WHY LAURIER WILL WAIT
J. K. MUNRO
Who Wrote “The Power of the Went,” “The Rank and F He," et
AS you sit in the gallery and gaze on His Majesty’s loyal Opposition there come to you some of the
reasons why it might be called “The Silent Minority.’’ For the tidal waves that washed the Union Government into power left a number of mighty voices stranded on the reefs and shoals with which the political sea is so thickly strewn. Glance down that first row and ask yourself: “Where are the giants of
Gone is Hon. William Pugsley whose merry quip helped to lift the load of many a monotonous afternoon. Hon. George Graham’s great voice is hushed and he no longer joins in the laughter created by his own jokes. Hon. Frank Oliver has carried his chronic grouch back to the fastnesses of his native Edmonton. “Ned” Macdonald of Pietou has quit pawing* parliamentary aitin the athletic exercises of Nova Scotian eloquence. Yea, even George Washington Kyte of Richmond, who could make more noise for the amount said than any other man in public life, has faded into obscurity. Do you wonder that the silence you can feel has descended on what were once considered the fighting forces of Laurier?
But there is another and a sterner reason that the Liberal battle cry is hushed. That reason is Sir Wilfrid Laurier. All last session he curbed the fiery eloquence of his French followers and held in leash the fighting Irishmen and dour Scotch Presbyterians in his retinue. “The time is not yet,” was the motto that hung on the
walls of the Liberal caucus rooms. And right here and now, and at the risk of being called a political prophet, I am going to venture to state that that motto will not be taken down during the coming session of Parliament. To put it in yet plainer English there is every evidence that, if the Union Government goes to pieces during the coming year, it will not be because of any act or wish of one Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The old Warrior is in his seventy-eighth year. But he is still more politician than statesman. There is mighty little of the martyr in his make-up.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier is not the only politician who feels that the coming year will be a trying one for the men who hold the reins of government. Some of these politicians go so far as to declare that the party that carries out demobilization and struggles with the first stages of reconstruction will be smashed beyond recovery for twenty years to come. It is quite possible that to some extent Sir Wilfrid Laurier shares this belief—or would you call it premonition? At any rate the whispers that come from the inner Laurier circle indicate that, though he may be advanced in years, he is not yet too old to wait, that he will let his opponents do the work and take the condemnation, calmly expecting to step into power over the ruins of a Government leaning against a background of utter failure. For it must be remembered that there is in Liberal circles no tendency to over-estimate the timber of which the Union Government is built.
Of course Sir Wilfrid realizes that he owes a duty' to his country in this her hour of need. He will help his country too—with that mythical something or nothing called constructive criticism. But if his followers advance to a charge that menaces the life of
the Government, watch Sir Wilfrid step into the breach and by timely word and stately courtliness rescue his enemies that they may complete the work he wishes them to do.
So, as they were the “Silent Minority” last session when it was necessary that the Unionists should be left alone to fight among themselves, they must for yet a little longer remain the “Silent Minority,” that the after-war storms may be avoided and the Liberal ship embarked on a calm and peaceful voyage.
Looking Them Over
\\ JTTH this promise that the Laurier Liberals will be ’ ’ seen but seldom heard for some months to come cast your eye over the flock and let us see if we can discern the amount of latent ability Sir Wilfrid is so cleverly covering up. We have run down that front row before without uncovering very much to go into ecstasies over. There’s Lemieux who in the early summer of 1917 led the bitter fight that finally influenced the wavering Sir Wilfrid to turn down coalition and conscription and cling to his own French-Canadian people. He’s a politician after a fashion and the same kind of an orator. But he spoils both by trying to look like a statesman.
Besides him is John Sinclair of Guysboro. A few centuries ago he w-ould have fitted into that harsh Presbyterianism of which John Knox was the head. To-day, he is a lawyer. That D. D. MacKenzie was chosen to sit beside Laurier as leading representative of the Scotch w*ing of the Liberal party proves that the Scotch, true to their traditions, have taken more interest in the war than in politics. For D. D. doesn’t rank with the great Scots who have carried the Grit banner in other and better days. His attack on Sir Joseph Flavelle last session did the baronet more good than anything that has happened since that famous “to hell with profits” speech first broke into print.
