February 21, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Rodolphe Lemieux

Laurier Liberal

Hon. RODOLPHE LEMIEUX (Maison-neuve-Gaspe):

Mr. Speaker, when listening to the able address delivered by my hon. friend from Parkdale (Mr. Mowat), and particularly to the biting remarks which he made with regard to his former associates, I was reminded that the hon. gentleman, with his Liberal antecedents, was made a candidate in the county of Parkdale in 1917 and was elected under very special circumstances. I remember very well that at the time of his election the Tories of that eminently Tory division of Parkdale made a covenant with the party organizer that for one Parliament only would that circumscription be loaned to the hon. gentleman; they did not expect that Parliament would last five years, either. Sir, I am not surprised that the hon. gentleman's presidency of the Liberal Association in the province of Ontario should have occurred at a time when the Reform party in that province was at its lowest ebb.
My hon. friend says that it has been impossible for him, after reading the report of the Liberal convention held in 1919, to find therein a policy to guide, first, the destinies of the Liberal party, and then the destinies of the Canadian people. My hon. friend is so blind as not to be able to read the admirable platform laid down by the Liberal party in convention assembled in 1919 as set forth in that report. May I not refer him to another authority? He says that on the tariff the Liberal party has no policy. Let me bring forward the latest authority in the Tory party-pardon me, in the Tory-Liberal-National party- and I hope that my hon. friend will be satisfied with it. It was stated in the House that this was our battle-ground:
Reduce the tariff and you will help to reduce the cost of living. The policy followed by this Administration has had the result of creating unrest which continues to grow every day and every week, and this policy- is proved by its results to be wrong, change it; reduce the tariff, and you will reduce the cost of living.
This policy, Mr. Speaker, was laid down by the eminent member who represents the

county of St. Hyacinthe (Mr. Gauthier) - the new John the Baptist prophesying the advent of a saviour for Canada. And, Mr. Speaker, that speech was delivered in this very Chamber less than a year ago.
When my hon. friend (Mr. Mowat) opened his remarks this evening he stated that he .would speak on current events. I would have forgiven him had he spoken only on current events. But when he went as far back as the Middle Ages and the geography of Sicily-perhaps he meant the Scilly Islands, because I thought his speech very silly-he lost all right to be answered this evening; therefore he will pardon me if I leave him at that and if I only speak on the amendment which is before the Chair.
Before I do so, I wish to say a few words about the very degrading incident which took place the other day in the House of Commons. It is an axiom in politics as in war that it is good tactics not to do what the enemy wants you to do. For that reason, we, on this side of the House, after the spectacle presented by the hon. member for St. Hyacinthe-Rou-ville (Mr. Gauthier) in his speech of last week, decline to gratify our hon. friends opposite by entering into an unseemly brawl such as the hon. gentleman's new-found allies hoped he would be able to provoke in this chamber. At the same time I owe it to myself and to my native province that I should emphasize the political solidity as well as the personal respectability of the people of Quebec by drawing attention to the contrast presented in regard to both by the hon. member for St. Hyacinthe-Rouville and his performance of a few days ago.
Appropriately enough from the hon. gentleman's point of view, he selected the second anniversary of the death of our great leader whose memory he professed to honour as the date upon which to confess his own shame, and to give to the House a long list of personal and political lapses of conduct of which neither the House nor the country, outside of the province of Quebec, would have had any knowledge, and in which credence would not have been placed by the majority of the people, were the admissions not made by the hon. gentleman himself. Where the hon. gentleman stands in public estimation after his extraordinary revelation of his own chequered and tortuous career, I need not specify; but I may observe that after his attacks on all his former comrades and political associates, Conservative, Nationalist and Liberal,

