March 2, 1920 (13th Parliament, 4th Session)


Herbert Macdonald Mowat



Did they mean that, knowing that the reason that Mr. Blondin was defeated was because he held the very opinions as to the prosecution of the war that the majority of the people of this country support? That was the reason he was defeated. In holding that view, do they mean, because elections on those opinions are profitable in their province, forever to continue this dissension between the peoples of this country? I can attribute no other reason for their action. They must know and I assure them sincerely that we on this side think it is a great calamity that we have not French-Canadian members in the Government of Canada to-day. The reason is that there are no French-Canadian supporters of the Government elected to the

House of Commons, from Quebec, so how can there be French-Canadian members of the Government? But it is not too late and I have no doubt that there are members of this Government who would freely anti willingly retire to-day if they could rest assured that members of the French-Canadian race would be elected and would so act in harmony with the present Government Brat they would take their accustomed places in the Cabinet Council. So I am surprised that applause should be given to such a statement. It is true that political feeling runs high, hut my hon. friends opposite must, remember that while majorities were large in the province of Quebec in favour of a man holding certain principles, there were large majorities in the other provinces just because other men held diffeient principles. There were Unionist majorities of 20,000, 16,000, 14,000, I think more than that in the city of Winnipeg, overwhelming majorities. General public sentiment demands that racial dissensions between the two peoples shall stop and that large majorities because of the holding of these strong opinions shall cease, and that all the people in this country will get together to do what we know is our duty, which is the dearest hope of most of us, namely, to first uphold the honour of all Canada.
I did not notice in the speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition and his follower who so chivalrously made way for him, an invitation which was given out last year or perhaps the year before, and which had for its figurative expression " a light in the window." That was a genial invitation to return, to Liberals who had formerly been with the party which now calls itself Liberal. He said that there was a light in the window and that the latch string was on the outside of the door. It is perfectly obvious that that invitation has not had any great effect. It has brought only two of that class of members from this side of the House and they had made up their minds fairly definitely before the invitation was given. The trouble with the Liberals who were thus invited was that they were not sure of the treatment they would receive after they went back in response to the light in the window. The house was all right. We helped to build the house, but the point is that you cannot live in a house unless the coal bin is pretty full and there is enough in the larder, and we did not see any particular reasons for having a good social time in the house in which the light was put in the window. The consequence was that

there were not many defections from this side, and perhaps it is because the hon. member for North Cape Breton and Victoria (Mr. McKenzie) has seen the futility of repeating the invitation, or because my hon. friend who is now his leader is not of the same hospitable character as his predecessor that that invitation has not been mentioned again. It is important to refer to some extent to that, because I think that it is a proper time now after two years, that I should make some observations regarding the first of the cleavages which we saw two years ago.
Political cleavages in parties are not unknown in Canada. They have generally occurred owing to a large mass of the people of one party hoping for commercial advantages, or on the other hand, because of some religious question which has stirred the hearts of the people. The Liberal Party and the Liberal Government of 1878 lost thousands and thousands of supporters who thought that their commercial welfare would be better served by more Protection, and the great majority of those supporters never came back to the party. The Conservative party in 1896 lost a very considerable number of its supporters, who objected that the Dominion Government was interfering with the rights of a province in the matter of separate school education. There we have an example, in the first place, of commercial advantage, and in the second place, of religious fervour, which are the two chief causes of cleavages in parties. Then we come to 1917, when for the first time we had a great world war, which was more potent than any other factor in creating cleavages in parties. It is true that some of us had to separate from our old friends, and we have been referred to as " The prodigal son," as the boy who has strayed away, or, setting the theme to music, " Oh, Where is My Wandering Boy To-night?" But it must be remembered that it wTas not only one boy who left the old home, but most of the boys. Anyway, "the" boys, the best boys, left the party because of its policy in connection with the carrying on of the war. If you will look at the election results you will see that the vast majority of the Liberals who could not follow their old party on this issue were elected without the help of the military vote. If you look at the other side of the House you will find that only two Liberals were elected in Ontario, the greatest and most populous province in Canada, on what might be called old party lines, and the others come from constituencies in which, for racial reasons,

