Canadian Public Affairs

E. W. Thomson April 1 1913

Canadian Public Affairs

E. W. Thomson April 1 1913

Canadian Public Affairs

In the following contribution Mr. E. W. Thomson argues that the Ottawa Ministry illegally withhold a Redistribution of Representation Act; that this is a necessary preliminary to a general election; that it cannot be proper or wise to persist in attempting to establish the Premier’s “Naval Aid” Bill without submitting it to the electorate; that such submission is the more desirable inasmuch as the Bill itself is largely good; and that prompt agreement of both parties on measures to provide coast defence for both Canadian shores is urgently required by those dangers which Canada, as a Realm of the King, plainly incurs through the alarming nature of the European international situation.

E. W. Thomson

HIS Royal Highness the GovernorGeneral possesses constitutional authority to untangle the “snarl” at Ottawa. It has happened because his Ministers have ignored and therefore violated the British North America Act, Canada's fundamental law. Clause 8 ordains a general census in every tenth year. Clause 5 declares that “on the completion of the census” the Representation of the Provinces shall be readjusted in a specified way. The census of June,

1911, was officially completed on April 30, 1912. Strict regard for our fundamental law required passage of Redistribution Act last year. It is now long overdue. That the Premier would obey the Law was properly assumed by the present writer in “MacLean’s” of April,

1912, and again in November last. Mr. Borden did not appear determined in October to prolong defiance of the B. N. A. Act in* this important matter. Since then he has intimated that he does not mean to obey it this session. He is free to change his mind, and so put himself right. Persistent disobedience of plain Law is not to be fairly expected of a Prime Minister so honorable, respectable, and respected. Mr. Borden’s incessant labors, his much travelling last year, his pre-occupation with his Navy scheme and with his connected design to ascertain clearly whether “Imperial Federation” be feasible in his time—these items may account

for and somewhat excuse his seeming obliviousness to the gravity of his infringement of the B. N. A. Act. Our Royal and most admirable constitutional, unmeddlesome, wise, tactful Governor-General has not been burdened and distracted by immense and confusinglabors. His mind is clear from party passions. He cannot but be aware that ruin of Constitutions and Institutions; prevalence of public disorders; usurpation by Dictators, Oligarchies, Aristocracies, Mobs, Autocrats, have commonly begun, not in Mexico and the Latin American countries only, but in Europe ancient and modern, with arbitrary breaches of Law analagous to that of Mr. Borden. This Dominion, like Great Britain, exists under what a great authority defines as “parliamentary government with an hereditary regulative agency”—the Monach—whose Deputy is here the Governor-General. If King George V. perceived his London Cabinet to be clearly ignoring Law, surely his duty would be to exercise his regulative agency by requiring his Premier to conform to Law or resign. It seems most unfair of Mr. Borden to put H. R. H. in the dilemma of having to share responsibility for a plain breach of the B. N. A. Act, or else dismiss his Premier. It must be presumed that our Governor-General will not flinch from the right constitutional course, in case his patient waiting for the Premier to comply with Law be interpreted by that

gentleman as warranting or approving indecent continuance of its violation.

If such flagrant breach of the Constitution were not itself of immense importance this would accrue to that breach by consideration of the restiveness of the West, and of how that restiveness cannot but be fevered by plain, illegal, special injustice to that region. Its heterogeneous population consists largely of immigrants less patient than born-Canadians and other Britons. Their cup of exasperation is full already. in recent debate at Ottawa Western representatives have testified that their constituents cannot sell their grain profitably for lack of that free admission to the U. S. market which they hopefully craved in 1911. It was related that an hegira of proved-up settlers to the Republic is imminent; that farms are generally heavily mortgaged ; that agricultural-implement dealers cannot collect one-tenth of their dues; that a proper bank-restriction of credits has almost wholly shattered the long boom in town lots and farm lands. Some of us have long familiarly known the West. We remember how great and dangerous political troubles sprang formerly from Hard Times on the prairies. We remember that every item of grievance originating at Ottawa was then urged as reason for disturbance and secession. We who continue to read the Western press see now precisely the former alarming symptoms. They should deeply concern Ontario, because Ontario’s prosperity depends largely on tranquillity of the huge Western market for Ontario manufactures and other products, and on such Western immigration as has been invariably checked when Western turbulence occurred. To provoke the people there by illegal refusal of a long overdue Redistribution is surely a wanton wickedness likely to engage the whole Dominion in gravest risks.

