DRIFTING BACK TO PARTY LINES
J . K. MUNRO
OTTAWA for the time being has ceased to be the political centre of the universe. With the “business” cabinet scattered hither and yon in search of the education travel is supposed to give, the veneer is almost off the lumber camp and the solemn silence is broken only by the hoarse boom of the Chaudière. The population, so far as public interest goes, is reduced to Rt. Hon. W. L. M. King (with valet) and Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen (without hope).
Of the former it can be said that he is attending strictly to his social duties and as his valet has to dress him for each of them, said valet is probably the busiest member of the “business cabinet.” Of the Hon. Arthur, little hope is entertained. The gloom entered his soul on Dec. 6th last. It is now affecting his entire oratory. Not only has this young nation gone to the political bow-wows, but intellectually it is rotting at the roots and he has a growing suspicion that socially and morally it is headed for the rocks. Somewhere, Christmas bells may ring out, a joyous peal ; somewhere, the laughter of children may speak a happiness the festive season is supposed to bring. But Hon. Arthur will hear them not. He knows that times are out of joint. Heredity may be to blame. Modern invention may have annihilated the simplicity and displaced the natural with the artificial. Yes, by heck, the whole works have gone wrong. Arthur Meighen will tell you so, if you only give him half a chance.
The High Priest of Despondency
*TpHE young Tory leader was not born an optimist. T But there were times when he was toiling upward through the political night when he could almost see the sun of better, nobler times trying to hoist its face on the horizon. That was when Borden ruled at Ottawa and the political prodigy from The Portage was teacher’s pet. Then Wesley Rowell came and gradually the “great constitutional lawyer from Nova Scotia” fell under his influence. Little Arthur’s nose was out of joint; the sun felt its foot slip and the gloom deepened. There was a temporary flush in the East when Wesley took to the woods and the Conservative members, ably assisted by Tom Blacklock and Gratton O’Leary, put Arthur on top of the Tory heap. But Wesley Rowell’s work was well done. The Tory organization was gone. The old “machine” that had carried the party to victory full many a time and oft looked like a Ford that had tried a head-on argument with a freight train. And when Hon. Arthur went out to get a cabinet the absence of applications for the noblest jobs in the nation’s gift confirmed bis former suspicions that all was not well in Israel, that the gods, political and otherwise, had turned thumbs down on what should have been the happiest and most fertile tract of the whole sad world. The election confirmed his worst suspicions. The cruel crack of personal defeat in his own Portage la Prairie helped to further curdle any milk of human kindness that may have leaked into his system. To-day he stands the God of Gloom, the high priest of despondency, the prophet who would go after honor in his own country by predictions that bring tears to eyes that want to smile and sorrow' to hearts that would long to rejoice.
Yes, we’re drifting back to party lines. But we’re doing it under difficulties. Just imagine those gay old dogs of other days, the Tories, trying to coax the erring ones back to the crepe-hung home in which Hon. Arthur Meighen is preaching a series of all too lengthy funeral sermons.
The Liberals are in better luck. Premier King aways wears a smile. He’s so well satisfied with himself that he couldn’t stop smiling if he tried. It may be that his followers are in factions. Rude critics may aver that he’s only a figurehead in his own home; that he rules by the grace of Gouin and that if he doesn’t do as he’s told the frowning little Frenchman may snap his fingers and take away his sceptre. But he knows that these are merely straws in the pathway of a great man. He is Premier. He knows he is. Also he knows that Canada is thrice blessed in having such a Premier. So he’ll keep right on being Premier and enjoying every minute of it. He may not do much else. But what of that? A man who keeps on premiering and doing it gracefully and with the proper dignity hasn’t got time to do much else. If other things are to be done, let Gouin do them. What did Quebec send Gouin to Ottawa for, anyway?
There you have what is happening in Ottawa. Just about as near nothing as you could imagine in an atmosphere charged with and by the personalities of a King and a Meighen.
