THIS MONTH’S VITAL QUESTION

IS CANADA WEARY of PARTY POLITICS ?

November 1 1919
THIS MONTH’S VITAL QUESTION

IS CANADA WEARY of PARTY POLITICS ?

November 1 1919

IS CANADA WEARY of PARTY POLITICS ?

THIS MONTH’S VITAL QUESTION

What Canadian Papers from Halifax to Vancouver are saying

HAVE Canadians deserted the faith of their fathers, the faith that made a man a Grit or a Tory from the day that he cast his first

vote until the sad time came to gird in his bones? Has the lure of party politics been lost? In other words has the era of straight party politics passed?

Unquestionably it begins to look as though the Dominion would never again go back to the interesting, but in many ways futile, struggle of the Ins and the Outs. Thousands of men who before the war were either straight Conservatives or straight Liberals and who never went back on their candidates or split a ticket, are to-day men without a party. As the St. Thomas Times-Journal puts it: “The fiery partizan

appeals that once stirred an ardent following to rapturous applause fall on deaf ears. Only a sorry remnant now respond to the fiery cross and gird themselves for the fray.”

There must be a very radical change indeed when newspapers all over the country discover this same apathy. Strange times indeed are these when we see the Toronto Globe, that has for generations sounded the political pibroch for the Presbyterian-Liberalism of Ontario, advising its readers to vote for prohibition candidates in Ontario regardless of politics! An issue above a party! And when a Liberal reader of the Globe protests, subscribing himself a supporter of the party “through, up and down, in fair or foul weather, believing that no matter what the Conservatives have for a cry the Liberal party will do better,” his letter is printed quietly among the other communications and does not draw a single line of editorial explanation or rejoinder. Strange days these!

The reasons are not bard to find. In the first place the formation of Union Government drew a majority of Canadians for the first time out of their placid party orbits. Union Government is still in existence and still commands the support of a portion of the population. How' big or how small that portion is remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that so long as Union Government holds together, there will be a certain number of voters who w'ill be neither Liberal nor Conservative. What is more, when the Union dissolves—cr if it dissolves—there will be many who will not be able to affiliate with their respective parties. As the London Free Press says: “It is evi-

dent that the Liberal Unionist and the Conservative Unionist have much more in common than have, for example,

Laurier Liberals and Liberal Unionists.” The Laurier Liberals, according to the Free Press, will refuse to receive the Liberal Unionists back “except upon hands and knees and in penitent mood.” On the other hand, can the more moderate of the Conservative Unionists ever unite with the Old Tories who to-day are drawing aloof from the present Government?

To Make Union Govt. Permanent

MANY prominent newspapers are giving the strongest kind of evidence of the breaking down of the old party spirit by openly advocating the perpetuation of Union Government.

The Ottawa Journal says:

A separation of the Liberal Unionists and the Conservative Unionists would not seem to be necessary from any point of view’ of political principle. Nor do we suppose that to any sensible and patriotic man of any former political stamp, in view of the fact that this country like all others is seething with unrest and needs competent government, a political break-up would appeal much but for the claims óf old traditions and of old personal friendships and affiliations. The former Conserva-

tive and Liberal parties had in the main no difference in principle. Hardly even a visible nominal difference existed except in two regards. One was the protective tariff—and that was really nominal, for there is no denying that the Liberal party when in power under Laurier had steadily maintained a protective tariff. The other was as to what form naval assistance to the Empire should take—and that was merely a difference in detail. The divergence between the two great political parties up to the time of the reciprocity proposition of 1911 was therefore little more than a difference in name and shibboleths.

The London Free Press—once absolutely purple in its Toryism—is even more emphatically in favor of the permanence of the Union idea. It says:

If the Unionist caucus did not lay down a “platform,” and if it did not draft its position into “whereases,” it can be said with apparent certainty that the Unionist party exists to-day upon a permanent basis. A general election will not be held, it is agreed, until 1921, a full two years and possibly three years hence. In that time many things are likely to happen to enable the Unionist party to step out upon new lines, such as will permit of its offering to the country an appeal that will give to it a fresh mandate nearly if not quite as emphatic as was that received in 1917.

Sir Robert Borden was himself formerly a Liberal. How appropriate it would seem to be that he should to-day lead a party of men of conviction who call themselves neither Liberal nor Conservative, but Unionist!

The St. John (N.B.) Standard sees the Union in a still more rosy light. “There is no dissension in the Unionist ranks,” boldly asserts the Standard; “there is no trace of partisanship as found between members of opposing groups. The Unionist party to-day is composed in its entirety of men who place the good of their country before political advantage.”

