William Alexander MCMASTER

MCMASTER, William Alexander, Q.C.

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
High Park (Ontario)
Birth Date
February 1, 1879
Deceased Date
March 4, 1961

Parliamentary Career

June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  High Park (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 89 of 90)

September 10, 1945

Mr. W. A. McMASTER (High Park):

Mr. Speaker, a great many people will be surprised that I should intervene at this early stage of the debate, but I can assure you that the most surprised person is myself. That would not have been the case if those who are better fitted and who perhaps should have had the honour of intervening so early had been available. It just so happens, however, that, they are not available and therefore I have been given this opportunity of addressing you. I do not think I could have addressed' this house were it not for the feeling of elation I have had during the few days that I have been attending these sessions. I am a new member and after meeting the other members of my own party, many members of the other parties, some members of the senate and some officials in. this building, I have

been so elated that I thought I could even make a speech to those assembled here tonight. Otherwise I might have assumed my ordinary attitude of indifference and indolence.

I must ask your indulgence; Mr. Speaker, because I have been a member for only a few days, having attended only two sittings, so that if I err in my manner of speaking or in anything I say while addressing hon. members, you will correct me. If you do I shall accept the correction with the best grace, hoping that as you learn the duties of your office from time to time I may take the easier course of learning mine by observing what you dio in the Chair rather than by any hard work of my own.

I listened to the Prime Minister asking the indulgence of members and I recalled that this same indulgence was asked for during many years of the war. I believe that in nearly every case it was granted by those who perhaps did not entirely agree with the right hon. gentleman's method of conducting the war. During the war, however, they were willing to subordinate their own ideas in order that the war might be carried to a successful conclusion. Now that the war is over he is again asking our indulgence. May I say this to him. If at an earlier period of the war he had accepted the help of those who were just as earnest and anxious as he was to win the war, and who could give as much as he or I could, and the help of those who, in the way of actual participation in the war could have given more, his burden would not have been so great; I probably would not be here to-night, and the country as a whole, as well as history, would perhaps have placed him in a higher niche that it will because he did not seek the assistance of those who were willing to help him in the past.

The hon. member who preceded me has spoken about the Peace River district and has used, with reference to that district, words which at the beginning of the century were often spoken about Canada as a whole. In other words, he has spoken of the great material wealth and the fine population of the Peace River district. In the old days when we spoke about Canada wre referred to the material wealth, the great resources, of this country, but we always emphasized more than anything else the fact that the people as a whole were the greatest asset of the dominion and that in the character of people they were, the future of Canada was wrapped up. I believe that is still so.

The Address-Mr. McMaster

As I listened to the hon. member speaking of the Peace River district he referred in glowing terms to that part of the country, and although I had not originally intended to do so, I decided that I would speak of my own riding of High Park. After all, High Park is a fine constituency and it has a fine aame. ''Peace River" are words we would like to hear in time of war, but High Park is a good name all the time.

I represent a constituency which is a very fair cross-section of the people, as representative as any that can be found in any city constituency. I -am sure that these people would not want me to deal unfairly with those engaged in other occupations. They would want me to give due consideration to those engaged in mining, lumbering, forestry work, fishing and all other activities which it is not possible to find in High Park. This I shall keep in mind and give my best assistance in -any legislation dealing with matters affecting other constituencies.

Something has been said by the Prime Minister about the vote of the soldiers overseas and a considerable amount of gratification was taken because of that vote. There may be certain reasons why the vote went as it did. I have interviewed people from overseas and have found that a great deal of confusion existed. For instance, in one case a soldier said that in his particular unit on the continent half voted C.C.F. and half voted Liberal. Those who were in favour of forcing everyone to go overseas voted C.C.F. and those who were not in favour of doing so voted Liberal. So that the people overseas were not particularly well informed about what the issues were at home. In fact, I have received word from men occupying the positions of heads of units of considerable size, as well as from men in the ranks, and they all are agreed that not sufficient information was given them to decide what was best for the country. There was -a certain amount of information given, however, by members of the party now in power, as I understand by one of those who have returned.