Simplified Thinking for the Public
BUT elsewhere things are happening and you can’t help feeling that the political unrest caused by the war is beginning to settle. A great war acts on the body politic as a religious revival on the body' spiritual. It awakens people to a sense of their duties and responsibilities. And
the awakened start out to remodel the country and its administration. They start out with all the enthusiasm and ignorance of the amateur. Time thins the enthusiasm and experience moderates the ignorance. Then the “remodelers” proceed to sift back to where others will do the work. The public likes to have its thinking done for it. It wants to be able to argue with the words and ideas of the spellbinder and still be able to claim those words and mind pictures as its own. As members of a recognized party they have all this work done for them. Moreover they have learned that remodelling the science of government is no mean chore. It involves work and yet more work. And the public is inherently lazy. Anyway it has enough to do earning a living for itself and ~ , ?» ■
family. So gradually it settles back to the ■ '
good old ways followed by its fathers and j'¿
reflects that perhaps the old fellows weren’t such darned fools after all.
And it is all the easier for Canada to get back into line because Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, always more conservative than the provinces further west, have always kept the Liberal flag nailed to the mast. So it is only the old Tory stronghold of Ontario and the settlers beyond the Lakes who have to take a new reckoning and readjust the course of the ship of state.
Ontario naturally is coming into line faster than the West. It is older and has always pretended to more sense. Moreover as Ontario was first to go forward it is only natural that she should be the first to get back where she belongs.
R/"\ There was a little dinner at a millionaires’
club in Toronto the other night. It wasn’t large in numbers, but it was fairly bursting U C E with potentialities. For among those who stick their legs under the mahogany all three branches of the Liberal party were splendidly represented. Premier King was there—the man who was made Liberal leader because he had never faltered in his allegiance to Laurier; because he had followed the plumed knight down to defeat in the great conscription campaign of 1917. Wesley Rowell was there—the man who went into the Union Government to prove his patriotism and used his ascendancy over Borden to complete the wreck of the Tory party to prove his Liberalism. Premier Drury was there—the man who followed Laurier in 1917 and turned round to join the Farmer Government in order that when the end came he might lead his fellow yeoman back into the Liberal camp. Wellington Hay was there—the man who has led the Liberal Opposition in Ontario and who is always ready to hold out a helping hand to Drury and always ready to step aside and make way for a greater man, whether his name be Drury or Rowell. The beverages used at the banquet were strictly non-alcoholic and the conversation was largely along prohibition lines. But prohibition of Tory governments at Queen’s Park was the underlying thought and already it is an open secret that while the Conservatives may have the biggest group in the Ontario house after the election next summer it will avail them nought unless they outnumber the combined Liberal and Farmer forces. They might get it too. with the aid of “a common old soul with a bald head,” viz and to wit J. J. Morrison. The latter loves not the immortal Drury. It may be because in the formation of the U. F. O., J. J. did the work and Drury gained the glory. It may be that the Drury vanity has grated on the carefully cultivated simplicity of the father of the U. F. O. movement. Anyway, J. J. doesn’t like Ernie. He’s out to cut Ernie’s political throat and he doesn’t care a continental whether the present Premier goes back to the Liberal camp or continues along to his farm at Crown Hill. Just so long as Ernie gets going and keeps on going, J. J. will be satisfied. And furthermore he is prepared to prove that Ernie hasn’t got to have a self-starter to get going good and early.
A Slant on Ontario Politics
THERE you have things as they are in Ontario. There are only two parties, right now. True, the Liberals hunt in two packs, the Grit and the Farmer, but they are always ready tu line up together any time the Tories look dangerous. But it is west of the Lakes that real things have been happening. Hon. T. A. Crerar, the Hired-Man’s hero, has gone out from among us and that canny old Scotsman Robert Forke, of Brandon, rules in his place and stead. To be sure, it is simply a change in the man, not in the principles; for at Ottawa Tom Crerar had no more devoted follower than Robert Forke. But Tom Crerar has quit politics and gone back to work and everybody is prepared to admit that the Progressives will never look the same again. For, no matter what party you belong to, you have to admit that T. A. Crerar was an outstanding figure in the House—yes, and in the country.
