Funny Thing,That Tariff
K . MUNRO
THE feast of oratory is on! From every little red school house, from every “rostrum”—whatever that is—from every town hall and every “opera house” comes the frenzied eloquence of the political spell-binder. The refined product goes howling up the city streets, tears along the highways and echoes through the sideroads and concessions. All Canada is up to its neck, it’s the national sport,—and making more or less prejudiced guesses as to what the harvest will be. For a political campaign in this fair Dominion is nothing more nor less than a national talking match. It is run on the same old lines on which our fathers fought it out a generation—or two or three—back. The subject is the same, the argument differs little, if any, and the ratio of misrepresentation to the ton of talk varies scarcely at all.
Yes, the general election is with us yet again and the “Tariff” which for a thousand years has braved the battle and the breeze is being tossed hither and yon, while a worried electorate makes up its mind whether ’tis better to suffer the Government we have or fly to other governments we know not of.
Funny thing, that Tariff. In the form given by the Meighenites it is hailed as protection for Canadian indus1 tries. In the form perpetrated on a Conservative country by the late lamented, but also Liberal, Laurier, it is charged with resembling free trade. And this, despite the fact that the average Laurier tariff was higher than is the average Meighen tariff.
It has also to be decided how much of the tariff is pure patriotism and how much' hard business. For verily the man who would lower the tariff beneath a certain point, which has never yet been fixed, is a traitor to his country as well as an annexationist and several other "things which are seldom mentioned in polite society.
The Omnipresent Tariff
D'OR the tariff we are assured is the one great issue even if some cynic has hinted that it is not an issue but an institution. For around it all or nearly all great political battles are fought. For it political parties have bled and died. Its roots have been fertilized with oceans of eloquence, and its leaves have been watered by the tearful pleadings of those who vainly grasped its branches to help hoist themselves into positions of political prominence.
And the Tariff has come through it all with few if any marks that cannot be charged to legitimate wear and tear. Sometimes its friends triumphed, sometimes its enemies won the day—Governments came and Governments went, but like the brook the Tariff goes on and on forever. It may be slightly lower than it was when good old Sir John A. floated into power on his National policy. But who shall say that it suffered more in stature under the Liberal Laurier than it did under the Tory Borden or the Protectionist Meighen?
Your pardon, gentle reader, for wasting so much space on the greatest space-eater the world has ever known. But it is fashionable to talk tariff in Canada at feast once in 8 very five years—and every political writer must follow the political fashions. But why waste more time over the tariff? It has played leads in many a past election and will hold the spotlight in many a political battle yet to come. And while all eyes are fixed on the spotlight, the real objects of the election are covered by the gloom that surrounds it.
It is the same old magician’s game. They keep your eyed centred on a selected spot while the rabbit is slipped
into the hat. So for the nonce let us take our eves off
that shining spot, fix them on the men who are playing the game and hazard a guess as to the probable goal they are aiming at.
All But Me and Thee
AND at this stage of the proceedings it might be well to remember that all men are human and— except yourself and myself—can you recall any single human being who has not a slight trace of selfishness somewhere in his make-up? So look even on the great leaders as human. You’ll find some of the greatest men are mighty human in some respects and mighty small in others. So when you see a King, a Meighen or a Crerar, surrounded by cheering multitudes and braying bands, shouting great truths for hours on end, don’t think they’re super-human. Remember they have encyclopaedias, blue books and private secretaries. In fact, it is whispered that some of them even have volumes of speeches of the great orators of other ages from which they borrow an occasional slice. That, of course, is only hearsay and cannot be accepted as evidence. But the libraries and hired help are there before us. And we know that themanwho attains oratorical eminence usually has ’em both. ,
Glancing back over Canadian history you also hazard a guess that the men who make the speeches will carry on the country’s business. Goldsmith once rose to remark that “He who thinks must govern him who toils.” But Goldsmith was only a poet. He did not know politicians. Else would he have been more alliterative and made it “He who talks must govern him who toils.”
For it’s the man who mounts the rostrum and in rhetorical spasms spreads prosperity o’er the smiling land who carries Canada’s money.
