October 21, 1932 (17th Parliament, 4th Session)


William Duff


Mr. WILLIAM DUFF (Antigonish-Guys-borough):

Mr. Speaker, the people of Canada always regard imperial conferences as events of vital interest, because at those meetings representatives from all parts of the British Empire meet to discuss matters of primary concern to the dominions and to the empire as a whole. When Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as Prime Minister of this country, represented Canada at the imperial conference at London, it was conceded by everyone, no matter what his political persuasions might be, that he represented Canada truly and well. The same thing also applies to the occasion when Sir Robert Borden, as Prime Minister of this country, W'ent to London on similar business. It also applies to the time when the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen was Prime Minister of this country in 1920-21 and when he attended the imperial conference in one of those years. I believe my good friends on the other side of the house and the Canadian people as a whole will also agree with me that when my leader, the present leader of the opposition, the leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Mackenzie King), was chosen Prime Minister of Canada and attended several imperial conferences at London, Canada was proud of him and his action at those conferences.
Then in 1930 we had a general election. Before the election was called, it was known that an imperial conference was to take place in the fall of that self-same year. The Canadian people decided, as they had a perfect right to do, to change governments, and the Liberal government, which had been in power for eight years, was overthrown, and the Conservative government put into power under the leadership of the present Prime

United Kingdom
Minister (Mr. Bennett). Knowing that the Imperial conference was to be called, and knowing that it was quite possible or within the probabilities that he might have to go to London and represent Canada at that conference, the present Prime Minister went on the different platforms from the Pacific to the Atlantic preaching a policjr, not entirely of protection, but of higher and higher tariffs. Within a month after he was elected and his party came into power, a special session of parliament was called. Knowing, as I said a moment ago, that within a very few weeks he would have to attend an imperial conference at London, he asked us at that session to increase the tariff, and due of course to the fact that he was elected on that policy and that he had behind him a majority in this house, the tariff was raised to a very considerable extent. My right hon. friend proceeded to the conference and we know exactly what happened there. He made his proposal to the British government or to the delegates of the British government assembled at that conference. His proposition was turned down and he came back to Canada without any result from the conference.
This year another conference was summoned, which met in the capital city of our fair country. During the debate since these agreements have been laid on the table of the house, and since the Prime Minister has moved his motion asking us to approve or disapprove them, the discussion to a certain extent has been a fair one. I have no objection in the world to the Prime Minister taking credit to himself for what he thinks he has got out of those agreements, because we are all human, we are all perhaps a little egotistical, and I do not mind my right hon. friend in his speech, although it may not have been quite fair to say, as reported on page 110 of Hansard:
"And despite the unpatriotic efforts made by some to create the impression that the primary interests of each of the delegations was to benefit its own empire state. . .
I do not think those words are quite fair. It makes no difference what our political leanings are, whether we are Conservative or Liberal or belong to any other party in this country, whilst we may once in a while sneer at one another or say something which we would not say in personal conversation, yet I think, sir, you will agree with me when I say that every man or woman in Canada is patriotic and believes in the British Empire. As I said a moment ago, as regards the remark made by the Prime Minister in his speech
"that he had succeeded where the Liberals had failed," I have no objection to that; if you or I, sir, had been in his place we might have used similar words. In the course of the debate when my hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) and my hon. friend the Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Manion) spoke and when they were replied to by the ex-Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Malcolm) and the exMinister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe), I think all will agree that the debate was carried on in a very gentlemanly manner.
But the Prime Minister was called to accept a degree in the university of New York, a degree to which I am sure he was fully entitled. I think it was a good idea for the Prime Minister to get away from the worries of office for a day or two, because "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." But before taking his departure, I think he should have left word with some of his subordinates in the cabinet that they should be very careful how they spoke in his absence, because practically before the Prime Minister had boarded his train for Albany, New York, we noticed that my hon. friend the Solicitor General (Mr. Dupre) rose in the house and made a speech. As I said a moment ago, before the Solicitor General made his speech, the debate was being carried on in a very gentlemanly and proper manner, but what were the first words of the Solicitor General? He sneered at the fact that the ex-Minister of Justice had made the remark that he had wanted to see the conference a success. Oh, no, he said, that was not true at all; the exMinister of Justice and other Liberals in this country did not want the conference that met at Ottawa in July to be a success. He quoted from several newspapers, Liberal newspapers he called them, and no doubt he was correct in that assumption. One was Le Soleil and the other, if I am not mistaken, was Le Canada of Montreal. Of course, "when the cat's away, the mice will play," but the mice should be very careful when they come out of their holes, how they play. I regret exceedingly that the Solicitor General made that speech and referred to the remarks contained in those two Liberal newspapers. I think hon. members will agree with me that those are not the only two newspapers in Canada that published remarks and editorials regarding the Imperial conference either before it met or while it was in session. If I quote from other newspapers I do so because the Solicitor General has given the lead. Nobody
Imperial Conference-Trade Agreements
will accuse the Montreal Gazette of being a Liberal newspaper. What does the Gazette say about the Imperial conference:
Among those most competent to judge the position, the impasse which has been reached is attributable very largely to the Canadian Prime Minister's disposition to keep the preparation of Canada's case and the actual negotiations wholly in his own hands, the only exceptions to this rule being such assistance as he accepts from a single departmental adviser.
I wonder who that might be. There were rumours around Ottawa that the Prime Minister did not even consult his departmental advisers and that some members of his cabinet were not at all pleased at the Prime Minister receiving advice from a particular person. The Gazette goes on:
Such a course lends itself easily to the commission of mistakes, and it is an open secret that mistakes have been made.
This is from the Montreal Gazette, not from Le Soleil or Le Canada. It goes on:
The Prime Minister has acted, no doubt, with the best of intentions. He called the conference. It is his habit to centralize all government business in his own office, and he has endeavoured to apply to the Imperial economic conference the same method which he has follow'ed in the conduct of domestic affairs.
What does the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) or the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Sutherland) say to that? The Gazette gees on:
With all Mr. Bennett's ability and energy, the task is too great, and the results have shown that participation by other ministers, and by industrial and financial leaders outside the government, would have prevented in large measure the errors which have occurred. The situation is an anxious one. If it is not remedied, the conference will close with the two empire units chiefly concerned, namely, Great Britain and Canada, sharing only in its lesser achievements.

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