CARRYING ON BY MARKING TIME
J. K. MUNRO
PARLIAMENT has survived its opening spasm. The Government has received its mandate to carry on. It is carrying on by marking time. That in brief is Canadian history for the first month of
the present session. And as you look back over those early gatherings of statesmen you cannot help but wonder at how great bodies as well as great minds are influenced by minor incidents.
The West Peterboro election was a minor incident. For Meighen it was a blunder, for Gordon a lucky accident, for King nothing at all. And yet it sent the Liberals back to Ottawa like a lot of roaring lions and the Unionists like a lot of sheep getting ready to be devoured. Premier Meighen looked anxious and careworn while Mackenzie King came as near to registering enthusiasm as ever he has in his young and innocuous life. The Farmers were the only ones who kept their heads. They wandered in and took their seats as if nothing had happened and their leader,
Hon. Tom Crerar, happened along a week later, quite satisfied that he was in plenty of time for anything worth while.
He was right.
But those Liberals thought different.
Premier Meighen had hardly folded away his Windsor uniform after the opening when the boy leader of the Opposition was on his feet demanding that the Government resign. He called them usurpers and several other things and there is a suspicion in some quarters that he sat up nights figuring on just whom he would ask to join his cabinet.
And all through the debate on the address those Liberals appeared to be hold-
ing the whip hand. The Lord and Gideon as well as the Grits and Farmers appeared to _be arrayed against the Government. Day after day came reports of Unionist after Unionist sick or dying till in his agony the Premier moaned, “I’m not leader of a Government. I’m head of a hospital.”
At one time it looked as if the Government majority would not be more than nine or ten and every Unionist member was loaded up with a speech to help postpone the
hated division. The Liberals, with their usual political acumen, played the Government’s game and put up man for man. In fact they were so chuck-full of fight and figures of speech there was no stopping them. They kept right on talking for two days after the Government had gathered in everything this side the graveyard and were sullenly reconciled to taking the acid test.
Of course the division came in the cold gray dawn. No great division could possibly be a success
unless the pale light of early morn was running it a close second. But with the forces all arrayed the fighting spirit was still to the left of Mr. Speaker. The Frenchmen broke into their native songs as the members gathered and even the stateliest statesmen in the front row had a gleam in their eyes that told of triumph to come. On the other hand the Government whips were flitting anxiously about and Premier Meighen was plainly nervous as he slipped from his seat for a last assurance from Chief Whip Middleboro. The strained silence as the Clerk laboriously counted the lists was at last broken by the announcement “Yeas 91, Nays 116.” The vote, of course, had been on the King want of confidence amendment and for a moment both sides seemed almost astounded. Then as it dawned on the Government forces that the verdict was to “carry on,” that the loved indemnities were safe for one and possibly two more sessions, they sprang to their feet, let forth a yell of relief, and then proceeded to fill the air with loose papers as further evidence of their new-born enthusiasm.
And the question that bothered the press gallery was, “Can’t statesmen count?” For no one in the observation parlor was surprised at the result. Perhaps the Govern-
ment majority was three or four larger than expected. But that was easily explained. The Opposition, in their effort to show the Government at its lowest ebb, had refused to pair with the sick and ailing in the Government ranks. But they had reckoned without the Farmers. The latter are “agin” the Government but they are by no means followers of Mackenzie King and they took the opportunity to show their independence by giving a “pair” to every Unionist whose health gave him a reasonable excuse for being out of the House.
^ On the whole that division was an incident
that compared in size to the Peterboro elec-
tion. Also it produced results of a similar kind. For it threw the Liberals into the deepest gloom and so filled the Unionists with self-satisfaction that they sat back smiling and prepared to do nothing diligently till death or the effluxion of time may call them to other spheres of uselessness.
Of the three weeks of oratory that made up that
that made up that debate only two speeches stick in the memory. One was made by Ernest Lapointe, of Quebec East, and the other by Hon. T. A. Crerar. To be sure, Hon. Mackenzie King contributed a long array of platitudes in support of his contention that the Government were usurpers, the Premier shot back a few well-earned sneers and Red Michael Clark paid his annual and eloquent tribute to free trade as we have it in England.
