June 7, 1956 (22nd Parliament, 3rd Session)


Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. Angus Maclnnis (Vancouver-Kingsway):

Mr. Speaker, it is about 50 years since I first began taking part in debates. I have always entered a debate gladly, only wanting the opportunity to get at my opponent. I wish that were so today, because I rise today to take part in this debate solely from a sense of duty. When I spoke here a little over a week ago I tried to point out to this house where we were drifting. I thought there was an opportunity to stop and take a look before we took the next step. The house did not stop. We proceeded with the measure that was before us, the pipe lines bill. The pipe lines bill has now passed. It passed through this house and I understand it has been passed by the other place, and in a few moments I suppose it will get royal assent.
We passed it, but what price have we paid for it. This, sir, is a part of the price, a motion made in this House of Commons to censure the Speaker, something that never happened and I suppose was never thought of before in a Canadian parliament. That is too great a price to pay for any bill that might come before this house. What are a few paltry million dollars, in comparison with the legacy that has been left us in forcing the measure through the House of Commons?
Until the regrettable events of the past few weeks I held Your Honour in the highest esteem. I think you, sir, must have known how high my esteem was. Since you took over your office in 1953 I felt increasingly that you had most, if not all, of the attributes that go to the making of a great Speaker. I felt that you, sir, could very well be the greatest Speaker that this parliament has had since the late Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux filled the high office that you now hold. It was not my pleasure to know the late Mr. Lemieux but I did know a man who knew him very well, the first leader of this party, the late

J. S. Woodsworth, and he never tired of singing his praises as a great man, a great Speaker, whom it was an honour to know and an honour to serve under, or perhaps I should say to serve with.
Will you excuse me, sir, if I mention some of the attributes which I think you have for the position you hold, or which at least I thought you had. You have a fine presence and, if you allow me to say so, a great charm of manner. You are equally fluent in both of the official languages of this house. You have industry, perhaps at times a little too much. In any case, you had sufficient industry to familiarize yourself with the rules of this house and I am satisfied sir, that you know the rules of this house better than any Speaker that has been here in my time. That, sir, was my position until the recent debate on the pipe line legislation began, and then my hopes began to fade until the proceedings of the house last Friday morning sent them crashing at my feet.
It is because of the proceedings of the house of last Friday morning that I believe the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition last Monday has become a necessity and, because it has become a necessity, it has become my duty to support it.
Some statements that I made in the house at various times have been referred to in this debate and in the one before it, but I am afraid my statements were used to give an altogether different impression from what I intended to convey when I made them. When he spoke to the motion before us the Prime Minister referred to a statement I made in this house in discussing a matter on January 28, 1949. My remarks, quoted by the Prime Minister, may be found at page 41 of Hansard of 1949. At that time I used these words in supporting the motion that was then before the house:
Surely this is a question of orderly procedure in parliament, and whether we agree with it or not is a matter to be decided by the vote of parliament.
I certainly made that statement, and it was a proper one to make at that time; but if the Prime Minister meant when he quoted that statement that I should have supported the proceedings, if one can call them proceedings, that took place in the house last Friday, well, I am afraid he has not compared what was before the house on those two occasions.
Let me quickly point out what we were dealing with in 1949. The session opened just after the previous election and the Prime Minister moved, after giving due notice, mind you, due notice that is required by the
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rules of this house, that after a certain date government business would take precedence over all other business.
I think the reason for the motion was that the government wanted to get on with the terms under which Newfoundland would enter confederation and everything was in order. It was so much in order, in fact, that after getting the views of the members of the house the Prime Minister himself suggested there be some changes made in the dates. Those changes were made and it was for that reason I said:
Surely this is a question of orderly procedure in parliament, and whether we agree with it or not is a matter to be decided by the vote of parliament.
These words appear at page 41 of Hansard for January 28, 1949. And then I went on to say:
I think every hon. member, I suppose at least every hon. member on this side of the house, regrets that the government has felt it necessary to postpone the debate on the speech from the throne, or rather to postpone it if it is not finished by the end of next week. That is a longer time than the government suggested at first, and that in itself is one of the hallmarks of democratic procedure. There has been a compromise between the two extremes. If the government did not get all they expected to get or wished to get in the first instance, the opposition got at least some of what it wanted.
Surely there is no comparison between that occasion and this one. I wish now to read from Hansard of June 1, 1956, from a statement made by Mr. Speaker:
Now, the house is master of its own rules and it is my right to submit a matter to the house. I intend at the moment to submit to the house that, in my view, the house should revert to the position where it was yesterday when I was brought back to the chair to receive the chairman's report at 5.15.
I deny, sir, that it is your right or the right of any Speaker to put matters before this house excepting the matters that are given to you by the house to put before the house. We cannot carry on business here if the Speaker of the house can come into the house at any time and say "I think we had better revert to some other order of business," or "I made a mistake and I think we should try to rectify that. Now let us go back to where we were yesterday or the day before yesterday or last week or the week before that." How in the world can the business of the house be carried on in that way?
And then the Speaker went on to say, as reported at page 4540 of Hansard for June 1, 1956:
I know what the hon. member says with respect to this motion is correct. I have indicated to the house I feel that the house should not suffer any prejudice for what I consider to be a serious mistake which I made yesterday. I say that the house is master of its own procedure. No one

