January 19, 1914 (12th Parliament, 3rd Session)


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I desire to associate myself with all that has been so aptly and eloquently said by my right hon. friend in extending his congratulations to the mover and the seconder of the Address. Both these hon. gentlemen have made admirable speeches, and while hon. gentlemen ont the other side of the House cannot be expected naturally to take precisely the same view as to the conduct of public affairs as that which was expressed in those speeches, nevertheless I observed with a great deal of satisfaction that the remarks of these gentlemen did in many respects meet with the approval of hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House. The mover of the address, the hon. member for York, N.B. (Mr. McLeod), has already had a distinguished career, having attained at a very early age a high position in the public life of his province, and it was with every feeling of anticipation, I am sure, that the House awaited his observations this afternoon. I entirely concur with what has been said by the leader of the Opposition in this respect: that he amply fulfilled all the expectations which had been formed of him as a parliamentary debater. So my hon. friend from the country of Bellechasse (Mr. Lavallee), of the old historic province of Quebec, has maintained the reputation of the worthy
[Sir Wilfrid LaurierJ.
race which he so eloquently represented on this occasion, and has delivered to the House this afternoon a speech which reflects credit not only upon himself, but upon his province as well.
I desire also particularly to associate myself with what has been said not only by my hon. friend the member for York, but by the right hon. gentleman who leads the Opposition, in expressing the great satisfaction of the Canadian people that Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Connaught ha3 recovered from the very serious illness from which she suffered for many months, and that she has been enabled once more to accompany His Royal Highness to this country. Those who know, as all of us, I think, do know, the keen sense of duty, which animates Their Royal Highnesses and the very great sympathy and interest which they have on all occasions exhibited in everything that pertains to the welfare of this country, must have been inspired by an especial satisfaction in knowing that Their Royal Highnesses have been enabled once more to undertake the important and often very onerous duties of the high position in this country to which they have been called. I voice, I am sure, the feeling of hon. gentlemen on both sides of the House when I express the hope that Her Royal Highness' progress to complete health and strength, such a3 she enjoyed before, may be rapid and continuous, and that their Royal Highnesses may have -and I am sure they always will have- none but the happiest memories with which to look back to the years during which they were citizens of this country. I am sure also that when at some later date they do return to their home in the British Islands, Canada and Canadians will have no warmer friends and advocates on the other side of the Atlantic than will be found in Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught.
My right hon. friend dwelt upon a great many matters in the course of his discursive speech; to some of these, particularly those relating to controversial politics of the great neighbouring republic, I will not follow him, because his observations in that regard do not seem to call for any special reply. He has -spoken in the first place of the delay in summoning Parliament, and he has asked for an explanation. If he wishes the fullest explanation, he should look around him and see among the hon. gentlemen on the other side of the-House who come from the different parts of this Dominion, one man, if he can, who

