Edward Walter NESBITT

NESBITT, Edward Walter

Personal Data

Oxford North (Ontario)
Birth Date
November 23, 1859
Deceased Date
August 28, 1942
insurance agent, real estate agent

Parliamentary Career

October 26, 1908 - July 29, 1911
  Oxford North (Ontario)
September 21, 1911 - October 6, 1917
  Oxford North (Ontario)
December 17, 1917 - October 4, 1921
  Oxford North (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 521 of 522)

March 15, 1909


My point of order is that the hon. gentleman is not speaking to the resolution before the House.

Topic:   $531,000,000 COMMONS
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March 15, 1909


But what has rural mail delivery to do with it?

Topic:   $531,000,000 COMMONS
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March 15, 1909


What has rural free mail delivery to do with the question before the House?

Topic:   $531,000,000 COMMONS
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February 22, 1909

Mr. E. W. NESBITT (North Oxford).

In considering the resolution moved by the

hon. member for Lincoln (Mr. Lancaster) I desire to consider for a moment the necessity of a second chamber in this country. We know that frequently agitations arise in the country and are carried on, both by newspapers and by the people, that are of sufficient weight to influence members of this House, and to be embodied in legislation. There is therefore the possibility of hasty legislation, and that is I presume, why the fathers of confederation provided for a second chamber. I have carefully searched to see whether there is any instance, either under a constitutional monarehial or a republican form of government, where a second chamber does not exist, and I have failed to find any such instance. Now, the first question we have to decide is whether we require a second chamber or not. These popular agitations I have spoken of are usually not carefully thought out, thev are often found to have no sound foundation, and if it were not for a second chamber the probabilities are that the members of this House might pass a measure in obedience to a spasmodic agitation that would not really be in the public interest. Of course we do the best we can, but we are all liable to be swayed by the popular opinion of the moment In the comments I propose to make i.WT-Sk say nothing in disparagement of the House of which I am a humble member. At the same time, we must not pride ourselves on knowing everything, we must not be too sure that we are the only people that are_ capable of passing wise and proper legislation.

The hon. member for Lincoln has told us that even if we did abolish the second chamber, that is the Senate, the people would _ still have recourse to the King in Council. Now I am not much of a lawyer, in fact none at all; but at the same time, does not the King in Council perform the same functions as our Governor General in Council? After all, is the King in Council not the Imperial Cabinet, like our Governor in Council ? I think it was Chief Justice Marshall of the United States supreme court, who, in comparing the British constitution with the constitution of the United States, said that the reason why the United States constitution would last longer than the English constitution was that under the United States constitution every person was protected bv law, that no person or corporation could be interfered with except by due process of law, and due compensation whereas under the British constitution parliament was supreme, and could do anything. That want of protection that the United States constitution has, as against our constitution, is a very serious fact. If parliament is supreme then it is all the more necessary that we should have a second chamber for the protection of the individual or corporation. The hon. mem-

ber who just sat down said that we had recourse to the King in Council, but, even if it were not true that parliament is supreme, how long would we, as Canadians, submit to our legislation being interfered with by the King in Council ? Would not that raise a very dangerous question in this country ? I do not think that we can consider that because it would be too dangerous an expedient to try.

Why is this cry raised against the Senate? I think that nearly all those sayings we hear against the Senate are largely thoughtless. People do not consider after all of whom the Senate is composed and what the Senators do. You remember that all sorts of quips and quibbles are indulged in with respect to the mother-in-law, and likewise, all the quips and_ quibbles are in order as far as the Senate is concerned. I, myself, when I came here, was prejudiced against the Senate because I had always heard that it was no good, that it was useless. Some people call the senators old ladies. If they were supposed to be good old ladies I do not know of anything that could illustrate their perfection of character more than to make use of that term with regard to them, because, if there is any one who represents all that is desirable in humanity it is a good old lady. But some people may say that they are not good old ladies. I remember very well the story of the Yankee who came over here to visit a friend belonging to the House of Commons. The friend was showing him the curiosities of this Ottawa of ours, and he said: Now, I will show you our great system of wax works, and he showed him the Senate. He said: This is the most wonderful thing you ever saw: vou would actually think they were alive. The Yankee stood looking at them for a while_ and then said: Upon my word, you are right; they are wonderful; I would have thought they were alive. I came here imbued with just such thoughts as I have referred to, but as I met members of the Senate singly and collectively I began to ponder over the question as to whether there was any basis of truth in the criticism of the Senate. When you come to consider the personnel of the Senate what do you find? Somd .people say, again reverting to the old lady story, that they are too old. I am one of those who have always had a profound respect for men of older age than myself. I have got to an age when I consider how little I know and how much less I knew twenty-five years ago. I have great respect indeed for men of older age. What is the use of growing old inyears if we do not grow old in