Let our readers in Ontario calmly consider whether the West, while denied Redistribution, is treated in a way that Ontarioans could, were the wrong theirs, calmly endure. Alberta, having now 7 representatives, is entitled to 12 by the census of June, 1911. If Ontar-

io, having now 86, were illegally deprived in like ratio, this Province would be short her just representation by 36 members. Saskatchewan, having now 10 M. P.’s at Ottawa, lacks 6 of her right. Ontario, similarly deprived, would lack 32. The Provinces west of Ontario, having now 35 federal representatives, are entitled to 57, almost 63 per cent. more. If Ontario and the Provinces to her eastward, now collectively having 186 M. P.’s, were similarly shorn, their representation would be 117 short of the due—their M. P.’s would number but 69 at Ottawa. This would be more intolerable to the East if the West were at the same time illegally over-represented, as the East now is by 9 M. P/s, or a little more than onetwentieth of the legal quota. In illegally refusing Redistribution the Premier entrenches a House in which the East has one M. P. for each 29,340 inhabitants, and the West one for each 49,739. Fair play is here a missing jewel. To allege that Ontarioans wish to prolong their illegal advantage would be to credit them with the political arrogance of Mr. Birdofreedom Sawin’s, “We air bigger and tharfore our rights air bigger’n their’n.” If wise Queen Victoria’s wise son put up much longer with that sort of thing in his Ministry the lieges may well wonder.

Some Ministerialists say,—“0, but the West could not get its due representation by a Redistribution Act. The B. N. A. Act does not require a general election to follow Redistribution closely. This House of Commons may legally hold on till 1916.” True. But the legal may not be always the moral or practical or constitutional. John S. Ewart, K. C., in “Kingdom Paper Ño. 11,” quotes Anson’s “Law and Custom of the Constitution”, — “When any large change is made in electoral conditions, as in 1832, in 1867-8, and in 1885, it is proper that those new conditions should be put to the test, and the newly enfranchised enjoy their rights at the earliest opportunity.” Upon which Mr. Ewart commente,—“The change effected by the increased population in the West, while not comparable, in one respect, to the changes worked by the

statutes referred to by Mr. Anson, is, in another, more important; for while those statutes added many thousands to the polling list, they did not materially affect the proportionate voting of the various parts of the United Kingdom. The greater significance of our case is that it is precisely the proportions (between East and West) that are affected.” The reasons why the Premier should hasten to Redistribution are two,—(1) the Law requires it; (2) the West cannot get its due representation without Redistribution. A general election, if soon forced, as it may be, on the basis of the census of 1901, would necessarily be followed by Redistribution according to the census of 1911, and then, immediately, by another general election, no matter which party were “in.” To avoid thus cursing the country by two elections, with a period of something like business anarchy between them, would surely be the moral duty of the Premier, even if immediate Redistribution were not his plain legal duty. It does not appear conceivable that Mr. Borden, so honorable and so respected by all Canada, so fair as he has shown himself this session on points of order in debate, could be capable of so mean a design as to withold Redistribution for the very reason that the West cannot

fet due representation without it, and ecause, if he were beaten at an early forced election, he might soon have another chance Î Would he illegally withold Redistribution by way of entrenching himself in office through Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s reluctance to put the_ public to the trouble of two elections? Would not such reliance on an adversary be too shabby? I have such respect for the Premier as to believe that he will put himself right soon. It cannot be for that gallant gentleman to imitate the dead-beat tenant who wmn’t pay overdues because he feels that a merciful owner probably won’t distress the whole street by forcing Mr. D. B. and his children out into the open !

If the Law did not require immediate Redistribution surely the “Naval Aid Bill” would, in order that this may be submitted as solely as possible for approval or rejection by tue electorate. If

