April 29, 1949

PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. M. Macdonnell (Muskoka-Ontario):

I am well aware, Mr. Speaker, that the members of this house wish to have this question decided, and I am one of them. But I do not think it is desirable to have it voted on without our minds being brought back for a very few moments-and it will be a very few-to just what it is that we are being asked to do. We have had a great many grievances mentioned in this debate, and proper grievances too, most of them relating

[Mr. Aylesworth.J

to this or that part of the community, to this or the other section. But I want to bring to you, Mr. Speaker, a grievance that I consider to be a grievance of the whole Canadian people at this procedure which we are now being asked to adopt. We are being asked to vote four months' additional supply in addition to the two months' supply which we have already voted.

It is not necessary to remind this house of the importance to this democratic assembly of the right to vote supply. Nevertheless I will quote a brief extract from May's Parliamentary Practice, twelfth edition, at page 56, just so that it will be on the record:

The most important power vested in any branch of the legislature is the right of imposing taxes upon the people and of voting money for the exigencies of the public service. The exercise of this right by the Commons is practically a law for the annual meeting of parliament for redress of grievances; and it may also be said to give to the Commons the chief authority in the state. In all countries the public purse is one of the main instruments of political power; but with the complicated relations of finance and public credit in England, the power of giving or withholding these supplies, at pleasure, is one of absolute supremacy.

This voting of interim supply is of course a usual procedure. We do it, but we do it under the strictest of safeguards; and I will read to you the safeguard which is always given to this house when voting interim supply. I will read to you what the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) said in this house on March 29 last when two months' supply was voted. It was the usual assurance to give; it was an undertaking. The minister said, as reported at page 2148 of Hansard:

As I have said, the form of this bill is exactly the same as in previous years, and the passing of the bill does not prejudice the rights and privileges of members of the House of Commons to criticize any of the individual items in the estimates. And I give the usual undertaking that such rights and privileges will be respected and will not be curtailed or restricted in any way as a result of passing this interim supply measure.

What are we being asked to do today? We are being asked to vote for a measure which is an absolute repudiation of that undertaking.

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?

Some hon. Members:

No, no.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Muskoka-Ontario):

Yes, it is. Let us consider what we are doing. We are being asked to vote this additional four months' supply, making altogether $1 billion; and we are being told that parliament is to be dissolved and there will be no opportunity-

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LIB
PC
PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Muskoka-Ontario):

Wait a minute. I will not quibble about the

amount. Now this will make six months' supply. If the minister wishes to correct me about a million or two, he can.

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?

An hon. Member:

Peanuts.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Muskoka-Ontario):

What I am saying is this. What we are being asked to do now is to vote for a repudiation of what the minister said on March 29 last, because we are voting in circumstances where we know that there is going to be no chance whatever to discuss these estimates. Parliament is going to be dissolved. That is the situation. It is preposterous for the government to ask us to vote for this measure by which we are voting for repudiation of the solemn undertaking given to this house. That is what we are doing.

So far as the opposition is concerned, I think we ought to welcome what the government is doing.

I do not suppose there is anything in the world which will put us in a better position to face the country than to describe what has taken place here at the present time. For many reasons I hope that I shall be back here in this house, but I hope so for one additional reason. I feel that this is a sorry ending to my first parliament. It is ending in an almost comic way, instead of dealing with the things that we should deal with.

However, the situation was very difficult. We will admit that. The government had either to dissolve this house or to face the music which it did not want to face, and it decided on the dissolution. They have taken the position, and it is up to them. They did not like Digby-Annapolis-Kings, they did not like Nicolet-Yamaska. They realized what the country was thinking about them. Of all the assets that we have in going out to face the country, the greatest will be what is happening now. Therefore, so far as we are concerned, we ought to welcome it. But from the standpoint of the dignity of parliament and the prestige and preservation of rights which, as we all know from our schoolbooks, we won in very truth with blood, sweat and tears, it is a different story. Is this not the travesty of all travesties; is this not the payoff? I thought we had the worst when the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) affronted this house by bringing in an estimate for $850,000 under the Canadian Commercial Corporation, when he might as well have used the money to buy St. Paul's cathedral as to use it for what he did. Finally, what did he say to my leader? He said, if we pass it now does not that settle it? In other words he said, we will do anything we like with it whether we have authority or not, and then we shall come back with our majority-I will not say brute majority

29087-174J

Interim Supply

because of my respect for hon. gentlemen opposite-and we shall pass it. I thought that was the limit, but it seems to me it does not compare with this, because we are now being asked in cold blood to vote this additional four months' supply, which is equivalent to asking us to vote for the repudiation of an undertaking given to us on the strength of which we voted hundreds of millions of dollars of the money of the people of this country.

I suppose there have been sudden dissolutions in this house, and I do not know of the circumstances connected with them all, but I believe it will be found that probably in every case where it happened before some reason was given, something that looked like a reason; either there was a crisis or it was suggested that there was a crisis, or something that could be dressed up to look like a crisis. But what is the situation here? There is no reason that I have heard of, no reason of any kind given except that the government would like to have an election in June.

There is no particular magic about June. When the hon. member for Glengarry (Mr. Mackenzie King) led this house he had an election near the end of July. It is true it was not a very successful election, and perhaps they do not think that July is a good month for elections. The idea that June is a magic month to have elections has nothing whatever in it. Therefore we have this situation. We are brought here; we are asked to swallow this. No reason whatever is given except the convenience of the government. We have had that before. There is no suggestion of the convenience of the Canadian people.

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LIB

Ernest Bertrand (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Bertrand (Laurier):

How could you be so glad the day we announced it?

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macdonnell (Muskoka-Ontario):

I want to carry out my undertaking with you, Mr. Speaker, to be brief, but I want to say this. The fact that the government has asked us now to vote supply is preposterous. For any self-respecting member of this house to vote for a measure which makes a travesty of the right of supply, which was won by the efforts and sacrifices of our ancestors, and which is the very cornerstone of our rights, is just chucking it down the drain. Incidentally, we seem to be bringing the business of this house to an end in what might be called almost a comic fashion. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that no self-respecting member of this house should vote for what we are now being asked to vote.

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the motion? Carried.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

No.

Interim. Supply

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LIB
PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

No chance was given. We want the ordinary procedure, and we want a recorded vote.

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the motion? Those in favour of the motion please say yea.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Yea.

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LIB
?

Some hon. Members:

Nay.

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LIB
PC

Lewis Elston Cardiff

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cardiff:

I was paired. Had I voted, I

would have voted against the motion.

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April 29, 1949