House of Commons, 28 January 1949, Canadian Confederation with Newfoundland

28 House of Commons HOUSE OF COMMONS
[...] assured that representations have been made to me in this regard by members of the house, members of the press gallery and visitors to this house. I would be very pleased if a system could be found which would give satisfaction. I think it is my duty, though, to call the attention of the hon. leader of the opposition to the fact that one of the diffi— culties in adopting the method used in the French house or the Italian house or even in the congress of the United States is the fact that in most of these places the members speak from a rostrum. This means only one microphone need be connected to the loud speaker.
Here, the problem is quite different, but the hon. members may be assured that they have all my sympathy. The Speaker exper— iences considerable difficulty in hearing what is going on in the house. I will do everything possible to give you satisfaction, though I consider it my duty not to recommend an expensive installation which would not give satisfaction. You may depend upon it, how— ever, that I will do my very best, in consultation with the proper officials, to make a recommendation satisfactory to all hon. members as soon as possible.
Mr. Drew: Perhaps you will permit me to say a word in view of the fact that you have referred to what I have said. In the French and Italian chambers the ministers speak from the rostrum, but the members speak from their seats. I believe that system would work here.



Hon. Stuart S. Garson (Minister of Justice) moved for leave to introduce Bill No. 2, to amend the Supreme Court Act.
Some hon. Members: Explain.
Mr. Garson: This bill comprises a number of amendments the purpose of which is to clarify existing sections in the act; they involve no change in principle. There is, however, one notable change, and that is the proposal to abolish appeals from the Supreme Court of Canada to the privy council.
Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.



Mr. Wilfrid LaCroix (Quebec—Montmorency) moved for leave to introduce Bill No. 3, to amend the Criminal Code (illegal organizations) and the Canadian Citizenship Act (loss of Canadian citizenship).
Some hon. Members: Explain.
Mr. LaCroix: Mr. Speaker, in explanation may I say that a new item has been added to this bill, which is well known to the hon. members of this house. Article 98A of the Criminal Code has been amended as follows:
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person:
(a) to attempt in any manner to establish in Canada a totalitarian dictatorship the direction and control of which is to be vested in, or exercised by or under the domination or control of. any foreign government, foreign organization. or foreign individual;
(b) to perform or attempt to perform any act with intent to facilitate or aid in bringing about the establishment in Canada of such a totalitarian dictatorship;
(c) actively to participate in the management, direction, or supervision of any movement to establish in Canada such a totalitarian dictatorship:
(d) actively to participate in the management, direction. or supervision of any movement to facilitate or aid in bringing about the establishment in Canada of such a totalitarian dictatorship;
(e) to conspire to do anything unlawful by this subsection.
I want to add one remark, Mr. Speaker, and it is this. If the C.C.F., as I hope, is in no way connected with communism—
Some hon. Members: Order.
Mr. LaCroix: —the members of that party will surely not make lengthy speeches on this bill, as they did last year, but will allow it to reach a vote.
Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.



Mr. Roland Beaudry (St. James) moved for leave to introduce Bill No. 4, respecting a national flag for Canada.
Some hon. Members: Explain.
Mr. Beaudry: The purpose of the bill is to provide for a national flag for Canada. The description of the flag is appended in a schedule to the bill. I hope that within a few days I shall have the privilege of distributing to the members of this house a facsimile of this flag.
Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.



Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister) moved that the house go into committee at the next sitting to consider the following resolution:
That it is expedient to present a bill for the approval by parliament of the terms of union of Newfoundland with Canada. The implementation JANUARY 28, 1949 Proposed Legislation 29 of these terms will involve a charge upon and payment out of moneys in the consolidated revenue fund of Canada.
He said: His Excellency the Governor General, having been made acquainted with the subject matter of this resolution, recommends it to the consideration of the house.
Motion agreed to.



Hon. Douglas Abbott (Minister of Finance) moved that the house go into committee at the next sitting to consider the following resolution:
That it is expedient to present a measure to provide for the continuance in force of the Foreign Exchange Control Act until sixty days after the commencement of the first session of parliament commencing in the year 1951.
He said: His Excellency the Governor General, having been made acquainted with the subject matter of this resolution, recommends it to the consideration of the house.
Motion agreed to.



Right Hon. J. G. Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture) moved that the house go into committee at the next sitting to consider the following resolution:
That it is expedient to present a bill to amend the Agricultural Products Act to extend the operation of the act for a period of one year.
He said: His Excellency the Governor General, having been made acquainted with the subject matter of this resolution, recommends it to the consideration of the house.
Motion agreed to.



Hon. Robert W. Mayhew (Minister of Fisheries) moved that the house go into committee at the next sitting to consider the following resolution:
That it is expedient to present a measure for the purpose of regulating the export and import of fish and fish containers and the export of marine plants. and the appointment of inspectors and other officers and employees required for the proper administration of the act.
He said: His Excellency the Governor General, having been made acquainted with the subject matter of this resolution, recommends it to the consideration of the house. Motion agreed to.



Hon. Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works, for the Minister of Justice) moved that the house go into committee at the next sitting to consider the following resolution:
That it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the continuation of certain orders and regulations of the governor in council for a limited period during the national emergency arising out of the war.
He said: His Excellency the Governor General, having been made acquainted with the subject matter of this resolution, recommends it to the consideration of the house.
Motion agreed to.


Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister) moved:
That on and after Monday, January 31, 1949, and every sitting day thereafter until and including Friday, February 11, 1949, government notices of motions and government orders shall have precedence over all other business except introduction of bills.
He said: In referring to this motion yesterday I stated that if I had the consent of the house I would ask that there be substituted, for the dates January 31 and February 11, respectively, the dates February 7 and February 18. On referring to the rules, however, I find that the regular way to handle the matter is not by amending my own motion but by presenting it in its present form and leaving it to some other hon. member to propose the proper amendment, if he sees fit to do so.
