Robert Knowlton SMITH

SMITH, Robert Knowlton, K.C., LL.B.

Personal Data

Conservative (1867-1942)
Cumberland (Nova Scotia)
Birth Date
December 28, 1887
Deceased Date
October 26, 1973

Parliamentary Career

October 29, 1925 - July 2, 1926
  Cumberland (Nova Scotia)
September 14, 1926 - May 30, 1930
  Cumberland (Nova Scotia)
July 28, 1930 - August 14, 1935
  Cumberland (Nova Scotia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 49 of 50)

March 2, 1926


Before the hon. gentleman leaves the Intercolonial-

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March 2, 1926

Mr. R. K. SMITH (Cumberland):


purpose in participating in the debate at this juncture is to register a vigorous protest on behalf of the Maritime provinces, and particularly the province of Nova Scotia, against the cessation of governmental activity because of the very serious situation existing in the Maritime provinces this very day. Before, Sir, taking up that matter, I want to refer for a short time to some of the remarks made by the hon. Minister of National Defence (Mr. Macdonald).

Let me say first, Mr. Speaker, that I bow very low to his long public record, his long parliamentary experience, his position as a minister of the crown in this so-called government, and to his seniority. But I take issue with him firmly and absolutely on some points he raised in his address this evening. I take issue with him also Mr. Speaker, in regard to some of the statements he made during the election of 1921 and his refusal, when he had the opportunity in this parliament, with a solid sixteen from Nova Scotia behind him, to implement the solemn promises he made to the electors of Pictou county in 1921. As he has seen fit to quote me, which is his perfect right, I see fit Mr. Speaker, to quote some of the remarks made by him in 1921 and

The Address-Mr. Smith

to ask this House and this country, and particularly the Maritime provinces, to say whether any of the promises and the pledges he made in 1921 were carried out by him on the floor of this House.

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March 2, 1926


I can tell the hon. gentleman a lot about the Rhodes government. That government found conditions, bequeathed to them by a Liberal regime, which it will take a considerable time to clean up. But they will be cleaned up, even after forty-three years of trespassing on the rights of the province of Nova Scotia. Moreover, the Rhodes government would never grant any charter such as the late Liberal government of Nova Scotia gave to the British Empire Steel Corporation which created in Nova Scotia a monopoly that has caused considerable distress in that province, and particularly the distress to which reference is made in the telegram I have just read from the mayor of Sydney Mines.

It is fitting at this time to ask what policy will be for the general good of labour, a

The Address-Mr. Smith

policy which is fundamentally sound and not one that will provide the working men with something to which they are entitled but which they will never receive for the reason that their days will be cut short by the distress in which they are living at present. I am glad to see the hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps) in the chamber; I believe he is a champion of labour. I hope he will represent labour in this House. I am informed, and he will correct me if I am wrong, that in the election he opposed a candidate of the very government which he is now supporting. Well, if at that time he opposed a candidate of the government he must surely have been opposed to the policies of that government, and what is responsible for his changed attitude since he has come to this House. I know not.

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March 2, 1926


No, he went to Antigonish-

Guysborough for a very good reason. He told the electors in the county of Pictou in 1921 that if they elected him to parliament and the Mackenzie King government was returned he would bring hope and sunshine into every home in that county. But the hope and sunshine did not arrive in that county, and the result was that he crossed the border and went to Antigonish-Guysborough, and1 I presume he told the electors of that county that he would bring hope andl sunshine to every home in that county. In the town of Stellar-ton, just a few days before the 1921 election, the hon. Minister of National Defence said:

I shall, when at Ottawa, insist that they take up and deal with the question of old age pensions and with tho matter of unemployment insurance.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, that the labour representatives are not in the House at the present time. This promise of old age pensions bears some relation to the promise of the Prime Minister in the supplementary Speech from the Throne. If either one of the Labour members were in the House at the present time, I would ask him, and I believe this House has a right to know, what was promised with respect to old age pensions. What was promised by Mr. King to the Labour members as an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada? What was promised by the Prime Minister to be brought down as amendments to the Naturalization Act and the Immigration Act, and other assistance they were demanding for the cause of labour?

I am in hearty accord with a great many of the policies which labour is advocating. I do not think they have been treated fairly in the past. I received a great measure of support from them in my constituency in the last election. I believe when we are in a financial position to carry out further reforms that it will be our duty to carry out those reforms. But in regard to old age pensions, Mr. Speaker, the people who would be entitled to receive them will have starved or have left the country before they can benefit by such a provision. It is not fundamental legislation so far as labour is concerned. You must first provide work for the labouring classes of this country, or they will not live until they get to the age at which they would be entitled

to a pension. The fundamental question so far as labour is concerned to-day is that we should inaugurate a policy in the Dominion of Canada that will provide them with work so that they may keep themselves and their families from starvation.

I said I would refer to the distressed situation in the province of Nova Scotia. This government decides to have a recess, suspending the country's business and thus making a mockery of our parliamentary institutions, in order to go to the country for the purpose of patching up its shattered forces. Do the actual facts bear out the flattering remarks that appear in the Speech from the Throne in regard to this prosperity which it is alleged exists in this country to-day? I have in my hand a telegram sent to-day from Sydney Mines to the hon. member for Cape Breton North-Victoria (Mr. Johnstone) which reads:

Conditions at Sydney Mines rapidly approaching crisis. Sixty four hundred dollars subscribed jointly by coal company, United Mine Workers and citizens exhausted. Have no information when work shall be resumed at collieries.

Listen to this:

Five hundred and fifty families in dire distress. Citizens can do no more and felt government assistance absolutely necessary to deal with the situation. Copy of this sent to Premier.

M. Dyer, Mayor.

In face of the fact that 550 families in Cape Breton island are in dire want, the House of Commons, for the pure purpose of political expediency, decides that it must have a recess in order to enable the government to elect ministers to fill the gaps which are so pronounced on the opposite side.

Mr. McM.ILLAN: Where is your great

Messiah in the Rhodes government?

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March 2, 1926


That brings up a question

which I intended to refer to later. It is not the question whether Conservatives or Liberals should be in power at this time. Mr Mackenzie King issued a manifesto to the people of the country in October when he asked them to return him to power upon certain policies which he submitted to them. What was the result? Leave out of consideration for the moment the Conservative party, the Progressives, the Labour and Independent members. What was the result, I ask? The people decided against Mr. Mackenzie King in the proportion of 101 candidates elected in his party to the rest of the membership of this House of 245. In view of this decision Mr. King had only one plain duty, and that was to resign. The issue was not whether the government should corral enough support from independent sources to enable it to carry on; that was not the issue at all. The issue was very clearly stated by Mr. King at Richmond Hill and throughout the Dominion; he said, "I want the electors to give me a sufficient majority to warrant me in going back to parliament and putting into force those policies which I have not been able to make effective so far because of the meagre majority I have at my command." I say, therefore, to my hon. friend from North Winnipeg that it is not a question of his being opposed to the policy of the Conservative party or the policy of the Liberal party and having to choose between the two. No; that is not the question. His constituency, I presume, sent him back to parliament to oppose the King administration, as did all the other constituencies

represented in this House by hon. gentlemen in all quarters who were elected in opposition to the government; and' the government has no right to accept, nor is it just in accepting, the support of either Progressives, Independent members, Labour members, or any other faction in this House. The people, I repeat, decided against the King government, and Mr. King, if he wanted to keep faith with them, would not now accept support from these sources, for the constituents of hon. members who were elected in opposition to the government and were returned to parliament for the express purpose of opposing the government, and they should oppose it, irrespective of what the policies of the Conservative party may be.

The Speech from the Throne promises the building of the Hudson Bay railway. Now we from the east have little knowledge of that undertaking; we do not know what it is going to cost nor whether it will be under the control of the Canadian National Railways or not. Has any report been received from Sir Henry Thornton and his engineers on this project. We should like to know these things. We want to know whether there is going to be set up in this country a distinctly dual system of governmental control of the National railways. As matters are now, I for one have not been made acquainted with the intention of the government in this respect. Is this new railway to become a part of the Canadian National system, or is another Canadian National system going to be brought into being entailing high paid officials and all the inevitable paraphernalia of such a system all over the Dominion? These are some of the things we want to know before committing *ourselves to such a gigantic project as the Hudson Bay railway, and we are entitled to have that information. The people should know all about the matter before being asked to undertake this project.

Other questions are dealt with in the Speech from the Throne such as rural credits and various other matters which have been carefully gone into by hon. gentlemen who have already spoken. There is, for example, a proposed commission to inquire into Maritime rights. As I said in my maiden speech in this House, we do not need a commission to ascertain what these rights are; we know what they are and we are here to insist upon their recognition.

Reference was made to myself a few days ago by the hon. member for Gloucester (Mr. Robichaud) who observed that we Maritime righters were not in our proper place when

The Address-Mr. Lacombe

sitting on the left of the Speaker. I want to ask the hon. gentleman where we should go to have Maritime rights recognized. Certainly not to the Mackenzie King government. We sent a delegation of 200 to Ottawa a year ago to urge recognition of our rights without any benefits. We sent 16 representatives in 1921 to support the Liberal party, but our cause was not recognized, and in 1925 they do not know what Maritime rights are. I extend my heartiest congratulations to the hon. member, he is the sole survivor of the virtually extinct species of Liberalism from the province of New Brunswick in this House. Might I say while on that question, Mr. Speaker, that in Nova Scotia to-day the parties in both houses of parliament, local and federal are made up of one Labour member, six Liberals and fifty Conservatives. The hon. member no doubt will receive the reward he is entitled to and be asked to accept a seat in the cabinet now to be reconstructed. New Brunswick is too important a province to go without representation in the government, and I have no doubt that his past services to the party and his ability merit that reward.

Referring again to the hon. Minister of National Defence I would ask him-if he were in the chamber-why the Guvsborough railway was not built under the same procedure as the Rouyn railway. The Liberal party made great claims down in Nova Scotia with respect to the building of the Guysborough railway, and said they had done everything in their power to get the road built for the benefit of the people in Guysborough and the adjoining counties. But evidently they did not do everything in their power, because I understand that a certain act was placed on the statute books in 1915, and according to the way they 'dealt with the Rouyn railway, I believe they would have been able to pursue the same procedure to bring about the construction of the Guysborough railway. But I do not admit that they were really entitled to build the Rouyn railway in that way, nor do I admit they they could have built the Guysborough railway by following a similar course. But having taken the wrong course in that case, they could easily have repeated the wrong and built the Guysborough railway, instead of bringing in a bill to authorize its construction, which bill they knew was a sham because it would be and was rejected by the upper chamber.

Mr. L. LAOOMBE (Laval-Two Mountains). (Translation): Mr. Speaker, allow me to make a few comments in my mother tongue -were it but to assert again the principle, already acknowledged' long ago, of the use of

the two official languages in this country- that tongue of which Andre Chenier was able to say: The most beautiful language born on human lips.

I am happy, Sir, to take part in this debate and support, as a member of the Liberal party, the so dignified, tactful and energetic attitude taken by the acting Prime Minister, the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe). It really is a pleasure to assist in the efforts made by all the members of this government and I shall add, moreover, in the offorts made by our congenial colleagues in this House, the Progressive members. I cannot, however, pay the same compliment to the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) and to his followers who, for weeks, have been obstructing legislation and will have to answer to the people of Canada for the enormous expenditure which, each day, they are the cause. Where are these gentlemen who, in the course of the last electoral campaign, proclaimed themselves the champions of economy? I ask you, Sir, were they sincere? Were they in earnest when they advocated economy and when, to-day, they confine themselves to obstruction which threatens to become everlasting? That is why the government has thought fit to take energetic means, and I deny the leader of the opposition's right of being shocked with regard to this measure since it is his own child. He was its father not under similar circumstances as do now apply to it; but he was the author of it at a time when all men having the interest of their country at heart, wished to protest as to Canada bleeding itself to death in order to participate in the wars of the empire; he was its father at that time just as he charged, this afternoon, the hon. Minister of Justice of being the father of the measure to-day.

I must congratulate the Minister of Justice who in a way comes forward as the standard bearer of the rights of the people in this House. He is the bulwark of these rights because knowing himself well supported by us, he wants to put an end to this deluge of words characteristic of an incompetence unsurpassed but by its own insignificance.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot refrain from pointing out to the energetic and strong stand taken by the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa). I am happy, although not always agreeing with him in his views and principles, to offer him this sincere mark of my admiration, and to observe that he has lost nothing of his eloquence and energy of days gone by, that this eloquence also is still persuasive and

The Address-Mr. Bennett

fiery and can only find its equal but in his high intellectual culture.

When I speak thus, when I express myself frankly, clearly and precisely, I know I am voicing the general feeling of my county. Have we not obtained in this House, the sanction of the people through the unquestionable majority we repeatedly have been registering up to this day? Are- not the . people backing us up? Is not the established authority of this country supporting us, and does not the majority of the representatives of the people constitute the established authority?

That is why, to-day, we are fearless in suppressing the unceasing obstruction of those who oppose our measures. We are in duty bound to govern because the people, through their representation in this House, have decreed that we were the government. This is why we have no fear in saying: desperate diseases require desperate remedies.

I state that it is absolutely wrong for the opposition to have, week after week held this House in suspense, when the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) stated a short while ago, that the opposition had no desire for a holiday, I was in no wa5r astounded, as the opposition has been enjoying a holiday for already five weeks. And when the hon. member further stated that after giving it serious consideration he had changed his mind, I would ask him to also return to his first love, to the sacred ties of the Liberal party whose cherished aims are the country's happiness, prosperity and glory.

I was listening, a few moments ago to the hon. member for Hamilton (Mr. Mewburn). Hamilton! The prophetical word of to-day, .since it sums up the new political policy of the right hon. leader of the opposition. Hamilton! The famous Hamilton speech! which, thank God, the province of Quebec did not swallow down at the last election in Bagot. And how could they believe in that speech when the most intimate satellites of the leader of the apposition were criticizing him throughout Ontario? It is not necessary to name these members, however, beneath the velvet paw we felt the claws of these satellites of the leader of the opposition.

I do not wish, Sir, to further impose on your kindness. Allow me, by the way, to add a few words with reference to the hon. member for St. Lawrence^St. George (Mr. Cahan) who, the other day, in this House, made a speech lasting five hours and a half. His attitude seems somewhat strange, especially when one beholds him sitting on the same row as the right hon. leader of the opposition, he who always acknowledged Mr. REVISED

Patenaude as his leader in the province of Quebec. The same remark applies to the hon. member for Mount Royal (Mr. White) whose newspaper so strongly condemned the attitude taken by the opposition these last days.

I trust that the high ideals of these two hon. members will have a beneficial influence on the opposition.

In closing my remarks, Mr. Speaker, allow me to state that I rose not to harshly criticize the opposition, but because the interest of the country at large demanded it, and because we need, we on the government side, to reorganize the cabinet, to complete our legislation and bring it down before parliament in order to carry out our sessional programme. That is what the people demand of us, to-day, and that is why I have taken part in this debate.

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