The Rank and File

Just Members—and Their New Way of Thinking

J. K. Munro December 1 1918

The Rank and File

Just Members—and Their New Way of Thinking

J. K. Munro December 1 1918

The Rank and File

Just Members—and Their New Way of Thinking

J. K. Munro

Who Wrote “A Close-Up of Union Government,” “The Four Factions at Ottawa,” etc.

TO put the rank and file of the present parliament all on the screen at a single sitting is a pretty large order. For not only is the House composed of two hundred and thirty-four different and distinct units but it is an assemblage that evidently intends to make itself very much heard during the next and ensuing sessions—if any—of this war times Parliament.

Time was when a Premier was a Premier, a Minister was a Minister and a Backbencher was a Backbencher. Each knew his place and kept it. The Premier dictated, the Minister advised and the Backbencher voted how and when he was told. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was Czar in all but name. His word was law even when spoken in the gentlest of tones and accompanied by the sunniest of smiles. When Sir Robert Borden mounted to the throne, from which an avowed inclination to “truck and trade with the Yankees” had hurled the Plumed Knight, he assumed the same regal bearing. He was monarch of all he surveyed, the cabinet were his immediate court circle and the common or garden variety of member was the humblest of his subjects. And woe to the rebellions ones who dared to disobey his slightest mandate. Se well were the dividing lines marked that none could possibly mistake them. For example when the House went down en masse to witness the first raising of the Quebec bridge the Cabinet had a boat all to themselves while the private members were herded in another ship.

As said before, woe to the man who dared to have a soul of his own or to think for himself. Why, a man who “ran out” on his party was practically sent to Coventry. Not only did his own party take every opportunity to show him that he was an outcast but the Opposition gave him the cold shoulder. And if he had any wives or daughters with social aspirations they were the chief sufferers. They met chilliness and snubs wherever the women of two or three of the elect were gathered together. Also things happened that did not tend to make him

popular in his constituency. His patronage was cut off and he soon discovered that the organization “back home” was looking around for his successor.

In those good old days he was a brave man or a reckless jne who dared the wrath to come and helped out a thinking part by speech or

vote. And in those same glad old days it was easy to describe the rank and file. They also ran or rather also voted.

ONE old parliamentarian remarked last session: “It is twenty years

since Canada has had representative Government. First Laurier ruled ; then Borden took up the sceptre. But look at

That remark was made after an afternoon during which Sir Robert Borden had glowered over the top of his glasses not once but several times at some bold, if blundering, member of the private brand who actually thought that he had been sent to Parliament to voice his own thoughts. That innovation of private thinking in public places started early in the session. It was wonderful too how it caught on as the session advanced. It was as contagious or infectious as the “Flu.” It was Col. J. A. Currie who stood alone on his hind legs and emitted an Orange roar when Sir Robert Borden with Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s aid selected Hon. George Boivan as Deputy-speaker. It made the Colonel’s Tory blood boil to see an anti-conscription ist elected to a post of honor in a conscriptionist parliament. There were others just as orange and just as conscriptionist a s the Colonel in the House that day.

But they sat and gazed with openmouthed astonishment.

Nor had they recovered speech when, the Colonel having sat down,

S i r Robert with stoney gaze and haughty gesture made

Mr. Boivan’s calling and election sure. But, a week or two later, when Colonel Currie gave notice that he intended to move the adjournment to discuss “a matter of great public importance” viz. the Quebec riots, it was different. Every effort was put forth to make the Colonel change his mind. Government whips worked overtime and it is even said that the Premier made a personal appeal. But the Colonel was obdurate. And then the whole Government forces were turned loose to prevent him from getting the necessary twenty members to stand up in order to give him the right to speak. The twenty had of course to come from the Union ranks for the Liberals feared an Orange raid on their French colleagues. It looked hopeless to the man in the gallery but when the time came twentyseven men rose to their feet; practically defying the Government. And the debate went on. With that debate we have nothing to do at present. All this is simply to show that the Union Government has to deal with a new kind of Parliament. Members lost chairmanships of committees and returned soldiers were kept off the pension committee because they dared to stand among that heroic twentyseven. But a new order of things had come and from that time on till the end of the session that day could be counted lost that did not produce a “bull-mooser” of some variety. To be sure they all came to heel and voted when the whip cracked. They had been elected to help win the war. It would never be said that they had even for a moment impeded Sir Robert Borden in the work a loyal country had assigned to him. But what merry afternoons they did give some of the Ministers. Hon. J.* D. Reid was twice spanked over some of his proposed railroad legislation and was so subdued that he withdrew one of his bills. And poor old Sir George Foster, how they did worry him over his Daylight Saving bill and his other war-winning measure to weigh eordwood and measure