Right Hon. J. G. Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture): I move:
That the motion be amended by replacing in the first line thereof the words "January 31" by the words "February 7," and by replacing in the second line thereof the words "February 11" by the words "February 18".
Mr. Drew: Mr. Speaker, before any remarks are made in connection with this motion, I think the house should have some indication of the reasons why there is any cause to consider it at the present time. I would point out that yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister said that in any event it was the intention of the government to proceed during the coming week with the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne. For that reason there is no evidence of any necessity for 30 HOUSE OF COMMONS Business of the House the consideration of this motion this afternoon. Certainly nothing has been put before the house which would suggest any reason for supporting such a motion.
Mr. St. Laurent: The reason for making the motion is to determine now that on February 7 we may proceed with the resolutions and legislation necessary to implement the agreement for the union of Newfoundland with Canada. It is an express term of that agreement for union that it will come into force and bring about the union if there is assented to, by His Majesty, a bill of the parliament of the United Kingdom confirming legislation passed by this parliament and by the government of Newfoundland ratifying the terms of that agreement. That procedure requires that there be in this house first of all a resolution, the one that was mentioned first under the heading "government notices of motions" today. That resolution is necessary before any bill can be introduced, because a bill to confirm the agreement will impose charges upon the consolidated revenue fund. Then the bill itself must run the gauntlet of the usual stages of procedure in this house and in the other place before it can become the law of the land. It is felt that it would be undesirable to have the matter dealt with at all by the parliament of the United Kingdom until the parliament of Canada has expressed the views of the people of Canada with respect to the union. Before the parliament of the United Kingdom will attempt to deal with the matter at all, in order to comply with the terms of the statute of Westminster there will be required a joint address of this house and of the senate asking His Majesty to lay before the parliament of the United Kingdom a bill embodying the proper legislation.
When I was over in London some months ago I had some discussion on this subject with members of the government of the United Kingdom, and I was told that they would like to have not less than three weeks to deal with the legislation in their houses of parliament after the proceedings had been completed here. It is therefore urgent, I think, that we reach this matter and ascertain, at as early a date as possible, the views of the parliament of Canada upon the terms of union that were signed last December. It was for that reason that, when I announced to the gentlemen of the press the date that was fixed for the session, I explained to them that we were calling parliament together on a Wednesday instead of a Thursday, as had been done in several previous years, so that there might be a couple of days of debate on the address before we asked parliament to suspend the debate and deal with the matters concerning Newfoundland, as it had been our intention to ask parliament to do at the time specified in the motion as printed on the order paper.
When notice of this motion was given I found that there were many members of parliament on both sides of the house who felt that it was not necessary to commence on January 31 in order to have the Newfoundland proceedings properly dealt with in time, and that they wished to have at least another full week of debate on the address before adjourning it.
It is my view that we do generally make better progress in dealing with the substantive business of parliament if we do not have too many disputes over matters of procedure, and I would take it for granted that we would be probably just as far advanced with the Newfoundland matter after a week or two if we met the wishes of hon. members who wish to have an additional week to debate the address.
The reason for bringing the motion forward is to have it fixed, that we will start on this matter on February 7, and to inform the law officers of the United Kingdom of this change, which we hope will not necessarily mean that we shall be delaying them in putting before them, if parliament approves of the agreement, the required material so that it can be dealt with in orderly fashion in the United Kingdom parliament.
Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, first of all may I assure the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and hon. members that on any procedural matters that will facilitate the business of this house he will find the full concurrence of myself as leader of the opposition and those associated with me; but that concurrence does not extend to the point of departing from well established practices, for which departure no substantial reason can be offered. The reasons now presented by the Prime Minister offer no justification whatever for presenting this motion today. I would point out that throughout the whole record of the House of Commons, not only in this chamber but in other chambers in early buildings since confederation, in the majority of occasions on which the debate on the speech from the throne has proceeded without interruption it has actually been completed within the time which would elapse between now and next Friday.
Some hon. Members: No, no.
Mr. Drew: Some hon. members, of course, are basing their views on recent experience, which is not traditionally the experience of this house, if they examine the record.
JANUARY 28, 1949 Business of the House 31
I do not wonder that hon. members at the other end of the chamber have difficulty in hearing the debate when it seems so difficult for some hon. members to keep their own thoughts inaudible.
The motion that is before the house at the present time is one which has the effect of terminating the debate on the address before anyone in the house knows whether in fact it will still be going on next Friday. It is a very easy matter to examine the record of Hansard and to ascertain that postponing the debate and then reviving it, and thereby bringing back the subject matter that was under consideration, inevitably prolongs the whole debate. But there are other reasons why this motion should not be accepted by hon. members without a great deal more explanation than has been offered. The date on which agreement was called for between the parliament of Canada and the representatives of Newfoundland, described in the agreement as the government of Newfoundland, was March 31. That date was decided on before the government had fixed the date of the session. If there was any reason to believe that additional time was needed it would have been very easy to have fixed an earlier date for the opening of the session so that the debate on the speech from the throne could have proceeded in an orderly way to its customary termination without interruption, such as is now suggested.
It is difficult to imagine what the urgency is which suggests that it is necessary to have this bill considered a week from Monday, particularly when more than two months will still elapse between the date on which agreement is required and today. After all, there is no reason to suggest that any extended delay will be involved in presenting the views of this house to Westminster, because it is inconceivable that the government of Canada has not already presented all the facts to the government of the United Kingdom other than the appropriate indication of such decision as may be reached by this parliament. That being so, the time that is suggested as being necessary for these proceedings seems to bear no relationship whatever to any reasonable requirements to deal with this matter in the ordinary way.
