March 2, 1926

CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

the purpose of which, so far as I could judge, was to crowd as many of the offences which he charged against us as could possibly be crowded into the compass of his own twenty minute speech. In the course of his preparation there was one resource which he very distinctly omitted. While emphasizing the dfetermination of his government, which he himself calls a trunk, a chunk and I know not what, to carry on by force of majority-which, by the way, is not its party's majority at all-he became very enthusiastic over the rule which he now invokes. Hon. members who were within parliament prior to four years ago will remember that, of all hou. gentlemen opposite in numbers then almost what they are to-day who condemned this rule, its principle, its initiation, its application, who condemned it day and night with bell,

book and candle, the most vociferous was himself the then hon. member for Kamouraska. He declared that the application ofj this rule was the gag and the disruption of a free parliament. As time is very precious I cannot quote much of what he said. If I could quote . it all, I would piece together from the speeches of the then hon. member for Kamouraska, the present Minister of Justice, a better speech than he delivered this afternoon but one wholly on the other side of the case. He said on the 16th April, 1913, when this very rule was under review:

I wish to enter my solemn protest on behalf of my constituents which I have the honour to represent in this House against this infamous proposal of the government.

This infamous proposal which he now adopts as his own in the House to-day:

When I hand over my mandate to .them, I will be in a position to say: "You are free citizens and you have returned a free representative; I was desirous of fulfilling niv duty, my whole duty; but it happened one day that brute foroe prevented me from doing so, I was gagged.

Who is the parent of brute force this afternoon? Who is the gagger now? He continued :

But, Mr. Speaker, .there still remains with us two sources of energy which cannot be gagged; faith in the righteousness of our cause and the nobleness of o>ur aims.

At another point he declared that by this rule parliament had debased itself and that mails or mail bags could be robbed, and all sorts . of 'crimes could be committed. The people's representatives could never intervene; the freedom of parliament was gone. The hon. member was not alone in that respect. The hon. member who now sits behind him stood up and in a voice fulll of pathos declared that he was sorry to have to admit that he rose for the last time in a free parliament, that parliament had been robbed of functions of which it had boasted for generations. There was scarcely an hon. gentleman 'opposite, indeed not one of those who were in the House at that time, who did not denounce the closure rule, denounce its principle, its application and everything about it, and declared that it was alien to British institutions. One after another rose in his place and said: "The Conservatives want to restrict trade and now also they want to restrict discussion. We are for freedom on both counts of the indictment, and in the cause of freedom we are prepared to suffer and die." The hon. member will recall those words from the mouth of the then member for Red Deer, who excelled in eloquence, if not in vituperation, those who represent the Liberal party

The Address-Mr. Meighen

to-day. Now they have abandoned both free trade and free discussion.

I do not object to closure. I believe the closure rule is essential in all free parliaments. This doctrine I preached in 1913, and this doctrine we on this side of the House sought to drive home to hon. members opposite. This doctrine they repudiated and they declared that parliament debased itself by the adoption of such a rule. Has any explanation come from the Minister of Justice this afternoon of his change of front? Is there anything left for this government to swallow of all its professions throughout all its history?

The closure rule has been open to adoption by hon. gentlemen opposite from the beginning. By the rules of the House we always loyally abide. By this rule, as by every other rule, we are prepared to abide. What is to be thought of a leader of the government who, afraid to use the rule, afraid to resort to perfectly proper remedies at his disposal, sits in his seat for days and weeks, and complains of members on this side of the House?

The hon. minister comes forward and tell3 us, "Oh, we just called parliament together on the 7th January for one purpose and only one purpose, namely, to find out which party had the confidence of parliament, whether the government of the day or some other party. Is that why they called parliament? Does toe leader of the government reaffirm now his statement that that is why he called parliament together? He told us when parliament met that such was the reason. Why then did he put a long succession of misrepresentation and deceit in the mouth of His Excellency in the form of an Address, if parliament was called together for the sole purpose of deciding who was supreme in parliament? If the minister now speaks the truth, that purpose should have been the sole constituent in the Speech of His Excellency presented to the House of Commons. That was what ought to have been the sole feature of the Speech, but the hon. gentleman knew that if he came honestly before this House and stated the purpose of calling the session he could not get a majority in this House. The hon. members knew that on the record of their four years they could not get a majority in the House, and the hon. Minister of Customs (Mr. Boivin) admitted this truth in one of the debates in the House this session. After all these blandishments have been held out by way of bribe and nothing else to hon. members to my left-matters that were entirely foreign to the purpose of calling parliament together-the Minister of Customs, speaking for the government, knowing well that on their record they could not be

sustained, looked across to hon. members to my left and said: "If you vote with us on

this vote of confidence you do not vote support of us or approval of us on our record." And furthermore, he declared that the government would not accept the vote as one of confidence entitling them to the rights of a government at all. By that assertion a farcical and artificial loophole was offered to hon. gentlemen, through which they could escape and through which they could, to the. satisfaction to the government at least, justify the support of the administration. By virtue of such conduct they have gathered round them the support, temporarily, I hope, of the hon. members to my left, and not one of those hon. members will rise in 'his place now and say that for any other reason on earth he supports this government at this time.