eggs—or was it to measure cordwood and weigh eggs? Anyway the farmers, led by Uncle Billy Smith of South Ontario on one side of the House and Archie McCoig of Kent on the other, made things so warm for the old Professor that more than once the bills had to be laid over for fear of an adverse vote.

And this, despite the fact that Sir George nearly wore his eloquent fore finger down to the first knuckle in pointing out the excellencies of his legislation.

XJOW all this is just to show that this N new parliament of ours is worth a second glance. It has all the earmarks of independence. And what makes this all the more remarkable is that it is a selected rather than elected body. More than any other Parliament is it under personal obligation to the Premier. Was it not Sir Robert Borden who put the blood on the door post that kept the great majority of members from being sacrificed by the friends and relatives of the boys in the trenches. In no previous election did the personality of the candidate count for so little. Men and women voted, or thought they voted, not for the name on the ballot paper but for the boy fighting in France. And Sir Robert Borden, who named the man who was for the boy in France, had probably a closer personal supervision over the selection of his parliament than any Premier ever had before or even will have again. And this was the parliament that tore to tatters the traditions of years and did its own thinking and talking and was apparently only waiting for the war cloud to lighten to start in on doing its own voting.

Will it do it. Well, with the Allied armies driving the war out of politics even faster than they are driving the Huns out of Belgium and France you won’t have long to wait to find out. Far be it from me to prophesy. Looking on from the gallery has taught me that the political prophet gathers no moss. But I have yet to meet a close student of affairs at Ottawa who is not looking forward to a long and interesting session of Parliament when Sir Robert Borden decides to ease up the order-in-council machine and let the representatives of the people do something besides draw their salaries.

What is responsible for the change? Who shall say? It may be that the spirit of democracy has been unleashed by a world at w’ar. Sure it is that the returned soldiers in the House are not afraid to make themselves heard. It may be that the creaking of the wheels of the Order-

in-Council machine has got on /«ƒ the nerves of the members. It JI

may be that the formation of Union Government has loosed the strings of party fealty and that the alleged abolition of patronage has further weakened the hold the Government has on its followers.

Be it what it may, the trickle has grown into a respectable stream and may at almost any moment develop into a torrent that will sweep a Government out of power. And the danger is not lessened by the fact that Premier Borden seems determined to hang the fate of his Government on such trifling issues as the resolution in regard to the abolition of titles.

T?OR these and other reasons let us sit ■T for a few’ moments in the press gallery and gaze on the men whom a country has delighted to honor. Taken as a whole they do not strike you as very statesmanlike in appearance and yet the old denizens of this half-way house between public and private life will tell you that this House will stand comparison with most of its predecessors. Still, the first thing that occurs to you is that a raft of cheers and enthusiasm has been wasted on a lot of men who are neither much better nor much worse than their neighbors. They look ordinary and their looks are not deceiving, though the best looking among them do not necessarily carry the most brains.

There, for instance sits P -«an with a brow that reaches almost to the nape of his neck. That is Middleboro of Grey,

Chief Government whip. He’s not overly popular nor does his debating power swing the House into

cheers. Yet he sits close to that charmed cabinet circle and he “’as ’opes’’—or delusions, who shall say?

Near him sits Jos. E. Armstrong of Lambton who looks like a statesman, is a graduate of a school of oratory, and fits in nicely as chairman of a committee or even a caucus. “Faithful unto death” might be Joseph’s tag for he never wavers in his allegiance to Borden even w’hen he pumps a little public ownership into his public utterances. Who knows but that he may some day go up. Some cabinet may require a little leaven of respectability.

Also among the near-Ministers sits W. F. Nickle of Kingston with lots of brains and a weak heart. He and R. B. Bennett “bullmoosed” once over a Canadian Northern deal and he has never quite recovered from the punishment meted out on that occasion. Now he winds up an outburst of fervid independence with bouquets galore for the Government from Sir Robert Borden down and figures in the dope sheet as the nearest thing to a neargreat the Canadian Parliament knows.

Of a different type is that rugged farmer Dr. Michael Clark who brought his free trade principles and his flow of faultless English from “perfidious Albion” even if he does represent a western constituency. His locks are not as red as they once were but you don’t yet need to ask how he got his title of “Red Michael of Red Deer.” He has no cabinet aspirations. He likes and uses a freedom of speech that

would be cramped by a portfolio. Also, though a giant in debate, he admits that he is not a shining success at the council table. “I’m too fond of having my own way,” is how he puts it himself. Dr. Clark was one of the first Liberals to come straight out for conscription and Union and doubtless could have been a Minister. But freedom rather than glory appealed to him and he will probably yet prove to be a thorn in the side of the Government he so ably helped to

But don’t overlook that medium-sized rather plump-looking personage with the saucy moustache that his lip helps to cure. He’s Doc. Edwards of Frontenac and when he comes to his feet watch the French members sit up and take notice. For he has a firm seat in the saddle of the protestant horse and he puts him over the jumps regardless of who gets trampled on. Incidentally he doesn’t care if he kicks a stray lock from the brow of Hon. Charlie Doherty as he gallops past. He is a man of parts, too, is the doctor and might go far if he wasn’t inclined to get down to too many petty details in dealing with questions and opponents.

Two or three seats over from the Doctor is a husky chap with a rather solemn visage—Col. J. A. Currie who figured in all the flurries of last session and has a few left in his system for future use. The colonel is that indescribable entity— a typical Highland Scotchman. He’s warm-hearted, a glutton for work, a walking encyclopaedia and a fighter— with all the emphasis on that last word. Some of his opponents forgot it for a few moments once. The Colonel, you’ll remember, took the Toronto Highlanders to France and commanded them at Ypres. The almost brutal frankness with which he expressed himself did not make him popular with either Sir Sam Hughes or General Alderson and he returned to Canada. As time wore on certain opposition critics made more or less of a sport of twitting returned soldiers anent their hurry home and the Colonel looked like a shining mark for Hon. William Pugsley, D. D. MacKenzie and others That is, he did for a few days. Then one night he stood up in his place in the House and opened fire on his critics. As said before he is a walking encyclopaedia and his research and study appear to have carried him into closets .

where skeletons are kept. Whew, {

what a volley he did pour over the floor of the House ! He had Pugsley and MacKenzie and Sinclair o f Guysboro a 1 1 shouting and pawing at him at the same time and it looked as if the speaker might have to ask the sergeant-at-arms to assist him in maintaining order. But since that night the opposition j i b e r s

have omitted Col. Jack Currie from the list of those with whom they like to play.

THERE’S another husky farmer well to the back there from whom you will occasionally hear a lusty roar. That is Donald Sutherland of Oxford. Donald has a good strong voice and is not afraid to raise it for right and democracy. He has fixed convictions on a number of things among them that Parliament has rights of its own and that the pensions paid to wounded soldiers are mere pittances. Discussion on this latter question was squelched during the closing rush for England but Donald has since burst into print and is all loaded for the long days and nights to come.

And when the fight starts that dark chunky chap nearby will have a word or two to say. He’s Stevens of Vancouver. He is said to be a graduate of the soapbox school of oratory but he talks forcibly and well. He has travelled, is still young and carries his courage with him. In the hurly-burly of after-war politics, when something more than a legal training and a knowledge of parliamentary procedure may be required to keep a man afloat, Stevens may arrive somewhere.

And oh, yes, take a passing glance at R. L. Richardson who represents Springfield and the Winnipeg Tribune. He’s a stormy petrel and thinks he is a democrat with an indepen d e n t mainsp r i n g.

He may be right at that.

Once he loved Laurier. But they parted; and Grits and Tori es combined to turn him out of Lisgar. For years he hunted a seat

in vain then in an outburst of generosity the Unionists gave him the nomination for Springfield where the French vote looked strong enough to beat anyone who carried the Borden tag. But the tidal wave in the West swept him into Parliament and the Unionists didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. At present they’re laughing, for R. L. has found

much to admire in Sir Robert Borden even if the latter did make him swallow himself over his titles resolutions. But the one best bet is, that when trouble starts, Mr. Richardson will not be in any sense a comfort to his erstwhile leader and that there will be days when Sir Robert Borden will sincerely regret that Springfield did not run to form and return Liberal.

OF course you recognize Sir Sam Hughes by his picture even if he no longer wears a uniform. He sits in that chair out in the aisle hemmed in by a little coterie of Toronto Orangemen— Sheard, Foster and Hocken—who find some distinction basking in the reflection of former greatness. All the world once listened when Sir Sam spoke. Now his one ambition is to make the House laugh. If he can do it at the expense of Sir Thomas White he has happiness enough to last a whole week.

But where are these wild and woolly westerners, who according to report, may tear governments and constitutions to tatters, you ask? Look them over carefully as I point them out for they’re unlike any brand of the uncombed and uncurried that ever appeared on stage or in story. That pedantic looking little lawyer is Keeferof Port Arthur. Looks as if the tailor had more than the West to do with his make-up, doesn’t he? And his speeches indicate that he is as narrow as the western wastes are wide. Then there’s Henders of Macdonald with the stamp of economy over all. He was a Methodist preacher for twenty years before he took to farm-

Continned on page 101

Continued from page 32

ing and grew up to be president of the Grain Growers Association. Stacey of Westminster too was a Methodist divine for thirty-two years before he decided to become a statesman. Then that man with the student's face and ecclesiastical cut to his features is Dr. Whiddon of Brandon. He is a Baptist and a college president at that. Then Maharg of Maple Creek, though his specialty is elevators, looks and talks like a class leader. If you want the demon rum swatted and the King’s English slaughtered simultaneously hand the job to Maharg. He’ll attend to It for you. And that dark chap who looks like an Italian poet in a ready-made suit of clothes is Mackie of Edmonton. He patters a line of fantastic philosophy which falls pleasantly on the ear though you soon realize that it is mostly—well, persiflage. There, too, looking like a page who has forgotten his uniform is young Major Redmun of Calgary. He’s the “Kid” of the House, only twenty-eight and, even if he was wounded at St. Julien and has practised law with R. B. Bennett, he looks young for years. His running mate from the City of Booms is Tom Tweedie a large lawyer with a booming voice that he is not afraid to use. Then that refined-looking chap with the dilettante air only an English University can give is Fulton of Cariboo. Yes. he was at “Kaimbridge.” But, hold on. there is Herb Clements of Comox-Alberni—a real westerner at last! He looks as if he could punch cattle, dig gold or deal faro—a real westerner! Sure he is. But it only seems a year or two since Herb was a most exemplary citizen of Ontario and member for the riding of West Kent.

Now there are a lot of other interesting chaps if it wasn’t getting along in the afternoon. There, for instance, is Hay of Selkirk who never was east of the Great Lakes till he heard the cry for help come echoing from the trenches. And yet he talks with a firm north-of-Ireland accent. Then there's Nicholson of Algoma who knows a little about railroading and everything else and is good enough to tell the House all he knows. And Cockshutt of Brantford who realizes that the future of the Empire hangs on the duty on plows. And Mowat of Parkdale the only known worshipper of Hon. Wesley Rowell ar.d— the whole opposition who may make the material for another chapter. Meanwhile Speaker Ned Rhodes is saying, as only he can: “It being six o’clock I now leave

the chair."