February 6, 1936

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Permanent employees?

Topic:   ELECTION OF SPEAKER
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

I mean sessional employees.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That is another thing.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

I mean the organization of the work of the session by a staff-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I admitted that.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

-to be appointed.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I admitted that.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

Of course, the Speaker to be elected is not yet appointed. But, as my right hon. friend has said, the press usually mentions his name, and when that name is the name of a man who is so well qualified as my hon. friend from Charlevoix-Saguenay (Mr. Casgrain), it is no wonder that members of parliament and other persons who have someone to recommend send in these names to the gentleman to be elected. Well, would it surprise you, Mr. Beauchesne, would it surprise the members of the house if I said that my right hon. friend himself wired the member for Charlevoix-Saguenay, recommending somebody to be appointed?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I had a note upon my papers to make a statement with regard to a former employee of the leader of the opposition, later employed by the Speaker of the house. I sent a telegram to Mr. Casgrain. She was to be a temporary employee, of course, on the sessional staff. I have said, and I repeat, I concede the right of Mr. Casgrain to organize the sessional staff. What I was dealing with-and I made that clear-was his dismissal of 127 persons not sessional employees.

Election oj Speaker

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

I do not blame my right hon. friend for having sent that wire; and surely the member for Charlevoix-Saguenay paid him only a very ordinary courtesy in putting on a list the name of the lady recommended by my right hon. friend. And though Mr. Casgrain was not Speaker at the time, it was appropriate that he should do so, in the case of that person, as with respect to all those who were recommended by other members of the house. I think it is but a tempest in a teapot.

As regards employees, sessional or otherwise, who may have received or may receive notice that their services will not be required in the future, may I say that personally I do not favour dismissals, and it is always a difficult thing to do. But in some instances-and it has happened to my own knowledge in my department and in my own city of Quebec- where men were dismissed three or four years ago merely on political grounds, and have been waiting for four years to get common justice and to be reinstated in their positions, I say that I will recommend such men. It is also to my knowledge, Mr. Beauchesne, that most frequently the people who are louder than others in the bitterness of their complaints are men who were instrumental two or three years ago in having some people dismissed so that they might get their jobs.

I believe that when the hon. member for Charlevoix-Saguenay is regularly appointed Speaker of the House of Commons, as he will be in a few minutes, he will certainly exercise all the impartiality, the discretion and the tact which is necessary for the fulfilment of the duties of his office in the supervision of the staff of the house as well as in the observance of the rules.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. J. S. WOODSWORTH (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Beauchesne, much as I regret having to do so, I feel that in this matter I must associate myself with the protest of the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett). I do so in the full recognition of the fact that the little group I have associated with me, not having occupied office, cannot be charged with anything like a similar offence in the past.

I rather regret that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) with his great legal acumen, should have tried to make light of the charges which have been brought forward by the leader of the opposition, and has entirely evaded the issue. The matter is not one of temporary employees; the matter is one of permanent employees. Further than that, the minister would try to make out that the dismissal was for cause. I ask, why wholesale notices of dismissal? Moreover, if there was real cause for dismissal, why were these notices countermanded? That is an important question.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) emphasized the fact, at the beginning of his speech, that the choice of Speaker was the choice of the House of Commons. I think perhaps the position taken by the Minister of Justice, in view of that statement, was hardly a worthy one, that the choice of the government was to be pushed through at whatever cost and under any circumstances at all. The fact that the Prime Minister suggests that the choice is the choice of the commons implies that we are under a certain obligation and should have some voice at this time as to whether or not we consider the nominee suitable. If we pass this matter over in silence, then undoubtedly w'e shall be regarded by the general public as condoning something which has shocked the people of Canada.

There is no doubt whatever that Mr. Casgrain has many of the qualities which would admirably fit him for the position of Speaker. He knows the rules, that is quite true, or he should after all these years. He undoubtedly is a bilinguist and, I agree, that is an immense asset for the office he is to fill. I am not quite so sure, however, that the fact that he is a lawyer is an outstanding qualification. Some of us who are not lawyers sometimes wish that we had in the chair someone who does not belong to that profession. However, we admit many of his qualifications.

