January 7, 1926



House of Commons Debates

Thursday, January 7, 1926.


This being the day on which parliament is convoked by proclamation of the Governor General for the despatch of business, and the members of the House being assembled: Arthur Beauchesne, Esquire, B.A., K.C., the Clerk of the House, read to the House a letter from the Governor General's Secretary, informing him that the Chief Justice of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy Governor General, would proceed to the Senate chamber on Thursday, the 7th of January, at 3 p.m., to open the session. A message was delivered by Major A. R. Thompson, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, as follows: Gentlemen of the House of Commons: His Honour the Deputy of His Excellency the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate. t Accordingly, the House went up to the Senate chamber, when the Speaker of the Senate said: Honourable Gentlemen of the Senate: Gentlemen of the House of Commons: I have it in command to let you know that His Excellency the Governor General does not see fit to declare the causes of his summoning the present Parliament of Canada until the Speaker of the House of Commons shall have been chosen according to law; but to-morrow, at the hour of three o'clock in the afternoon, His Excellency will declare the causes of calling this parliament. And the members being returned to the Commons chamber:



Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)


Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Leader of the House):

Mr. Beauchesne, we have just been reminded by the representative of His Excellency the Governor General that our first duty as members of the House in a new parliament is to select our presiding officer. It is an important duty, for our selection will influence very largely the character and the tone of the debates during the life of this parliament. Impartiality on the part of the Speaker is the supreme law of his office. It is essential that every member should have the conviction that when our colleague ascends the throne of the Speaker he ceases to be the man of a party and becomes the man of the whole

House. His functions require skill, tact, wisdom, and above all a courteous firmness. He must have a tolerant temper and a cool judgment to deal with the situations which arise when occasionally part}' spirit and political considerations stir the minds of many members. A vigilant keeper of the prerogatives of the House, he must preside over its deliberations with that calmness which a clear, patriotic vision gives to a good citizen.

We had the good fortune during the last parliament to have as Speaker a gentleman who possessed to a high degree all the qualifications I have just mentioned. The hon. member for Gaspe was indeed the type of an ideal Speaker. His task was at times an arduous one, but his exceptional ability, his personal dignity, his vast and valuable reading, his long years of training in the service of parliament and the country, his kindness and urbanity, his art of reconciling opposite views with tactful shrewdness, achieved wonders and gave him an authority which, indeed, was an asset to the parliamentary life of Canada.

It has not been usual in this country to follow the practice of the British House in appointing the same Speaker in successive parliaments. However, after confederation Hon. James Cockbum held the office during the first parliament which followed confederation until 1872. He was reappointed in 1873, under the government of Sir John Macdonald, and held office during the life of that parliament. In 1917 also, Mr. Speaker Rhodes, who had been appointed to the office during the previous parliament, was given a second term and occupied the chair until the dissolution of that parliament. Various prime ministers, including the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier, often expressed the view that we should adopt in Canada the practice of the British parliament, but, for some reason the change was not made. However, we have thought this an excellent opportunity to adopt, at least for this parliament, the rule which prevails in the Mother Country, because we had as Speaker in the last parliament, as I have already said, a gentleman who enjoys a very high reputation in Canada and whose selection will certainly be commended and approved by the people as a whole. I may add that I believe the appointment of the hon. member for Gaspe, will be a bond of union between the members of this House.

Election o/ Speaker

I therefore have the honour to move, seconded by Mr. Robb:

That the Honourable Rodolphe Lemieux, member for the electoral district of Gaspe, do take the chair of this House as Speaker.


Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Beauchesne, the

first duty of the House has not historically been one which has generated any discussion or any controversy. I do not recall that in the history of this parliament there has ever been a challenge of the choice for the position of Speaker. The nomination this afternoon is of course made in the same manner as has been our custom, by a member of the administration (Mr. Lapointe) who, in making it, speaks as a member for a constituency of this country and not as a member of the government. Parenthetically, I might say he could not speak as a member of the government, were that his duty, because there is no government. As yet, however, we sit in the House all as equals, and our duty is to take that step in organization constituted by the election of a Speaker. With what the hon. member has said as to the qualifications of the late Speaker of the House (Mr. Lemieux) I am in the fullest accord. Very gladly I testify to his impartiality, his dignity and his accomplishments in the exercise of the high functions of Speaker.

Reference has been made to this being a step towards the adoption in our country of what has been the practice in the Old Land- the permanency of a Speaker once elected through succeeding parliaments and through succeeding governments. I do not know that the occasion calls for comment on such practice. It is always referred to when a Speaker is elected, and never has been followed before in any emphatic sense; and though it is the desire of hon. gentlemen opposite that at this time it be followed, I am afraid I must say that I will have more confidence in their fidelity to the practice when it is put into effect in (the case of a Speaker who has been first selected by the other side of the House. Nothing now would be appropriate, save to express, so far as I am concerned individually -and I think I may say for those who are around me-entire satisfaction with the work already done as our presiding officer by the distinguished member for Gaspe, and to assure him that in the exercise of his duty in the forthcoming parliament, be it short or long, he will receive from us the same courtesy, the same fairness and deference to his high post, which he received in the last. Mention has been made that the duties of the Speaker in the late House were arduous. These duties are always arduous, and were no less so in the last House than on other -occasions-hut

[Mr Lapointe.1

only because of the close attention necessary to long and sometimes wearisome debates. I am sure all members of the House will concur when I say that in so far as these duties could be made less onerous, they were made so by members of all parties in the last parliament. No difficulty was placed in the way of the Speaker, and that character and level of dignity i>t is our purpose to preserve in this parliament as well.