it be largely a good measure, as the present writer still inclines to believe it, why risk it at a forced election in which it could not be everywhere the main object of discussion—why? Because at such early forced election, one brought on by Opposition tenacity, the main discussion in the West would probably turn on the impropriety and illegality of the Ministry’s refusal to redistribute representation. This would infallibly be regarded by the West as requiring rebuke. Quebec, being ostensibly unaffected by Redistribution, since her representation stands constant at 65, would be, as in last election, free to whack the Borden Navy harder than her majority whacked the Borden proposals of 1911. British Columbia is certainly very susceptible to attraction by Sir Wilfrid’s proposal to build and maintain a fleet unit on that Coast. Nova Scotia, and the other eastern Maritime provinces, together with their formidable iron and steel and coal producers, are equally susceptible to his scheme for spending many millions to construct and maintain a similar Unit there. Everywhere those very numerous timid electors who dislike “militarism,” who regard both navy plans as obnoxious, who shun declaring their “anti” sentiments for fear of being reproached or would be enabled to proclaim themselves overflowing with horror at Mr. Borden’s illegal arbitrary refusal oí Redistribution. Hence his Navy Aid Bill might be heavily defeated by “side wflnds.” Did he lay it aside, hasten to Redistribution, thus put himself right, and himself then promptly call an election on his Naval project, it might be approved on its merits, particularly if he disclosed details of his plan for building cruisers, etc., in Canada. His scheme, once so approved, would be safe from reversal, as it could not possibly be made by _ forcing it through an unrepresentative House, with a general election sure to come next year. There could be no need for any such forcing had the Ministry accepted the various Opposition tenders for conference intended to harmonize the Laurier and the Borden Navy projects, which could well be fitted togeth-

er. The Premier’s three battleships, and Sir Wilfrids two coast-and-eommerce-defence Units could be all alike forwarded under the Laurier Navy Act. As for the alleged profound difference of the two schemes in point of “Imperialism,” “Centralization,” “Decentralization,” “Autonomy,” “Tribute,” and all the rest of that contrary hullabaloo, let him that difference excite who can perceive immensity between Tweedledum and Tweedledee ! Mr. Borden proposes that Canadian warships shall be continually at the disposal and under the command of the London Government. Sir Wilfrid virtually proposes that they shall be under Ottawa when they are in Canadian waters, and under London whenever they sail the deep, or visit a foreign port, war or no war. This reminds me of a footman’s grandiose profession that he is his own master when the Master isn’t ordering him. Lord Roseberry, as quoted by Mr. Borden, declared that the Dominions adhere to “a fool’s bargain” while they remain liable to be dragged into the United Kingdom’s wars. The Premier and Sir Wilfrid 'alike declare that Canadians will remain ready to lavish their “last man and last drop of blood” in U. K. wars, which is oratorical bosh.

Mr. John Ewart, K. C., and many other native Canadians, including the present writer, wish to see this country freed from liability to be “dragged” into any war, which wish is entirely consistent with desire to see Canada speedily provided with defensive armaments proportionate to her existing liability to be “dragged” into war, or her possible inclination to engage in war, voluntarily. It is not because the Premier proposes to build three battleships in England for Great Britain’s defence, but because reinforcement of that defence implies speedy lessening of Canada’s liability to be invaded, that the present writer has incurred reproach from some Liberals by contending that the Premier’s scheme is, so far as exposed, not bad but good. M. Borden indicated, in his introductory speech, that the Admiralty mil detach squadrons capable of defending both Canadian coasts, and will maintain them with bases in Brit-

ish Columbia and Nova Scotia, when or soon after Canada shall have placed in England an order for Mr. Borden’s three dreadnoughts. Those squadrons would , of course, be supplied with the torpedo and floating-mines apparatus by which the channels of approach to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, St. Lawrence, and British Columbia coast cities, coal mines, settlements, etc., could be promptly closed, did any enemy of Great Britain threaten them. As a military scheme this has the immense merit of supplying a sufficient defence for Canada far more speedily than such defence can be obtained by Sir Wilfrid’s proposal that we go undefended until Canada can build and outfit floating armaments. The debate at Ottawa has revealed, with some other valuable information, that the Admiralty maintains constantly, in good order though out of commission, a great many strong ships entirely capable of Canada’s defence. Did the Premier reveal an arrangement that a sufficient number of these ships should be immediately stationed for Canada’s defence, then his project would seem suitable and sufficient to the needs of the hour. With our coasts so insured Mr. Borden could, if backed by Parliament, hasten to construction of those cruisers, etc., which he designs to build in Canada. Upon their completion Canadian crews and officers, trained in the meantime, could be put in charge, whereupon the King’s Old Country squadrons could be relieved from Canadian defence. This military plan would involve no infringement of Canada’s real independence. It would consist perfectly with our existing political relation to Great Britain, which the Opposition incessantly declare they wish to preserve intact, which Ministerialists allege they wish to conserve pending that “Imperial Federation” for which they long, and which appears to some of us impracticable and undesirable. A Voluntary Union of British self-governing countries exists now. It has become firmer with every increase of independence in the Dominions. The clear inference is that complete independence under the common Crown would imply a Voluntary Union

quite unbreakable, the most perfect kind, such as exists between loving independent brethren of any sound family.