Wisè critics have said that the Farmers’ leader lacked personality, that he was crude in his oratory and deficient in his mentality. And yet the House filled every time Tom Crerar rose to speak and remained filled till he had perorated. He didn’t try to dissect the flea bite nor did he indulge in mouth-filling platitudes. But he discussed each question on its merits and never failed to add to the sum total of information concerning it. A man who liked his fellow men and liked to be liked in return, he was perhaps not enough of a fighter to make first-class copy for the Press Gallery. He had few hates in his system, but one of them was in the general direction of Hon. Arthur Meighen. He always felt that the gloomy young Tory leader started the Grain Investigation in order to “get Crerar” and it is a safe bet that he drops out of public life with at least one regret—that he did not get a good opportunity last session to tell Mr. Meighen exactly what he thought of him. Nor did Mr. Meighen exactly love the lanky grain-grower. That much is shown by the sneering statement handed out to the press when the news of Crerar’s resignation flashed along the wires.
Of course, this is not the Hon. T. A. Crerar’s obituary. He has simply stepped aside for the time being because business calls and he needs the money. With the United Grain Growers again on a paying basis and a few of this world’s goods laid up against a rainy day, Mr. Crerar will be back. For once a man has survived an Ottawa winter and heard the plaudits of his countrymen rise above the snores of the civil servants, he’s doomed. He may break bounds for a while. But sooner or later he’ll be back for more of the same medicine. And Tom Crerar is still a young and fairly healthy chap.
The Progressives Not Purged of Liberalism
BUT what a nice time those Progressives must have had selecting a successor. They’re divided into factions you know and range in Progressives from Joe Shaw and Agnes McPhail right up to Tom Sales and Col. McConnica. However the spirit of the politically dead Crerar must have dominated the convention. For with Robert Forke leading the van, the Farmers at Ottawa will never get so far away from the Gouin-King Government that they won’t be able to hear the division bell. Nor will that division bell ever ring in vain. For Robert Forke is just as good a Grit as Crerar ever knew how to be. He longs for the day when some one shall cast out the devils from the Liberal body. He hopes to live to see the time when a cleaner, better Liberal party shall be born and he’ll do all in his power to hasten the birth. Meantime he’ll do what he can to keep the present Liberal party alive that it may not die ere its sins are washed away. Furthermore Mr.
Forke will .probably agree with you that the worst a Liberal Government might do will compare favorably with the best a Tory Government possibly could do. So the King Government has nothing to fear from the change.
In fact there are those who think that the Government will gather strength as the days go by. Crerar, the natural leader of the Farmer movement, had his troubles controlling the various brands of independents of his following. Forke can hardly hope to hold them as well as Crerar did.
He lacks the Parliamentary experience. He lacks the prestige that had accrued to a man who threw down a portfolio to uphold a principle. Forke is a good man—a kindly chap with a lot of hard common sense. But the mentality critics to the contrary notwithstanding, there are mighty few Crerars. There are very few' men in public life or out of it who command the respect that w'as, and is, accorded to the retiring Farmer leader. There are mighty few men in public life or out of it who have striven so unselfishly to serve the people who trusted him.
“One Who Looked Straight Forward”
HOW many men would have rejected the position of official leader of the Opposition with its $10,000 per because by doing so he believed he could benefit the West that sent him to Parliament? And it is no secret that it is the lack of $10,000 per or something similar that has sent Tom Crerar out of politics and back to his business office. How many men would have sat by last session and waited for his one big fight in June—and never let a cheep out of him as to why he was so discreetly silent. Early in the session Tom Crerar decided that the Crow’s Nest Pass agreement furnished the only chance he had to get something substantial for the Prairie provinces. He kept his eye on that agreement and refused to take it off. He refused to be diverted from his purpose by the minions of H. W. Wood who bore down on Ottawa howling for a Wheat Board. Nobody knew better than Crerar that any kind of a Wheat Board Montreal would give to the West would not be worth paying the freight on. Nobody knew better than Crerar that with Sir Lomer Gouin helping the little grey Nova Scotian to make his budget any concessions in the tariff wouldn’t yield enough to buy a Christmas box for the hired man. The freight rates were his one and only chance, so he waited—and he
won. The crops of the West are being carried to the Lakes this year for millions of dollars less than they were carried last year. That means millions of dollars in the pockets of the Western farmers—and just because Tom Crerar concentrated on one thing and got it. He’s a punk golfer, but on that one occasion he kept his eye on the ball.
Anyway Crerar “done his duty as he seen it” and his resignation robs the House of one of its all too few personalities. A lot of statesmen who think pretty well of themselves could drop and leave a much smaller gap.