There is of course another and very much more cogent reason why this motion should not be accepted by hon. members. The rules of this house are not different from the rules of any other house. Please do not think for one moment that I am unaware of the tactics that can be employed in delaying the consideration of a debate on the speech from the throne, because if it is delayed the government finds an opportunity to introduce a number of extraneous subject matters which in their opinion will divert public attention from the inadequacy of the statements in the speech from the throne and from the weaknesses in the position of the government. I am certainly convinced that this is the reason the adjournment is sought, rather than the reason that has been suggested in the house today. It will of course be very convenient if the striking omissions from the speech from the throne are supplemented by appropriate statements from day to day by various ministers who will make those bright promises which the minister of reconstruction does not think are as useful as they once were.
But these can go on from day to day in the intervening period. And of course it would appear that the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) holds a similar view. These can go on indefinitely—and this is nothing new. I think the hon. members of this house not only on the opposition side but on the government side should seek to have an explanation on the one hand in regard to certain statements, which are extremely vague, in the speech from the throne and—
Some hon. Members: Order.
Mr. Drew: I will debate it on the appropriate occasion.
An hon. Member: Speak to the motion.
Mr. Howe: Are you speaking on the speech from the throne?
Mr. Cruickshank: I thought you knew the rules.
Mr. Drew: I think it is very obvious that a number of motions can be padded out with various statements that can be introduced on the one hand by presentation to the house, and on the other hand by those interesting pieces of information which appear in the press throughout Canada, without any names attached to them, stating that the press is authoritatively informed from someone very close to the minister that such and such a thing is going to be done.
There is of course a still further reason, and one which, it seems to me, is very difficult for some hon. members opposite to dispute: that is, that the debate on the speech from the throne is no mere formality, as some people seem to suggest from time to time. It is in fact the most important debate in many cases which will take place in any legislative assembly. Because, under the practice established here, as in every other parliament or legislature within the commonwealth, the debate on the speech from the throne offers an opportunity to the house to say by its vote whether the government still commands the confidence of the House of Commons. It may be a comfortable assumption on the part of the government that they 32 Business of the House HOUSE OF COMMONS can look at the list of members and count every vote according to the places where they seat themselves in the house. But if any house of commons or legislative assembly reduces itself to a position where individual discretion, intelligence and conscience mean nothing, then there might just as well be no recorded vote at all, and the vote might just as well be taken from the printed sheet.
The fact is that members of this House of Commons and other legislative bodies in the country have demonstrated that measure of independence which is the hallmark of free parliaments. There is no reason on this or any other occasion to assume that merely because of the tag on which a member was elected he is simply to become a servile digit to be named by the leader of his group, without any respect for his own conscience, when some subject is before the house.
The practice is very well established, and on this occasion I think it would be well if I were to place before the house the opinion of a member whose virtues have been loudly extolled by a number of hon. members opposite as one who understands the real meaning of parliament, and of this parliament particularly. I would quote the words of the right hon. member for Glengarry (Mr. Mackenzie King). It is true that we have not always agreed on every subject; but in this instance surely I can offer to hon. members opposite no better advice than that of the man for whom they have shown such unreserved respect in these past few days and for whose opinion they have the highest regard.
Therefore I should like to read what the right hon. member for Glengarry said in 1921, as it is reported at page 151, volume I of Hansard for that year. These words, it seems to me, set forth the very core of the consideration that should be in our minds. I shall quote his words, and these will be his words until I have indicated that the quotation is ended:
We take the position that without the confidence of this house and of the country they are not entitled to introduce a bill or to spend a dollar; and unless my right hon. friend can show us some precedent for adjourning the debate on a motion of want of confidence in the government to take up another matter, we would be justified I think in adhering to the position which we have taken from the outset, namely that the government lacks the confidence of the country, and therefore is not entitled to proceed with any legislation.
There the quotation ends.
The mere fact that the want of confidence motion has not yet been moved varies in no way the effectiveness of this statement— because the only reason there is no want of confidence motion before the house is that this motion has been introduced before the debate has been resumed. The view put forth there by the right hon. gentleman is one in which I think all hon. members might well concur; because if for any reason members in the house do not support the government, then the government may well have committed itself to a course with which it had no right to proceed, unless that confidence has once been established.
There may of course be varying reasons. We would simply not recognize reality if we were to say that there could be no occasion upon which some emergency situation might arise where a motion of this kind might be called for, if the debate were to be unreasonably protracted. But no such situation arises now. The debate is going on next week, by decision of the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and his colleagues. That being so, until there is any indication whatever that an emergency actually presents itself, and the debate is in fact proceeding next Friday, there is no reason whatever to support the motion. It should be opposed in principle in any event. But even without that, the motion is wholly unnecessary, and therefore it is opposed.
Mr. M. J. Coldwell (Rosetown-Biggar): Mr. Speaker, when the proposal was first made that the debate should be interrupted from today, my colleagues felt the request was one we could not approve. The government, however, has compromised to this extent, that next week the debate on the address will continue, and that at the end of next week we shall take up the matter of union with Newfoundland.
I think it is unfortunate that this debate must be interrupted, but my experience in the twelve years I have been here is that normally the debate on the address lasts anywhere from three to six weeks. I realize that there is great urgency in connection with the Newfoundland agreement, but that urgency arises because of a situation not in our own country or in our own parliament but in the British parliament. May I say that that is the reason why we shall support the amended resolution that has been introduced this afternoon. At the moment the British house is engaged in many important matters dealing not only with their own grave domestic situation but with the international situation as well. I think we owe it to them, if they require at least three weeks to deal with this matter, to see that they have ample time in which to consider this agreement, which according to newspaper reports will be opposed by some members of the opposition in the British House of Commons.
While we dislike these interruptions of the debate on the address, on this occasion we think that the government has a better reason JANUARY 28, 1949 Business of the House33 for asking for an interruption than it has had on any other occasion I can remember. When we first saw the request made by the government we felt, particularly in view of the experience of last year, that we should hesitate and consider carefully whether we should consent to such an interruption. From time to time, however, it is necessary that those of us who are in opposition should view matters of government convenience, particularly when they involve courtesy to another parliament, in a broad way. I repeat that we have decided to support this amended resolution.
