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


George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. R. Pearkes (Esquimalt-Saanich):

Mr. Speaker, every hon. member who has risen in this debate has explained how distasteful the task he has been given is to him, yet I rise because I feel it is my duty to explain my own feelings in this regard.
I regret that a motion expressing the view that the recent actions of Mr. Speaker in improperly reversing his own decision without notice, in repeatedly refusing to allow members to address the house on occasions when it was their right to do so, and in subordinating the rights of the house to the will of the government has become necessary.
Yesterday the Prime Minister endeavoured to give the impression that there were many on this side of the house who did not feel that the motion was either necessary or warranted. I wonder where the Prime Minister has been during the past two or three weeks. I wonder where he has been mentally and in spirit, because physically he has been sitting in his seat listening to the debate and he has risen in his place to lead the vote of the government perhaps 15 or 16 times in appeals from the rulings of the Chair or in votes to sustain the ruling of the chairman of committee. Surely that in itself is an indication that there are many hon. members in this chamber who have doubted the correctness of the decisions which have been given by the Chair, and that in itself is an indication that there is a widespread feeling of non-confidence in the present occupants of the chair.
This afternoon we have listened to thoughtful and eloquent speeches given by hon. members on this side of the house who have been trained in the profession of law. In precise legal language they have pointed out to this chamber where errors and mistakes
House of Commons
have been made, where the traditions of long ago have been violated. I rise merely as a lay member, as one not trained in the law. I have never taken a very keen interest in the rules of procedure of this house, but I have been hurt and wounded to the quick during the past few weeks. I feel it is incumbent upon me to express my feelings in that respect.
I appreciate deeply the ordeal to which Mr. Speaker is now being subjected. It must be extremely difficult for the Speaker or his deputy to remain in the chair and hear charges levelled against him as member after member rises in his place and states that he has lost confidence in the Speaker. It is not entirely of the Speaker's making, although I do feel he has exposed himself by his actions to grave criticism. The traditions of the office of Speaker, as has been pointed out this afternoon, are very high, and the position the Speaker holds is a great one; for he not only presides over the proceedings of this house but he must protect the liberties and rights of parliament in debate.
You, sir, sit alone in your great chair, dressed in your robes, which contribute to your authority and your dignity. But those robes are something more than decorative aids to authority. They emphasize the loneliness, which has been referred to, and the impartiality of your office. We are not draped in gowns, but you are there distinct and alone and impartial. You have no direct communication with individual members of this house.
On great national occasions we gather in public places and in churches and we sing the national anthem and other hymns and songs suitable to those particular occasions. There is one anthem which I recall, the first line of which is, "What do I owe?" It refers in a rhetorical way to the many conditions of man. The first verse commences:
What do I owe to this dear land of ours?
Then follows the answer:
All of my best, my time, my thought, my powers.
Then the next verse asks a question and gives the answer:
What do I owe to those who follow on?
To build more sure the freedoms we have won.
Surely that is the role of every member of the House of Commons, and particularly it is the role of the Speaker of this house, to build more sure the freedoms we have won so that those of future generations who may follow us will benefit, not only from our endeavours but from the endeavours of our forefathers. But those freedoms cannot be built up and made more sure without

House of Commons
constant watch. Vigilance must be there all the time. In referring to the freedoms Kipling uses these words:
All we have of freedom, all we use or know
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.
Ancient right, unnoticed as the breath we draw.
We are so apt to take these rights and treat them as though they do not really concern us. We take them for granted, and it is only on the rare occasions when those rights are challenged that we begin to notice. Rights were won for us centuries ago at Runnymede and in Westminster Hall. Cast your mind back to the 13th century when we had Magna Carta; then the petition of rights followed, the great remonstrance and the bill of rights. Those were all great endeavours by our forefathers to try to preserve the freedoms for the generations which would come. For centuries statesmen have been building on those rights in order that we may reap the benefit.
They were hard-won rights, sometimes in long debate, sometimes under great persecution and sometimes on the battlefield. It may be said that we cannot turn back the clock, that we cannot bring King John back to life, that Charles I was beheaded and cannot come back again. But I suggest that those were not merely men, they represented a state of mind which I regret to say still exists in this world, the state of mind of absolute power, the state of mind of the dictator. Unless we watch very carefully occasions will arise when we will have to protest against the encroachment of this state of mind which was represented by the actions of those dictators of long ago.
General Eisenhower made a very remarkable speech in the Guildhall of London at the close of the last war. These were his words in part:
To preserve his freedom of worship, his equality before the law, his liberty to speak and act as he sees fit, subject only to the provision that he trespass not upon the similar rights of others.
He said that the men of London would fight for those rights. He went on to say that the men of his home town in the United States would also fight for those rights and for that freedom. We know that the men of Canada have fought for those selfsame rights.
But the events of the last few days have shown that His Honour the Speaker and his deputies have not permitted equality before this chair. They have denied the liberty of members to speak when members had a perfect right to express their points of view. There has not been equality before the law by this chair. The liberty of speech has