So here you have them, ladies and gentlemen—the three great Canadians who are all loaded and ready to talk their way into the hearts of their countrymen—Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen, who by grace of the Unionist M.P. is Premier of Canada; Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, picked by a Grit Convention to lead His Majesty’s loyal opposition; and Hon. T. Alexander Crerar whom the Fighting Farmers of the West have backed to beat the both of them. You’ve met them all before. But in this hour of contest and competition better look them over once again so that you may answer the great question: “What manner
of men are those that open their lips but to utter great wisdom?”
He Has Not Waxed Fat
THE Premier first, you say? Step up, Right Honorable Sir. You haven’t waxed fat physically since Hon. Bob Rogers first took you by the hand, led you from your prairie home and thrust you on parliament as his infant prodigy. Your face is still thin and sharp so is the tongue that made you the champion hair-splitter of your party; that made you the idol of the hard-boiled Tories and in turn made you Premier.
Of course the atmosphere at Ottawa hasn’t broadened you much—it never does. But it has developed you into what your friends are pleased to call “an intellectual aristocrat.” It has taught you that “the mob” doesn’t know what is best for it and that the majority is not necessarily right. It has taught you that it is better to win an argument than to assert a principle and that a counterattack covers a multitude of sins. Otherwise, Hon. Arthur, you are a pretty decent fellow. Where mentality doesn’t count you are a pretty good democrat. Your enemies hate you and your friends love you. You may or may not be a statesman—the decision on that does not come till after you're dead—but even your worst enemy never accused you of being a politician. You don’t know men, you can’t handle men and you can’t work with men. But you can talk—and nothing else matters.
Bouquets for Mackenzie King
A ND you, Hon. W. L. M. King, elect of the Liberals, ^ grandson of your grandfather! Of you a wise and eloquent old Grit once said: “If Willie would quit
fussing with the ladies and marry one of them he’d get a chance to grow up.” Hon. Mr. King, you are still unmarried. Some of your enemies go so far as to say you have never grown up. That even some of your friends believe it, is evidenced by the fact that they are providing you with a guardian in the person of Sir Lomer Gouin But you can talk. Given a subject you can shoot more words at it in an afternoon than either of your opponents. And that little outburst of elocutionary pyrotechnics you pulled at the Grit Convention materially helped Jacques Bureau and Ernest Lapointe to put you over on Sir Lomer Gouin on that hot August afternoon at Ottawa. Funny turn of the cards, isn’t it, that makes Sir Lomer your new guardian? It was Bureau and Lapointe’s anxiety to swat Sir Lomer that made you a possibility as Liberal Leader. But keep on talking, William. You may never say anything but you may attain the prestige of being Premier even if Sir Lomer gathers in the power. And then all must admit—that you got further by talking than your Grandfather ever did by fighting.
Not a Talker By Trade
YOU’RE next, Hon. T. Alexander Crerar. A lot of people call you “Tom” but they’re wrong. That “T” was just stuck on in front of your name to distinguish you from the mill-run of Alex. Crerars. You labor under a handicap. Unlike your opponents you are not a talker by trade. You don’t know as they do just when you’re due to holler and just where your voice should sink to a more impressive whisper. You seem to think that a country’s politics is a country’s business and should be talked out over a table just as any other kind of business is talked. You’re wrong. Honest John Oliver, premiei of B.C., told me once that a man who tried to run public business on the same lines as private business would be out of it in six months. Barnum said that the public liked to be fooled. Barnum applied the principle of politics to his show business and became rich and famous. You’ll never become either if you gather your audience around you and talk to them as if they were your partners in this National stuff. You must learn to talk—learn to •holler—in rounded periods—learn to leave the impression with the throng that a Solomon has come to judgment. You may be a business man and have a business grasp of public affairs. Such is not any part of the equipment of a Canadian politician. Talk is the armor he must gird on; talk is the sword he must unsheath; talk is the buckler he
must «ver carry. For thus it was in the beginning is now and—perhaps that is one reason the country finds itself in its present deplorable financial condition.
A “Made-in-Montreal” Election
THERE you have what the spotlight shows of the present campaign. What of the things hidden by the surrounding gloom? You’ll remember of course that this election was “made in Montreal.” It was the howling of the Montreal press added to the plaintive plea of Hon. Willie King, that stampeded Premier Meighen into an election despite the protests of many of his best friends. It is also a bit significant that since the campaign was started the Montreal Star has rebuked Hon. Arthur Meighen for calling the Liberals free traders while the Montreal Gazette has thrown its hat in the air and loudly cheered the entrance of Sir Lomer Gouin into the Federal Arena. That these two papers, both Torÿ, both working hand in hand to bring on the election should applaud Liberal leaders and defend Liberal policies has a significance all its own. It surely indicates that the centre of business politics is concerned over some things besides the tariff. Of course it feels the growing menace of the farmer uprising and fain would line up the protectionists of the East to isolate the farmers of the West.