But the other two were different. Crerar broke all rules and precedents. He discussed the speech from the throne. Holding up that prosaic document he took the things that were in it and the things that should have been in it, turned the search-light of common-sense on them, and told how and where he stood on each. The House stood aghast at such frankness. It is an unwritten rule that in the debate on the address a member shall talk about anything and everything save and except the address. It is an unwritten rule of statesmen that no man shall state his position on any question except when forced by circumstances over which he has completely lost control. Here was a new man slipping into the political arena and discussing a country’s problems as
if they were matters of business that had to be dealt with. No wonder the politicians gasped. No wonder the speech stands out as something unique in the history of Canadian parliament.
Ernest Lapointe’s oration was along , other lines. It was the stereotyped effort of a student of politics and constitutional law to prove that the Government was discredited, that it had lost the confidence of the people and that the only course left was an appeal to the country. But where the Quebec statesman differed with his colleagues was in the fiery brilliancy of his oratory. Not only in his masterly indictment of the Government did he tower over everyone on his side of the House but he put a punch behind his words that was a surprise to his enemies and joy to his friends. Heretofore Lapointe has had the respect of his French followers but they looked upon him as too good-natured, perhaps even too lazy, to ever become a popular hero. They followed him on this occasion with a growing admiration that merged into enthusiasm. The cheers when he had finished told that Quebec has at last realized that a successor to Laurier has been found—that Ernest Lapointe will take up the sword the Plumed Knight carried so long and so gallantly.
And as the Grain Grower and the Frenchmán were coupled in the betting
as the features of the debate the remark was more than once “What a great combination they would make to head a Government.” And invariably it was followed by “Stranger things have happened.”
For it is admitted by everyone, with the possible exception of Hon. A. Meighen and Hon. W. L. M. King, that the next parliament will be made up of groups. It is an open question whether the Farmers or the Liberals will come back in the larger numbers. But the King group will be made up largely of members from Quebec. For the old Province will at the coming election pay a last tribute to the dead Laurier. There will be no split in Quebec before election. If there was ever any doubt of that the Gauthier incident settled it once and for all. The St. Hyacinthe man was coaxed away from his moorings with the hope of starting a Quebec stampede to protection and Meighen. The result was exactly the opposite. So great was the outcry against Gauthier that every Frénch-Canadian is grasping every opportunity to declare his loyalty to the only cause that can possibly bring re-election. The general effect is that for the present hope of getting a French M.P. into the Union Cabinet has been abandoned. Moreover the “Quebec first” party has been consolidated to such an extent that the Government will be lucky if it holds its present three seats at a genera! election.
A Solid Phalanx From Quebec
YES, Quebec will come back in solid formation. But once it is back will it stay that way? The one best guess is that with the election safely over Quebec will split wide open and that Wavering Willie King will slip through the opening and never be heard of again. And with him will go the Liberal Party as at present constituted. As it stands it is a hopeless mixture of ultra-conservation and mild progressiveness. The Conservatives dare not go to Meighen at present, much as some of them would like to, for to go would mean political extinction. But they can
go to Meighen when he is in Opposition and when they have five years to show their people that protection will do more for the shoe industry than personal prejudice ever did for anything.
CouldtheFrenchmen join a Crerar Cabinet and be reelected in their constituencies? It is the opinion not only of the casual bystander but of old Liberal politicians as well that not only could they but that a number of the “Solid Quebec” delegation will come back pledged to serve under the farmer leader. Quebec as a province stands about fiftyfifty for protection and free trade—or rather for that lower tariff that travels under the free trade alias. It has been held together by the memory of Laurier
combined with post-war prejudices. The memory and the prejudices are losing their grip and factions that have developed are daily growing more bitter. The split is inevitable. It is timed for right after election and it is an open secret that if the Government forces can come near winning they count on Quebec accessions to assure their victory.
Can the Government win or come near winning? Not unless all political signs fail. From B.C. come reports that the electors are in a quandary. They don’t want the Government, they don’t want King and they don’t want Crerar. Heaven only knows what they will vote for. From the mountains to the lakes the country is said to have decided irrespective of residence in town, city or country that Crerar is the one best bet and they’ll vote as they bet.
