DRIFTING ON THE ROCKS

J . K. MUNRO August 1 1921

DRIFTING ON THE ROCKS

J . K. MUNRO August 1 1921

DRIFTING ON THE ROCKS

J . K. MUNRO

THE political dog days may be upon us, but as political movement in this Dominion is a result of drift rather than action, heat or cold, rain or shine makes no appreciable difference to its trend. Whether the election comes soon or late apparently makes no change in the outlook for the Meighen Government. It is in the same old boat with nothing to lose and nothing to hope for. If there is a change in sentiment at all it is to be found among the closest followers of the young premier. This cry once was “Things are at their worst. Give them time to settle and the people will learn to love a brilliant young leader who has the courage to nail the protectionist flag to his masthead” — now these same optimists moan sadly: “It would have been better had Meighen gone to the country with a reorganized Cabinet the moment he assumed the Premiership. Then he would have come back with a compact minority that could well' have waited till the new Government wrecked itself on the rocks that strew the course of the ship of state.”

But Premier Meighen elected to wait. And while he waited the country continued to drift. Some of his cabinet colleagues buoyed him up with this hope that Quebec is protectionist and would split on that issue. He angled for the Frenchmen by every device known to the amateur political fisherman. He landed Gauthier and got at least a nibble from Boivin. But the by-election—Yamaska—showed the foolishness of it all. By an overwhelming majority the habitant shouted that he was French, Catholic,— yea, also anti-conscriptionist. After that he may have had a few protectionist ideas concealed about his person. But of what use are even protectionist principles if they don’t make a man vote?

Making a Noise Like a Fact.

A NYWAY, a lot of people have been repeating “Quex bee is protectionist” for so long they have come to look on the noise as a simple statement of fact. But it is open to argument. Just after the Yamaska fight a French leader remarked to me with a quiet smile: “Let them go on believing that Quebec is for protection. As a matter of fact rural Quebec, and that is the greater portion of it, knows little about the tariff and cares less.” And that figures out about the truth. Even in the cities protection is not going to be the issue on which the election is fought in Quebec. The tariff is business. Elections are not fought and won on business. Sentiment is the deciding influence in elections. Anyway experience has taught the habitant that whether he is ruled by low-tariffed Liberals or high-tariffed Tories it makes little difference to the size of either his bank account or his family. And it might be worthy of note that while Hon. George Boivin was being importuned to change his politics and enter the Meighen cabinet and encouraged to believe that protection would ensure his election one of the men who came to Ottawa to warn him to

keep away from Meighen entanglements was a prominent manufacturer of Granby. And to sum it all up, Quebec will vote as Yamaska voted.

In fact following on the heels of the Quebec reverse Premier Meighen was waited on by some of his political advisers who urged him to get busy with an antiQuebec campaign. They would have him take that fighting Orangeman, Dr. Edwards of Frontenac, into his cabinet, give him the portfolio now held by Col. Blondin, bring on the Leeds and West York byelections and make the issue whether a “solid Quebec” was going to be the dominating influence in Canadian Government.

But Premier Meighen shook his head with considerable decision. He does not take kindly to advice; neither does he learn quickly from experience. He packed his trunk and hiked off to London to give Lloyd George a few pointers on diplomacy.

Bouquets for the Peerless O’Leary

AND according to his Boswell, Grattan O’Leary, the young Premier has been somewhat of a sensation in Major League politics. He appears to have

accepted all chances and batted about 1,000. To be sure, definite results are not yet to hand, but these are cabled reasons for believing that blundering British diplomacy has been put on a sane basis, the Japanese treaty is on its way to the waste paper basket, the Irish problem has been solved and an astonished world is preparing to turn its swords into pruning hooks and its warships into pleasure crafts. Not a bad month’s work for one little Portage lawyer, assisted by a few colonial premiers and one able and industrious press agent, is it now ?

But there is always a danger that those slow going Britishers will suffer a relapse.

When Premier Meighen has departed and the spell of his eloquence is no longer upon them they may slip back to their old “muddling through” methods. And if they do, will Canada’s own little statesman awake to the fact that all he has accomplished is to commit Canada to fuller burdens in connection with Empire defence? Stranger things have happened. The race is not always to the speedy nor the argument to the eloquent. ,

Anyway, while Hon. Arthur nas been busy in the Old Land, Hon. Willie King has not been idle in the New. He has prepared and delivered another speech.