It also goes without saying that in a business sense the railway centre is a bit agitated over the future of our Canadian National Railways. Baron Shaughnessy has told the country on what conditions the C.P.R. would take the National systém in hand. At that historic function the Lemieux banquet, Hon. Rodolphe, who generally knows what big business wants, came out flat-footed for the Shaughnessy proposition. Now Hon. Mr. King was at that banquet. So was Sir Lomer Gouin. Also Ernest Lapointe. Everybody who aspired to Government leadership was there except Hon. W. S. Fielding who never was too popular with the Quebec Liberals. And not one voice was raised against the Shaughnessy proposal. It was practically allowed to filter through to the country as a new plank in the Liberal platform. Not till some weeks later did an ominous rumbling from other parts of Canada break it to young Mr. King that the voice of Quebec was not the voice of Canada. Then he came out with a declaration that Hon. Mr. Lemieux was simply voicing his personal opinions and that National Railways must be given a fair chance as a publicly-owned concern.
The Political Wind Veers
BUT that is only one straw that shows which way the wind blows. There are others. And the net result is a conclusion by the wise ones that the early election was brought on for a double purpose :
fl ) The protectionists of Quebec and Ontario were, after election, to be brought together to isolate the West.
;2) The National Railways were to be taken over by the C.P.R. on conditions to be fixed and for which the Shaughnessy proposition was to form the basis. But the political winds don’t always blow from the same direction. And a mistake in details sometimes warps the whole scheme. Now, to carry the Quebec plans to a successful finish, a short sharp campaign winding up with waving flags and wild bursts of patriotism was the proper caper. Premier Meighen, showing his usual political astuteness decided on a long, educative campaign. It was in vain that his followers pleaded: “Here you’ve turned
us out on a cold world without a cent in our clothes. The last indemnity has been spent as we felt we were sure of another session to provide the necessary for election expenses. Make it as short and painless as possible.” Grimly the young Premier shook his head. What this young country needs is education and his the privilege to see that it gets it. So the longest-drawn campaign in our political history is still dragging its weary lengths along. Campaign funds may be exhausted and campaign speeches may listen like extracts from last year’s almanac but the electorate is being educated.
But meantime things have been happening that may change the trend of current history. First Quebec got carried away by its own enthusiasm and decided that it could handle the situation without outside assistance. “From isolation to domination” became its slogan and not a habitant from the Ottawa River to the Gulf but could see the entire Dominion goose-stepping to French commands. And that enthusiasm in turn produced still another menace. For Henri Bourassa, the long silent chief of the Nationalists roused by the clamor, raised his head above the political bushes and took a look to see if his old following couldn’t find a place on the program. He’s a sick man, is Henri, but he still controls an influential paper and holds a place in the hearts of numerous of his countrymen. Also he knows how to catch the ears of his habitant followers. “Gouin and his followers intend to tie up Meighen,” he whispered. “I prefer the Progressives, but failing them swear your Liberal candidates that they will have nothing to do with the Tory
Those Hated Alliances
WAS that whisper heard all over Quebec? Chances are! For less than a week later Ernest Lapointe found a platform and his voice and proceeded to declare that no Quebec Liberal would ever form an alliance with the hated Meighen. And if there is one man in Quebec who knows what its people are thinking and when it is time to think with them that man is Ernest Lapointe. Gouin leads the corporation forces who take their orders from Montreal. Ernest Lapointe leads the common people of the province. And one cannot help wondering whether it has not remained for Henri Bourassa to raise the cry on which the Quebec “bloc” is to split? Some wonder whether, when the pinch comes after the election is over, Gouin and his following will not tie up with Meighen and protection while Lapointe draws off and
lines up with Crerar to form a new Liberal party. Verily it would seem that the parting of the ways is at hand.
