No One Wants to Start Anything

J. K. MUNRO April 1 1923

No One Wants to Start Anything

J. K. MUNRO April 1 1923

No One Wants to Start Anything

J. K. MUNRO

WHEN Bonar Law floated into power in England on the gentle flow of a tide of tranquility, he estabLished a new era in politics. For the Canadian Parliament of to-day would hardly be recognized as the same body that was wont to furnish us with laws and lawsuits in the days of the Giants of Old. Then there was storm oi criticism and flash of orational lightning. To-day there is the quiet patter of argument relieved by only an occasional growl that may or may not indicate that there is still a slumbering storm somewhere in the litical world.

And tn other ways things are changed. Time was when a report that one of the leaders was to speak would fill the House and pack the galleries. Now it is difficult to keep the leaders from talking, only the curious come to the galleries and the members drift into the House and sit around and yarn as if they were there because there was no place else to go.

It sure is a lazy-looking, lackadaisical parliament that has voted and listened to academic debates on private members’ resolutions during the second month of the present session. Those who have heard the foundations of an empire rock over a ten-dollar expenditure on a wharf in Nova Scotia have lived to see the day when five millions are voted for elevators in Vancouver with hardly a dissenting voice. After that nothing surprises, and estimates, once the bone of party contention, slip through committees like water through.a spout.

What is the meaning of it all? Simply that nobody wants an election, nobody is looking for trouble and everybody has settled away to enjoy the quiet that a four-years’-distant election affords. Some folks will tell you it all comes as the reaction after the war. Others biame it on the increased indemnity. They do not hesitate to say that in these days of financial stress and mixed farming a man with an assured $4,000 per and perquisites would be adjudged insane if he tampered with things as they are.

Spoiled Lads Are Good Now

THEN the Quebec members who raised all the trouble

last session have been partly appeased and partly frightened.

They have been given a committee to find ways and means of proriding patronage. Also the provincial elections in Quebec have demonstrated the uncertainty of elections generally.

They have ceased to clamor for the appeal to the country' that would give them a majority over all and a pork barrel for hungry constituents. Even “Chubby”

Powers and Lucien Cannon have become amenable to discipline.

And when these spoiled political boys have learned to control their tongues and tempers, how can you expect other than that older

: 11111 wiser men should listen to the voice of the con-

eiiuuor?

For be it known that the autocrat of Quebec is the greatest little conciliator of them all. Yes, Sir Lomer who, when occasion demands, can summon a frown before which statesmen tremble, can also smooth troubled brows by granting minor requests that do not interfere with his general policy and do it with a smile that few can even imitate.

Some folks will tell you that things are changed at Ottawa, that it is now a Fielding Government, that since the Little Grey Man stood up in the House and read the riot act to the assembled Farmers, he, not Gouin, controls the destinies of the King Government. Don’t pay any attention to them. The little Nova Scotian with his past associations and his renewed youth is undoubtedly master in the House. But the little Black Knight who seldom utters a word is still master the behind the scenes. Fielding has to wrestle with the details of a department that must

stop the country’s drift towards bankruptcy. Gouin leaves details to his inferiors. When his estimates were up it was his deputy who had to furnish him with answers to the few questions that were rather timidly directed at him. He keeps his mind clear for the larger problems.

And though Fielding is irritable to a degree and is scrappy as an Irish terrier, his is not the mind tostand beforethesteady det ermination of the little czar. Thelatterwill allow him to fret and bristle.

Also he’ll give him a lot of his own way and let him think pretty well of himself. But—well the Little Grey Man had to rewrite his budget last year and unless he studies the peculiarities of Sir Lomer he may have to do it again.

By the way, too, budget-making this year is going to be no afterdinner chore. You’ll remember that a year ago the Finance Minister bent his energies to in-

creasing revenues to make them cover expenditures. It was predicted then that this simply couldn’t be done. Nor has the past year shown anything to the contrary. The printing presses are still running over time turning out stamps to decorate checks, receipts, etc. But the national debt is piling up at the rate of five millions month. So it will be seen that the expenditures are still out in front setting the pace and winning the race with lots to spare.

So Mr. Fielding has something to do besides trying to supplement Sir Lomer as the controller of the Government’s, and incidentally the country’s, destinies. The

estimates don’t show any determined attempts to cut the cost of Government. The need of the moment is taxes and yet more

taxes. And mixed with the admiration of the back bencher for the Last of the Giants there is a growing conviction that as vote breeders there are better sires than the tax collectors.