been curtailed. Long years ago advice was given to a young man in these words:
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
Late Thursday evening and early Friday morning His Honour was enticed and His Honour gave consent. We will never know what sordid means were used to lure Mr. Speaker from his path of duty. The government honours its secrets and when it does to the extent that we have seen recently it becomes tyranny. On Friday last you suddenly reversed your decision and ruled a motion out of order. I shall not go into great detail about that unhappy event. I do not think it could be summed up better than in the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) as found at page 4646 of Hansard of June 4:
One of the most serious aspects of this strange course was that when I-
The Leader of the Opposition.
-attempted, as did many other hon. members, to be heard in regard to this matter on a point of order the Speaker refused to hear a word from any member in regard to this completely strange device which had been employed or which was then under consideration. At the moment the Speaker called the vote without permitting any point of order to be raised or any discussion whatever on the proceedings which were taking place, at that moment confidence in the Speaker disappeared in the minds of many members of this house. Then, as though this were not enough in itself, as though this were not defilement of our rules sufficient for one day, the Speaker after the vote on that decision had been taken announced that he found he had made a mistake in the ruling he had made about 5.15 p.m. the day before and for that reason all subsequent proceedings should be declared a nullity. Mr. Speaker, there can be no precedent for any such course.
Your fault, Mr. Speaker, on that tragic day was one of weakness and lack of resolution. Far greater responsibility rests on those men who, by threats or promises, played upon your vanity and your ambitions. But the Prime Minister saw nothing wrong with this barefaced flouting of parliamentary rules and procedures. He could find no occasion when Your Honour had refused to hear any opposition member when, in the Prime Minister's opinion, he had a right to be heard. The Prime Minister could only recall that the rules of the house had been disregarded to the extent of what amounted to the prejudice of the government. Prejudice of the government! That seemed to be the all-important thing.
He refused to admit that the rules of parliament had been subordinated to the will of the government. The government supporters, according to the Prime Minister, had created no scene, made no manifestation. Only the opposition was to blame. All his geese were swans.

The Minister of Finance followed along the same line. As leader of the house he refused to accept any responsibility for what had taken place the week before. These were some of the words he used, and I quote from page 4683 of Hansard of June 4:
I am going to say something that is rather difficult for me to say under the circumstances. Both the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the C.C.F. this afternoon said that all of us ought to regret what has happened, particularly what happened on Friday. I am going to agree with both of them.
Mark these words-
However, I hope that in expressing agreement in that sense I am not to be taken as having accepted any responsibility for it.
That from the leader of the house! No wonder Hansard records some members as saying, "Oh, oh", and an hon. member as saying, "Oh, you hypocrite". Others referred to his sanctimonious attitude. Then he went on to say:
A week ago Thursday night I did what no other member who has spoken in this debate has done. I rose in my place and appealed to the followers on this side of the house to remain in a condition which would not excite any feelings in this house, and from that day to this they have done so.
That was the man who only ten minutes before had done his best to provoke members on this side of the house and to agitate them by insulting them and using terms which no cabinet minister should stoop to use. Seven times, as recorded in the first two columns of his speech in Hansard, the Minister of Finance referred to this party in derogatory terms. "Tory party", he said, in a sneering tone; "Tory party", and he has the nerve to say that he had done nothing and none of his followers had done anything to excite the members of this party. Over 200 years ago the name "Tory" was given to the Conservatives in the United Kingdom. It was an insulting name drawn from a small band of Irish bandits. There were other names used for other parties in those days.
I have been here for some ten years. I realize that all parties have had a great history. The Conservative party has made a great contribution to the history of this country and to the history of democracy in other lands. The Liberal party has made a great contribution to the development of this country and the development of democracy in other lands. Those parties which have represented the socialist creed have made great contributions. But it ill behooves a minister of the crown to stand up and try to cast slurs upon other parties in this house. I may be wrong, but I cannot remember ever hearing any member on this side of the house
House of Commons
refer to the Liberal party by derogatory names, certainly not seven times in the first ten minutes of a speech.
That is only an indication, Mr. Speaker, of some of the things which have been going on. I said when I started that I felt I had been wounded. I have tried to analyse my thoughts during this unhappy period. My thoughts and feelings after the events of last week were very akin to my thoughts when I heard of the abdiction of Edward VIII. I remember so well that I was driving through western Ontario going to Windsor when the word came over the car radio. My friend who was driving had to stop the car because he felt so ill when the sad news was heard. A position which he had revered had been insulted. A man of whom he had thought much had been shown to be unworthy of the high office that he held.
Those were the feelings I have had during the past few weeks. The dignity of the office of Speaker of this house, an office which I was prepared to revere, had been shattered. Men I had regarded with some esteem I have now lost faith in. I do not know how you are going to restore the confidence as between government and opposition and as between members and the Chair in this parliament. This is an unhappy house. This will remain an unhappy house as long as this parliament is in existence. We can never live on the same terms of even casual friendship as we have lived in the past.
I think the Minister of Finance is bound at all times to smart under that brand which has been given him. I refer to the brand of hypocrite. He cannot remove that from the record. If he is human he will find it difficult to associate with those he may think have used that term to him, whether or not it was justified. I know I feel that it is almost impossible for me to associate on any level of friendship with some of those who have taken a leading part in this debate.
It is an unhappy situation. I am deeply sorry for Mr. Speaker and for his deputy, the chairman of committees. I believe that they have made mistakes. I think they have been put in this terrible situation by the actions of the government; and I hold as being mainly responsible for those actions, the Prime Minister and the leader of the house.

Full View