March 29, 1932 (17th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Paul Mercier


Mr. PAUL MERCIER (St. Henry) (Translation) :

Mr. Speaker, I now rise to take part
in this debate because I earnestly feel that we, on this side of the house, have proceeded along constitutional lines in our opposition, during the last few days, to the motion to amend bill No. 58 by substituting the word "May" for the word "March". One of the chief duties of the members of the opposition is unquestionably that of upholding the rights and privileges of the house. Rules and regulations have been made as to the procedure to be followed, and a perusal of parliamentary law and practice shows that when it comes to grants of public money, the house as supreme, and that is the very thing we are contending for when protesting against this measure. Had the government asked for a definite amount, no matter how large, in order to relieve unemployment, in the farming community as well as in industrial circles, we would have indeed been pleased to vote the funds, leaving it to the government to give an honest account of the expenditure, and reserving ourselves the opportunity of ascertaining, through the public accounts committee, just what use would have been made of the funds thus voted.
According to the principles laid down by the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett), a majority should enable a government to do anything, and it is a fact that his ministry commands quite a large majority at the present time. However, the minority is called upon to offer constructive suggestions in the name of His Majesty, for it must be remembered that the leader of the Liberal party is the spokesman of His Majesty's loyal opposition. The opportunity now offers to uphold the rules and regulations of this house and it is our duty to see to it that the procedure followed is in accordance with the constitution.
Under the circumstances the idea of giving a blank cheque to the government and of conferring unusual powers upon them should
not be entertained. No industrial, no dealer would ever think of such a thing in connection with his own business. Take, for instance, the average business man in this country: would he give to his manager unlimited powers and authorize him to sign a blank cheque whereby that manager could dispose of the larger part of his employer's property? How could the latter keep tab of his own affairs, ascertain what are his profits and check up the doings of his manager or his accountant? Common sense alone tells us that such a stand is a sheer impossibility. We are now being asked to give the government a blank cheque for an indefinite amount.
We are not unmindful of the fact that relief must be given to the unemployed and to the farmers in this country, but as members of the opposition, we must be suspicious of such a resolution as that now being introduced by this government. Should we have allowed the measure to pass without a word of protest, we would have been charged by the people with living made no opposition to it and therefore, with having made no attempt to safeguard the constitutional privileges of this House of Commons, privileges which our forefathers have striven to secure, under the Union, and which they succeeded in vindicating along with responsible government, by strenuously opposing governors bent on extorting a civil list from the people.
Looking back upon the past, we find a parallel to the present situation. Referring to the official report of the Debates of the House of Commons, for the session of 191213, under date of April 7, 1913, page 7223, I see that at the time a similar debate took place. Even now, I visualize the countenance of my hon. friend from Quebec-Montmorency (Mr. Dorion) when I shall read a certain extract of that report. It is said that, barring electricity, the radio and the wireless, there is nothing new under the sun; indeed, one only has to revert to the past in order to find similar political conditions. For instance, under the heading "Motions for Papers", I notice-

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