February 19, 1923 (14th Parliament, 2nd Session)


James Shaver Woodsworth



Quite so. If the hon. gentleman will follow me I think he will see the bearing of my argument. I say we recognize that in the geographical distribution, which we have had for some time, but within each of these constituencies there are also divergent interests, or within each of these areas there are divergent interests that are just as important, and I think considerably greater than those that are caused by mere geographical divisions. We have within any one city certain divisions, for instance, manufacturers, bankers or railway people; we have the smaller business man; we have those generally known as labour people. The interests of these different groups are often by no means identical, or the people themselves do not think they are. As long as we have these divergencies among the people, as long as we have these divergent groups, surely they have a right to be heard. I do not think hon. gentlemen here ought to be afraid of having the minority express viewpoints. It seems to me we obtain the very highest and best results by each man or group speaking out as to what are their essential principles. Otherwise there is more or less autocracy and more or less force exercised by the majority over the minority. I do not know that we ought to be afraid of having the minority express their views, for it would seem to me that if we are going to suppress any particular body of public opinion by in some way refusing it a voice on the floor of the House, we are thereby giving to those who hold that opinion a direct incentive to express their opinion in some other way. As an example, the other day we had a discussion with regard to the trouble amongst the steel workers down in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. A year ago we had trouble among the coal miners in Cape Breton. These people for some reason or other have not been enabled to have their own direct representatives here to express themselves on the floor of this House. It is quite true, there are men who represent the constituency in which they live, they do not represent particularly the interests of the steel or mine workers. If these men cannot express themselves on the floor of this House, then it seems as though they would have to resort to some other method of having their will expressed. It would seem to be in the interest of the country as a whole that they should be able to express themselves, as we have so often said, through constitutional

Proportional Representation
means. If we deny them the right to express themselves through regular parliamentary agencies, it is inevitable that sooner or later they shall try to express themselves in some other way. So that from that standpoint alone I would suggest that we ought to afford these men every opportunity of expressing themselves through their own representatives here on the floor of this House. As we approach this matter of redistribution, I would like to think that we could settle some of these fundamental principles before we go into committee and thresh out the details. Here we have an opportunity of laying down the principles, and it does seem that we are on the side of thorough-going democracy if we say that it is in the general public interest that suitable machinery be provided. Proportional representation means, simply that machinery should be provided, so that as far as is possible we shall have represented on the floor of this House every considerable body of public opinion in any section of Canada.

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