I am informed that shortly before the election of June 11, certain members of the personnel of the Canadian army were given special instructions on the operation of the Veterans' Land Act. Those instructions were sent out in a book which I hold in my hand, which is designated 50M-944, issued under the authority of T. A. Crerar, Minister of Mines and Resources. This book gives a rosy view of what returned men might expect when they

fMr. McMaster.]

get home. I should like to refer to page 5 which speaks about men coming home and going into their own business and being able to buy a house with a small holding surrounding it in the vicinity -of not only cities but smaller places. The government would buy these holdings, put up the money, and in time they would throw off 82,350. The original price is set at 86,000. It goes on to say:

These small holdings will provide a wide range of opportunities for the veteran and his family, according to their aptitude and preference, to augment outside earnings. It may be from poultry, fruit, flowers, garden truck, bees or a combination of two or more of them. Financial assistance will not be available to inexperienced veterans to undertake specialized operations on a commercial scale because of the risks^ to which they may be exposed, but by starting in a small way the veteran and his family can assist themselves materially in the production of wholesome foodstuffs and by experimentation decide which side-line best fits in with their particular tastes and needs. In some cases the veteran will gradually transform his holding to a point where he can safely engage in specialized production as a full-time occupation and relinquish his outside employment; in others the veteran will prefer to remain in his ordinary occupation and use his holding as a home but with room to follow some interesting hobby in a healthy atmosphere.

This booklet was passed- out shortly before the election. Hon. members can see -that a man would have great difficulty in deciding whether the Liberal party was offering more when he came home than another party that had been bombarding them with literature in the preceding years. Perhaps that is why in the minds of -the overseas veterans there were only two parties that were offering something material. I should say it is a strange thing that our party obtained as large a vote as it did from men who were ignorant of what our party's position- in- regard to them was and who were being bombarded with promises from the other two parties.

I wish to call attention to what I think is one glaring defect in this land settlement act. It will be noticed- that it applies only to certain people. It applies only to a man who has a business in a town or city and who is willing to live some distance away on this property which was originally to consist of two acres, but which in actual practice has been reduced to half an acre. If a veteran has an automobile or the means of getting around to find a property which answers certain specifications-a house and half an- acre of land-the government will buy it and in due time throw off $2,350, giving him an- interest rate of three and a half per cent in the meantime. I -believe the same thing applies to fishermen and men engaged in farming. My experience has been

The Address-Mr. McMaster

this: I have found men who do not want to engage in either of those occupations, and they cannot take advantage of this act.

How about the man who, whose wife while he was away by dint of saving and working herself earned enough money to buy a home, so that when the husband came back he would have a home ready to live in. It would not be paid for by any means, but there would be a considerable equity in it. That wife and veteran do not receive one iota from this land settlement act. They will have only the gratuity and the other money that is payahle under the Soldiers Rehabilitation Act. I think the first essential in any legislation of this kind is that it shall apply to all veterans. If any one man overseas is entitled to $2,350 and interest of three and a half per cent, then surely all the men overseas are entitled to it. I am afraid it will be found that the men who will take advantage of this are not the men who perhaps need it most, but men who can afford to live out in the country, men who have a car and can get into town to work; whereas the ordinary, hard-working, poor infantryman, or member of some branch of the service-and by the way they were told in the last war that they should have their heads read before they went into those services-will get little [DOT]or no benefit from this act. I would respectfully submit that this act should be so amended that every soldier overseas should *be able to take advantage of it, not from any consideration whether he is able to live near a city and get a job, but because by his work overseas he has earned it. If there is any difference between gifts to veterans I should say that the men who in the front line bore the heat and sweat of battle should be preferred rather than those who have the ability to take advantage of certain conditions that now apply. I would respectfully submit that the amendment moved by my leader to-day in regard to the treatment of veterans is justified by the manner in which this land act has been operated by the government to date.

