April 16, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Leader of the Opposition):

I wish to say a word on a matter that affects the privileges of the house. On different occasions I have noticed that some hon. members, whether intentionally or otherwise, take advantage of the opportunities of freedom of speech in the house to reflect in an immediate and direct way on the integrity and character of gentlemen who are not in parliament to speak for themselves. I think it goes much beyond the intention of the rules of the house respecting freedom of speech that any such latitude should be permitted. Yesterday my hon. friend the Minister of Railways (Mr. Manion), in reference to a matter affecting his department, and referred to in one of the newspapers of this country, used the following expression:
The statement made in the Winnipeg Free Press is false in every word and line and merely illustrates the general perverted attitude of the editor of that paper. I am not referring to the representatives of that paper located in Ottawa, but when the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press writes upon political matters he never tells the truth if a falsehood will serve.
May I say at once that I feel sure my hon. friend, when he used these words, was speaking figuratively. I think he was making use of that figure of speech known as hyperbole
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Privilege-Mr. Mackenzie King
which should not be indulged in too frequently or readily. I do not wish to have my remarks construed as intended to be directed primarily at my hon. friend, but I should like to say that Mr. Dafoe, the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, is one of the most respected and honoured of journalists in our country. His reputation requires no defence in this parliament or indeed in any part of the British empire. It is, I think, unfortunate that a reference of this kind should be permitted to be on the records of parliament without some mention being made of it and some refutation of it. I hope my hon. friend will find it possible to say that the language is intended in a figurative and not in a literal sense. I desire to affirm that the rule respecting freedom of speech is based upon the control which the house has over its own members in the matter of their utterances. It is not intended to afford unbridled licence to speakers in referring to the character of individuals who are not in a position, to answer for themselves on the floor of parliament. I say this without special reference, as I have already said, to hon. members opposite. At times I have noticed the same unfortunate occurrence on this side of the house, and I may even quite unconsciously have been an offender myself; I hope however this kind of thing will not be permitted to become a practice in this parliament if it can be prevented.

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