This government, the moment they faced a motion of confidence, declared that those who Would vote for them would not be voting confidence in them at all. On the assertion of the Minister of Customs on behalf of the government it was to be no vote of confidence. Can any member of the .government dare say that parliament has voted confidence in them to this day? The government is directing its efforts now to see that the House gets no opportunity to vote on the question of confidence. The government invokes what it declared for ten years to be an infamous closure rule, in order to make sure that parliament never gets an opportunity of voting want' of confidence. In this they have the co-operation" of at least certain hon. members to my left. In this they have the active "co-operation" of the hon member for Nelson (Mr. Bird). After resolutions expressive of what we believed to be fundamental faults in government policy were disposed of, this House was about to have presented to it, as hon. gentlemen knew, as the hon. member for Nelson knew, as every member of the Progressive party knew-

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

No, no.

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

The hon. gentleman did not

know any such thing.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The hon. gentleman

from Nelson did not know what?

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PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

Did not know what the right

hon. leader of the opposition -alleges.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The leader of the opposition has not stated yet what the hon. member for Nelson knew. He rose before I said it. This was part of the "co-operation." Through the press of this country we had informed this House -more than once that a vote

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l-MO COMMONS


The Address-Mr. Meighen of want of confidence would be moved, and even the name of the mover was given to the press. If hon. gentlemen did not know it, then they are using the word "know" in a sense never before understood in parliament. Right on the eve of the motion, when indeed the member who was about to make the motion was on his feet, the member for Nelson stood up and forced himself on the attention of the Speaker, in order that what we are told was the avowed purpose of calling parliament might be frustrated; in order that hon. gentlemen would not be in the position of having to vote yes or no on the question of confidence. The debate has been prolonged, so hon. members opposite complain. They say that as long ago as January 28 or early in Februa-ary I asked why the government did not get on with business. Certainly I did, and I have asked that question ever since. We on this side have appealed to the government to bring some business before parliament. We have offered, and the government has known that we have been prepared all these weeks, to come to a vote on the Address provided only there was some business for parliament to transact. The closure rule is all right; it is perfectly defensible, justifiable and necessary. But never in the history of any parliament was closure adopted for the purpose of giving its members a holiday. Those who stoutly resisted this rule when applied only for the purpose of learning the will of parliament on absolutely essential legislation, only for the purpose of getting the decision of this House on important legislation submitted by the government; those who fought day and night to prevent the application of closure for such purpose, come into parliament this afternoon and call upon all their own followers and their allies to the left to stand up and support closure in order that parliament may adjourn.


LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

Support parliament.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Support closure, in order that parliament may adjourn. The Minister of the Interior does not like the expression because it is the truth. Now what position is the government in?

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An hon. MEMBER:

A good position.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The government is in a good position just as a criminal about to be electrocuted is in a good position when he takes the chair.

Serious charges are to-day levelled against the administration. Serious charges are under review before a committee of this House; seri-

ous charges have been levelled across the floor in respect of malfeasance of office by this administration. And while one set of these charges are under review by a committee of parliament this government forces closure in order that the work of that committee may be rendered null and void. This parliament, at the instance of the government, denudes ' that committee of all power to enforce its decisions; it leaves the committee stranded and helpless without our moral support and at the mercy of witnesses who may defy its will. For this purpose closure is applied. Charges of defiance of parliament have been levelled against the administration supported by indisputable evidence, supported by their own orders in council-a defiance of parliament as illegal, as utterly indefensible, as brazen as anything that any government in any country in the world ever dared to perpetrate. These charges have not even met with a meed of attempted defence at the hands of any member of the government; and while the administration is in that position its leader rises and, without offering any defence whatever, calls upon a majority in this House, composed of his supporters and his allies, to vote parliament into an adjournment while they themselves proceed with the project which they have undertaken by means of these illegal steps and in contempt of the will of this House.

Is this parliament to sit idly by as a mere spectator while the government dips its hands into the treasury and takes out millions for the execution of projects which parliament has never authorized and does not authorize to-day? Is closure to be applied in order that the control of parliament over the treasury of this Dominion shall be ignored and be no longer effective? I want to know where the defenders of parliamentary rights are this afternoon. Where are those who once talked for days and nights about the "rights of parliament," who indeed have so deported themselves in this House that one would be led to believe a government should be not the initiator of legislation but a mere committee to carry out the specified will of parliament as expressed' in resolutions? Where are the defenders of parliamentary rights now? Hon. gentlemen to my left have sat by and voted for the administration while the administration, by devious, indefensible, illegal means, has defeated the will of parliament and defied its rights. Does anyone for a moment suggest that this government had any justification in the world for ignoring the parliament of Canada last session and projecting this Dominion into an enterprise in the district of Rouyn to the extent of $5,000,000?