The Prime Minister spoke of my leader as having rather rushed things by saying that demobilization had not been sufficiently gone on with and suggested that the cessation of hostilities was only a few days past, in fact only a few hours past. Yet in almost the next breath he stated that 120,500 men had been demobilized since V-E day. We all know that V-E day was, because of the action of the government, practically the end of hostilities. We all know that just before the last election a statemen* was made

to the press and to the people that only thirty thousand men would be used in the Pacific theatre of war with_ proportionate number of men from other services. Therefore, so far as the people of Canada and the members of the forces were concerned the major operation of the war was ended on V-E day. If that is the case then my leader was justified in finding fault with what the government has done, not so much in what they perhaps have said they are going to do, but rather in what they have actually done.

I come from a riding which has equalled any other in so far as enlistment of men and contribution to the war effort are concerned; and I hear complaints all the time. The men who feel they are entitled to come back are kept there, on the ground that they are needed, that they are key-men. That [DOT]can be said of any man. I suppose every man above the rank of private could be called a key-man. Even a private might have some qualireations that would enable them to keep him there against his desire. There is a great feeling of discontent on the part of these men over there and their families at-home. A great deal of criticism is made of the demobilization scheme so far as it affects the man overseas. _

I listened to the answer that was given by the Minister of Defence (Mr. Abbott) to the question as to university students. At that time I did not know I was going to speak to-night. I did not have enough nerve, or ability to get up and ask about one phase of the question which I believe will be rectified now when I bring it to the attention of the minister. When it was stated that university men could be discharged in order to go to the university there was a rider attached to it that they must have the consent of the university to accept them. Remember it was about August 27-it might be a day or two before-that this order was promulgated. Yet most universities demand that all applications be in by September 1. I was interested in a couple of boys who were able to get into university this fall. One father told me that it was only by accident that his boy got in. I believe he was in that famous city of Hamilton, where he happened to see the commanding officer and some other official whose consent was necessary. Because of this fortunate circumstance his son was able to get into university, but he told me that his *boy had received some previous university training, and that if he had been given more time, instead of getting the boy in the first year he would have been able to get him in the second year.

The Address-Mr. McMaster

This is not a political question. It is important to the youth of our country; it vitally affects those who wish to go to university, those who will become our leading citizens, become members of parliament and occupy other leading positions. Something should be done to see that every boy in the forces who desires a university education is given an opportunity to acquire it. There is also the question of the boys overseas who have had perhaps one year or two years in university. I happened to come in contact with one father while looking for another boy. I found that his son, who had a year or two in university, was still overseas. When I spoke to him about seeing what could be done in regard to getting the boy home he gave me this answer, which I think is important and probably represents the opinions of many others. He said, "My boy does not want any preferred treatment; he does not want to come back before his turn." That may be true. I do not know whether university education is more important to one of these boys than a job *may be to someone else, but certainly I 'believe these boys should receive every consideration, and that boys desiring other special instruction in other walks of life should receive similar consideration. I have been told, and I believe it to be true, that there is in' operation overseas what is called a khaki college, but -how can such a college provide all the courses that will be required? One boy may desire to complete a course in political science; he may have been in his second year when he entered the service. I do not see how that boy could complete his course except by going to some institution other than the khaki college, which with all due respect, I do not think can operate with one hundred per cent efficiency, and which I am told covers only a course of the first year or two at college.

Then I do not understand why a boy should not be -allowed to go on and complete ms secondary school education. He has to be eighteen before he can enter the army, or seventeen if he enters with the consent of his parents. Surely secondary school education is essential in connection with a great many occupations and professions, and these boys are entitled to it. In Ontario the law demands that a boy go to school until he is sixteen, whether or not he is learning anything and whether or not be desires any further education. Surely when this matter is called to the attention of the government, as I am bringing it to their attention now, they I Mr. McMaster.]

will make a special effort to see that the boys-who require secondary school education are given an opportunity to acquire it.