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should contradict that', everybody knows that that is so, and it is my right to submit a matter to the house and that is what I propose to do.
Sir, I could not disagree with you more definitely than when you make that statement. I have already said it is not your right to place matters before this house excepting such matters as are given you by the members of this house to place before it. I am afraid that is where some of our trouble stems from. For some reason or other you made the passage of business through this house your concern. I submit it is none of your concern; it is the concern of the government. Your concern is to hold the balance as between the rights of the opposition and the rights of the government as matters proceed.
May I refer for a moment to the question of closure. You know, there were some terribly amusing things said with regard to this closure-in regard to why it was brought about-at least they would have been funny if the matter were not so tragic. I think I heard the Minister of Finance, if my memory serves me right and if he contradicts me I will take it all back, say that closure was invoked when it was because I think it was the hon. member for Prince Albert (Mr. Diefenbaker) had said the opposition was going to oppose this bill with everything it had, or some words to that effect, and the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Argue) had made a somewhat similar statement.
Well, boasting of that kind is a juvenile sort of thing and I do not hold with it; but, sir, it is not a reason for introducing closure. Closure invoked at that stage anticipated that something might happen in this house. We do not carry on the business of this house in anticipation of what may happen. We carry on the business of the house on the basis of what happens in the house. As I said the other day, that is where the initial mistake was made.
Hon. members opposite accused the opposition of criticizing the government's pipe-line bill. What in the world do you think the opposition was sent here for, to help the government? No, they were sent here to oppose and, if the opposition did not oppose, the government would also criticize them.
Let us suppose that instead of opposing the pipe-line bill the opposition had let it go through parliament without any opposition at all. What would government supporters be saying as they went around the country? Let us suppose this bill was passed unanimously-the opposition did not like it very well but then they had no alternative so they said they would let it go through. The government damns the opposition for
[Mr. Maclnnis.l
opposing it but it would also ridicule the opposition if they agreed with the government.
Now, the purpose of an opposition is to oppose. I think it was Sir Winston Churchill's father who said at one time that if the opposition ever found itself in a position where it had to approve of something that the government was doing it ought to do it with a kick rather than a pat.
There is a citation in Beauchesne's second edition-I imagine all hon. members have a copy of this book-and 1 wish hon. members opposite would read and study it. I read this citation in this house some years ago and I propose to read it again now. I am referring to citation 900 which appears at page 282. I believe it is from Hatsell's book on parliamentary procedure or something of that nature. The citation reads as follows:
So far the maxim is certainly true and founded on good sense that as it is always in the power of the majority by their numbers to stop any improper measures proposed on the part of their opponents, the only weapon by which the minority can defend themselves from similar attempts from those in power are the forms and rules and proceedings which have been found necessary from time to time and are become the standing orders of the house, by a strict adherence to which the weaker party can alone be protected from those irregularities and abuses which these forms were intended to check, and which the wantonness of power is but too often apt to suggest to large and successful majorities.
Could anything be truer than those last words I read, "large and successful majorities"? So large and so successful have the government majority been that they consider that nothing is to be allowed to stand in the way of what they want to do even if they have to tear to shreds the rules and procedures of this house in the doing.
I agree that in a certain sense parliament must always decide, but it must decide according to the rules. If the rules can be changed from day to day, from hour to hour and from week to week the minority has no protection whatsoever. If the position taken by the Speaker of this house is to prevail, it can lead to nothing else than that the majority in this house can at any time impose its will upon the house and the minority, and the opposition which was sent here by the electors of this country in the same way as the members of the government were sent may as well go home. We will have no business here, we will have no function to perform, there will be nothing for us to do. The government has taken it upon itself to rule by sheer force without regard to the rules and procedures which have come down to us through the years.
I am under no illusion as to what will happen to this motion when it comes before

the house for a vote. Undoubtedly it will be defeated, but that will not be the end of the issues which have been raised on it. I should like to say to the government that they may not always be here; the Liberal party may not always be where they are now. No matter how permanent things may look, change is the law of life.
We cannot have ministers coming into this house and introducing bills and giving notice of closure at the time of doing so. But that is the precedent which any minister can follow from now on. We have adopted that as the method to be followed in this house. From now on a minister can bring in a bill or a resolution preceding a bill and at the same time give notice of closure. Why? Because he has heard that the hon. member for-we could say any place you like-is going to oppose it, or that the opposition are going to oppose it. Because the opposition are going to do the thing they were sent here to do, the minister by closure will say that they will try to prevent them doing it. That is one of the things which will inevitably happen because of what has taken place here during the past few weeks.
As I said before, if something is not done, any Speaker at any future time can say, "I believe I made a mistake and you have to go back to where we were yesterday, or the day before, or the week before." Where will we be if we carry on business in that fashion? But that is the precedent we have made ourselves, and parliament is the creature of precedent. The decision taken today becomes a precedent for other decisions tomorrow.
I would say to the government, or whoever may be the government after the next election, or if there is not an election before the next session of parliament it should be done at the next session, that they should set up a committee on procedure to propose changes-they may not be very material ones and I do not think material ones are needed- in regard to these matters which have brought the Canadian parliament to the position it is in today, with the hope that it will never happen again. I say that that should be done at the next session of this house, if there is one before there is an election.
If there is an election before another session is called I will not be here and I may not be here at the next session even if there is no election. I would hate to see this parliament, where I have spent so many of my days, degenerate into a rabble where decisions were made where the Speaker, knowing what the decision would be, would
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say, "Parliament will decide." That means only one thing, that the government will decide.
As I said when I rose to speak on this motion, I have never spoken with less relish when putting my views before an audience, call it that or whatever other word is suitable, but I felt that I had to make my position clear. When the motion is put I shall vote for it, not in any hope that it is going to carry or that it will do very much good. But we have to make our protest. I should like to suggest to those who will be here at the next session or to those who will be here when the next parliament assembles that they set right the wrongs which we have done to parliament during the last three weeks.

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