Nay, more, he has made a discovery.

By earnest industry and careful research he has unearthed the fact that Canada’s crying need is more Liberal-

Just what Wavering Willie means by Liberalism has not yet been explained.

But judging by past performances more Liberalism means more speeches. If that is so, then right here and now I

nominate Willie for Premier. He can furnish more speeches, or the same one more times, than any infant prodigy who ever tried to convert a minimum of ideas into a maximum of words, and more power to him.

Neither does that hero of the hired man appear to be enjoying the same season of well-earned rest he did a year ago. He drifted away from Ottawa to bump into a by-election in Medicine Hat and a Grain Inquiry that spread over most of his immediate domain. How he handled both is a matter of history. He first claimed that the inquiry was a political move and then tied it up by injunction proceedings when the commission overplayed its hand a bit and called on a little side-show at Port Arthur in order to bring out some evidence that might be thought useful in Medicine Hat.

“All Hell As Its Bottom”

'"pHEN hurrying on to the Hat, he declared the commission a political movement to destroy the Farmers’ movement. Did the Farmers believe him? They appear to have. His candidate carried the constituency by a majority of nearly 10,000, the fanners voting pretty nearly solid while the city of Medicine Hat also gave a majority of about 300 in his favor.

And when you come to think that Medicine Hat with its natural gas and its hopes to become a western manufacturing centre has been called the most protectionist point on the prairies you begin to believe that said West has pinned its faith to Crerar and is practically prepared to “go it behind” when the great showdown comes upon

Of course the Unionists are trying to extract a little comfort from the fact that they won in York and Sunbury. But said comfort hardly comes in paying quantities. “Carry York and Sunbury,” exclaimed a New Brunswick senator ten days before that election. “We’ve got to. If we can’t carry that old stronghold we’re lost in every seat east of the Quebec lines.” And a victory from which about three-fourths of the regular majority is lopped off leaves rather a bad taste in the mouth. But the contests in Medicine Hat and York and Sunbury evidence the difference in the feeling in the East and West. In the Hat, Labor voted with the Farmers despite the fact that Hon. Gideon Robertson made the long traverse and tried his rude eloquence on the horny-handed. In the East the Farmers had a majority outside the city of Fredericton but Labor there stayed with the old party and helped to keep down the Farmer uprising.

In both constituencies that fighting yoüng leader, Hon. MacKenzie King, failed to put up a candidate. Does he realize that ‘only in French-speaking constituencies does his party have a chance? Or is hp staying out so that the opposition to the Government will not be split? Well, he split the opposition in East Elgin and the Farmer won. He split the opposition in West Peterboro and his own candidate won. He could have split the opposition in about four ways

without helping the Government candidate in Medicine Hat. And as for York and Sunbury, the Liberals, or a large part of them, voted for the Meighen candidate. So it will be seen that Mr. King is hardly holding his hand in order that what Premier Meighen calls “the adjunct” to the Liberal Party may have the right of way. As a matter of fact, Farmer candidates in the East appear to run better with a Liberal in the field. The latter splits the urban vote while the tossers of the tall timothy appear to have forgotten the politics they learned at mother’s knee and vote pretty solidly for one of their own kind.

Guessing Who’ll Get the Eighty.

A ND THEN there’s a new phase of the political situation opening up. Students of the game are now prepared to admit that the group that gets down in front in the next Parliament will have little difficulty in forming a Government and carrying on. There are 235 members in the House at present and though there will be more after a redistribution, you can take this as a basis. If Meighen comes back with eighty, it is held he can draw enough Quebec protectionists and “independents” to his standard to let him keep on premiering. If King has the eighty he can pull the Farmers to his aid—on their own terms—and become the primmest little premier this country ever knew. If Crerar has the eighty there are enough low tariff Grits ready to break away from their moorings and hurry to his side to form a Government in which Hon. W. L. M. King may not even be offered a portfolio.