During the course of his remarks the Prime Minister said he believed in short speeches. I believe in them also, for a very personal reason, because I could not make a long speech if I tried. So I will follow his advice in at least one respect, but I should like to mention one other matter about which I feel quite strongly, for reasons I need not go into to-night; that is, the work of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Mitchell). Something occurred in these parliament buildings to-day -about which I am not particularly proud. I need not say more about that, except to say that I believe it was a direct result of the sort of thing I am now going to mention. Sometimes I go to picture shows. My wife likes to go, and so do I. Sometimes I see something instructive relating to current events. The only way I ever saw the late President Roosevelt was on the screen, and occasionally I have seen other celebrities in the same way. One thing I disliked was that while the pictures of celebrities were shown they were not shown for long enough. You saw them for a minute and they were gone, though you felt that you would like to see them for a little longer and perhaps visit with them for a while, even if only on the screen. On one occasion I attended one of the theatres in High Park, where they have good family theatres. There I saw something which rather disturbed me. It was just about at the time of the by-election in Welland. I did not agree with the stand of the government in that by-election; I thought they were going the wrong way in governing this country during those strenuous days and, as I mentioned earlier in my remarks, I thought there should be ways of getting better men into the government. On this particular evening we saw on the screen a gentleman making an eloquent speech; I wish I could make one like it. His audience was a number of men working in the war plants of Hamilton. This was not a picture which just ran across the screen and vanished; it must have lasted five or six minutes, and it showed the men in the audience all wrapped up in what was being said by the speaker, who was the Minister of Labour. He said to them, "You are doing great work in this country. Your work is just as important, yes and more important, than the work of the soldier in battle." I thought to myself that if in that audience there was a father with a son overseas he should write his son to come back, to give up the $1.10 a day and get a good job in Hamilton and be really patriotic. Perhaps, however, that

The Address-Mr. Bertrand (Prescott)

father's idea of patriotism would differ from that of the Minister of Labour. I do not blame the minister for going over to Hamilton and trying to build up the morale of the workmen by telling them they were wonderful boys. It might help them and would not harm anybody else; but I could not understand why that particular picture should be shown on the screen before an audience in which there must have been the wives, fathers and children of soldiers. That was all wrong, and now we see the result of that sort of thing. "As ye sow, so shall ye also reap."

I said I intended to speak for only a short time. I am only one of some sixty-six members in this party, one of whom has already spoken. I think I have said about one-sixty-fifth of what could be said in this debate. I am not greedy; I believe in leaving something for the other fellow to say, so that I will resume my seat.

Mr. ELIE O. BERTRAND (Prescott) (Translation): Mr. Speaker, at the end of hostilities, after six years of war, it is my wish that my first words in this parliament should be uttered in thankfulness to Divine Providence for having protected the armies of the allied nations and given us victory over our enemies. It now behooves every citizen and every nation to contribute to the triumph of righteousness over the forces of evil. May that be accomplished and may Christian charity bestow to the world a truly enduring peace.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate you heartily on having been selected to preside over the debates of this house. The post which you occupy honours both yourself and your compatriots. We are pleased that it should have gone to one so competent to fill it.

(Text): Mr. Speaker, it was most pleasant on Friday last to hear the speeches of the mover and -the seconder of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. In his maiden speech the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River (Mr. Benidickson) acquitted himself well, and upon his effort I congratulate him most sincerely. When he stood in his place in the house one could recognize at once the firm hand of the wing commander.

Then, the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Langlois), spoke well in his sea-going fashion. We could picture the Canada he served and loved when serving as a lieutenant in the R.C.N.V.R., and also the Canada he envisages for the future. We are pleased to welcome this nation-builder to our midst.