Robert Forke


Mr. ROBERT FORKE (Brandon):

Perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words in reference to what has been said regarding the services rendered to this House by the distinguished member for Gaspe (Mr. Lemieux). I am happy to have this opportunity of testifying to my appreciation-and I am sure I speak as well for those by whom I am surrounded-of the dignity and unfailing courtesy with which he has filled the office of Speaker. I am sure all those who were in the last parliament will be able to testify to his absolute impartiality and to the fairness of all his rulings and decisions. I do not intend to discuss at any length the matter of electing a Speaker permanently. I am sure if we had speakers such as the hon. member for Gaspe we should be very loath to make any change at the beginning of a new parliament. I am perfect'y sure that, if we have the hon. member for Gaspe in the chair during the meetings of this parliament, all the decisions rendered will be characterized by justice and fair dealing. Coming to the last parliament as a stranger, I was impressed most strongly by the dignity of the Speaker in the House, and I carried home with me a great admiration for His Honour. I am glad indeed to support this resolution.


William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. W. F. MACLEAN (South York):

As one of the senior members of the House, I desire to add to what has already been said by hon. members who have pointed out that the late Speaker of the House, the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Lemieux), does possess in a marked degree the first requisite of a good Speaker, namely, a knowledge of the rules and practices of the House. That is a good thing for him and for us. But he has other high qualities which peculiarly fit him for the office of Speaker. In the first place, he keeps a check on himself as Speaker; he holds the Speaker of the House to the rules1 of the House as well as I have ever seen it done, and I have seen a good many Speakers. He also has the quality of fairness, Which is another essential. He has respect for the dignity of the office, and he forces every member in this Chamber to maintain the dignity of the House and the dignity of parliament.

Election oj Speaker

He stands firmly behind his decisions. Best of all he is equally competent in the rules and practice of the Speaker in our two languages-and if I might add even more so in the English practice and all former rulings. Those are all good qualities. I have watched the deve'opments in the office of Speaker in the Old Land, and I think the practice there is a good one. Once you have a good Speaker, keep him there, because good Speakers are hard to get. I agree with my hon. friend and leader (Mr. Meighen) that a better example would have been set if the rule had been put in practice in the case of a Speaker elected by members on the opposite side of the House. Certainly I know of nobody who possesses the qualifications for the position of Speaker to the extent that the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Lemieux) does. I shall be glad to see him elected unanimously, as I know he will be by this House, and whi'e this is fighting ground, we will all do our best to respect him, his office, and the rights and dignities of this House.

Finally, in these days there has arisen a new spirit called the spirit of Locarno. I do not know quite what it is, but already it has been effective in Ireland and I hope it will find its way into other countries where British parliamentary institutions prevail. In the last election we had just one little indication of it. It is this and it means a great deal. I do not know to whom the credit should be given, but we have had the wisdom in this House to ask the returning officers in this country to respect their office as a judicial office and have enacted that they shall hold that office so long as they properly perform their duties. I should like our returning officers to have a good deal of the spirit of the presiding officer of this House and to apply the principle throughout the country so that the same men, whether they be returning officers or deputy returning officers or clerks, may remain in office as long as they perform their duties properly.

The Clerk of the House declared the motion carried in the affirmative, nemine contradi-cente, and Honourable Rodolphe Lemieux, member for the electoral division of Gaspe, duly elected to the chair of the House.

Honourable Mr. Lemieux was conducted from his seat in the House to the Speaker's chair by Hon. Ernest Lapointe and Hon. J. A. Robb.

Mr. SPEAKER-ELECT said: Madame, fellow members of the House of Commons, I beg to return my humble acknowledgments to the House for the great honour you have been pleased to confer on me by choosing me to be your Speaker. After thirty years of 14011-lj

public service in the House of Commons it is particularly gratifying to me that I should deserve your confidence. In the discharge of my duties it will be my pride to maintain and preserve the traditions, privileges, usages and customs which, from time immemorial, have came to us from the Mother of Parliaments. I sincerely thank both sides of the House for their unanimity in selecting me as their chief officer. Let me assure the House that I shall always be inspired by that inscription that I read every day from my window on the monument of that great Scotch Canadian, Alexander Mackenzie: "Duty was his law; conscience his ruler."

Madame, mes chers collegues,-J'appreeie plus que je ne saurais le dire le grand hon-neur que vous me faites en m'elisant a la Presidence. Apres trente annees de service continu a la Chambre des Communes, il m'est particulierement agreable de savoir que j'ai merits votre confiance. Dans l'exercice de mes fonctions, j'aurai toujours a cceur de main-tenir et de preserver les traditions, les privileges, les us et coutumes qui de temps immemorial nous ont ete transmis par 1 'Alma Mater des Parlements. .

Je remeroie les deputes des deux cotes de la Chambre de leur unanimite en me choisissant comme leur president. Puisse-je m'inspirer toujours de cette inscription que je Ms de ma fenetre, sur le socle du monument de lTiono-rable Alexander Mackenzie, ancien premier ministre: "Le devoir etait sa loi; la conscience son guide".

Encore une fois merci, mes chers collegues.




Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)



I have the honour to inform the House that the Sergeant-at-Arms with my approval, has appointed Edouard Tas-chereau, Esquire, to be his deputy during the present session of parliament.

On motion of Mr. Lapointe the House adjourned at 3.40 p.m.

Friday, January 8, 1926.

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January 7, 1926