I would remind hon. members that many weeks ago, in the autumn, we asked that parliament be called to deal with matters of urgency, and of course this has become one of the matters that could have been dealt with had parliament been called before Christmas or earlier this month. This is the criticism I make of the government at the moment—that the session should have been called earlier. But it was not called earlier, and we are now faced with the necessity of giving consideration to union with Newfoundland. After all, this is a most important event in the history of this country—the addition of a new province, something which was contemplated by the fathers of confederation as long ago as 1867 and, in relation to what will be the tenth province, is about to be consummated in 1949.
I say again that we dislike interruptions to the debate on the address. We believe that this interruption could have been avoided by calling parliament earlier. But since parliament was not called, since the union of Newfoundland with Canada is an important matter which should be dealt with, and since we should give the British parliament ample time in which to deal with it and to plan its work, we will support the amended resolution.
Mr. Roland Beaudry (St. James): Following the words of the hon. member for Rosetown- Biggar I should like to ask the hon. member for Carleton (Mr. Drew) if he suggested earlier that parliament should have been convened sooner, for instance at a time when it was impossible for the leader of the opposition to have a seat in this house?
Mr. Graydon: The hon. member did not make history with that remark.
Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Lake Centre): Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the explanation of the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), and to the arguments advanced by the leader of the C.C.F. (Mr. Coldwell). I agree with the hon. member that everything should be done to enable consideration at the earliest possible day of the resolution with regard to the admission of Newfoundland into confedera tion. With him I agree also that that event will represent a step forward in the completion of the destiny of this dominion. In that regard I am in agreement with him; but he failed to answer the argument advanced, and the government has as yet not answered the argument of the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew), that first and foremost the government of this country must have the confidence of the House of Commons.
This resolution carries out an old plan; there is nothing new about it. Parliament could have been called three weeks ago, if not before, and this matter could have been determined.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Diefenbaker: I cannot hear the interruptions, so I shall not say anything in reply. It was most interesting to hear the interrupters on the other side of the house when my leader said that the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne might be determined within a week. They ridiculed that statement; they jeered.
An hon. Member: Certainly they did.
Mr. Diefenbaker: My hon. friend the leader of the C.C.F. says that it will take anywhere from three to six weeks to complete that debate. Having regard to the fact that an election is not too far away, I have no doubt that this debate will take a considerable time. If so, the responsibility rests upon the Prime Minister for failing to call parliament together early enough to have this matter determined.
Mr. McIlraith: Even without a leader of the opposition?
Mr. Graydon: You will get plenty of him before you are through.
Mr. Diefenbaker: During the days of the war we in the opposition co-operated with the government at all times.
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh.
An hon. Member: Explain.
Mr. Diefenbaker: In relation to anything having to do with our war effort, the words of the hon. member for Carleton were to that effect. During the war there were invasions of the rights of a free parliament, but we of the opposition intend to be assured that they shall not be continued in the days of peace. More than anything else the people of this country are asking that parliament be restored to the prestige that it enjoyed in the years prior to the war. They are asking that parliament shall not continue in living stagnation while government by bureaucracy continues in this country. They are asking to have restored the right of the people's representatives 34 Business of the House HOUSE OF COMMONS to preserve the rights of the people and to represent all the people in this country. I congratulate my right hon. friend upon becoming Prime Minister, but I say to him that his duty as the leader of this government, with the reshuffling of the cards that has taken place and the addition of certain members to the cabinet, is to demand at the first opportunity a vote of confidence, thus giving to hon members the opportunity to determine the question once and for all. I do not want to be over-critical—
Some hon. Members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Diefenbaker: I said over-critical; but I do say to my right hon. friend that in the last couple of days the government has shown an uncertainty, a lack of unity, and a failure to realize in what direction it is going except in the direction of an election. We have the right to know whether my right hon. friend and those associated with him have the confidence of this house. The people want the members of this parliament to have an opportunity to let the government know that its taxation policy is wrong, that its income tax is unjust. When I say this I speak for the farmers. The government says it has the confidence of the people. The farmers want an opportunity of having their lack of confidence in this government placed before this house, because that lack of confidence extends from one end of the country to the other.
My hon. leader says members of parliament are not mere digits to be pushed about, to be directed. Not since the end of the war was there a finer declaration of the principles of parliament and what it stands for than was contained in the words of my hon. leader this afternoon when he pointed out that, regardless of our position, we in this house have a responsibility which can be discharged only when each of us individually votes on the question of confidence or non-confidence in the government. I say to my right hon. friend that he should give the members of this house an opportunity of saying to him and to those associated with him—and I should think they would want it—whether this house has any confidence in them, before they proceed with notices of motions and resolutions calling for the expenditure of millions of dollars. On one occasion the right hon. member for Carleton expressed similar views.
Some hon. Members: Glengarry.
Mr. Diefenbaker: Glengarry has been represented so often by leaders of the opposition and prime ministers that it is easy to understand the mistake I just made. I say, sir, that the house should be given the opportunity of declaring whether or not it has confidence in this government. My right hon. friend should not translate into the days of peace the conduct of parliament in the days of war, which all too often was contrary to the highest principles of constitutional government. We on this side intend to do our utmost to see that the invasions of parliamentary rights, which were pathways in the days of war, do not become permanent highways of peace.
Mr. Donald M. Fleming (Eglinton): Mr. Speaker, I am glad hon. members opposite are beginning to show some evidence of awakening from their normal lethargy, and I trust that this degree of awakening will extend also to the rights of this house which are placed in jeopardy by the motion now under debate. It would be a happy day indeed if we could see on the part of hon. members to your right, Mr. Speaker, some degree of concern for constitutional practices and the preservation of the rights and responsibilities of a free parliament.