Speaking of nation-builders may I point out that, as its leader, the Liberal party has the greatest nation-builder Canada has ever

had. He has helped to make Canada autonomous, a fact we are proud to acknowledge today. Among the component parts of the . British commonwealth of nations he has placed Canada on a parity in all aspects of its domestic and external affairs. Under his guidance not the party in power but parliament, of its own free will, was permitted in 1939 to declare a state of war against our enemies. This is a fact which will always stand to the credit of our nation. Who among Canadians to-day has not been proud of Canada's war effort since that fateful year?

Now Canada rates as an adult nation among the countries of the world. During all this time the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) has been able to keep Canada united, a task which in this country is not easy of achievement. We know the problems we have to face in our country, with its immense expanse of land, and with the different schools of thought found within its borders. But unity has been maintained by this nation-builder, our present Prime Minister.

Perhaps I would make my point stronger if I were to state that in world war I conscription had brought this nation close to civil conflict because of Quebec's stubborn opposition to that policy. At that time the rest of Canada favoured conscription.

Then, when world war II came along, despite the measure of conscription sponsored by the King government, he retained the confidence of the Canadian people at the election on June 11. Quebec had changed its mind to the extent of sending, to stand behind this man, nearly sixty supporters.

In the speech from the throne one could find many points which might be developed at this stage. However, as I do not purpose speaking at length I shall touch upon only one or two of them. I would first direct the attention of hon. members to a subject which I believe engages the attention and interest of all hon. members, namely, that having to do with the civil service. My further remarks will be directed to the matter of taxation.

Since 1918 we have had on the statute books of Canada a chapter known as the Civil Service Act. This is a statute which has received the approval of the whole of Canada's population, including that of members of the House of Commons, despite their criticism of it. At intervals it has been under review by a special committee of the house. The last report was made by a committee having as its chairman the hon. member for Hull (Mr. Fournier), who at this time holds the portfolio of Minister of Public Works.


The Address-Mr. Bertrand (Prescott)

I believe all of us will find that the work done by the several committees has been _ useful, first because of the publicity the committee meetings have been given in the press and, second, because of the suggestions made in those several committees to improve the working and the administration of the Civil Service Act. The publicity given the committee meetings has had the effect of making the public better acquainted with the vast amount of work done by and the difficult problems confronting the civil service commission.

All hon. members hope, as they grow older, that other days will bring new and even better ways of understanding among all concerned. At this point may I commend the wonderful work accomplished by the civil service commission since its inception, in giving to the public that type of service expected by the vast body of taxpayers.

It is because these taxpayers are at times hard to please that I should like to bring two or three points to the attention of the house. A. What preference or what is the preference which should be given in the future to our men who were in the service of His Majesty either in world war I or world war II? To my mind their status could be made much clearer than it has been made.

Looking over the Civil Service Act one would readily find that, under the provisions of section 28, those who resigned their positions to join the service of His Majesty in either war must be taken back into the service in a position at least equivalent to the one they left upon resigning to join the military service. It will be found in another section that men who had served overseas are to receive preference in respect of positions given under the Civil Service Act.

Section 30 of the regulations in the act states:

30. The names of persons in the service of His Majesty placed upon eligible lists under the provisions of section 28 of the Civil Service Act, shall be placed in the order of merit above all successful candidates at the examinations-

That means above civilian candidates.

-and above persons whose names are placed upon the eligible lists under the provisions of section 54 of the Civil Service Act.

Section 54 refers to the abolition of positions in certain sections of the civil service. Consequently it means that men who have served in the services of His Majesty will have to be given preference over them. I realty think this situation should be clarified in order that there may be a better understanding of the act on the part of hon. members of the House of Commons and the public generally.

B. The amended sections 20 and 32 of the Civil Service Act provide that local positions shall be filled by those possessing a knowledge of the language of the majority. That provision is easy to understand and it has been put into practice with a great deal of satisfaction in the last few years. However, nothing is said about positions at headquarters or at important branch offices or in senior positions of the service.

C. Do we know that when a department makes a requisition for personnel to the civil service commission it stipulates that a knowledge of English or French or both is required? It would appear that the civil service commission has very little responsibility in connection with these cases.