Meanwhile Hon. T. A. Crerar is the most carefully watched man in Canada. He has manifestoed from the West and done a talking tour through Ontario. Then hopping carefully over Quebec he has hied himself to the Maritime Provinces. That the farmer virus is working in Quebec matters nothing to him. Bourassa may espouse his cause, promises he may have that if he will only raise his standard on the banks of the lower St. Lawrence and provide some kind of a commissariat at least ten or fifteen seats will be added to his following, he keeps plodding along the path he has mapped out for himself.
With a wisdom surprising in one so young to the political game he appears to have decided that the time to dip into Quebec is not now. Does he expect that after the election the solid Quebec will fly to pieces and that if he stands clear he will be in a position to salvage some of the wreck? Or does he realize that Quebec prepared to pay a last tribute to Laurier; Quebec crazed with the idea of taking revenge for its cherished wrongs of the War period; Quebec enthusiastic over its delusion that it is about to sweep from isolation to domination, is in no condition to listen to outsiders? Has he a political instinct that is a surer guide than Premier Meighen s experience? Is he determined to cultivate the political fields that promise the best crops of supporters, play for tactical position in the new Parliament and when the time comes be ready to dominate the situation by reason of a compact following that cannot be coaxed from his heels?
The End Draws Nigh
A NYWAY the Farmer leader is the 1A most unconcerned of the three.
Meighen is vitriolic and explanatory by turn. He cannot conceal a certain contempt he feels for his opponents. Nor can he, the intellectual aristocrat, understand why
either of the others should be considered for a moment while he is available. King keeps on repeating his speeches with one eye on the dictionary to assure himself that the available supply of words does not near exhaustion. Occasionally he turns aside for a moment to tilt with a windmill as in the case of the shells he discovered at Levis. And through it all he maintains an owl-like solemnity that may be mistaken for either stupidity or dignity.
Crerar never loses his boyish laugh—never apes the statesman nor imitates the orators. He met large audiences on his Ontario tour and stood up and talked to and with them like men and brothers. He didn’t wring any whirlwinds of applause from his hearers but he seemed somehow to give satisfaction. And somehow one cannot help wondering if the Hired Man’s Hero is going to be able to take some of the humbug out of politics—if. he is going to allow Meighen and King to reap the applause while he happens along behind and harvests the votes.
Anyway there you have the campaign as it stands in the second month of its run. It has about as much kick in it as two per cent beer. Campaign funds are reported at about as low an ebb as campaign enthusiasm and though the Meighenites hope to close with an approach to the wave of almost religious fervor that carried the Unionists into power in 1917 you can’t for the life of you figure what is going to start it.
MEANWHILE reports from various quarters don’t show much changes of sentiment. The Meighen forces claim to be confident of carrying seventy-five seatsan occasional optimist puts it as high as ninety. The farmers count on a solid West from the Lakes to the Mountains, forty in Ontario and seven or eight in the Maritime Provinces and probably a couple in British Columbia. Nothing will satisfy the Liberals but a majority over all.
But these changed figures are not the result of changed conditions. They are simply the effervescence caused by Tories mingling one with the other. Grits getting together in bunches and Farmers telling each other what a mighty force they have become in the political world. King should still be first under the wire and Crerar a good second with Meighen driving hard to escape the distance flag. The wire-pulling at Ottawa will decide who pulls down the prize.
But Dr. Clarke, “Red Michael of Red Deer’ has gone out ere the race is fairly started. He will be missed. He found out that the Farmers’ movement meant class Government. At the same time and place he discovered that he couldn’t get the farmer nomination in Red Deer. But “Sweet William” Pugsley is coming from the East partially to fill Red Michael’s place. He resigns a LieutenantGovernorship to become a candidate—a new record in New Brunswick politics. And—Phew! Won’t there be a lot of missing faces when that new parliament meets at Ottawa!
SOME PEOPLE think Arthur Stringer is a good novelist; others think that he excels as a poet, und there are many who consider that he can write plays; but as one of Canada’s humorists he has not yet been prominent. But-~wait until you see what he has to say in an article which will appear in an early issue of MACLEAN’S, under caption "Stringer and the Cow-Catcher!" If you don’t think this is one of the funniest, most comical of rib-ticklers ever printed in Canada you will be a sobersides, indeed Three persons have had the opportunity of reading it in manuscript form; two of these laughed until the tears rolled down their faces; the third chuckled continuously but managed to remain dry eyed.