The Address-Mr. Forke

If so, I should like to ask hon. gentlemen to my left, and hon. gentlemen opposite as well, this question: why did we debate in parliament, not through one session but two, projects precisely similar in character though of far less importance because far less in cost? Why did we debate them in this House, compelling them to run the vicissitudes of the House of Commons and the perils of the Senate, if the government could simply have turned their backs upon us and through orders in council, contrived by clever American lawyers, have devised a means of defying the Commons and Senate both?

The only defence in respect of this flagrant disregard of the rights of parliament comes from him who is all the time preaching that politics must not be dragged into the railways, but who seems to believe that the converse is entirely justifiable, that the railways may at his single will be dragged into politics. Is it to be said that because some lawyer is able to devise a scheme whereby parliament may be ignored, whereby a bond issue or a construction contract can be labelled a lease, then a government guilty of yielding to a proposal of that kind is nevertheless entitled not only to the support of this House but to closure in order that its desires may be gratified? Yet such is the position in which this government finds itself this afternoon. Parliament, at its instance, is voting closure for the purpose of an adjournment; closure for the purpose of giving the House a holiday; closure for the purpose of robbing the most important committee which has sat here for twenty years of all power to do its duty; closure for the purpose of shielding the government from attack on charges of defiance of parliament as grave as ever were laid at the door of any administration. For these purposes closure is invoked this afternoon. The majority will of course impose its rude will over the minority. But this government will pay a penalty not only for its tragic record in the past but for its blunder of today.

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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. ROBERT FORKE (Brandon):

I do

not intend to occupy the full twenty minutes which has been allotted to hon. members who wish to speak, but I desire to say a few words in regard to the position which the Progressive party holds in this House. We have sat here patiently listening to long, shall I say sometimes tiresome, speeches-I think I may justly describe them thus-and we have heard a great many things said about the Progressives. We have been told what the Progressives have done, what they have not done, and what

they are likely to do in the future. I must say that I am astonished whenever I hear the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) speaking of co-operation with the Progressives. How can hon. gentlemen expect any co-operation with the group in this part of the House in view of the language which they have used of hon. members in this corner during the past month? Let them read Hansard for that short time and see the terms which hon. gentlemen to my right have applied to the Progressive members during this debate. I will give you a few samples. I listened last night to a wonderful speech from an erudite member representing a cultured constituency in New Ontario.

Let me quote a few sentences from Hansard which he uttered last night:

Their refusal or inability to sit in with the Conservatives was due to what I should term their urban complex, meaning by this a more or less morbid pathological mental process resultant mostly from that diffidence, that timidity, that self-complacency, that parsimony, that narrowness, that simplicity, incident to rusticity.

This is terrible, Mr. Speaker! It is the worst that has ever been said about us. But he is young yet; he will learn better after a while. I read in a newspaper that the Minister of Railways (Mr. Dunning) in his youth drove a team of oxen, and was so close to agriculture that he even used language now and again that would certainly not be considered parliamentary by yourself, Sir. I do not know what we may expect from agriculture when we get a minister of railways in his seat who is imbued with "that narrowness and that simplicity incident to rusticity." I am curious to know what large city in his constituency the hon. member comes from. I must confess I do not know very much about that part of the country, but I should be surprised to learn that there are as yet any very large urban centres there. However, this is by the way. I did not intend to refer to it, but I was asked by hon. friends to my right to give quotations of remarks about the Progressives that had been made' by representative Conservatives.

Now, what is the situation? The members of this House did not create it; the people of Canada created it. I have heard members on both sides blame the third party for the situation which confronted us at the opening of parliament. I may be wrong, but I make the guess that had there been no third party the situation would not have been any better than it is, because I am inclined to believe that two parties would have been so evenly balanced that it would have been very difficult for either to carry on the business of the country. Hon. gentlemen to my right have

The Address-Mr. Forke

spoken as if they had a majority in this House. They have even said that the government had no right to function. Well, if that is so, which party had the right to take office? That is what I should like to know. Hon. members to my right apparently take it for granted that they have a right to form the government. But they have not a majority of this House. What would have happened had the government been defeated? Could the right hon. leader of the opposition have carried on?

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. FORKE:

We know perfectly well he

could not. He would have had to appeal to the country. Can any member of this House say to-day what would happen if we had a new election?

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Yes.

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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. FORKE:

They think they know, but

they do not know. I prophesy to my friends fiom the province of Manitoba that they will never have seven Conservatives from that province within a generation.

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CON
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Sit down.

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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. FORKE:

I know the peculiarities of

the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Mullins). If he will come up to my room after a while I will try to convince him that I am right.

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March 2, 1926