Makes Way for Lesser Men
BUT after all his disappearance is just another slip on the way back to party lines. Crerar had the size and prestige necessary to restrain the ambitions of a number of would-be farmer leaders. They’ll be making bids for more of the spotlight now that the mantle has fallen on Forke. Already Captain Joe Shaw of Calgary is said to have jumped the traces and to be stretching hands across the prairies to Agnes McPhail in Ontario. Those two irreconcilables may form a little group all their own. Then Speakman of Red Deer has long had a suspicion that he could fill a gap in the ranks of higher statesmanship. Also there are Hoey and Gorland and many more besides who have longed for a larger freedom and a more rampant independence. They can see their chance now and won’t be slow to take it. Robert Forke and a devoted band may hang on in the hope that the Liberal party may be led out of bondage. The others will go jumping and frisking over the political landscape like a bunch of bronchos that have broken out of the corral. And everybody knows how easy it is for the party in power to lasso and
AM THE Oi D CLOTHES CN NOW I’MMV ÆLF SAYS FARMER - ETC.
brand all kinds of political mavericks. Yes, we’re drifting back to party lines and the drift gains in strength as the days grow shorter. It won’t be long till the Ontario Progressives are hunting for cover and possibly nominations in the Grit ranks. The shutters are going up on the U. F. O. co-operative stores. The closing of the political shop will follow close behind.
The B. C. Progressives have little in common with their Prairie comrades. They’re just a lot of chaps who are “agin” everything. That kind always becomes the Government’s strongest supports if the Parliament lives long enough, and present indications are that this one will live out its full term.
They Gain by Sticking Together
THE Prairie crowd have more to gain by sticking together and occupying the side benches. They’ll last longer than the others. But as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, the third party will die young. Even now the undertaker is dusting off his stock in anticipation of a business visit.
But Robert Forke and his devoted band will wait and watch and hope; yea, they may „ even pray that Sir Lomer Gouin and his biginterest colleague may be driven into the Tory ranks and that Willie King will give them what his ambassador promised ere they came East last December, “A Government representative of all parts of the country and all classes of the people.”
How The Provinces Shape Up
BUT what of the Tory party, you ask. It takes at least two parties to make a fight and, with the Progressives drifting Gritwards faster every day, where is the party of the other part going to come from?
Nor do things look any too bright for the Tories at the time of writing. The party organization has been smashed in Ontario and British Columbia and practically eliminated on the Prairies, in Quebec and in the Maritimes. But there never yet was a Government that didn't breed its own opposition. And despite the lamentations of Arthur Meighen, the Liberals can be depended on to build up the old or a new Conservative party. Even now' the solid Quebec is a bit shaky. The habitant is in revolt against the “Aristocracy,” the cry “who killed Blanche Garneau?” is echoing through her sylvan glades and the Taschereau Government is looking fearfully forward to an election of which no one can predict the result. And the opposition is all the more formidable that it is nameless. Sauve, the leader, has voiced no standard. He has claimed no home. He has simply opened a camp to which all the discontented may come. They’re coming. For discontent is more catching than the measles and more especially when it is founded on the age-old pro judice of the suffering poor against the privileged rich.
In Ontario there are signs, too, that some remnants of the Old Tory Party are still connected in and around Toronto. In a provincial bye-election the other day Col. Jack Currie redeemed a city constituency that at the general election had gone Liberal by five thousand major ity. And thereat the population of the Tory stronghold
took heart and rejoiced exceedingly.
These are simply symptoms that prove the body politic is reacting to treatment. .... , The Government is here. The opposition will grow and Continued on page 39
Drifting Back to Party Lines
Continued from page 23
keep on growing till it is strong enough to again oust the Government. The only question to be answered is whether things are going back to exactly where they were before the war. Is the country to be governed in turn by two parties that differ in names but are the same in principle or lack thereof? Or is the Progressive party to do a certain work in the general scheme of things? Is it going to slip quickly into an early grave unhonored and unsung? Or is its fall to mark a realignment of forces? Are the “Big Interests” going to be lined up on one side of the House while the common herd are at least promised a chance for their white alley on the other?
That is a question the future alone can answer It’s a question that is bothering quite a lot of people right now One of them is not William Lyon Mackenzie King. He’s so well pleased with being Premier that even the cut of a new coat does not bother him a bit.