Let no one underestimate the importance of the subject now under discussion. It is not a mere question of procedure for today or procedure for Monday. What is at issue here goes far deeper than that. It is procedure measured in terms of the duties and responsibilities of the executive branch of government to this house. Is the government supreme? If so, it matters little what happens here, and certainly the motion should pass. If, however, the house is supreme, then it is the house that should determine the order in which business shall be taken up; and above all things, before this government is permitted to lay any business before the house, it must establish, in the recognized constitutional manner, that it possesses the confidence of the house. Under conditions now obtaining in this house and this country the government has no right to lay before this chamber one item of government business calling for a decision without having established that it does possess the confidence of the house.
Consider exactly what it means if this motion is adopted. In the first place, it means the government has asserted that the time of this house must be rationed. It means that the government asserts its right to sidetrack the important debate on the address in favour of a measure it proposes to introduce. It means also, in effect, that the government does not owe a primary responsibility to the house. It is time this house, out of self-respect, out of a sense of responsibility for the maintenance of its constitutional position in the interests of freedom in this country, asserted its right to determine the kind of government that should occupy the seats of office; and that can be determined under present circumstances only by a vote in this house which JANUARY 28, 1949 Business of the House 35 will show the confidence hon. members are prepared to extend to or withhold from the government.
At no time in the life of this parliament was it more important that the debate on the address should proceed without interruption until it was established whether or not the government held the confidence of the house. Hon. members opposite seem to forget that, technically at least, there has been a change of government with the change of prime ministers, that there has been a change in portfolios, though in most cases the same ministers were reappointed. It is in that sense a different government; and it has not established in any particular that it possesses the confidence of the house.
Perhaps I should not have been amazed, but I must confess to some degree of surprise that the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) should have submitted so weakly this afternoon in the face of the government's steam roller. That is evidence of an altogether too friendly association between Liberal members and the C.C.F. party in this house. If that is to be an example of the way in which that group is to function in opposition, then I suggest it come out in its true colours and proclaim itself as simply a wing of the government party. If we are to have a continuation of that attitude the criticism of government policy we may expect from the C.C.F. party during this session will be a very friendly, mild and ladylike kind of criticism.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there has been an attempt on the other side to ridicule the importance of this debate. The reason is perfectly obvious, Mr. Speaker. The fact of the matter is that the debate on the address gives the members of the opposition, yes, and such other private members of the house as choose to assert their freedom and responsibility as members of the house, an opportunity to stand in their places and criticize the government on its past record, on its policy, on the contents of the speech from the throne, and on the omissions from it. Not only is this a duty; it is a responsibility which every member of the house must exercise according to his rights if he would do his duty by those whom he represents.
Necessarily, any government characterized by such flaws in its record affords very great opportunity for criticism. If this debate is not throttled, or sidetracked by the government steam roller, there will be plenty of criticism of the government in this chamber during the course of this debate. Is it any wonder, Mr. Speaker, that a government which has shown itself so impatient of criticism would desire in this way to throttle criticism? That is precisely the issue which is before the house today. Shall criticism have a free voice in a free parliament? It is that issue that will be determined in the vote on this resolution today.
This resolution means precisely what it says. It signifies that the government is not prepared to permit parliament, in the ordinary way, to proceed in freedom to express criticism of government policy. The reason becomes all the more obvious in the light of what has been said of late—supposedly emanating from government circles or sources close to the government, and referred to by my esteemed leader— about the possibility of a general election. What could better suit the purposes of a government, such as the one in office today, than, on the eve of an election, to throttle criticism in this house, and this at a time when much criticism is being heard from the people of this country. That is the measure of the government's sense of responsibility to those to whom it owes responsibility, that, at this above all times, it should seek to stifle criticism.
In this house the day before yesterday, Mr. Speaker, we went through a form which is followed on the opening day in every parliament which stems from the mother of parliaments. In the measure which has been traditionally introduced respecting the administration of the oaths of office, the house asserts its right to proceed with business of its choosing without first having to take up the program laid down before it in the speech from the throne. Is that an empty formality? Is it simply a reminder that in days gone by a free parliament found itself at odds with a monarch?
It goes a good deal further than that, Mr. Speaker. It amounts to the assertion, if this house has the courage to assert what it should, of the right of the house to proceed with its business in the proper way. In this instance no business can be taken up, if that constitutional position is to be preserved, until the government has established that it possesses the confidence of the house.
The same old mentality dominates this government as dominated the one which it succeeded last fall. There is the same old complex; the same old bureaucratic approach to all of these problems; the same contempt for parliament; the same irresponsibility in its attitude towards the elected representatives of the people in this house. If this is a new govermnent, Mr. Speaker, it has learned its constitutional practice from the government which preceded it, and that was a poor way to learn sound constitutional practice. It was a very good way to learn oligarchic practice.
36 Business of the House HOUSE OF COMMONS
If this is a new government, it is not yet a reformed government, since it has the same old mentality that imposed taxation by radio and in many ways heaped contempt upon parliament.
Let me turn for a moment to a high authority, to no less a person than the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power). Concerning this government and its attitude to such matters, he spoke words from which hon. members opposite would do well to profit. I will quote, Mr. Speaker, from a speech of the hon. and esteemed member for Quebec South, as reported in the Ottawa Journal of August 9, 1948. It happens that this speech was delivered before the national convention of the Liberal party. In reviewing some of the things to which I have alluded, the bureaucratic complex of this government and its tyrannical and irresponsible attitude towards the House of Commons, he said this:
Without the existence of an almost all-powerful bureaucracy, it is unlikely that we would have had budget by radio, restraint of trade by embargoes and prohibitions, bungling of freight rates, and a snarling of interprovincial relations.
Let me say again, Mr. Speaker, that is just what this government has attempted to do.
He says further:
But to me loss of individual freedom through irresponsible bureaucracy is too high a price to pay even for security.
I ask hon. members of all parties of this house to weigh well the memorable words uttered by the member for Quebec South on that occasion, when he said:
Since the beginning of this convention there have been hints that from high places from now on all would be well; that things would be different in the future; that we would mend our ways. The pride that could flout a parliamentary caucus or a house of commons quailed before a national convention. But tonight the delegates will be gone, the old pride will return.