Of course all this is based on the supposition that the country will split into just about three equal parts. But a close study of the political map shows that it won’t. Unless all signs fail the Liberals and Farmers will run neck and neck well out in front with the Unionists a bad third.

Now you can hardly blame Mr. King if he carries little admiration for a Liberal-Farmer victory that will leave him out of the premiership and probably out in the cold altogether. It may have occurred to the Boy Statesman that it would be just as well to haye an occasional Tory elected in place of a Farmer. Too many Farmers, you know, may spoil the game. Better throw a few Farmer seats to Meighen than allow Tom Crerar to come back with too much of the whip hand. “Safety First” is a doctrine that should not be confined to street car signs.

Then, too, some of Mr. King’s young French followers are not viewing the forward march of the Farmers with any loud shouts of approval. That Farmer epidemic might spread to Quebec. And if it did, what about the political futures of certain promising young statesmen who practise law in the cities %nd honor their rural brethren by representing them in Parliament?

For Quebec is going to vote solidly next election. It will pay a last tribute to Laurier and incidentally take revenge on the party that enforced the latest conscription legislation. It is a good guess that not a Quebecseat outside the cities and not more than two or three constituencies in the cities will return supporters of the Meighen Government. But that doesn’t mean that Quebec is going to be solidly behind W. L. M. King. Neither does it mean that it is going to be solidly Liberal. It may send an occasional Labor man to Ottawa. An occasional Farmer may be started in the same general direction. For while

Quebec is solid for its race, tongue and religion and just as solidly against Arthur Meighen, it has little family quarrels all its own.

There Are Many Ways to Jump

'"T'HESE were evidenced at A the Grit convention where the populace headed by Lapointe and Bureau turned on the classes headed by Gouin and rent them limb from limb. It is evidenced in the House of Commons where there are two distinct factions neither of which is overburdened with loyalty to the nominal leader of the Great Liberal Party.And the

“solid” Quebec that reaches Ottawa is liable to split two or three different ways when it gets there. It has ambitious men in its ranks. It has men who could travel hand in hand with Crerar without any noticeable change in their principles. It has men who see eye to eye with Meighen on fiscal matters. And, sad to relate, it has men who could jump either way if they could see that their political future might be improved by the jump.

So you see Hon. W. L. M. King’s French flock could hardly be called “well in hand.” Nor are the few English speaking statesmen who tarry beneath his standard exactly prepared to lay down their lives, political or otherwise, for him. Hon. W. S. Fielding, who more and more towards the end of last session led the Liberal forces in the House, is said to be still harboring a secret ambition to be a compromise Premier of any mixed Government that may follow an election, while as for Hon. Charles Murphy—well, the young leader doesn’t need to try the “he loves me, he loves me not” test to discover his exact frame of mind. Certain of the smaller fry, such as Duff of Lu-, nenburg, or Kennedy of Essex, profess a fondness for King that may mean that he may have portfolios to hand out.

So you see the Liberals will come back a rather hard bunch to handle. It has also to be shown that Mr. King has the ability to do the handling. If he can arrive with a good lead on both Crerar and Meighen he should make thegrade. But if, as looks likely, he and Crerar come under the tape neck and neck there will be a hundred pitfalls in his path and he may disappear into any of them.

From a strategic standpoint, the Farmer leader will have much

the best of it. He won't have to watch his followers. They will have been elected for a purpose and will know exactly where they are at. Moreover, most of them will be new to Parliament—too new to have developed Cabinet ambitions. Crerar can go ahead, knowing that he can deliver, that no section of his group is making another dicker behind his back.

Oh, yes, the days following a general election will be interesting. The available supply of political wires will all be needed and then some. And when it is all over one, and possibly two, of the old parties may have been wiped off the political map.

What Hit Alberta?

TN FACT those old parties are already putting on A a disappearing act all their own. There is that Alberta provincial election. A Farmer spasm, largely engendered by the Medicine Hat by-election, resulted in an upheaval that swept the Tory party into the ash-barrel and left about as many Liberals as you could carry out on a shovel. And it wasn’t that they didn’t like Premier Stewart. As a matter of fact, as this is written, they are still talking of asking him to lead their new Government. It was just that the people appeared to want a new deal.