feeling was aroused to a very great extent against Great Britain. I am not competent to speak of other provinces, but as a general result the vast majority of the Liberal-Unionists candidates were elected. We on this side of the House cannot object to those who are left calling themselves the Liberal Party if they like, because everybody has the right to call himself whatever he chooses, but it does seem absurd that those who are in the minority should attempt to make out that we have not been treated properly on this side of the House, and that we have been absorbed into a party by another name. As a matter of fact, while we have been over here we have been well received. We have found no attempt at proselytizing. Our opinions have been received with civility, and furthermore, we have found something that has amazed us, and which would have amazed some of my hon. friends opposite had they come over here, and that is that there are more real Liberals on this side of the House than there are on the other. I will go further. I have found men on this side of the House who call themselves Conservative for party reasons, who are more radical than any I have ever found among my old friends the Liberals. I have been astounded to learn of the uprooting that some alleged Tories on this side of the House were willing to do in one way or another, so one is naturally bound to come to the conclusion that these old party names stand for nothing when a great cataclysm comes and a man takes the course he thinks is right. I am quite aware that the so-called Liberals, if they will not mind my using that term,-anyway, the Liberals,- have been saying disagreeable things, as they have a right to do, about defections and turn-overs, but I can assure them that there is nothing on this side of the House that has given offence to those Liberals who went out for the principles of which I have spoken. Not only have we been well received, but we have heard nothing of the extreme views which my hon. friend from Cape Breton North and Victoria (Mr. McKenzie) attributes to our colleagues on this side of the House. They have not tried to rub in, so to speak, their own particular opinions. I have heard that there are some strong party men on this side, just as there are strong party men on the other side of the House, who would prefer to be alone, but, of course, they have been civil enough not to let us find that out, except that we have heard some reference here to-day to certain efforts of a former Cabinet minister hailing from Winnipeg. So far as our colleagues on this side of the House, are concerned, we have had very pleasant relations with those with whom we formerly disagreed.
The war changed things in many ways, and with the exception of those who had the most tense political feelings and political inclinations, the war made men think as they wanted to think without regard to political party trammels.
It is proper for me now, I think, after two years, and as the subject has never been discussed in Parliament before, to give a short history of the rise of the cleavage in the Liberal party, and I can do it best, and it seems to me it would be the most convincing to those who are listening to me, by giving my own personal experience. In September, 1917, returning from my usual summer vacation, when one does not read many newspapers, I was surprised to find that there were some people in the country who were opposed to Canada taking further part in the great war. I discussed this matter with three men of political prominence, candidates under the leadership of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and I expressed my views, because I held them definitely and strongly. I said " We cannot let Canada down now that we have sent her in; we cannot let our boys at the Front get discouraged and weaken; we have-to send more men." The first man replied, " Of course we should, but what has that to do with politics?" Then he told me he had been going around among the people and had found that conscription was unpopular, and that Conservatives who did not want their sons to go to the Front were going to vote for the Liberal party if the Conservative party stood for conscription. The next man, who was also a candidate, agreed that many Conservatives who did not want their sons to go to the Front would vote for the Liberal party to avoid conscription, and he gave instances to show that conscription was not going to win. These men were of that type. I shall not mention their names, but I am not abusing any confidence because anything which they said to me they will say at any time. They thought that while it was proper for Canada to continue her effort in the war, as was done afterwards by the Union Government, the more important thing was that the Liberals should get into power. That disposes of two from whom I got opinions. The third to whom I spoke-a candidate afterwards-rather shocked me when he said: "Well, I think we have done enough; let Uncle Sam do the rest." Well, I do not care to express