I say to you, Mr. Speaker, the old pride has returned. We have proof of it in this government resolution today.
The old plea of urgency has, of course, been trotted out. I think we have had enough in what the Prime Minister has said to completely disprove this allegation of urgency with respect to the Newfoundland measure.
Where is the sense in the government seriously saying it is imperative that the throne speech debate should not be permitted to proceed—it would probably last two or three weeks—because there would not be time to pass this Newfoundland legislation? Why could not the house have been called two weeks ago? No reason has been given—no reason whatever.
But the Prime Minister was not satisfied with that. When we met here on Wednesday there was tremendous urgency about this Newfoundland business. It was so urgent that it had to be proceeded with on Monday next. The most this government was prepared to permit, by way of rationed time in this chamber to speak in this debate, was Thursday and Friday. Two days to air the grievances of a nation in a parliament in which the new government has not yet proven it possesses the confidence of the house! Two whole days for the assertion of the rights of democracy in this House of Commons before the government steam roller begins to put legislation before the house and sidetrack other forms of discussion!
Suddenly, Mr. Speaker, that urgency began to fade somewhat in View of the snarl into which the government had gotten itself by its attempt to dictate to the house. The Prime Minister then decided that the house might have another week to discuss it. Today he says, and I recall his words, that we would be as far ahead after a week or two of debate on the speech from the throne. Then, why confine the debate on the address to one week if we would be as far ahead after a week or two?
The way in which democracy is functioning in free parliaments and legislatures the world over today is being watched by many people as the race narrows down between the true democratic way of life and the communist totalitarian method. There never was a time when it was so much the duty of members of a free parliament to assert the rights of all its members, if they would value their freedom and the constitutional processes they were elected not only to carry out but to defend.
What would be your attitude, Mr. Speaker, if you were one of those detestable communists, after seeing what was being attempted by the government in this House of Commons today, after hearing the talk about the rights of parliament, about parliament being a place where the grievances of the people are being aired, and where criticism can be leveled at the government without fear of individual retaliation, and then government comes along and decides that it will ration freedom of speech in this chamber? What would be your attitude, Mr. Speaker, if you were a communist? You would say, Is that not a fine sample of democracy? You would say, If that is democracy, then, after all, what is the fundamental difference between it and the totalitarian method?
This is no way for any government to expedite the business of the session. If they want to do that, let them first give this house a free opportunity to express an opinion as to whether or not they possess its confidence.
JANUARY 28, 1948 Business of the House 37
Mr. Solon E. Low (Peace River): Mr. Speaker, I think it has become apparent that we are not getting anywhere. If we have just a little bit of time in which to think this whole matter over, I believe we shall be able to come to a decision much more amicably than we perhaps would today. For that reason I am asking leave to adjourn this debate.
Some hon. Members: No.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Is there a seconder to the motion?
Mr. Cruickshank: Grey North.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The motion to adjourn is not before the house.
Mr. Howard C. Green (Vancouver South): Mr. Speaker, I submit to you and to the other members of the house that a serious question is raised by this debate, and I trust that you will bear with me for a few minutes while I try to analyse it in what I hope will be a nonpartisan way.
Some hon. Members: Hear, hear.
Mr. Abbott: That would be hard for you.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.
Mr. Green: I realize that at times we all must show certain partisanship in this house, but I meant what I said when I indicated that I planned to try to analyze this question in an unbiased way. The question is whether or not the members of the government are taking the right attitude towards the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne. Let me direct the minds of hon. members back to the announcements made in the press about this session. In Vancouver I read that the speech from the throne would be considered for only a day or two and that we would then go on to discuss this proposed union with Newfoundland. In other words, the Prime Minister and the cabinet from the start have had the idea that this throne speech debate would last for a matter of only a few hours and then would be adjourned, or in effect would be pushed aside and used as a filler between other items of government business. The result must inevitably be that the debate on the speech from the throne will be of little use to the members of this house or to the country.
We saw this same attitude taken at the opening of the last session. Back in December 1947 we were all surprised to learn, again from the press, that the house was to be called into session a few days before Christmas, and that the reason it was being called was to deal with the Geneva trade treaties. I may be wrong in that, but I think that was the main reason given for calling the house in December. Mention may also have been made of the austerity program. In any event, I came east then believing that the main reason for calling that session was to consider the Geneva treaties. When we came here we were met with exactly the same plan that is being attempted at this session. The speech from the throne was to be dealt with for a day or two, and then we were to go on with this emergency business. As it turned out, the debate on the Geneva treaties lasted for two days, and then was adjourned until after Christmas, when it was again adjourned. The treaties were sent to a committee and the committee made a report, but the house never dealt with it or with the treaties; they have not been approved to this day. They are to come up again at this present session. On that former occasion the same attitude that is being taken today was taken by the cabinet towards parliament and towards the debate on the speech from the throne.
I submit that there are some serious objections to that attitude; in fact, there are grave dangers in the government of Canada adopting that attitude. First of all, the Prime Minister and his colleagues have placed far too little importance on this throne speech debate, which can only mean that they place far too little importance on parliament itself, on the private members of this house, whether they be in the opposition or on the government side, and on the people represented in this house by the private members. The keystone of our democratic system of government is parliament, not the cabinet. Parliament is composed of men and women entrusted by their constituencies with the responsibility of leading the nation. Under our system the leadership of this nation should not come from the cabinet; in the final analysis it should come from parliament. The cabinet is only the executive of parliament.
At the opening of each session the private members gather here from all over Canada, fresh from contacts with the people. They know the problems that are worrying the people and the action that the people want to have taken by parliament. We who come here as private members are certainly much closer to the people than any member of the cabinet can possibly be. He is here in Ottawa practically all the time; he has many other things to do and cannot be in such close touch with the people as a private member.