For the reasons I have just given, and many others, and for the benefit of hon. members and of those who expect to obtain positions in the civil service, I would venture to suggest that at the earliest convenient time during this session, or during next session if this is to be a short one, a special committee should be appointed to study and review the Civil Service Act and its regulations. This is a time when many changes will have to occur in order to establish a new order in the world and there should be a clear exposition before this committee of all that is to be expected from the civil service commission under the operation of the Civil Service Act and its regulations. This would be conducive to a better understanding by all concerned.

The second question I wish to deal with is just as ticklish as the one upon which I have just touched. Probably it is more so because it affects a greater number of persons. I refer to taxation. Something of taxation was said this afternoon and I should like to deal with just one phase of this matter. As was mentioned this afternoon by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bracken), the speech from the throne contains a paragraph which reads as follows:

You will be asked to make financial provision for all essential services, also to meet expenditures arising out of the war, and for the purposes of reconstruction. My ministers' proposals with respect to taxation measures will be disclosed in the budget.

I am sure that all members of the house will be ready to approve the provision of all essential services, especially those having to do with the repatriation of men who are in the services. I know they will be ready to approve all measures necessary to help in establishing these men in civil life as well as for the purpose of reconstruction. I know they will be ready to approve any measures

The Address-Mr. Bertrand (Prescott)

that will help agriculture and other primary industries. No doubt at this stage the most imperative duty of the government of Canada is to preserve the reputation that this country gained during the last war. However, to do this the battle will have to be fought more at home than anywhere else.

We shall have to assure our population of the rational development of our national resources. We must make sure that the wheels of industry are kept humming. We must assure fair revenues to our primary industries and, above all, we must assure our people of jobs, as has been so well said this afternoon by the leader of the C.C.F. (Mr. Cold-well). Above all else, we must provide that high standard of living and the necessary social protection that will make for a satisfied population.

All of this will require expenditures and I think we all realize that this parliament is ready to approve such expenditures. I should like to repeat what the speech from the throne states with regard to taxation:

My ministers' proposals with respect to taxation measures will be disclosed in the budget.

As we all know, when the budget is announced it immediately becomes law. It is then rather late to make suggestions. I listened this afternoon to the remark of the leader of the opposition in answer to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Ilsley). I think we all must realize that with the contribution this country has made toward the winning of the war there will be a future need for taxation. It is of no use to leave the people under the impression that taxation will be greatly reduced because to do that we would be using our influence as members of parliament to mislead the people. Our problem in the future will be much more delicate than the problem we had to face during the war. After the war our problem will not be one that can be answered by expenditures; it will be a problem that must be solved through the ability of our citizens and the use of our natural resources.

Full View Permalink

June 15, 1925


It was a ground that was not urged when my right hon. friend made patriotic statements.

Full View Permalink

June 30, 1920


Let me make one remark the member for South York. He has got that bee in his bonnet-

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Full View Permalink

April 16, 1920


I will continue reading the article:

They were dealing with-he would put it quite frankly-with the Canadian Government which had no morals.

I was endeavouring to show that I did not agree with a statement as sweeping as that.

In a case in which he was concerned, as regarded irrigation, a provincial government controlled the water, and he could get no justice at all. The political machine was simply crashing the institution of which he was in charge. At last in desperation he came down to the political field ; he became chairman of a political association. They fought an election, and the Government were beaten. He mentioned that as an illustration of what they had to do in Canada if they wanted justice. An electric company out there-an English company-did what he would personally support; they sent a man over to the other side to manage the local legislature and he di<) so to such an extent that he " the speaker " told the legislature " We will never support you again. We put you in to do justly, and you have been bought."

Full View Permalink

April 2, 1918


It may be western, but it is not good English. I would, ask the minister to agree to. that change. I should not like to be a member of a legislature which talks about " shifting" dates.

Full View Permalink