The Prime Minister -went on to say that the occupant of the office must have fairness and impartiality, that he must be a protector of the rights of individual members. Further than that, he must leave partisanship behind him. Judged by the very criteria laid down by the Prime Minister I am not at all sure that the nominee possesses these qualifications. In this matter at least he has not shown fairness and impartiality; he has not been the protector of certain rights of some members of the staff of this house, and certainly he has not given any indication that he is leaving behind him a partisan spirit. I recognize that it may be extremely difficult for a man to resign the post of chief whip of a party and at one jump accept the more or less judicial position of Speaker of this house. But in any case I think we should have a statement from the Prime Minister dealing with the actual occurrences of the last week or two, and further we should have the assurance of the Prime Minister himself that no such action as this will be tolerated in the future.

Election of Speaker

Topic:   ELECTION OF SPEAKER
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Beauchesne, I should like to say just a word to hon. members before the debate is concluded, first of all to remind them that the house is not yet constituted. In the course of his remarks my right hon. friend (Mr. Bennett) dealt at considerable length with what had taken place in parliament under previous administrations. He referred to discussions that had arisen as to the manner in which the Speaker had performed his duties and mentioned investigations or criticisms that had been made of the way in which the commissioners of internal economy had conducted affairs. All that my right hon. friend said, however, had reference to what had happened after parliament itself had assembled and the House of Commons had been constituted. What I should like to make perfectly clear to hon. members at this stage, is that we are assembled here simply as recently elected members of parliament, and that until a Speaker is chosen the house will not be duly constituted or in a position to conduct proceedings of any kind. Even if I wished to do so, I could not now' act in the manner my right hon. friend has suggested I should act, namely give assurances on behalf of the government as to what action will be taken in the House of Commons later on, when it is properly organized.

As all hon. members well know, the practice has been for the Speaker of the House of Commons to continue in office for certain purposes until a new Speaker is chosen.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It is provided by statute.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Yes, it is provided by statute. As my right hon. friend well knows, the Speaker who was in office when he was Prime Minister has not been returned as a member of the House of Commons and, so far as I know, has not been in Ottawa since the general election. Had the Speaker been here, it is quite possible that the privileges of the house, which my right hon. friend says have been so much violated, might have been protected to a greater degree than he says they were. I just point out that fact as a circumstance which hon. members might wish to take into account.

I take no exception whatever to the right hon. leader of the opposition and to my hon. friend from Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) drawing attention, as they have, to something that occurred before parliament itself met. I w'ould, however, ask hon. members at this time, before voting on the election of the Speaker, not to judge the hon. member whom I have nominated by anything that may have taken place before parliament was in

session at all and before he became Speaker, but rather to withhold judgment until he is actually in the chair. May I add that if I had not the utmost confidence in what I believe will be the impartiality and fair play of the gentleman whom I have nominated, I would not for one moment think of urging the house to take action immediately. I have, however, no hesitancy in saying that I believe that, once in the chair, Mr. Casgrain will be a worthy successor to those hon. members who have filled the high office of Speaker with great dignity and impartiality.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Debate is quite permissible on this matter. In 1852 the debate lasted a very long time, and many members spoke; the same thing occurred in 1895. In view of the observations that have been made by the right hon. Prime Minister I am content that this motion should be carried on division. I thank the right hon. gentleman for the assurance he has given, that notwithstanding- the fact that the house is not organized he feels certain that minorities may look for reasonable protection and impartial administration of the rules, written and unwritten, that govern the conduct and decorum of this chamber. That, however, has nothing to do with the breach of the privileges of the house which certainly must be considered by a committee in due course and which I will see is brought to the attention of the house. When the question is put I am content that it should be carried on division, in view of the statement which the right hon. gentleman has, if I may say so, quite properly made to this chamber.