If the debate on the speech from the throne is held immediately after the opening of parliament it gives the private members a chance to bring the views of their constituents directly to the attention of the cabinet. That is important, because it can, or it should, influence the legislation that will be brought JANUARY 28, 1949 The Address-Mr. St. Laurent 63 to deter any aggressor who might otherwise feel disposed to repudiate the solemn undertaking he signed at San Francisco.
There is no use deceiving ourselves or mincing words. We know that the people of the North American continent, that the people of the democracies of western Europe, fear there may be an aggression from this great power which was allied with us in the last war but which professes an ideology that would necessarily exclude the civilization under which our institutions have been established. We fear that those totalitarians who direct that great mass of human beings might attempt, by force, to impose their ideology upon the rest of the world. But we believe they are realistic, and we believe that, if we can negotiate with them from strength, they will be apt to feel there would be considerable risk in starting any war. We believe they will not start any war they are not confident they can win.
We believe that those we mentioned as the likely signatories of this North Atlantic pact have the potential strength, manpower, industrial know-how, material, the courage and desire to remain free men which would make it very doubtful that any aggressor could overcome them. We are forming or hope to form the alliance not for the purpose of having to fight together—of course we will if it is imposed upon us, but it is not for that purpose. Primarily, it is being formed for the purpose of doing that for which the charter of the united nations was signed at San Francisco in 1945.
It seems to me that any free man in any of our countries should have no greater hesitation in having his country become a party to that North Atlantic security pact than he had in having his country become a signatory to the San Francisco charter.
Now, that is the matter in the international field which His Excellency says, in the speech from the throne, is the first concern of his government. The second paragraph reports that, in spite of the unsettled and disruptive activities of international communism, the nations of western Europe are making progress towards recovery, and that North America is contributing substantially to the restoration of economic activity, thereby increasing their own power to resist aggression, either within or from outside. I think that is a statement which needs no development here. We all know that has been happening, and we know how effective it has been. From the elections that were held in Italy, we know what a partial restoration of economic activity in that country was able to do in repelling aggression from within.
It is said that an offensive for peace is now being pushed by the eastern powers. This has been mentioned by the communist leader in Italy as well as by the communist leader in France. If it is anything but a sham, those leaders have a wonderful opportunity, as Mr. Lippmann pointed out in an article which I think was in yesterday's newspaper, of demonstrating their sincerity. If they will instruct their fellows to help rather than resist the restoration of economic activity in their respective countries, then we may be able to believe that this peace offensive is more than a sham, and that it is the expression of some desire by the rulers of these totalitarian states to put an end to this enervating cold war that has been having such serious effects throughout the world.
At home the situation is one that the speech comments upon as being a cause for rejoicing and satisfaction. Just let me put three or four sets of figures on record in that connection. We say that the economy of the country is buoyant. Last year the gross national production, according to the best available statistics, was $15,500,000,000 as compared with something of the order of $5 billion or $6 billion in the years which preceded the war. The present estimates for 1949 are $16,550,000,000. The salaries, wages and supplementary labour income for 1948, or the amounts distributed to wage earners and salary earners, totalled $7,135,000,000. The estimate for 1949 is $7,810,000.000. The number employed in 1948 in civilian employments was 4,890,000 and, in the armed forces, 35,000. The estimate for 1949 is 4,966,000 in civilian employments and 42,000 in the armed forces. Those are figures which are significant of the activity which is prevailing in this country and they are, I think, a justification for the further statement that progress towards social justice for all in any country is an effective safeguard against the effect and influence of subversive doctrines.
The next matter dealt with in the speech from the throne is the union between Newfoundland and Canada. I think all hon. members in this house look upon that as an achievement, not an achievement of mine or of any one of our colleagues, but rather an achievement of the Canadian people in bringing about a situation where the people of Newfoundland desire to become associated with us as one nation. It is a matter whic should be consummated by March 31. This afternoon I indicated what were the steps which must be completed before the union could become effective, and what would happen if those steps were not completed by March 31. I think there are quite a number of people in Canada and perhaps quite a number who are not yet Canadians but who, under this arrangement, will become Canadians, who will have noted the attitude of the 64 The Address—Mr. St. Laurent HOUSE OF COMMONS various parties in this house this afternoon upon this question of the union of Newfoundland with Canada.
It was suggested that, if there was any reason why any more time were required than would be available until March 31, after the discussion on the speech from the throne of all the various matters that were referred to by the hon. gentlemen who addressed you this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, and the other matters which you or the Deputy Speaker, who sat in your chair, found it would not be in order to discuss at this time, parliament should have been called together earlier.
I would remind hon. members that the terms of union which have been tabled and which will be submitted to this house for its consideration—and, if it sees fit, for its approval—were not arrived at in one or two days. Long and protracted negotiations took place in order to settle those terms. Those terms had been preceded by a fairly full proposal arrived at after months of deliberation last year. After the proposal had been approved by a majority vote of the people of Newfoundland in a referendum, the precise terms were under discussion here for upwards of two months, and the terms were not finally signed until December 11. I was the chairman of the Canadian committee that had to do with the negotiations with the representatives from Newfoundland; and I regarded the completion of that undertaking as something of consequence to the people of Canada, yes, and possibly of consequence to the people of the world. I felt that, so long as there was any hope that we could get that agreement into shape to have it for submission at this fifth session of the twentieth parliament, it was worth while working at it. We worked at it until December 11, and on that date we put our signatures to the document, subject of course to ratification by parliament.
After December 11 it would have been rather difficult, and not very convenient for the members of this house, if an attempt had been made to get them down here before Christmas. They might have arrived two or three days before Christmas; but I do not believe, Mr. Speaker, that there are very many of them who would have felt at all kindly towards a government that brought them down here at that time.
Mr. Graydon: The government did it last year.