Then take those two Irishmen at the next desk, Hon. Chas. Murphy and Emmanuel Devlin. You feel charitably disposed towards both of them. For Mr. Murphy certainly made a good job of Hon. Wesley Rowell and, though Mr. Devlin has a whine like a local preacher, he’s really a good child of the church. But when you try to say anything very* complimentary as to the statesmanship of either your pencil is blunted by truth and a stern sense of the duty you owe the public.
A Good Pair From Quebec
But those two Frenchmen in the next pew are different—Ernest Lapointe of Kamouraska and Hon. Jacques Bureau of Three Rivers. Each is in his waytypical of a peculiarity of his race. When Lapointe first came to Parliament his knowledge of English was extremely limited. Now he is one of the ablest debaters on the Opposition side and he has a command of the English language that puts most AngloCanadians to shame. So it is with other Frenchmen who enter the House. The time and work they give to acquiring a fighting allowance of English is remarkable. As for Jacques Bureau, he lived long in the West, and he both talks and reasons well in English while he still retains all his French characteristics. For instance Jacques has a son who only recently became of military age. True to his ideas on conscription, Jacques fought for exemption for his boy—and got it. But no sooner had he won his fight than he turned to the boy' with a curt:
“Now go and enlist.”
And the boy went right joyfully and joined the Royal Air Force. All of which shows the Frenchman’s hatred of orders from a dominant race.
Also, both these Frenchmen find time and opportunity for jokes and laughter. In fact they look on the world with a twinkle in each eye. You couldn't help liking them if you tried. A ND behind that front row is a mixture of races and creeds that promises little at present though who knows but that some day some or many of them may hear the call of the Cabinet maker and become great in their own eyes and the eyes of a benighted country. For most of them are young and all, or nearly all. have anib~tions. That man you hear calling "louder," and wearing a bland smile under a bald head, is McMaster of Brome. I-Ic is a Montreal lawyer who started out well by breaking up whispered conversations be tween the Ministers and the front row of the Opposi tion with a voice well tuned to the purpose. But in a moment of weakness he consented to become financial critic. His chief contribution to financial literature was a suggestion that the Government should borrow money to provide a sinking fund to pay the war debt. This novel method f paying debts were perhaps suggested by his desk-mate, Sam Jacobs of Montreal who is a bit of a humorist as well as ar authority on bankruptcy. Sam is a little dark man who shocked Parliament by telling funny stories in his maiden speech. It will take him some time to recover his lost ground for at Ottawa an owl-like dignity is the first attribute of greatness. But Sam will come back. For he has a native Hebrew shrewdness tacked on to the ability to make friends. Just beyond them sits a business-like chap with his hair nicely combed and a necktie that speaks careful selection. That is W. C. Kennedy of Essex and there are those who predict that, when Hon. Charlie Murphy no longer leads the Irish wing of the Liberal party, one William Kennedy will be found in his place and
Why M’Coig Couldn’t Be Beaten However, Mr. Kennedy may owe some of his early political astuteness to his friend Archie McCoig of Kent. Archie does not pretend to statesmanship but he knows Kent County, what Kent County wants, and how to get the votes of the Kent County electors. He had a tough proposition on his hands at the last election for in his riding are a sizable French vote that hated conscription, a worth-while negro vote that feared conscription and a hig Scotch vote that wanted to win the war and didn’t care how. Archie’s job was to retain all three if he was to be elected. He did it. For he talked Kent County, and down with the pi’ofiteers, and did not hang Laurier’s picture in his committee room window's till after the endorsations had been handed out without the Borden brand appearing on either himself or his opponent. As he had previously voted against the referendum and for the M.S.A. he was armored at all points and came through with flying colors. Archie’s friends tell him he wfears a horseshoe on every corner but privately they admit he has the ability to take advantage of every lucky turn of the wheel. Also his speeches in the House contain a lot of hard common sense. He may belong to the class called rural politicians but he is at the head of his class and a much more valuable man to his country than many of our near-statesmen.