In Saskatchewan, Premier Martin dodged the inevitable by practically making his Government a Farmer concern. He renounced his Liberalism by resigning from the Liberal advisory committee. He made his Government smell still more of the hayfield by plucking J. A. Maharg from a seat in the federal Parliament and giving him a portfolio in Regina. And this Maharg happens to be president of the Saskatchewan Cooperative Elevator Company which is the big noise in Farmer circles on the banks of the Sas-Katch-e-wan. Having practically doffed his Liberal uniform and put on overalls, Premier Martin pulled through but it can hardly be argued that his Government is less “truly Agricultooral” than the one opening up business in Alberta.

So there you have it. The West is Farmer; Quebec is French; Ontario is an open guess; while the Maritimes, with the exception of a few rural constituencies and two or three others that may take the bit in their teeth and go Labor, will vote as their followers voted, though returning more than the usual number of Liberals.

It’s a sorry mess, isn’t it? And sticking out of it all you’ll notice that just preceding the Alberta débâcle Hon. Frank Oliver took a Tory partner into the Edmonton “Bulletin.” Changed days since Hon. Frank, “Ned” Macdonald and “Sweet William” Pugsley held the Liberal benches on the fighting front at Ottawa Then there was no compromise. Then only party principles held. Then the battle raged on lines laid down by preceding generations and governed by a deep-rooted conviction that nothing that was not Liberal could possibly be right. How the House misses those Old Boys. Hon. Frank’s specialty was language. “What a golf player that man would make,” once remarked a stranger as a whiff of lion. Frank’s private conversation flashed by. And in the House he was ever ready to pour a stream of vitriol across the floor that made the ungodly Tories tremble for their sins. “Ned” had more bluster, with an occasional burst of almost oratory, while “Sweet William” was ever ready with the merry jest that often carried in its tail a kick that would have done credit, to the traditional mule. Will those Old Boys ever come back? Or has the changing political map taken their places for more prosaic politicians whose chief characteristic is deadly dullness and whose stupidity is emphasized to the point of dignity?

But to get down to cases again. What about the election ? The Medicine Hat returns coupled with Continued on page 38

DRIFTING ON THE ROCKS

Continued from page 23

the news from Yamaska has borne in on the cabinet, or certain members of it, the utter hopelessness of the Government’s cause. Some shout for an immediate appeal to the country. Others, . slower of conviction, would have the Premier reorganize his cabinet and coupling up the resultant elections with the present vacancies bring on a miniature general election that would settle once for all the sentiment of the country. Meanwhile Sir George Foster is casting anxious eyes towards the High Commissionership in England; Hon. C. J. Doherty is counting up his pensions and probably wondering why another doesn’t attach to his present job, and Hon. James Calder is marking out a path to that cyclone cellar popularly known as the Senate. Hon. J. D. Reid will willingly go hand and hand with James to that retreat where the responsibilities are few and the rewards are sure. As for the others they’ll slip back into the obscurity from which most of them should never have emerged. And probably they’ll be happier. For being a big man in your own home town is often preferable to trying to fill a big man’s shoes at the nation’s capital.

But all this figuring is being done with the chief figures absent. And while the Cabinet proposes Arthur Meighen disposes. As remarked he-

fore, the little man is a bit obstinate». He has let it be understood that there' will be another session and a redistribution bill. And before there is anychange in that programme that requires attention, Premier Meighen mustbe safely back from England and opening his own mail in his own office.

There are those, too, in the inner councils of the Unionists who predict a September or October session of Parliament to be followed by an appeal ta the country. There may be something to this. For with an early appeal in the offing the election law does not in-, sist on the six months vacancy clausebeing enforced.

But that also must wait for the premier. He lets no man make up his. mind for him. And, as Sir Robert Borden is the model after which he generally fashions his statesmanship thereis a large possibility that he will wind up by doing nothing. You’ll remember that was the best thing Sir Robert did.

Can he hang on if the by-elections go against him? Sure he can. He could carry on with a majority of one. For times are tightening up. Four thousand dollars looks even bigger than it did a year ago, an extra indemnity helps wonderfully with election expenses and there are a lot of opposition-, members who could find business elsewhere if an adverse vote threatened to interfere with their own and the country’s interests.