contempt for any man, but if ever I felt like doing so in my life it was on the occasion of this assertion. If these be candidates of the Liberal party, 1 felt, how is it possible for us, who think differently from them, to march in double harness with them again unless they change their minds? We could not endorse any policy of nonsupport of our men who were in the war and so there was an election. Now, mark this: The Liberals who left their party were as convinced as those who remained in it that conscription was an unpopular issue. They thought that they would be defeated, but apprehension of defeat did not alter their intention and determination that the war should be fought to a successful issue. Fo it came about, in an imposing outburst of public enthusiasm, that the Union Government, which was pledged to continue the war, was sustained except in one province. None were more surprised than the Liberals who had run as candidates in support of the Union Government, and I must say that the result was gratifying to them. When a prominent member on the other side made a remark in Ottawa last winter that the Liberals who left their party had done so for their personal aggrandisement I assured him he was wrong. We were elected through the patriotism of the people, in Ontario at any rate; but at the time we ran there was no idea of personal gain -at all. We had played the political game before, but on that occasion we claim that we played the game of what was right for Canada without regard to the political party to which we belonged. I therefore give no credit to men like the three of whom I have spoken; they were wrong in their heads as well as in their hearts. They made a bad guess politically. They thought they were going to win and they lost, and I give them no credit for possessing any right principle or anything else to boast of. It was a pure political game with them. As I say, they were of opinion that they would win, but they lost; and it now ill becomes them to throw slurs at those who thought or acted differently from them.
I shall now conclude by saying that while this is not a political party on this side of the House-most of us have voted against the Government repeatedly, although the Government has not been sensitive on that point, knowing that our hearts and our allegiance were generally in the right place -while we are not a party, 1 do not see why we should not become one. Men of like opinions, men with the same ideals in re-

gard to the future of Canada, men who do not wish to see racial dissension or cleavage in the country, if they can meet on this side for two years and have no serious disagreement as to what is needed for good government, regardless of former party shibboleths, may very well compose a party. While therefore we are not yet a party, if there is any proposal that we should become a party and the leaders can devise a policy consistent with the ideals I ha\ e seen on this side, I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the Liberal-Unionists are going to join that party. We are assured there will be nothing new which will be inconsistent with anything we were ever told in political meetings on the liberal si te. I ask my hon. friend (Mr. Mackenzie King; now seriously-nay, humourously-did he ever hear political principles of a liberal kind discussed in a Liberal political meeting? No, he did not. Well, neither did I. We always played the party game. We were party men; and what a lot of rot it is to talk about Liberal principles or Conservative principles all the time! We were party men. But sometimes in a crisis we cannot be party men, and if we can find something better to substitute for what exists there is no reason why we should not take it. And we will take it. I, in common with the Liberals on this side, have had pleasure in supporting this Government, and supporting it enthusiastically, even though it be unpopular. During war I do not want to support a Government merely because it is popular. I want to support a Government that does the right thing even if it is going to be unpopular. And what a number of unpopular things this Government has had to do! One thing after another, which would almost strain to breaking point the ordinary man, these men in the Government benches, heedless of party politics, caring not whether their actions might incur the disapproval of their supporters or constituencies, or what effect those actions might have in the event of an election, have day in and day out framed policies and passed measures-Orders in Council, if you will- that were bound to be unpopular, but which were in their belief for the ultimate good of the country. The only thing that saved Canada during the war was the fact that there was a Government that was not afraid to do things that would be unpopular. And I mistake very much the temper and the generous spirit of my fellow-countrymen if they will not ultimately support a body of men such as compose the present

Government. It is true that at the present juncture criticism is freely indulged in. Attacks are made in every quarter; everyone is abusing everyone else-the Bolshevists condemn the Government. The returned soldiers abuse the pacifists. But when this state of feeling subsides, I have enough faith in my fellow-countrymen and enough confidence in their gratitude to know that they will support the party that did the right thing whether it was popular or not. I admit there is some talk of the unpopularity of the Government at the present moment, but that does not bother me a bit, because we know that it is merely a passing cloud. While it is fostered by my friends on the other side-sometimes, I regret to say, not altogether fairly-I know it is but transient. And when the next election comes, whether at the time demanded in my friend's motion, or a little later-probably a little later-the present Government, comprising men who formerly held different political views, is going to be swept ultimately into power again. The history of Canada shows that the people have favoured keeping governments a long time in power during the last forty years, and history will repeat itself at the next election. Then, my hon. friends, I think, will be somewhat ashamed of themselves when they go down to defeat-except in one province-because they did not try to unite with us to put an end to dissension, to throttle the racial feeling the moment it appeared, and to lend their support to a government working for the advantage of the whole country and of the whole Empire, and for the well-being of mankind at large.

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