O F another very dis tinct class is Lucien
stead. William made a success of the gas and oil business by close study and application and an ability to use what he learned. Just at jresent he's putting that same study and application into politics and pro cedure channels. Last session he only spoke once but be made the House sit up and listen. It might be as well to keep an eye on William. Though he was elected as a Laurier candidate, he is said to have dallied with the Unionists long enough to get the ap pointmentofhisown returning officers and enumerators before making his final decision. And appointments such as these are said to have been somewhat of an ad vantage even in a pure election such as only the blot ting out of party lines could bring.
Cannon of Dorchester—that pale, dark, slight, rather clever-looking young chap. He is the most striking of a group of young French-Canadians w'ho replaced the Nationalists at the last election. Others of the group who give pi'omise are Archambault of ChamblyVercheres and Vien of Lothiniere. Cannon is a fiery orator, though he stumbles as yet. w hen the Orangemen across the way start to heckle. He’ll either grow out of that or talk himself into a nuisance. You never can tell the first session just where these young fellows are going to land.
Vien is a lawyer and a major of militia, who twice volunteered to go overseas. That qualifies him for military critic and if a persistency in asking questions is criticism he qualifies for the job. He performs like a plodder and you know' how far Hon. Sidney Fisher got with nothing else to recommend him.
Archambault sprang into the spotlight the day the overseas votingcharges so carefully prepared by W. T. R. Preston were called to the attention of Mr. Speaker. Arthur Bliss Copp of Westmoreland did the calling in a little over four hours of oratory. Mr. Copp, who talks like a graduate of a correspondence school for auctioneers, so smothered the charges w-ith details that they got lost entirely and were about to be laughed out of the House when young Mr. Archambault came to his feet and told how' the officers and men at St. Johns had done their voting. He added on a few' charges of perjury, etc., that were so clear and concise that the laugh left the Government aisle and settled on Opposition faces.
There was nothing left for the Government to do but promise an investigation. They did it. And since that night the House has paid a little more attention to Joe Archambault.
There are a lot of these young Frenchmen all chock full of industry and enthusiasm. Laurier can probably restrain them. No one else could.
r\F the older Frenchmen, Gauthier of St.
Hyacinthe is probably the ablest debater, though for some reason he does not appear to carry very much weight. You’ll remember in the conscription debate he startled the House
with the statement, “Quebec will use the law to fight the law.” It w-as not till the conscription O r deri n - Cou n c i 1 was brought down last sess i on t h a t it dawned on the assembled statesmen just what, he meant. Then he said: “The Military
Service Act w as an exemption act—and Quebec obeyed it. This order is a conscription act—and Quebec w'ill obey it.” Mr. Gauthier spends part of his spare tíme fighting prohibition. When it was urged in the House on patriotic grounds he said: “It is wonderful howmany of us are prepared to serve our country by sacrificing our neighbors’ appetites.’’ These samples show that Mr. Gauthier is worth listening to; but many a man does more damage with an uncouth sentence or two.
OUT to get away from the classes and their representatives, take a quick rzzn over w-hat’s left and see what a strange mixture is gathered together behind the White Plume. That big auburn-haired chap w'ho looks the part is Dr. Chisholm from Inverness. He’s a Highland Scotch Catholic with a laugh and heart to match his body. You don’t wonder that he is uzzbeatable in his constituency. That rotund, self-satisfied felloww'ith the thinning hair is Verville, the Montreal Socialist who talks like a labor agitator. That thin, fussy little man is Pedlow' of Renfrew' and he is a sti'ange combination— a dry goods merchant, a Quaker and the only Honorary Captain in captivity. Aside from that and the fact that he just can’t keep from making speeches, he is probably all l'ight. Then there is Euler of Watezdoo, that neutral-tinted chap. He's
the only member of German descent in the Hozzse. But. nobody would hold that against him if he w'ould tire of his own oratory as fast as his audience does. That big husky rancher is “Nobby” White of Victoria, Alta., w’ho claims to be the only member of the Opposition who owes his election to the Wartimes Election Act. That act was passed for the benefit of Unionists but in Victoria it worked backwards. There are a lot of Americans in that riding who got angry over the alien clauses and voted against the. Government. That’s why Nobby rides on a pass when he comes to Ottawa.