The Clerk of the House declared the motion carried in the affirmative, on division, and Hon. Pierre-Fran<;ois Casgrain, member for the electoral district of Charlevoix-Saguenay, duly elected to the chair of the house.

Hon. Mr. Casgrain was conducted from his seat in the house to the Speaker's chair by Right Hon. IV. L. Mackenzie King and Hon. Ernest Lapointe.

Mr. SPEAKER-ELECT said: Ladies and gentlemen of the House of Commons, it is with a real sense of gratitude that I accept, in all humility, the bestowal of this high honour. Yet, gratitude is here tinged with anxiety. So many distinguished gentlemen have graced this chair that I would falter before the prospect of succeeding them were I not, while truly conscious of my own unworthiness, given assurance by my knowledge of the genuinely fair and considerate attitude of my honourable colleagues in this house.

Opening of the Session

Strengthened, therefore, by your enlightened advice and counsel; guided by the wise decisions of my eminent predecessors I dare hope to preside over the proceedings of this august assembly with impartiality and justice, to uphold British parliamentary traditions, to be, in truth, your worthy spokesman.

Long years of service in parliament have enriched my life with many precious and lasting friendships. I fully trust the future will bring the same pleasant experience with those welcome ones who, to-day for the first time, have crossed the threshold of this chamber.

I thank you most sincerely for this abiding testimonial of esteem and confidence, for the great honour you do me. It will be my unremitting endeavour to prove myself deserving of your trust. Ever mindful of your gracious cooperation, I shall strive always to discharge the duties of the speakership in a manner properly befitting the revered traditions of this exalted office.

Mesdames et messieurs de la Chambre des communes, c'est avec une profonde recon* na.issanee que j'accepte le haut poste que vous daignez me confier, mais ce n'est pas sans crainte. Tant d'hommes distingues ont occupe ce fauteuil avant moi que j'hesiterais a leur succeder si, consoient de mon peu de merite, je ne savais que je puis compter sur votre generosite, sur votre droiture, sur votre sympathie. Eclaire de vos avis, aide de vos sages conseils et guide par les decisions de mes predecesseurs, j'ose esperer que je reussirai a diriger avec impartialite et justice les deliberations de cette Chambre, a maintenir les traditions parlementaires britanniques, a vous represeniter dignjement.

Les mombreuses annees que j'ai passees dans cette enceinte m'ont valu de precieuses, de soliides amities et j'emtends bien former avec les nouveaux elus des relations tout aussi amicales.

Je vous remereie bien sincerement de l'honoeur que vous me faites et de La grande marque d'estime et de confianee dont vous me donnez le temoignage. Je tacherai de m'en rendre digne en remplissant, selon la tradition et avec le haut sentiment de ma res-ponsabilite, les devoirs de ma charge.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I move,

seconded by Mr. Lapointe (Quebec-East), that the house do now adjourn.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

To what time?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The hour is fixed by the rules. It is three o'clock.

Motion agreed to and the house adjourned at 1.50 p.m.

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OPENING OF THE SESSION


Mr. Speaker read a communication from the Governor General's secretary announcing that His Excellency would proceed to the Senate chamber at 3 p.m. on this day for the purpose of formally opening the session of the Dominion parliament. A message was delivered by Major A. R. Thompson, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, as follows: Mr. Speaker, His Excellency the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable house in the chamber of the honourable the Senate. Accordingly the house went up to the Senate chamber. Then the Hon. Pierre-Fran-Cois Casgrain, Speaker-elect, said: May it please Your Excellency, The House of Commons have elected me as their Speaker, though I am but little able to fulfil the important duties thus assigned to me. If in the performance of those duties I should at any time fall into error, I pray that the fault may be imputed to me, and not to the Commons whose servant I am. The Honourable the Speaker of the Senate, addressing the Honourable the Speaker of the House, then said: Mr. Speaker, I am commanded by His Excellency the Governor General to assure you that your words and actions will constantly receive from him the most favourable construction. Then His Excellency the Governor General was pleased to open parliament by a speech from the throne. And the house being returned to the Commons chamber:


February 6, 1936