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


Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)


When the House took recess at six o'clock, I was speaking of the Highways Bill and pointing out that, as the hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House had used their majority in the Senate for the purpose of defeating the Bill in two successive sessions we had decided that, until the majority of the Senate in the course of events comes in accord with the voice and will of the people of this country, it was useless and undesirable to take up the time of the House further with it; and therefore at this session we did not propose to introduce the Highways Bill.
There are at least four, and perhaps more, important measures which the Government has proposed to Parliament, and which the Liberal majority in the Senate has seen fit to reject or to encumber to such an extent with amendments that we could not accept them. I need only mention the Highways Bill, in two successive sessions, the Tariff Commission Bill in the session before last, the Branch Lines Bill, of which I shall say a few words in a moment, and the Naval Aid Bill of last year, of which I shall also speak.
The situation of this country with regard to its Upper Chamber is somewhat peculiar. Canada has less control over a majority in the Senate which puts itself in opposition to the popular will than any other dominion of the empire that I know of to-day. The colony of Newfoundland with one twenty-fifth of the population of the Dominion of Canada has infinitely more effective control over a situation of that kind than this Dominion. If friends of hon. gentlemen opposite, appointed during their tenure of office and before the will of the people was declared at the last election, are disposed to force upon us the question of the constitution of the Senate and the nature of appointments thereto- well, .speaking for myself, and I think speaking for the great majority of the people of this country, we are ready to accept that issue.
The Branch Lines Bill of last year is a notable illustration of what I have just now alluded to. A resolution was introduced into this House by my colleague the Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Cochrane). The resolution was very broad in its terms, and, as he and I decided after its introduction and after some criticism had been made of it, that it was too wide in its terms, I myself drafted a modified

form of resolution which I took informally across the floor of this House and submitted to hon. gentlemen on the other side. I submitted it to my hon. friend the exMinister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Graham), the hon. member for the city of St. John (Mr. Pugsley), the hon. member for Westmorland (Mr. Emmerson), and the hon. member for Rouville (Mr. Lemieux), all hon. gentlemen who had taken part in that debate, and every one of them without exception told me that the resolution in the amended terms in which I proposed it was absolutely acceptable to them. The only dissenting voice, and that only with regard to one minor feature of the Bill, was the voice of the' hon. member for Westmorland, who thought that the power given by that proposed resolution to the Minister of Railways and Canals to build a line not exceeding twenty-five miles in length was too great a power. I was about to consent to modify it when another hon. gentleman on the other side, the hon. member for Cape Breton and Victoria (Mr. McKenzie) strenuously objected to any change, and desired the resolution to remain as it was, and it did remain as it was, and the Bill founded upon it went through this House without one dissenting vqice. My right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition was in his seat, as ' Hansard ' will show, when the Bill passed this House, and he did not raise his voice in opposition to it. The Liberal majority in the Senate saw fit so to mangle that Bill with changes and amendments that it became absolutely useless for the purpose for which it was intended. It came back here and I asked that those amendments should not be assented to. [DOT] To my astonishment the leader of the Opposition stood up in his place and defended the action of his friends in the Senate, although the Bill in the form m which it left the House of Commons had been unanimously assented to not only by hon. members on this side but by hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House as well. So-the Bill failed to carry because we could not accept the Senate amendments. And so it was with the Tariff Commission Bill.
My right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition has referred to the Naval Aid Bill, and I desire to say a few words in explaining the action of the Government in that regard. Let me review the situation in a few words. Firmly convinced that the conditions disclosed in the Admiralty memorandum demanded immediate and effective aid from Canada, the Government, in accordance with its mandate from the
people introduced in this Parliament on the 5th day of December, 1912, the Naval Aid Bill by resolution. That Bill provided for the construction of three battleships of the most modem and powerful type to be placed at the disposal of His Majesty for the common defence of the empire and to be subject to recall upon reasonable notice if and when the Canadian people should decide to establish one or more fleet units or other distinctive naval forces. The measure was debated at great length in this House and was persistently and defiantly obstructed. It did not pass this House until the rules had been so amended as to prevent such obstruction. Eventually the Bill was rejected in the Upper Chamber by senators appointed by the late Government previously to its defeat in 1911. The measure proposed by the Government created a profound impression not only within this empire, but throughout the world. There is little doubt that if the Bill had passed, the determination of Canada thus expressed would have constituted an important influence in bringing about a most desirable cessation in the rivalry of armaments. The partisan considerations and misguided influences which occasioned the perverse and maladroit action of the Senate were not realized or understood either within the empire or throughout the world. In certain important quarters the Senate's action was welcomed with rejoicing as a clear indication that in providing for the common defence of the empire upon the high seas the mother country must stand alone so far as Canada is concerned, and that this Dominion must be regarded not as a strength but as a weakness to the empire in time of peril. That the impression created by the Senate's action was profoundly unfortunate and mischievous is evidenced by many comments in great European journals. As an illustration one quotation must suffice, although many might be given. The quotation to which I allude is from the Hamburger Nachrichten of June 5, 1913:-
Whatever may be decided upon later, the decision of the Canadian Senate means at any rate a heavy moral and material loss for the defence of the empire.
I heard, a moment ago, some gentlemen opposite cheering the Senate's action; Would they still cheer in face of that? Well, we are at least glad to know their appreciation of the duty of this country to tne empire. (Reading):
Whatever may be decided upon later, the actual decision of the Canadian Senate means at any rate a heavy moral and material loss for