Mr. St. Laurent: The hon. member for Peel (Mr. Graydon) has been here for some time. He knows that parliament is not called to meet the day after the proclamation is issued. He knows that a reasonable time must elapse between the issuing of the proclamation and the meeting of the house. Between December 11 and Christmas there were just fourteen days, or two weeks; and it would not have been possible to bring hon. gentlemen down here at that time. While the negotiations were going on, the attention of many members of the cabinet was devoted almost exclusively to the discussion of these terms of union.
Mr. Fraser: To election work.
Mr. St. Laurent: I think the hon. member should try to be a little bit more serious in the interruptions he sees fit to make.
Mr. Fraser: I know they were in my riding.
Mr. St. Laurent: We are discussing a matter which has concerned the Canadian people ever since confederation was mooted more than eighty-one years ago, and it has now reached the stage where it will be the responsibility of the hon. member who is making these interruptions, among others, to say whether it should be completed or not. It is my responsibility. I will not Shirk it, and I will not blush for the way in which I discharged it, in recommending to my colleagues the date for the opening of parliament. I submit that the course I followed was a reasonable one, and I am quite prepared at any time to leave it to the public of Canada to determine whether or not it was reasonable under those circumstances.
Mr. Graydon: Whistling in the dark.
Mr. St. Laurent: The next paragraph in the speech from the throne deals with amendments to the Supreme Court Act to make the Supreme Court of Canada the court of last resort for Canadians.
There have been suggestions that this is something which constitutes a threat to the autonomy or liberty of the provincial governments. I had a compilation made of what has been happening in that regard for the last ten years. I asked for ten years but I got it for eleven. It is given from the year 1938 to 1948 both inclusive, and, unless my counting is wrong, that is eleven years. There were fifty-five cases in which appeals were asserted, or sought to be asserted, from judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. In one case the appeal was withdrawn. In five the appeals were allowed. In forty-nine cases the appeals were dismissed and the judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada were affirmed. In no one of the five cases in which the appeals were allowed was there any constitutional issue between the dominion and the provinces. That is the record for the last eleven years in these fifty-five times 194   The Address—Mr. Bradette HOUSE OF COMMONS freer trade between Great Britain and the rest of the world, Great Britain and Canada and Great Britain and the United States, and in fact between all nations.
I should like to say a few words about what I hope will be our new sister province—Newfoundland. There is something fine in this possibility, something great. It is expected that within a few months there will be integrated into the Canadian federation that fine, old colony located in the gulf of St. Lawrence. In my youth, which was a long time ago, when I was attending a small rural school I was always baffled that Newfoundland, which was so close to the American continent, geographically speaking, and which was so close to the Canadian mainland, was not a part of Canada. To me the gulf of St. Lawrence seemed to have opened its mouth deliberately so that Newfoundland could come into Canada.
It was a proud day for us and no doubt a proud day for Newfoundland when by a majority vote they decided to come into the Canadian confederation. They have problems of their own and in my view it is the duty of every Canadian worthy of the name to study their problems, to try to know them, to sympathize with them and to help them in arriving at a solution. I believe that the Newfoundlanders will fully realize what it means to come into the great Canadian federation.
When this is accomplished, when Newfoundland does come into the Canadian federation, I hope that they will send some of their fine sons and daughters to Canada to explain to us their aspirations, their struggles in the past, their love, their culture and what they expect of the future. Then in turn Canada should send some of her prominent sons and daughters to sell and make better known this country to that great strategic island which in the future may mean so much to the peace of the world.
I make that suggestion in all sincerity. I wonder how many Canadians know the fine qualities of the Newfoundlander? How many of us know their loyalty to British traditions? Perhaps the same thing could be said, although perhaps not as forcibly, of many Newfoundlanders who have never had an opportunity to know Canada.
It would not be just a matter of selling one to the other; it would be a matter of interesting our population and making them realize what a wonderful asset there is in having that fine sentinel between Greenland, Europe, and the Canadian mainland—a sentinel to guard us against things that may happen in the future, which have never happened in the past.
I make this plea very sincerely. This is not just a political question; it is bigger than that. I hope that the moment Newfoundland comes into confederation Canada will choose half a dozen of her sons and daughters who are well qualified, and that Newfoundland will do the same. There are in each country many intelligent men and women—who will visit the other to tell them of their own. We love these people already because they belong to the British family of nations. We want them to come here to tell us of their aspirations, of their problems, of the things that they expect from the Canadian confederation.
It is true they will have to make sacrifices in order to enter confederation, but the same will also apply to us. We must be ready and willing to try to understand them, and to have respect for their traditions and ideals. Let us not get away from the fact that in the past Newfoundland has been a real sentinel of the British empire on this continent, and will remain faithful in its loyalty in the future.
I want to say a word or two about the St. Lawrence waterway. As a person who represents a section of Canada that, geographically speaking, is really central, I may say that we are open-minded as far as the St. Lawrence waterway is concerned. The potential hydro power is needed at the present time in the province of Ontario. I do not say that in a critical way. It is because of the progress that industry has made. in the province. There are also the factors of immigration and transportation. I feel somewhat reticent about discussing the problem because, under Sir Wilfrid Laurier, a national rail link was built between the maritimes and Winnipeg out of the federal treasury. Today, west of the town of Hearst, with one of the finest roadbeds on the North American continent, the rails are practically rusty. We are in favour of the development of the St. Lawrence waterway because it is a necessity.
The United States and Canada are friendly nations and we should have no difficulty on that project. But, in saying that, I want to protest against a situation which has been allowed to exist for many years in regard to that fine national link between Quebec city and Winnipeg. It is practically unused at the present time. You have there a potential that should be used winter and summer. Why it is not is past my comprehension. It is true that when the national transcontinental line was built north from Quebec, and out through the wilds of northern Quebec and northern Ontario, they thought that there was nothing but muskeg. Then they found the area contained the finest natural resources, and today it is the real treasure house of Canada. From Quebec city to fifty miles west of the town [...]


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1875-1949. Provided by the Library of Parliament.



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Personnes participantes: