February 2, 1926

CON

James Kidd Flemming

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. K. FLEMMING (Victoria-Carle-ton):

Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of grave concern to members of this House who have come here to transact public business to find that within less than a month a proposal is made by the government that parliament should adjourn for six weeks. I object to the motion, Sir, on the ground that it is a serious inconvenience to members that they ought not to be subjected to. There is no reason or justification given, in fact none can be given why such an adjournment should be taken. It has been pointed out in the strongest and most conclusive manner that there is plenty of material in the Speech from the

Adjourrtlnent-Customs Inquiry

Throne to be dealt with until the necessary repairs are made in the government structure in order that the balance of the business before parliament may be proceeded with.

I object to this proposal upon another ground, and that is that it will incur a very substantial increase in the expenses of this session of parliament, fit has been said during this debate that that extra expense would amount to a quarter of a million dollars, and someone has said that it would be. more than that. I am not going to say whether or not those figures are correct, but I do know, as every member of this House knows, that it means tens of-thousands of dollars more because of this proposed adjournment for which no substantial reason is given. The government of the day has come to this House; parliament has been opened in the usual manner by the speech of His Excellency the Governor General; a bill of fare has been presented and parliament is here ready to deal with the several matters which have been mentioned. Why should there be an additional delay? We find that one of the paragraphs of the Speech from the Throne states:

Every effort will be made further to reduce expenditures.

That is the word of the government, put into the mouth of His Excellency, and yet they bring forward a proposal which means the addition of tens of thousands of dollars to the sessional expenditure. That is not making every reasonable effort to reduce expenditures. That is making an unnecessary effort to increase it, and I want to point out to this government and to this House that every additional dollar of expenditure is a dollar which must be paid by the taxpayers of this country. Those are the people affected, and this six weeks' adjournment will entail an expense of S200.000 or SHOO.000 which will have to be paid by our taxpayers. There is enough of this government here at present with sufficient ability to carry on for two or four or six weeks with no great harm being done. The amendment which has been proposed to this motion certainly adds strength to our contention that there should be no adjournment. An hon. member has made charges and asked that a committee of this House be appointed, and the minister of the department most directly concerned agrees to the appointment of that committee. Is it now the proposal of the government that they wait for six weeks, and then go on with the investigation? That does not seem reasonable. It seems to me that in view of the serious nature of the charges preferred by the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, there should be no adjournment. We are here representing the people, having promised that we would serve their interests. Are we doing that when we consent to an adjournment of this House which will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, when there is no reasonable justification to be advanced for such an adjournment? We are here in our places with such ability as we have, and it is our bounden duty to conduct the business placed before us in the Speech from the Throne to the best of our ability and in the best interests of the country.

I will not further delay the House, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to express myself as having this conviction. When the first motion was proposed I felt that we ought not to have an adjournment, and since the amendment, I feel even more strongly on that question.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

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

Mr. Speaker, the conduct of the government becomes more inexplicable as the hour advances. They seem to have laid it down as a dictum in this House that no adjournment is to be secured, and that hon. members are to be compelled to labour through the night unless they are prepared to surrender to their excellencies the government the rights enjoyed under the rules of parliament. They demand as a term upon which we may be allowed to go home at a reasonable hour, or within hours of a reasonable hour, that we surrender the rights which are ours. Hon. members support them in this dictatorial, autocratic conduct. I wonder how the government got that right so to dictate terms. Before they attempted to exercise that right I said in this House and declared to the government that we did not propose to take advantage of the one thing they appeared to fear; that we were quite prepared to go on with the debate as we went on with the first debate in this House. My assurance was refused by the leader of the government, who said that he declined to accept it, and he has compelled this House to go on until four o'clock in the morning in the fourth week of the session of parliament. The conduct of the government becomes more amazing, more indefensible, and more inexcusable as the hour advances. No one can say a word in defence of that policy.

In the course of this debate it was argued that we did not treat them courteously, because we did not give them a copy of our amendment. This comes well from a government whose first act this session, after having been furnished with a copy of our motion, was to refuse to furnish us with notice of a step

Adjournment-Customs Inquiry

they proposed to take in violation of the rules of parliament. But the government knows- it is spread out upon the records of to-day- that this opposition never intended to move any amendment at all. This opposition moved the adjournment of the debate after it had proceeded to the regular hour. That motion was defeated at the instance of the government. That shows that we did not intend to move any amendment. We were forced to go on because the government refused to adjourn. The government compelled this House to go on to an unspeakable hour in order that they might exercise an autocratic dictatorial control over parliament. The Minister of Customs (Mr. Boivin) said "Oh, you wanted to adjourn so you would have the last speech." I have no right to the last speech in this House, as every member opposite knows. Any member opposite could have risen the moment I resumed my seat and been seen by you, Mr. Speaker, and you certainly would have seen him. So I say that all these things advanced not only are unworthy of the name of reasons, but are unworthy to be called excuses.

During the course of the debate serious charges were made against the administration of a special department of this government, the most serious charges I have ever heard in my twenty years' experience in parliament. Answer is made by a minister who gives his story of two or three of these transactions.

I know nothing of the facts on the one side or on the other, but I do know that serious charges made on the floor of parliament are not met by the mere answer of a minister. They can be met only by evidence upon oath, and the minister does well to say that he is prepared that there shall be an investigation, and an investigation on oath.