knowledge? I do not wish to make distinction as between members of the Senate, but, for the purpose of showing you the kind of men who belong to the Senate I propose to name a few of them. Take Mr. NESBITT.

Senator Cox, Senator Ross, Senator Dan-durand, Senator Jones, Senator McKay of Montreal, Senator Wm. Gibson, Senator Kerr, Senator Edwards, Senator Jaffrey and Senator Cartwright as illustrations. Could we pick out in this House, which wants to rule everything, names as honoured in this country as are those which I have mentioned? I think not. Supposing that one of us desired to organize a great corporation and wanted to select directors for the same; do you think that we would go to any other place in Canada, or do you think we would come to this House for our directors? Do you think we would go anywhere in Canada and find a board of directors as capable as could be taken from that Senate of ours? When you talk about abolishing the Senate remember what it is composed ef. I have great respect for men of older age, but in addition to that these are men who have had experience. The mere fact of introducing this resoluj tion is a reflection upon this House itself for the simple reason that a great many members of the Senate were educated m this House and they are men who grew old in experience in this House. It is a reflection upon the House itself to say that men could grow old in experience here and still know more than when they entered it. I hope that in a year or two from now I will know more than I do to-day, because I realize how little I know now. As to appointments to the Senate, I have no quarrel with the present system. I do not want to reform the appointments to the Senate particularly. It is said that it is politically appointed. Why should it not be.

I ask you in all fairness, why should it not be? When you say it is politically appointed, and you mean that the par y in power appoint its members from their political followers, why should they not? When you come to look over the field you want a man who is capable, a man who has merit. Do you not _ suppose you could find a man who is qualified and a man who has merit in the Liberal ranks as well as in the Conservative ranks? Supposing the situation were changed and our hon. friends on the other side of the House were in power; do you mean to tell me that they could not find just as well qualified men in the Conservative ranks as in the Liberal ranks? I think they could. There is no great difference after all between the abilities of men in - either party. I do quarrel with the appointments to the Senate for purely political rewards. That is a political exchange, as it were, for party service rendered without regard to the qualification and merit of the individual. I do quarrel with that type of appointment, but that is not what I call a political appointment because the political appointments I mean are those that I have just described. I do

not see why we should change the source of appointment.

As to the Senate itself I quite agree with the hon. member for Lincoln when he says that they should not take these long adjournments. I quite agree that they should attend to their duties. I think also_ there are many things they could initiate in the Senate. They could initiate one Bill, for instance, that we want very badly in this country, and it is a general corporation Act, a general company Act, and where could it be better initiated than in thel Senate composed of men such as I have named? They could also, I think, initiate a general bankruptcy Act for which there is great need in Canada. They could devote a great deal of time to work of that kind in place of taking a holiday during the time they are not engaged with bush ness sent to them by this House.

But I think this House could take an example from the Senate with great advantage. This Senate of ours, which we are so fond of abolishing, would go through more work in a day than we would in a week. They would revise the work we do in a week in a day or half a day. Why is that ? Because of the irrelevant questions and discussions in this House and its committees, because of the practice of talking to constituencies and to the newspapers in this House. That the senators do not require to do and that fact strengthens my objection to an elected Senate. An elected Senate would be no better than ourselves in this respect, and surely there is a great deal of talk here that we could do without and still obtain just as good results. The Senate take up a question as the board of directors of a business corporation would. How lone would it take us to pass much of our legislation if we went at it like business men, like a board of directors worthy of the name ? We would find out weaknesses in any proposed legislation and strike them out in a moment.