An Ancient Mariner in the House
But hold on a minute. There’s Captain Read of Queen’s, P. E. L, coming to his feet and the House is getting ready to laugh. For both sides laugh W’ith— but not at—the Ancient Mariner. He was a seacaptain before In1 became an orator and a statesman. He made his first voyage across the Atlantic along about ’fid in a sailing vessel and—whisper—a large part of the cargo was whisky. Bzit the Captain is now a staid manufacturer whose favorite sport is raising potatoes. He took the House into his confidence anent the good qualities of those island potatoes one. night and not a member but went home hungry.
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Also he talks with much earnestness as well as considerable humor on many other subjects. If you took a vote of the press gallery on the greatest recent acquisition to the House I make bold to say the Captain would win by a large majority.
Then there is Turgeon of Gloucester. He is a little old gentleman who walks with a limp and a cane. He’s an Acadian—not a French-Canadian mark you—and his specialty is a speech of more than average length tricked into every debate and in which his hands do a large part of the talking.
That rather ponderous looking person too is Davy Lafontaine of Montreal who holds the long distance talking championship of the House. He won it in the naval debate when he kept going anywhere from 5 to 12 hours according to the memory of the man who tells you the story. Yes, that sour-visaged man is Frank McRea of Sherbrooke. His specialty is owning pulp and paper mills and his mournful expression does not come from class meeting though he is a Methodist. It is probably caused by a wonder as to how many more millions he could make if publishers and Government did not combine to rob the poor
struggling owners of pulp limits. And that young fellow with the crippled arm is “Chubby” Powers, the crack Quebec hockey player. He got a German bullet in that arm while fighting in Picardy and his face wears a curious grin when some super-heated Tory orator declares that the Opposition are not interested in the war.
But we almost overlooked Robb of Huntingdon. He is a miller as well as chief Opposition whip and is doing quite nicely in both capacities. Both parties say that James Robb is a decent fellow and, as both have considerable to do with him in his official capacity, the verdict seems well considered and worthy of acceptance. Moreover he carries some ability in a quiet and unassuming way, and if he does not prove too valuable in his present position, may go further up in the fat days every Liberal feels in his heart are close at hand.
Laurier is a Bad Forgetter
THERE you have some of the outstanding personalities in that rather mixed assemblage known as the Laurier Opposition. Can Sir Wilfrid control them? He can, for the incentive is great When he finally passes up the Liberal
leadership and passes on to well-earned rest he would leave behind him not only friends comfortably placed in the seats of the mighty but enemies and pretenders safely planted under the political sod. The Old Warrior is a bad forget ter. And he has a few scores to
settle. For instance in one of memory's drawers lingers a picture of a Toronto delegation that descended on him and proposed that in the interest of uplift, he should hie himself hence and make room for Newton Wesley Rowell. In another he sees Frank Broadstreet Carvell slipping forward in the summer of 1917 as a new saviour of the Liberal Party. He may not believe that James Calder intends to be the power behind a throne occupied by Willie
Martin but this is no time to take chances. And as for Arthur Sifton— well past experiences with brother Clifford do not bind him closer to the Laurier heart. Sir Wilfrid was seventy-seven years of age on the 20th of November but he looks good for some years to come. He would pass out of politics even as he has lived in politics— the absolute ruler of the Liberal party. He would smash alike the open enemy and the enemy who, according to Liberal beliefs, has stung the gentle hand that caressed and coerced him. He sees the way lying open to the accomplishment of all his purposes. If he is half the politician his friends believe him he will sit and smile and wait—yet a little longer.