Then there’s the new French Treaty that Mr. Fielding and Mr. Lapointe brought

back as the net result of a summer’s travel in Europe. It was hailed by that great apostle of free trade, Andrew McMaster, as a bit of a triumph. Was it not a step in the direction of that elimination of tariff duties which is to bring peace and prosperity to all Canadian homes? But the boys got thinking it over and gradually it dawned on them that the $850,000 decrease in revenue which the treaty en-

tails would simply give cheaper wines for Quebec and B. C. and cheaper silks for the ladies. And with revenues still requiring stretching to meet expenditures, this decrease must be made up elsewhere. The assembled yeomanry of the Prairies might be excused for asking if they are required to pay more duty on agricultural implements in order that Quebec might make merry at less expense or the ladies prepare for social functions without cutting too severely into the statesmen’s indemnities.

It will thus be seen that Mr. Fielding’s ascendancy is threatened by the cares of the portfolio he loves. Moreover it is sometimes argued, in whispers, that if the Fielding budget of 1922 had not been preceded by the Drayton budget of 1921 it would have loomed up in political history as the most severe on record. And this agreement is even followed at intervals by a tacit admission that while Nova Scotia turns out statesmen, the land of Evangeline, whoever she was, has not yet made a name for herself as a hot-bed for financiers. What Canada needs as her Finance Minister at the present writing is a man who can make the credit and debit columns take on a family resemblance.

Fielding is a grand old man. Nobody can help but admire him. Nobody can help but applaud when he lands right and left in quick succession on the solar

plexus of an opponent in debate. Pity ’tis that he cannot land with the same force and skill on the financial problems with which he spars so cleverly!

The Moralists’ Innings

BUT if you want to see this Parliament of ours doing some fast footwork watch it closely when some great moral issue is brought to its attention. There was that race horse resolution of W. C. Good, the Brant Progressive. Mr. Good is blessed with a high-pitched whine with which he is constantly

trying to improve humanity. His recent effort was meant to eliminate gambling at race tracks. He was assisted by most people who have never seen a horse race and consequently have never known the joy of cashing a $2 bet, and quite a few others who have. The latter voted with wry faces and muttered curses. They didn’t like Good, neither did they like his resolution, but they feared the church vote. It was noticed too that the grippe was particularly bad the night of that division. There were numerous vacant chairs. Also it was worthy of note that none of the leaders answered to their names. The Premier had “grippe.” His temperature was high that night.

Robert Forke was at a court dinner—which everybody will admit was no place for a Farmer. However he was “paired.” Hon. Arthur Meighen was merely absent. Nor has he yet had the hardihood to present his alibi.

Anyway the resolution was defeated. Quebec turned on it and smote it with all her might. For La Belle Quebec has evidently made up her mind to be the one joy spot on the Eastern slope of this parched continent. Not only has she cornered the liquid supply and negotiated treaty that enables her to bring in French wines cheaper than they can be laid down in Paris, but she wants races and lots of them. Moreover Senator Casgrain has a little bill in the Senate that would prohibit manufacture of intoxicating liquors in prohibition provinces. Its passáge would give Quebec all the breweries and distilleries. But this last move savors of hoggishness rather than gayety and is not likely to find favor even with the less romantic of our legislators.

That patronage resolution of “Chubby" Powers also caused some concern. The party in power always yearns for plums to hand out to its camp followers. A ou'll remember that the Unionists tried to break away from the Civil Service Commission far enough to appoint an occasional postmaster. But their courage failed them and when the famous Spinney Bill was finally brought down it compared with first intentions about as two per cent. does with real Scotch.

Anyway “Chubby,” beg pardon Major, Powers resolved to take the bull by the horns and throw the Civil Service Commission out on its head. Of course this was too strong medicine for the Government to swallow at one dose. But even the Premier wasn’t too antagonistic. He showed that in his first speech when he proposed a committee to look into the matter and, when carried away by his own eloquence, he declared for a service “responsible to the Government and not manacled and shackled by the rules of a commission over which we have no control.” That night all Quebec rejoiced. For down in that land of beer and wine there are thousands of postmasters appointed after the massacre of 1911 who hang on to the sale of postage stamps and laugh at the threats of those who control governments but cannot fire the people who draw government salaries.