has not thoroughly welcomed the suggestion that Parliament should meet in January instead of in November. The suggestion has been made to me over and over again during the past two years that in this Parliament we accomplish very little indeed before the Christmas vacation; that the Christmas vacation is usually a somewhat protracted period, and that the members who come from distant parts of the country, and particularly those who come from the West and have to close their homes for the winter, are left in Ottawa for two or three or four weeks with absolutely nothing to do, awaiting the convenience of those who, like my right hon. friend, live in or near the capital, and to whom it is a matter of no inconvenience whatever that the public business should be so conducted. I venture to hope that members of this House may be inspired with a desire to expedite business, and I think that my friends from the Maritime provinces, from the West, and from the distant portions of Ontario and Quebec, will welcome the innovation upon which we have embarked this year, and will justify the Government in the course it has taken in postponing the meeting of Parliament until January.
Then my right hon. friend tried to make merry at the expense of the Government and to make some more or less caustic observations at the expense of my hon. friend the Solictor General (Mr. Meighen).
I am pleased to know that he considers the choice an excellent one, and I am also glad that he realizes that there is a very great number of men in the Liberal-Conservative party in this House who are capable of filling that oflice with honour and ability. That is absolutely true, and if all the observations of my right hon. friend were as apt and as much to the point as that particular observation I would have no fault whatever to find with him. He has referred to these gentlemen as pebbles on the beach. Fortunately we were not in the position of my right hon. friend who on five different occasions could not find any pebble on the beach on his own side of the House, because he went outside of the House to select a Minister of Justice, a Minister of Railways and Canals, a Minister of Labour, a Minister of Public Works, and last but not least a Secretary of State. Under these circumstances I am sure my right hon. friend will be disposed to congratulate the Conservative party that it is not afflicted by that unfortunate poverty of talent which was indicated by the course that the right hon. gentleman adopted on five occasions. We have an abundance of splendid
material on this side of the House, and I join with my right hon. friend in congratulating the Liberal-Conservative party of this country that it does possess in this House so splendid an abundance of the most excellent material.
My right hon. friend also found fault with the absence of the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Foster). Whatever might be the possible detriment to the public interest which would be occasioned by the absence of the Minister of Trade and Commerce, I am very much inclined to think that my right hon. friend, in his own heart, would be very glad to see him remain absent, would be very glad not to have him here during the session at all. As a matter of fact, let me either encourage or discourage my right hon. friend, as the case may be, by informing him that the Minister of Trade and Commerce is on the ocean now and that by about next Monday he will be here ready to answer my right hon. friend on that point. The Minister of Trade and Commerce is a member of a very important commission which had its origin in a resolution passed by the Imperial Conference of 1911. The right hon. leader of the Opposition thinks that a minister of the Crown for Canada ought not to be a member of that commission. I do not concur in the view which the right hon. gentleman has expressed, because I consider it exceedingly important that a man occupying the very important and responsible portfolio of Minister of Trade and Commerce, the duties of which are especially concerned with questions of trade between the various dominions of this Empire and with the resources which exist within those dominions, should be on hand in Great Britain, in Australia, in Canada and in South Africa to make a comprehensive and close study of those conditions; and I know of no man in Canada who is more thoroughly competent to undertake the duties of a member of that very important commission, representing Canada in that behalf, than is the Hon. George E. Foster.
My right hon. friend spoke on many subjects. Among other things, he dealt with the failure in the Speech from the Throne to make any reference to the Highways Bill. I desire to say in the presence of this House and of this country that the Highways Bill, as we introduced it in two successive sessions, and as it passed the House of Commons on both those occasions, was a perfectly fair Bill which conserved the interest of every province in Canada. Further than that, I am in a position to state that the majority of the pro

vinees of Canada, representing a large majority of the people of Canada, were perfectly willing and are perfectly willing to take that Bill just as we presented it. When we first introduced that Bill in Parliament the right hon. gentleman and his friends pretended to give it a halfhearted and lukewarm support. They debated it; to a certain extent they obstructed it both in the last session and in the previous session. Notwithstanding their pretended support of some features of it, at least in the first instance, they ended their career by standing up, every one of them in his place, and voting solidly against that Bill. We placed the Bill before Parliament in what we believed to be terms perfectly fair to every province in Canada. Further than that, the Minister of Railways and Canals and myself as well gave a distinct pledge, which we kept on both occasions, that when the vote was brought down for the appropriation of a certain sum of money in aid of the highways of this country, the Parliament of Canada would be asked to make that vote in accordance with the populations of the various provinces of Canada. We made that pledge. If we did not observe that pledge, it would have been perfectly competent for hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House and for tneir friends in the Senate, when that vote was brought down, to have taken the stand that the vote and the appropriation did not do full justice to the provinces of Canada. We had no intention then or at any other time of dealing with any of the provinces otherwise than in accordance with the pledge which we then gave; but my right hon. friend, or at all events his friends in the Senate-and I understand he takes full responsibility for their action-after he and his friends had voted to defeat that Bill, took upon themselves by their majority the still greater responsibility of inserting in that Bill an amendment which the Government had rejected a year before, and which they knew the Government would certainly reject again. Therefore, notwithstanding all the efforts of my right hon. friend to escape from the responsibility of defeating that Bill, I intend to fix that responsibility upon him and upon his friends, because I say it is due to them and to them alone that a vote of $1,000,000 in the session before last and of $1,500,000 last session, has not been made available for the improvement and maintenance of the highways of this country.

At six o'clock the House took recess.
The House resumed at eight o'clock.

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