While I know nothing of the facts, I must be permitted to say that if the minister's reasoning as respects them is of no more value than his reasoning in respect of the motion for adjournment which is now the principal thing before this House, then I fear they will not stand very much in the way of disclosure before a committee of parliament. He comes to this House, the first minister who rose and ventured to give even a suggestion of a reason why we should abandon our work, dissipate our energies, spread ourselves over the country and forsake the duties we are here sworn to perform. The first suggestion of a reason is this: Oh, Mr. Meighen told us a little while ago that we were no good, and that we had no right to function, and now he has no right to stand up and say anything else. I wonder did the

ministers ever hear a collection of words so illogical, I almost said so stupidly indefensible, as those. Certainly I stated they had no right to function, and I asked this House to decide they had no right to function. I asked this House, which alone can decide, whether they longer should be allowed to retain office or not; I asked this House to declare that they should not retain office. The House decided against me. The House decided, at the instance of the government, that they should retain office and operate and function as a government and as a committee of parliament in this House. Having asserted that right, having assumed that responsibility, it is now their duty to go on and discharge that responsibility, and that is all that is asked oif the House. Certainly if our motion had carried they never would have got to the stage where they are now. Our motion was defeated at their instance. By its defeat they assumed a responsibility from which now they shrink, and from which now they ask this House to allow them to escape. That is the only suggestion of a reason advanced by the Minister of Customs, and he starts to crow because I told him I was defeated by a majority of this House. I wonder why that is a subject of boasting. Certainly I was defeated by a majority of this House. What is the reason, what is the inference from that as respects which hon. gentlemen behind him commence to applaud? I do not know what they mean. The majority decided against me certainly. The majority had a right to decide. I think the majority decided wrongly, but the decision stands as the record of parliament, and as a member of this House by that decision I am compelled to abide. Now I ask the government to abide by it too. The government called for the decision; I asked the House to decide against them. They called upon this House to declare they were a fit government, ready to function in parliament, ready to bring in legislation and assume all the responsibilities of a government in this House. Upon their appeal the issue was decided. Now with what shadow of right can they come before us and say: We are not in shape to do it; our wings are clipped, our head is off, our arms dismembered, our legs are gone; let us go back to the country for repairs. Did my hon. friends to my left 'hear from the Minister of Customs any reasons which appealed to them? Even he, the most resourceful of all, even he, one of the quickest in debate of all the members of this assembly, had to sit down without a suggestion of a reason to any member why the main motion before this House should be supported.

Adjournment-Customs Inquiry

Now it is stated by the Minister of Customs:

I am prepared to frame up a motion and to

submit this question to a committee of parliament. Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to see the motion, and I give the Minister of Customs warning now that it will have to be worded more amply than the amendment he read with some show of pride before this House just a few hours ago. If the motion is ample enough, wide enough, that will satisfy me so far as the investigation is concerned. It is not a grievance we are after; it is an investigation we are after. An investigation granted in sufficiently wide terms we accept, and we are not particular whether the committee be composed of seven or nine members. We will let the government decide that, but I want to see the terms of it first.

My appeal now to this House is this: We are being denied our just rights as members of parliament by a government asserting autocratically and dictatorially the terms on which this House shall adjourn at the regular hour of adjournment. We are held here until after four in the morning merely because, having foresworn many of our rights under the rules, we have not gone quite far enough to satisfy the leader of the government of the hour. I do not wonder that hon. members are beginning to realize just the position they are being put in by this insatiate appetite of this government. I do not wonder they are beginning to turn upon those who have so long misled them, and for the life of me I cannot understand how any man with the blood of fair play in his veins can support the government in one single action that it has taken from the opening of the House until this hour. Mr. Speaker, I move the adjournment of the debate.

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

That applies, Mr. Speaker, only to a motion to adjourn the House. There could not be any intermediate proceeding between two motions to adjourn the debate because there cannot be anything else but that debate. If you, Mr. Speaker, will look up Beauchesne you will observe that the comment upon the rule clearly indicates it can be applicable only to a motion to adjourn the House. I have not the page before me at the moment, but I read it two or three hours ago.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

It will be by consent, Mr. Speaker. It may surprise you, Sir, after hearing the lecture the right hon. gentleman has served on us, to hear that we were in agreement before he spoke last, and that agreement having been entered into I think

my right hon. friend might have accepted it gracefully instead of preaching us a sermon for half an hour, and a sermon to which I cannot answer because the debate will be adjourned.

I agree to the adjournment of the debate and with the consent of the House move that immediately after its adjournment the motion respecting the adjournment of the House until March 15th next shall have precedence over the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne from day to day until disposed of.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I understand there is no objection to the adjournment of the debate?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The government agree to the adjournment of the debate. I agree to the motion. It is the suggestion, indeed, that I made myself about five hours ago.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Then I have only to say "Carried" to the first motion.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned.

Mr. SPF1AKER: Now I will put the other motion: It is moved by Mr. Lapointe, seconded by Mr. Robb, that the motion respecting the adjournment of the House until March 15th next shall have precedence over the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne from day to day until disposed of. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motion for precedence (Mr. Lapointe) agreed to.

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ADJOURNMENT-WEDNESDAY SITTING

LIB

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

Liberal

Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Leader of the House):

I move that the House do now adjourn, and that when it adjourns it shall stand adjourned until to-day at three o'clock in the afternoon.

Motion agreed to and the House adjourned at 4.02 a.m. (Wednesday).

Wednesday, February 3, 1926

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February 2, 1926