But when the Premier read his remarks in cold type he evidently didn’t like them so well. So an amendment was introduced and Mr. King was made a second and more moderate speech in which he showed that change in the Civil Service Commission had been recommended by the deputy ministers, etc., etc. Anyway, the committee was appointed. It is just getting down to work. It will be watched with interest. It may do a whole lot. On the other hand it may lose its courage and just bring in another Spinney Bill. You never can tell what statesmen will do till the pressure is applied and you have a chance to estimate their powers of resistance.

Bluenose Wailings

THE promised Redistribution Bill is another measure that has reached the committee stage. And already there is moaning at the bar and strong language pouring in from the East. For the census, working hand in hand with the British North America Act, has cut Nova Scotia’s

representation in the House of Commons from sixteen to fourteen. Just imagine it! Haughty Nova Scotia with just ten more members than little Prince Edward Island which isn’t any more populous than a good-sized ward in a selfrespecting city! Do you wonder that the birthplace of statesmen is standing upon its hind legs and howling? Nay, more, it threatens to smash Confederation, wreck the B. N. A. and shatter at least one of the ten commandments unless it is treated with more respect. But from here it looks as if nothing can be done arid that as a consequence Canada will have

to wiggle along somehow with a curtailed supply of statesmen.

Of course the West gets what the East loses, and-then some. .Manitoba gains two members, Saskatchewan five and Alberta four. B. C. also picks up an extra, but for political purposes the sunny Pacific slope is as far distant from the Prairies as Quebec or the Maritimes. To be sure three alleged Progressives trotted in from B. C. and took their seats under the Farmer flag. But the Prairie Province would be far better without them. They’re far more Liberal than Sir Lomer Gouin and are always ready to lead a Farmer wing to the support of the Government.

However, the Prairie West, with its representation increased from forty-three to fifty-four should, if it retains its present solidity of sentiment and can pick representatives who are not too independent to work together, occupy a much better strategic position in the next Parliament. With the solid Quebec breaking up and even Liberals ready to admit that Nova Scotia cannot bring back anything like a solid fourteen, the Liberals must either mollify the West or make big gains in Ontario to hold their high place in the country’s esteem.

Now is there anything to indicate that Tory Ontario is being coaxed away from the idols of other days? That the Progressive wave in the banner province is receding is abundantly evident. But the constituencies that sent Farmers to the present House give every evidence of sending Tories to the next. In fact everything leads to the conclusion that a new election would bring the old parties much closer together. Consequently the Prairies have before them the opportunity of holding the balance of power in the next Parliament, not by a measly one or two, but by a comfortable plurality. However, that can only come through united action. Unless the Grain Growers are more united in the country than their representatives are in the House, the old parties have little to fear. The one that grabs the Government can depend on the West to furnish the majority with which to carry it on.'

The Bank Act revision and legislation against combines and mergers are other measures that are raising their little heads over the political horizon The former can safely be

left to Sir Lomer Gouin. He still takes a weékly lesson banking in Montreal, has reached the highest class Canada affords, the board of directors of the Bank of Montreal, and can give the committee in charge of the bill instructions it requires. Under the circumstances there is no reason to fear any too drastic changes in the present act. And under it the interests of our big financial institutions are fairly well protected.

As to the combines and mergers bill it has so far failed to start any financial pirates towards the tall grass. It proposes to furnish the machinery but leaves the initiation of such to the individual. And theindividual who, with the best intentions and machinery, starts after a combine usually lands in the poor-hduse several years before any one of the combine-builders even sights a jail. Under the circumstances combines will jog along as usual and holders of common stock can retain their seats in the grand stand and watch worthless paper grow into valuable securities. It was ever thus. Governments change, new parliaments take the place of old, and a' new list of names is blazoned on the walls of fame, but the men who know how continue to collect the coin and to issue new lines of protection to those of whom Barnum has said “there is one born every minute.”

To get back to the men who make our laws, you will be pleased to learn that Hon. Arthur Meighen is still talking. So far he has tried hard to live up to his

pre-session contempt young Mr. King, and to try to smile when he looks in the general directionof the Progressives. But otherwise he’s as usual. He keeps up a running fire of comment on the estimates that gets him nowhere and occasionally has a run-in with such worthy opponents as that gallant sailorman, Duff of Lunenburg, or that fiery little French-Irishman, Cannon

of Dorchester. But he sidesteps Fielding. The little Nova Scotian carries too many guns for him.