because he was all that, and after his further attacks on labour and the farmers, it goes without saying that he placed himself outside the pale of all political parties, and now there is "none so poor' to do him reverence."
After having made it plain to the House and to the country that he occupies a position such as no other man belonging to any party in the province of Quebec would occupy, the hon. gentleman asks the House and the country to believe him when he says that he is no Judas. Mr. Speaker, that was an unhappy phrase for the hon. gentleman to use. I will not apply it to him. I might remind him however that, after receiving his forty thousand pieces of silver, Judas, at least, had the grace to go out and hang himself. The performance of a similar act is not, however, necessary in the case of the hon. member for St. Hyacinthe-Rouville. The black flag is already at the top of the mast in St. Hyacinthe, and the sheriff with his posse is waiting his political execution. This performance degrading as it was, made it certain that no matter what member of the Government may have stood sponsor for him, not even his shadow will ever be cast over the place that he and his sponsor planned that he should occupy. That 9 p.m. is all that I have to say on the subject, and I leave the hon. gentleman, his new associates and his sponsor to contemplate together and separately the mess they have made of things and the contempt in which they are held by all who esteem fair dealing, fairplay and upright conduct in the public and the private life of this country. Further than this, about this incident I shall say nought. I do not care, I never cared to play bridge with a corpse.
I now intend to address you, Sir, on the question which has been debated since the beginning of last week, and I beg to state at first that I will support the amendment moved by my honoured leader (Mr. Mackenzie King) because I believe in British Parliamentary institutions. No government is possible unless it has the consent of the governed. This is a basic principle in the British Parliamentary system, and we in Canada have accepted that system of government. My young friend, the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power), in his admirable address the other evening, gave a case in point which I will cite once more. I happened to be in England in 1905 and 1906 when the general elections were fought. Everyone will remember that

the Balfour Government came into office in 1900 during the South African war, that government being returned by an immense majority. It was a "win the war Government" such as this Government was on the morrow of the 1917 election. They called the elections of 1900 the "khaki" election. But soon after the treaty was signed in South Africa and the people of England returned to their respective political affiliations.
Constitutionally speaking, the government was entitled to seven years' existence, and Mr. Chamberlain, who was one of the leading ministers in that government, started at once to agitate the question of Imperial preference and that of protection There were many changes in the Cabinet at that moment, several of the ministers left the government and there was a series of by-elections. In Canada, several ministers have left the Government since 1917 for divers considerations and a series of by-elections has taken place. To continue the parallel, from 1900 to 1905 in England Mr. Balfour lost in most of the constituencies, so much so that long before the constitutional end of his government, he decided to dissolve the House. I remember his address delivered, I believe, in the city of Birmingham-he was the member for Birmingham or Manchester. He positively stated that he had dissolved Parliament because he saw that public opinion was fgitated; that new questions had arisen; that the Government had been defeated in several constituencies, and that the people had a right to select a new government. His government was defeated and, mark this, Mr. Speaker, the opponents of the Government of England-here again the parallel is applicable-were at that moment of different persuasions, politically speaking. You had then the Irish Parliamentary party; you had the Radical party; you had the Labour party, and you had the old Liberal party, composed of men like the present Earl Grey, Mr. Asquith, Mr. Haldane, Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, Lord Rosebery, and others. All the opponents of the Balfour administration, although divided amongst themselves on nonessentials, united their efforts against the government of the day, and victory for one was considered a victory for all. Whenever a Labour man was put up in a constituency, he was supported by the Liberals and the Radicals, and wherever a Liberal ran, he was supported by the Radicals and by Labour. The most important question at that time, as it is to-day, was whether or not the government had the con-121
fidence of the people. It seems to me it was exactly parellel to the present situation here. Whether we call ourselves Liberals or Farmers or Labour, when the majority opinion of the country as expressed in the various constituencies is against the government, as it has been consistently against the Government since 1917, I claim that an amendment of this nature is in order and the Government should take notice of it.
There is, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me, a paramount reason why the present Parliament should dissolve. I say, Sir, in all seriousness that there has been no general election in this country since 1911-ten years ago. The last general election in Canada was held in that year, but it has not had the opportunity to do so since. That explains the unrest which exists throughout the country; it explains the revolt, the rumbles of which we hear in the various constituencies.
Let me review very briefly the circumstances under which the Canadian Parliament was dissolved in 1911. The question before the people at that time was the reciprocity pact with the United States. Reciprocity was not a new question. It was a very familiar issue to the people of Canada. It was familiar to our predecessors in 1854, in 1866 the year of the abrogation of the first treaty, in 1872, in 1875, in 1879, and in 1891, because in 1891 a general election was fought in Canada on the question of reciprocity. The Liberal party at that time advocated a full measure of reciprocity and the Conservative party a restricted offer of reciprocity with the United States. The Liberal party was practically victorious at the polls. At all events the majority of the government was not very large, and the Conservative administration could claim that they had received the support of the Canadian electorate in favor of a restricted offer of reciprocity. But be that as it may, in 1911 the question was hy no means a new one.
Yet, when my hon. friend the present member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) and that old friend of ours, the late Mr. William Patterson, returned from Washington and presented the reciprocity pact to Parliament immediatelyno, not immediately, because at first the Conservative party in the House of Commons gave a genuine support to the measure-but afterwards, there developed opposition to the measure and the Conservative party through its official mouthpiece, the leader of the Opposition, stated that an appeal should be had to the people

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