Ontario looks to the naked eye like a Province that will do a lot of indiscriminate voting. The net result will be Farmers, Tories, Grits, Labor, Soldiers, and Independents and heaven only knows in what proportions. It is a good guess however that the Farmers will head the list. Quebec will come back solidly French and determine its allegiances after it arrives. New Brunswick will be largely liberal, some Farmers and a Tory or two. Nova Scotia is said by the old Tory warhorses to be hopeless from a Government standpoint. They say not one seat is safe and they fear not one is even doubtful. It will be mostly Liberal with an occasional Farmer. That is the size-up to-day. It changes as things eventuate.
It Never Gets Better for Meighen
BUT in one respect it never changes. It never grows better for the Government. Premier Meighen was stronger the day after he took office than he ever has been since. Had he reorganized his cabinet then and gone to the country he would at the worst have come back with a loyal and compact minority behind him. Months of coaxing Quebec with one hand and coddling the West with the other have gained him nothing in the enemy’s territory and weakened him in his own. As things stand to-day an election would probably bring between ninety and a hundred farmers and practically the same number of Liberals with the Government dividing the other forty or so with Labor, returned soldiers and Independents. Under the circumstances if the Quebec split comes off as expected you don’t need more than one guess to name the next Premier.
And the chances for the Quebec split are enhanced by the probability that after the election the Liberals will find themselves with a seatless leader. For young Mr. King has so committed himself to the Liberals of North York that he can hardly back up and refuse to be their standard bearer. And if he runs in that rural neighborhood the chances are that he’ll finish third in a threecornered race.
But enough of political prophecy. That generally gathers to the writer only the scornful snicker that is the perquisite of the weather prophet. Let us turn to the things of to-day.
The Government has appointed a new Senator for New Brunswick. To you in Ontario and all points west that is merely incidental. To the folks in the Maritimes it is earth-shaking. When a New Brunswick or Nova Scotia senator dies no resident of either province goes to bed that night. He sits up with a double pointed lead pencil figuring his chances for filling the vacancy.
Now, in the case mentioned the new Senator lives in Nova Scotia, was appointed for New Brunswick
and has no political record. Which combination made every self-respecting man in the two provinces come to his feet in holy horror. The shrieks of the press were heard clear across the continent and for a time it looked as if the bands that bind the Dominion might snap / under the strain. And, after all, the nervous little man who wears the toga all Blue Noses would like to honor must be a pretty fair sort of fellow. He’s proprietor of a piano factory and vice-president of a trust company and yet the
ranks of labor value him as a friend to the extent that they ask him to act for them on conciliation boards. In fact it was the backing of the big labor unions that was largely responsible for the appointment.
But he lacks the dignity that is familiar to all Maritimes with a spare dollar or a Government job and confesses to the name of “Tinney” Macdonald. Of course the
Of course the
“Tinney” is a nickname contracted, it is said, through a habit of playing a tin whistle at country dances in his early days. But the new Senator has not even the grace to be ashamed of it. He glories in his fellow feeling for the common herd. He has the seat and he’s going to keep it. He was born in N.B. and has a summer cottage in Shediac which, brings him within the law.
The agonized wails of his humiliated opponents are music to his plebeian ears and he cares not if parties are tom asunder or governments .totter to their fall—he has got the job.
What matters it that he owns a piano factory or that his name is Tinney? He has got the job.
They Take Their Politics “Neat”
BUT the net result does not help the Government in its next by-election. That is billed for York and Sunbury, N.B., about May 23rd. Normally that riding should be safely Tory—there are no Unionists in New Brunswick. Down there they take their politics neat. It is about half rural, while the other half reside in Fredericton and other villages. There are a Government candidate and a Farmer in the field. The latter was once a Tory and Orangeman. There are a lot of Orangemen in that vicinity. The Liberals have decided to stay out of the fight but have advised their people that if they can’t vote for the Farmer they had better stay home as the defeat of the Meighen Government promises the great’ est good to the greatest number,
That the Government expect to carry York and-take the taste of West Peterboro out of the mouth of the public is evidenced by the fact that this by-election is being hurried along ahead of the others. Will they do it? Well, if you are a betting man, put a piker’s bet down on the hornyfisted farmer. It is a race track axiom to always bet on the stable that is running in luck and this appears to be a Farmers’ year.