Hon. Geo. P. Graham is practically in possession of the Railway portfolio and has tuned down his great voice so that Sir Henry Thornton can occasionally make himself heard. The latter, by the way, has stopped making speeches for a few moments while he appoints a few vice-presidents. And if you don’t hear of him delivering an address in the near future you will be justified in concluding that the National Railways have more vicepresidents than brakemen.

presidents than brakemen.

The Premier himself has not been much in evidence this session. But then the old Laurier home is in process of changing into the King’s palace. All that takes time.

Another man who has not let Ms countenance beam on Parliament this session is that haughty Irishman, Hon. Charles Murphy. Worn out by the tremendous sale of postage stamps, Hon. Charles took his doctor’s advice and fled just before the House opened. His present whereabouts are more or less of a mystery. Moreover, it is stated that before he took train he informed the premier he loves that the vacant portfolio must go to an IrishCatholic. Now ’tis said there are those who do not see eye to eye with him in this matter. One of them may even be his premier, whose friend, Dr. Macdougall of Montreal, has political ambitions. Anyway, at the time of writing,

Hon. Charles has gone, no one appears to know where, nor does anyone appear to know when he is coming back—and this at a time when the stamp presses need oiling up and pushing to their limit!

Hon. Tom Low wears a satisfied smile which indicates that he is about to become a real Minister even if the shattered remnants of our national defence is all that is to be entrusted to his care.

Copp and “D. D.” are still gazing prayerfully towards the bench, the former almost tearfully since an ukase from Sir Henry Thornton has moved a large

part of the population of Moncton, N. B., to Montreal: for Moncton, you know, is in Mr. Copp’s riding. Moreover Mr. Copp has to pass through Moncton on his way to his home in Sackville. Just now he’s probably wondering whether he’ll ever see his little home again. For the

indignation that seethes in Moncton threatens the safety of any member of the Government who ventures within its corporate limits.

Only One P. O* Recalcitrant

SIR LOMER looks quite natural, thank you. He hasn’t smiled in public since a certain sad day in Montreal. But he still controls the destinies and campaign funds of Quebec, and, except for Andrew McMaster who stopped attending the Liberal caucus some time since, the statesmen from the homes of the habitant take their hats in hand when addressing him.

“Ned” Macdonald of Pictou looks a bit careworn. He realizes that the Railway portfolio has slipped from his grasp and there are even rumors that he will drop out of the House after the end of the session. But he won’t. He’ll stay there if only to get some of the people whom he thinks got him. Nor will his presence help the Fielding ascendancy.

Poppa Motherwell, you ask? Oh yes, he’s talking as usual every time he can make an opportunity. But the House doesn’t care much who plays the accompaniment to which it sleeps. Dr. King, of B. C., did better with his estimates this year. He has a solid B. C. behind him since he put over that -$5,000,000 for Vancouver elevators and appears to be recovering from his fear of the great men in whose presence he finds himself.

By the way, that recalls that the two most likely-looking men on the Tory side come from B. C. They are Hon. Dr. Tolmie and Hon. Harry Stevens. Of course their vote helped put over that elevator grab. There are no politics on the Pacific slope when there is something to be picked off. But, aside from that, the Hon. Doctor is one of the most popular and capable men in the House, while Hon. Harry has developed from a soap-box artist into one of the clearest thinkers and ablest debaters on either side of Mr. Speaker.

Among the Progressives, Shaw of Calgary, who beat R. B. Bennett, looks to have the most latent ability. When he gets the corners smoothed down a bit and learns that the problems of the present should come before the theories for the future he’ll be quite a useful man. Irvine, of Calgary, and Woodsworth, of Winnipeg, continue to add to the popularity of any measure they oppose.

Then Robert Forke is living up to press notices. He approaches most subjects from common-sense point view. Also he occasionally demonstrates that he’s a true disciple Tom Crerar by hurrying to the Government’s aid in time of need. That he still carries his smile is evidence that the buck-jumping his followers is not interfering with his sleep. What did the Essex election show? Simply that Ontario is coming back to normal. But normal Ontario is notice to Premier King to hang on to office long as he can. For it going to be tough sledding in the country.