeting took place at Saskatoon. I am reading from a report of the Canadian Press, dated Saskatoon, October 7, and published in the Montreal Gazette:
"I want to make my position perfectly clear." exclaimed the premier. "The government wants to have that road completed, and to have it completed immediately."
Referring to the Hudson Bay railway.
"That vis our desire. But how far can we go in the carrying out of our desire must depend upon the complexion of parliament." "How many miles per member will you complete?" queried a voice. The question caused a laugh. Mr. King: "I am afraid that if I say that I will go the limit if you will go the limit, Mr. Meighen would say that I am trying to bribe this constituency on the prairie."
Well, the rules of the House would prevent my right hon. leader saying what such a promise really amounted to, but a great many people outside parliament would certainly so express themselves.
* Another voice broke in; "How long are you going to wait for the prosperity which is ait the other end of the 92 miles of railway?" "That depends, "returned Mr. King, "on how strongly we are supported in western Canada, but if I find that the Liberal party has no representatives from Saskatchewan, do you think I can get the people from the other provinces to support an appropriation for the Hudson Bay railway?"
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and, through you, hon. members, if that is a commendable example of statesmanship from the leader of a great party?
Again there was an interruption that the Progressives had kept the government in power. "No, Sir, and they never did," Mr. King shouted back.
I wonder what he will say when he returns to the House.
"The Liberal party does not want to build the Hudson Bay railway," interrupted the heckler. "That is untrue," the premier warmly returned, "the Liberal party wants to build iit, but we cannot build it unless we have sufficient Liberal support from the prairie provinces to work with the men of other provinces, because you cannot get the House of Commons to vote the money unless you have unity of action.
Unity of action! The "unity of action" we find to-day is the arrangement between the government and our friends of the Progressive party. There it is at its maturity. Let me give another extract from this interesting and instructive report:
"You forget that Canada is growing," Mr. King returned.
This reply was in answer to an inquiry relative to a vote of 85,000,000 for the Quebec harbour.
Another questioner wanted to know why the vote had gone to the Quebec harbour. "We get a certain amount of support from Quebec," said Mr. King. He added that the argument that the government should do nothing for the people who supported it and give everything where it got no support-well, human nature would not stand for that sort of thing.

Full View