Another reason why I oppose the abolition of the Senate is that I believe _ it to be a protection not only of the minority in this country but sometimes the majority from themselves. There is always a danger of sensational legislation being_ rushed through this House. I do not claim to be any better than any one else, but I believe that measures are adopted by the Commons that might be very wisely opposed by the Senate. There has been no serious complaint against the Senate for blocking legislation that has passed through this House. I do not think that they have done any harm in forty years of our national existence, but I believe they have done a great deal of good. The Senate is composed of very capable men, and I believe they should reform themselves to the extent of doing more work which they could probably do more capably than we could in this House.

I think the abolition of the Senate would he a national calamity and I for one will not vote for it. If any little reforms are required in the Senate, such as a change in the method of appointment, we have in our beloved leader the Prime Minister (Rt. hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier) a man strong enough, capable enough and courageous enough to bring them about.

Mr. 0. TURGEON (Gloucester). Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to follow the hon. gentleman from Lincoln (Mr. Lancaster) in the arguments which he has advanced in support of his motion for the abolition of the Senate. I have admired the language and the tone of his address and would have expected, knowing as I know the strong convictions which the hon. gentleman always displays in this House, that he would have made perhaps stronger arguments or used stronger language in his endeavour to abolish one part of the representation of the Canadian people in the Canadian parliament. I was surprised that he did not dwell more strongly upon the usefulness of the Senate as a protection for the smaller provinces and for minorities in this country. I lay stress upon this point to show my people and this House my consistency to the expressions I have already uttered in reference to the British North American Act. Last session I expressed my profound admiration for our constitution, and I uttered the hope that its fundamental principles would never be altered, more particularly in reference to representation in this parliament which I believe to be the base upon which this parliament has been erected and without which there would have been no confederation. When I consider the position of the Senate in reference to the protection of minorities and of smaller bodies in the Dominion of Canada I realize that it has mad.e possible the confederation of which we are so proud, and the parliament of Canada, both House of Commons and Senate, of which every Canadian is proud. If we -were to abolish the Senate to-day the people of the smaller provinces as well as the minorities would not have the representation in parliament to which they have been given the right by the fact of their coming into federation. If it had been proposed that the parliament of Canada should consist of the House of Commons alone with representation by population, confederation could never have been brought about. The representatives of the smaller provinces of the east, the maritime provinces, would never have consented to the framing of the constitution upon such a principle. They would not have found in one House with representation by population, the protection to which they are entitled, owing to the preponderance of the west, of which they were as sure then as we are now and therefore we must retain, for the protection


of the smaller provinces, smaller bodies and minorities, the Senate which to a great extent has been created for that purpose, or at least so framed as to meet that particular purpose with others.

I do not say it has been created simply and solely for the minorities, but I do say that the constitution of the House of Commons, such as it is to-day, would not have been accepted by the people of the smaller provinces had not the fathers of confederation given them protection in the Senate, against the dangers by which they would be faced in the future in the House of Commons, and a guarantee of permanency of this constitution in the future. The representation of the Canadian people is not solely representation in the House of Commons or in the Senate, it is a dual representation connected together by the terms of confederation in which the minorities or bodies not able to get the necessary protection in this House have been shown and told they would get it in the Senate. The fathers of confederation, Sir Leonard Tilley himself, who represented New Brunswick and brought it into confederation on the condition that the Intercolonial Bailway was built, would have come back from Quebec and London without the Intercolonial Eailway if representation by population had not been qualified by equal representation in the Senate.

My hon. friend from Lincoln says that we are not better represented in the Senate than we are in the House of Commons, but it is a fact that the smaller provinces have to-day as much representation in the Senate as the larger provinces. The fathers of confederation gave the maritime provinces twenty-four senators, the same number that they gave to the large province of Ontario and to the province of Quebec; and if you abolished the Senate you would deprive the smaller provinces and the minorities in this country of that representation and protection. For that reason, and that reason alone, I would stand firm for the retention of the Senate. I would not say that some reform of the Senate may not be necessary, but the reforms that are generally proposed by the newspapers and by a certain section of public opinion do not commend themselves to my mind. It has been proposed that the Senate should be made elective rather than appointive. I believe the appointive system is the only system which can properly and judicially express the desires and sentiments of the fathers of confederation. It is the only system to ensure having in the Senate a body of men in whom sentiments of wisdom and charity can be found combined. Make the Senate elective and you will cal] upon the people to have elections every two or three years instead of every three or four years as at present. The views of the Senate would then be subject to the Mr. TURGEON.

opinions and sentiments of their electors as well as the views of the House of Commons. We could not then expect from the-senators the same wisdom and mature judgment that we can from men who are not subject to the sentiments of their constituents. My hon. friend seems to have sufficient confidence in his own judgment to propose a radical change in our constitution, but I consider, Mr. Speaker, that the constitution that governs the Canadian people to-day is the result of greater wisdom than the constitutions of many nations with much greater population, and I say again that if you make the Senate elective you do not meet the wishes nor the designs of the fathers of confederation, nor do you meet the requirements of the country for the future.