Oppositionists have been coming angrily at the present writer, because of these “MacLean’s” articles, with accusations that he affects to believe an emergency existent, one that may produce invasion of Canada, now almost absolutely defenceless alongshore, llis reply is that he believes an emergency perfectly evident, and believes that far more emphatically than the .Premier appears to, since he does not hasten to direct defence for Nova Scotia and British Columbia. All signs in Europe conjoin to indicate the early outbreak of war, the most tremendous ever waged, primarily between the Germanic and Sclavonic peoples, secondarily involving France, Italy, and Great Britain. This situation comes of the downfall of Turkey in Europe before a most valorous union of Sclavonic and Greek races. The Balkan Confederation may not immediately insist on possession of Constantinople, but that its leaders do not aim at gaining that immemorially most important strategic place, is perfectly incredible. Closing of the present war will but give them rest to prepare for the inevitable struggle for Constantinople. Russia is at the back of the Balkanians. Germans cannot, or believe they cannot, afford to permit such an extension of Sclavonic powers as these plainly design. France is in close alliance with Russia and Great Britain, whose possessions in the Mediterranean and whose route to India would be dangerously flanked did Constantinople and the ^ea of Marmora fall into virtual control of Sclavonic statesmen bent on acquiring naval strength. Cíermany’s great fleet for North Sea service was planned and built while the Turks were supposed capable of holding what they had in Europe. Probably Berlin’s strategic purpose in establishing that fleet was to keep England under a sense that it would be hazardous or impossible to send a great fleet by agreement with the Porte such as put England in Egypt, to occupy either Constantinople or strong masking places in the Medi-

terranean or Sea of Marmora. Berlin sought for years to establish firm friendship with the Porte; the Turks were armed with German weapons and trained on the German systems by German instructors; the great Emperor William was as if continually telling the Sultan “Codlin is your friend, not Short.” His whole game seemingly was to establish German influence in Constantinople, and gradually get such a hold there as England began with in Egypt—a game perfectly consistent with expectation that Turkey would long gradually decay, meantime serving Germany s design. Now the Balkamans have proved that Berlin bet on the wrong horse. Germany, feeling newly insecure against the Sclavonic countries, hastens to enormous increase of her land forces, calling on her wealthy classes to prepare kindly for enormous taxation. Because this implies or synchronizes with a “let up” of increase to her Navy, and some seeming rapprochement with England, Liberals at Ottawa contend that Great Britain’s and therefore Canada s emergency, Las vanished I It has but shif ted somewhat. The danger, which essentially resides in the apparent imminence of immense European war, has lately and plainly increased. New European combinations appear probable, with severance of existing ententes or alliances. Diplomatic confusion prevails. There is no telling where ambitious Japan may turn up. All these huge, vague dangers may pass slowly away, but they are now present. Hence it surely is stark madness for Canada’s Government to delay provision of sufficient defence for Canadian coasts against raiders from any quarter.

Necessary ships and outfits can be speedily obtained from England’s sound reserves of uncommissioned cruisers, etc. Men are said to be lacking. That is only because pay ample to entice men, including many of the trained and discharged, is not offered. By tendering wages appropriate to the service and to the risk of life, Canada can swiftlv obtain good crews and officers for all vessels and plant necessary to her coast defence—this without trenching at all on

the human supplies attractable by such pay as the Admiralty offers.

If all this be correct, what a spectacle for Gods and Men do our Ottawa politicians afford ! Asleep to imminent danger, risking their country, talking in their sleep about the dream that our olitical independence may or may not e impaired more by one dilatory scheme than by another! Do our Jingoes never reflect that the electors, in bewildered disgust at incessant blither about “The Empire,” may rally overwhelmingly to some statesman who

shall find sense and pluck to invitë them to get out of it and all the perils pertaining? Do our half-hearted “Autonomistsy never reflect that the electors may, as Mr. Bourassa says, prefer real Jingoes to imitation ones? To me it seems that Canadians in general say mentally to the Parties: “A plague on both your houses.” Give > us defence quickly for Canada as she is. We and our posterity may be trusted to follow our Fathers in taking care that the essentials of Independence shall here be preserved and enhanced.”