Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)
I do not understand, Mr Speaker, how the hon. minister proposes to make a statement of policy-
Subtopic: PROPOSED APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
On the Orders of the Day: Hon. GEORGE H. BOIVIN (Minister of Customs and Excise): Before the orders of the day are called I would like to say just one word concerning a matter of policy on the part of the government. I was not in the House last night when the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) began his remarks, but I see in Hansard to-day that he used the following words: Now it is stated by the Minister of Customs: I am prepared to frame up a 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. He goes on to offer other remarks, but those are the words I desire to refer to. I submit-
I do not understand, Mr Speaker, how the hon. minister proposes to make a statement of policy-
I do not intend to make
a statement of policy-
That is what the minister said.
-but a statement of the intentions of the government.
There is a time for that, and it is not now. This is no question of privilege. The hon. member cannot take exception to my statement. .
I am not taking exception
to it. I am agreeing entirely with the wording of that statement, and I merely wanted to say that the government is prepared, just as soon as-
I am in the hands of the
House. If Mr. Speaker says I have no right-
It is a ministerial statement.
This is not the time for a ministerial statement.
Before the orders of the
day are called,, it is a matter of usage for ministers of the crown to make a statement to the House.
All I desire to say, Mr. Speaker, is this, that just as soon as the right hon. leader of the opposition has concluded his remarks, I am prepared to meet him and confer with him and prepare a motion just as wide as he desires to have it. for the purpose of submitting it to the House to-morrow, with his consent, for the appointment of that special committee.
The House resumed from Tuesday, February 2, consideration of the motion of Hon. Mr. Laipointe that when the House adjourns immediately after the conclusion of the debate on the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, it stand adjourned until March 15, 1926. and the amendment thereto of Hon, Mr. Stevens.
Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leader of the Opposition):
Mr. Speaker, at the close of a few sentences early this morning between the hours of four and five o'clock, I moved the adjournment of the debate and by virtue of that motion, it having carried, I have the floor this afternoon. I am not resuming the floor, however, with any intention of making a prolonged speech, or any speech at all, upon the subject matter before the House. The remarks which I have already made on both of those motions stand, and very little need be said to supplement them now even in the light of the hurried action of the Minister of Customs and Excise (Mr. Boivin) in seeking, in anticipation of the debate, to rescue the government of which he is a member from the ^ humiliating position into which they floundered last night. It is still worthy of some comment that this House was kept here until early morning, with the result that hon. members are scarcely fit to-day to perform as they should the serious duties of this parliament, kept here for the reason that the government, upon threat of holding us up all night and to-day, have demanded from us as a condition of getting any sleep, that we surrender our rights under the rules of this House. This was done through the mouth of the leader of the government, and it was done after I had myself, as leader of this
[Mr. Lapointe. 1
party and assuming only to act for it, voluntarily proposed to surrender such of our rights as were essential to be surrendered to enable the debate then in progress to be continued day by day in priority to other matters before this House. It is true that after the warning which came, in the face of a division the narrowest perhaps, ever experienced in parliament, the government crawled and between four and five o'clock decided that they had better not face any more divisions, and came to the terms which we had proposed some five hours before. So that if hon. members feel that they have been denied that rest which nature demands, they know where the responsibility is.
The government now come forward and say: We are ready to appoint a committee. I do not know that there is very much in what the Minister of Customs and Excise says that was not included in his statement of last night, a statement which I welcomed in the course of my remarks and which I welcome now. We want a committee, that is all we want. We want its terms to be ample and complete, we want its powers to be sufficiently wide that it be enabled to proceed with its work without delay. I am quite prepared to accept the suggestion of the Minister of Customs and Excise (Mr. Boivin) to review the terms of his proposal. This debate in the meantime can continue, and1 if those terms are satisfactory, I am prepared to advise the mover of this amendment to omit such features as refer to the investigation wholly leaving only what remains, this party, of course, standing where it has stood from the beginning against any adjournment on an3' ground and especially against any adjournment on an admission of no ground at all.
It may have been the part of discretion, but it was not the part of courtesy to parliament, to propose one of the most important motions of this session, to propose a motion indeed unprecedented in the annals of this House, and through the course of an entire day, and almost an entire night, to insist that parliament pass it, without parliament being provided with one single reason, or one even admitted reason, by any member of the administration why the motion should pass. Into that position the government flung themselves and they rest there now. I hope the members of the administration, having had a little time for reflection, will repent of the stand they have taken, and that some one to-day will attempt to offer this House some explanation of the motion which the government has made, or attempt to offer some reason, or if
no Teason some excuse, why 245 members of parliament called here at the instance of the administration, called here in express words to transact the business of the country, should, soon after they are called, be sent back to their homes for six weeks while urgent public questions demand attention, while public problems demand solution, the whole to rest in abeyance between heaven and earth until the government repair their fortunes. Mention has been made of some of these. It was really amusing to watch the government, while the situation as respects coal in this country was brought to their attention-a situation which is more or less universal so far as Canada is concerned, and that certainly is serious. The government intend, apparently to solve the coal problem by waiting for the summer sun, just as they proposed to solve the problem of Senate reform by waiting the footsteps of the Angel of Death, just as through four languid years they have attempted to solve the problem of unemployment by waiting until the unemployed passed to another land. And while these matters are before us, we are calmly asked to return to our homes, making such explanations as we can to our constituents, while the government endeavour to get some members elected fit to stand before the people's representatives and present an array such as the government should.
I started yesterday to refer to the reason given by the leader of the Progressive party (Mr. Forke) for supporting the adjournment, and some one must have turned my attention from it. I am very sorry for the omission. His reason was this, and I heard it taken up by some one later on-I think it was the Minister of Customs and Excise- that we should not sit here any longer because if we did we might make speeches that would be used in Prince Albert. The leader of the Progressive party has very little confidence in himself. If he has no confidence in himself, and his devotion to his duties in this House, he should not ascribe the same frailty to other members of parliament. Why, through a large portion of the time of parliament by-elections are proceeding; it has been the course ever since confederation. Are we, because there is a by-election on, or because there are two, to abandon and abdicate our functions as a parliament for fear that somebody would make a speech that might be reported in a constituency? What harm would it do? It is the effort of members of parliament to make such speeches as, because of their logic and their force, appeal to the people of Canada. I never knew before that that was an offence; but to urge that
men might be inclined to do so as a reason for the surrender of this parliament to the exigencies of the government really is something that, coming from even so close an ally as the leader of the Progressive party, is enough to shock the conscience of the House.
The main motion now before us is whether we should abandon our work for six weeks until the matters of the government's motion are decided upon, agreed upon, or still left open for dispute. Until that stage is past this House waits, and waits impatiently, for the government's reason fo(r suggesting an adjournment of six weeks at this time.