That brings up the question of a general election. I have always believed that this Parliament would live as long as the indemnities lasted, that is till 1922. Now I begin to doubt it. The West Peterboro election proved that Premier Meighen is not a glutton for punishment. And unless there is an unexpected change in the political atmosphere he’s going to get lots of it. York, N.B., looks likely to start the pummelling. West York, Ontario, may live up to its traditions and return a Government supporter but Yamaska will go Liberal and Medicine Hat, the best organized Farmer constituency of them all, will speak the mind of the Prairies.
With the resignations of Sir Thomas White and Hon. Wesley Rowell, Leeds and Durham will be thrown open and if the days of political miracle are not past two more bumps for the Gallant Young Premier are in order. Will he stand up under it? He may, like brave John Maynard,
hang on for five minutes longer. But already he grows irritable under mild criticism. Under the heavier fire he is likely to decide that even on Opposition leadership is preferable to a premiership that carries such a series of snubs in its train. And the Opposition trenches must hold out a sort of lure to Hon. Arthur. For there he would be the critic and he was ever one of those who criticise most harshly and can least stand criticism in his turn.
Of the session there are divers opinions expressed. That it will have interesting movements none can deny. For Premier Meighen has a contempt for Wavering
Willie King he cannot conceal. And the covert sneer he throws across the floor irritates the Liberals all the more because they know in their bones that they made a mistake when they chose their present leader. They’ll fight back hard. Moreover they are predicting stormy times for some of Mr. Meighen’s colleagues, among whom might be mentioned Hon. C. C. Ballantyne. He vies with Kon, Hugh Guthrie for the honor of being the most unpopular member of the Cabinet with His Majesty’s loyal Opposition.
RUMOR has it too that the two afore-mentioned are to be the Premier’s companions at the Imperial Conference in London. That may be one of the reasons that Ernest Lapointe served notice on the Government that they would not lend countenance to that conference nor would they abide by its decisions. And, moreover, that whereas the leader of the Opposition had been mentioned as one of the overseas party, let it be known he would stay severely at home. It was noticed that Hon. Willie King did not smile when this announcement was made. It must have been at terrible sacrifice he arrived at this decision. He would cut some figure in society circles in old “Lunnon.”
Now, that trip to London has its bearing on the session. The Canadian delegation must get away to it early in June. If the Government lives up to that well-known press notice, the speech from the throne, it will revise the tariff. Now Premier Meighen can’t revise the tariff, attend to his other chores and get away to England in June. Neither is Hon. Arthur one of the kind who will trust tariff revision to another while he attends to the calls of higher statesmanship. He must have all matters attended to under Ins own eye. Moreover there is a feeling in Government circles that it would be well to see what the new U.S. Congress is going to do with the Yankee tariff before proceeding to mangle our own.
All this means that Parliament must adjourn, tariff revision must be laid over till next year, or
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the trip to London called off. Now no self-respecting statesman ever forgets himself so far as to overlook a trip to the Old Land. The education which association with the truly great affords is too valuable to be denied. So you can count that out. There remains adjournment or holding over the revision. And you pretty nèarly have to cut out the adjournments. For since the new act forbids two indemnities in one year the double session system has lost most of its attractions. Thus the process of elimination leaves the tariff as it was. And in that condition it appears likely to stay for another year. There may be some minor changes but on the whole this year’s budget is not likely to be a very sweeping document. It will likely provide for a sales tax of about one per cent., to make up the hundred million by which the estimates exceed the revenue, and the excess profits tax will probably be wiped out.
But no current history of Parliament
could be written without reference to the death of Capt. Tom. Wallace, of West York. Tom was a cheery chap who carried sunshine wherever he went. A native shrewdness inherited from his father, the late Hon. N. Clarke Wallace, and an instinctive knowledge of human nature made him one of the quiet influences that accomplish more than the wind-tearing oration. Around the corridors Tom was accepted at his face value. His death caused an outbreak of feeling that testified to his true value. Not a minister in the Cabinet but could have passed away with less real regret. And that wave of feeling is pleasing reassurance that at heart the public is still sound. It may bow to the robes of office and pay court to those on whom greatness has been thrust, but in the last analysis it gives its love and affection to the human being who strives along more secluded paths to bring more sunshine and happiness into the every-day life.