Again, in making the Senate elective, you do away with the very object the fathers of confederation had in view in establishing the Senate, namely, the protection of minorities and of the smaller provinces. It would be difficult, in an elective Senate, to obtain representation of the rights of minorities by the very men who could best represent those rights; whereas under the present system that power and responsibility rests upon the government. It seems to me that it is better to leave that burden upon the government of the day than it would be to place it upon the people, and thus avoid cause for the discussion of questions of race and religion during the elections when the people should be called upon to elect the best men as their representatives without consideration of such questions. It would perhaps be impossible under the elective system to secure a Senate in that happy position with reference to the representation of minorities that our present Senate has reached. I remember some years ago reading a very happy speech of Sir Eichard Cartwright, Minister of Trade and Commerce, in which he spoke of the representation of minorities, and explained that up to that moment the province of Ontario, with a large Catholic minority, had never been able to send to the House of Commons a sufficient number of members to represent that minority with dignity and justice, but that the government, "by means of their appointive power, had been able to give the Catholic minority of the province of Ontario that representation, and, therefore, that protection to which they were entitled in the Senate. If you made the Senate elective, the minority in Ontario and the minorities in other provinces, as well as the smaller provinces of the Dominion, would be deprived of the representation and the protection which we are now striving to maintain. I do not wish to occupy the time of this House further than simply to make that point, that if only for the protection of the smaller provinces and the minorities in this

country, I shall certainly have to vote against the resolution of my hon. friend.

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January 27, 1909

Mr. E. W. NESBITT (North Oxford).

Mr. Speaker, it is more on account of the spirit of the motion of my hon. friend from Grenville (Mr. J. D. Reid) and of the speeches by which it has been supported than of the motion itself, that I personally refuse to accept it, because I cannot see 8

that it makes any great difference whether one, two or three persons are present when a tender is opened. The motion and the speeches in support of it have been inclined to cast a reflection on the ministers of this government which personally I do not believe is deserved. It has struck me as peculiar in listening to the speeches this afternoon that there should be such an amount of suspicion in the parts of the country from which our Conservative friends come, because this is the first time in my life that I have heard of any suspicion that the tenders were not properly opened or that contracts were not properly awarded by this government. I very well remember a tender for a public building during the time of my friend the late Hon. James Sutherland, when Mr. Sutherland as Minister of Pubic Works went so far as to put up the money for the deposit for one of the tenderers, a friend of his and of mine, at the same time telling him most distinctly that although he was a very strong personal friend of his, and although he thought a great deal of him his tender would have to be the lowest or he would have no chance of getting a contract. It was only ^ this afternoon that I heard that our ministers are so dishonest that the contracts are not properly awarded. I am sure that the suggestion cannot be well founded, that it is entirely a matter of imagination. I have in my private and semi-public life often heard people accused of graft or of having some hidden reason for doing certain things, although I knew personally and absolutely that there was no ground for the charge except the mean suspicion of the mind of the person who originated it.

I can see nothing in the argument that the minister himself should not be one of those present at the opening of tenders, because under the constitution, so far as I have read it, the matter has to go to the minister eventually and he might just as well open the tender as have his secretary or some other subordinate official do so. After the receiving of tenders, the mere sealing and locking up of the document is of little importance, although I have no doubt they are sealed when they are put away. After all it is a matter of trust. If the minister and one of his subordinates wanted to be dishonest, the presence of the minister at the opening of the tenders would not greatly increase their opportunities of doing so. No matter what safeguard we adopt the tenders will have to be sent to some one. Perhaps they might be sent in some conspicuous manner, by a balloon or something of that kind so that every one could see them, but as it is essentially a matter of trust, I do not see what advantage would be gained by that.

What difference does it make whether there are one or two or three of the minister's assistants present at the opening of tenders? If the minister were dishonest he

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