Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prince Albert):
Mr. Speaker, I discussed this matter fully with Your Honour this morning, and I will review something of what actually took place. I moved a motion on March 7 commending what was being
March 19, 1979
done by President Carter in his courageous initiative in going personally to Egypt and Israel in his continuing endeavour to bring about peace. So that my motion would receive the unanimous support of the House, I called up the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Jamieson), who has done exceptionally well in that position. I am one who knows something about the difficulties of the position. I read to him what motion I had in mind. He said that he did not think he could second it. I had not asked him to, but T would have welcomed it.
I made the motion, or at least generalized what the motion would be. Mr. Speaker asked the House whether it would accept it, and it did. Then before I had the opportunity of saying in the regular course that I move, seconded by whoever it was, Mr. Speaker said that it was moved by me and seconded by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, who apparently bowed his head when the question arose as to who was seconding the motion. Your Honour accepted that, as naturally you would. However, being concerned on the basis of what the minister had said, that he could not second my motion because of international responsibilities-and I can understand that-I knew there was a change in that regard. By the time the House met ten minutes later, he indicated to Your Honour by his motion of the head that he seconded it. I was concerned about that because 1 felt he would be embarrassed by having been placed in the position of doing that, which he advised me or informed me he would have difficulty doing within the ambit of his position. I immediately rose and said I should point out that I moved the motion and it was seconded by the hon. member for Vegreville (Mr. Mazankow-ski).
When the blues came out that afternoon, and as soon as I noticed that there was no reference to what I had said in this regard, I pencilled the blues. I underline the fact that I have not seen them since, but no doubt Your Honour has seen them. But a mistake had been made because this motion of mine did not appear in Hansard. Time goes on and nothing whatever is done to clarify a situation which could have been explained very clearly and succinctly, as it was by Your Honour this morning in our discussion.
I betray no uncertainty in my stand when I say that through the years I have had the views of various Speakers. In 1957, when I became prime minister, I endeavoured to bring about the achievement of a Speaker who would be dissociated totally from any political party. I suggested to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) that if he would permit me to nominate him, I was sure it would be acceptable, but he decided otherwise.
As to yourself, sir, I have no hesitation in repeating what I have said on two occasions out of the House and publicly two or three months ago, that Your Honour has discharged your responsibilities as Speaker in so acceptable a manner that I hoped Your Honour could be induced to become the permanent Speaker. Now, that was my attitude and it is unchanged.
Having had no word at all concerning the reason my motion did not appear in Hansard-and in particular I emphasize
that in the blues 1 set out the exact wording-I could conclude only that something had taken place which would not be in keeping with parliamentary tradition as I understand it. Now,
I claim always to be right and sometimes wrong, but never on the side of wrongness. When there was nothing said about this and no answer given by anyone to the wording clearly set out in the blues, naturally I wondered what had happened.
I raised this matter on Friday in the course of dealing with some matters which concern me very deeply, the erosion of parliament. It is no longer the institution as I have known it through the years, with its ups and downs. But, sir, what has been happening in the last few months is that questions remain unanswered and questions run over a period of months simply because ministers of the government realize that if they answer those questions it will not put the government in good light. I have put two or three questions on the order paper, and I am not going to refer to them again. Then, sir, I raised this question.
If I had had the very comprehensive answer which you gave me this morning at any time in that period of nine days, there would have been no reference to this matter. If anyone who interprets what I said as in any way unjust to you, I can only say I never had such a probability or possibility in mind.
I love this institution of parliament, and when I see it being derogated from day after day, and ridiculed, I begin to wonder. The last few days have been an example. I was not present when the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) allegedly made this statement, but on Saturday night-and by that time I had gone home because at my age one does not stay out until 1.30 in the morning-a report came over the radio that he had said that the House would be dissolved. Well, now, either he meant that or he was kidding the Canadian people. Sir, I mentioned parliament. There is no more lonesome position for anyone to occupy than being the only living former prime minister of Canada, but on the basis of things like that people across the country are beginning to point out to me that I will have company.
Topic: ORAL QUESTION PERIOD