progress in the past two thousand years. I trust that the day is rapidly drawing near when differences between the nations may be settled by appeal to some great tribunal established under international authority, and so constituted that its decisions will command unquestioning respect and obedience. But, until that day dawns, and while w'ar is still the last court of appeal between the nations, we cannot forget that a great heritage has been committed to our keeping, and that we are the trustees of its safety, not for ourselves alone, but for those who are yet to be born.
The Government are naturally most desirous that the aid which we proposed last year, under conditions of urgency and need, and which we still propose to bring in due course to the common defence of the empire should be so proffered or given as not to prejudice or retard any international agreement for the cessation of battleship construction. When we are in a position to press the Naval Aid Bill to a final and satisfactory conclusion < in the Senate, it will be our duty to consult with the Imperial Government respecting these grave and important considerations. If it should then appear that, by any naval arrangement entered into or about to be entered into by the great powers, a restriction or diminution of the present lamentable rivalry in armaments could be brought about, we should always be ready, until our ships have actually been begun, to review the situation so far as these proposals are concerned; and if a general cessation or temporary suspension in the building of great ships of war were at any time to be seriously entertained, Canada would gladly participate in such a desirable result. Otherwise, we should proceed in due course with the construction of the three ships, holding it to be our duty, under the conditions disclosed last year, and for reasons then elaborated with great fullness, to bring this assistance as speedily as possible to the great purpose of our common defence and security.
Our opponents, especially in the Senate, have taken the ground that our temporary proposals of last year, although not embodying a permanent policy in any respect, ought not to be undertaken without an appeal to the people, but that a permanent naval policy might properly be formulated and carried out without such an appeal. We entirely dissent from that remarkable and unjustifiable view'. So far

as a permanent policy of naval defence is concerned, I gave my pledge to the people, on more than one occasion previous to the last election, that it vmuld be submitted to them at a general election before it should effectively be undertaken. That pledge still holds good, and faith will be kept with the people in that regard.
Now', my right hon. friend, in the course of his remarks, w'ent into some matters upon which I do not desire to detain the House at any length. He spoke of the good relations between the British Empire and the German Empire. I am glad to know that they are good relations. It is my fervent hope and wish that those relations may always continue to be as satisfactory as they are at present; but, as I pointed out last year, the destinies of the world are sometimes influenced by the mere fact that predominant naval power does exist and can be utilized in one quarter or another, and I venture to think that if the right hon. gentleman will look at the observations made by the First Lord of the Admiralty in the British House of Commons on the 5th day of June, 1913, and on the 17th day of July, 1913, he will lind that his view as to the necessity of maintaining and even increasing the strength of the naval forces of this empire is not borne out by the view of the British Admiralty. Mr. Churchill, in the observations which I have under my hand, but which I will not weary the House with repeating here to-night, takes it to be the duty of the British Government to make good that which was lost to the Empire by the unfortunate action of the Senate. That is the situation, so far as I understand as it exists to-day.
Just one other observation with regard to my right hon. friend. He has on various occasions during the recess urged that the people of this country should not embark on any project of aiding in the naval defence of the Empire; and he put the question of the high cost of living, I think, against dreadnoughts in the speech he made at Hamilton. He deplores, and his organs deplore, the establishment of any armament trust in Canada. Well, who was it that, last year in this Parliament, advocated the establishment of an armament trust? If I mistake not, it was the right hon. gentleman who has since made these interesting speeches in various places throughout the country. Who was it that last year desired this country to embark on a permanent naval policy which within the next ten or twelve years would have cost this

country at least $150,000,000? And who was it who desired that this should be done without giving to the people of Canada any opportunity to express ttfeir views on the subject? Why, it was my right lion, friend and his supporters on the other side, and their partisans in the Senate who desired to take that course. If there is any advocate, any strenuous advocate, of the establishment of an armament trust in Canada, that advocate is to be found in the person of my right hon. friend who leads the Opposition. But I have heard that in various parts of the country my right hon. friend was not quite so explicit as he was in his speech in this House. I did not observe that in his speeches in the county of Chateauguay he put that policy in the very forefront. If, however, I am mistaken in my appreciation -of the course which he took in that campaign, I will sit down in order that he may [DOT]correct me.
My right hon. friend seemed to be distressed at the condition of affairs in connection with the terminals at Quebec. I had the honour and pleasure of speaking at a banquet in the city of Quebec a few months ago, and I went into the question somewhat fully at that time. I regret that my right hon. friend is so much under a misapprehension as to some matters on which he has spoken to-day. He has taken it upon himself to say that the management of the [DOT]Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company are not in accord with this Government in regard to certain changes that have been made. I would like him to state his authority for that declaration. I am informed by my hon. friend the Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Cochrane) that that statement is not stamped with the hall mark of accuracy.
Sir WILFRID LAUR1ER: I did not say it was so. I said that no information has been given to show that the Grand Trunk Pacific Company had agreed to the changes.

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