What the War Taught Us

PERHAPS there is a deeper and more significant reason for the reluctance men are showing to fall back into party strife. The St. Thomas Times-Journal suggests that the war has taught us a lesson in this respect.

How is this apathy on the part of the mass of the public to be explained? The old rousing catchwords and slogans having to all appearance lost their charm,

what new battle cry will take their place? These questions have their interesting side, even though it may be impossible to render a final answer just now. One reason for the evident electoral antipathy to the renewal of bitter party strife is the broadening influence of the spirit of co-operation evoked by the great war. Men and women who have labored and striven together and found that patriotism, loyalty and sacrifice are not the peculiar appanage either of Liberal or Conservative, cannot return to that sphere of prejudice which made each anathema to the other. It is impossible to imagine to-day a reversion to the time when a Liberal believed a party opponent to be capable of any enormity merely because he differed in politics and a Conservative retaliated in kind. The electors of to-day realize that different political views can be honestly held and are no index to or criterion of moral character.

The Guelph Mercury comes out strongly in favor of the new spirit of independence and pats on the back those who “think things out for themselves and chafe at having to jump the hurdle every time someone else cracks the whip.” The Mercury, which once was as unbending a party paper as, say, the Toronto Globe, and circulates in a district that is strongly Liberal and Scotch-Presbyterian, goes on to point out that independence helped to win the war.

“A greater measure of independence,” says the Mercury, “was shown by the leaders of all the allied nations than ever before in the history of nations, because there was a need for it, and without it a different story might have had to be told, but there were men who were not afraid to override the conventions of parliamentary procedure, red tape and custom, in the interest of action. They saved the day for liberty.”

The Election in Ontario

THE provincial election in Ontario, which will have been fought to a conclusion before this number of MACLEAN’S appears, is the strongest indication of the complete change in the face of politics. The prohibition referendum is attracting much more attention than the election itself. As the Border Cities Star remarks: “The people of Ontario refuse to become ex-

cited over the coming provincial elections. True, many meetings are now being held but the old-time

rush seems to be missing. Perhaps this is due to the war, in that the people have become so accustomed to great events that a provincial political contest does not loom as large as formerly.”

The Star goes on to express its belief that, after all, the party end of it does not really matter very much. “It is felt that the result of the referendum is of much more importance to the province than the victory or defeat of any particular political party, and such a judgment seems to be well based. To the average man on the street, unless he be a ‘regular,’ there appears little choice between the two old parties in Ontario. Apparently no great issues are to be decided by the voting and the situation is that of one party desiring to stay in and the other to get in.”

Of course, all newspapers do not so interpret the situation. A large number of Ontario editors are pegging away as earnestly and, sometimes, as viciously as ever, lauding their own party to the skies and ripping the sails of the other in the best approved Eatanswillian method. Even some of the papers which recognize that things are not as they used to be, accept the change with obvious regret. The

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Toronto Globe, despite the staunchness of it s stand for a dry Ontario, lets an occasional tear trickle through its rather heavy editorial columns when it reflects on the fact that it is no longer a stand-up fight with the good Grit claymore striking sparks from the brand of the Tory Sassenach. There is a chastened regret in the Globe voice when it remarks: “The

province is about to experiment again

with the group system, in an even more pronounced form than in 1894-98, when the Patrons of Industry formed the second largest party in the House. In the 107 contested constituencies there are only 48 in which the fight is left to two candidates. Of these there are only thirteen in which straight Conservatives and straight Liberals are opposed. Party lines are broken or crisscrossed in a way for which there had

L>een no example, Federal or Provincial, since Confederation.”

Those Pesky Farmers!

BUT the greatest factor in the change, when all is said and done, is the attitude of the farmers. The hornyhanded son of the soil has balked. No longer will he allow himself to be hornswoggled into voting for one party or the other when neither has any particular reason to offer him. The farmer, who wants certain things, is going to vote for himself!

The farmers of the West are into politics with both feet and there seems no reason to doubt thát, at the next general election, there will be a large number of Western seats go to the straight farmer candidates. ■ In Ontario the U.F.O. (United Farmers of Ontario) are making the election now progressing a distinctly three-cornered one. Even in the Maritime Provinces, where political faiths die harder and men nourish the ideas and traditions of the past with a more enduring zeal, the farmers are organizing. In fact, as the Victoria Colonist puts it: “The crea-

tion of a United Farmers party in the Dominion is an upsetting element in all the calculations of political organizations.”

Many Western newspapers are openly supporting the cause of the agricultural organization. The Saskatoon Star comes out with a bold forecast as to how things are going in Saskatchewan. It predicts: “Probably nine-

tenths of the voters in Assiniboia constituency are farmers, so there is reason for the confidence which the convention seemed to feel that any candidate nominated would certainly be the next member of Parliament. The spirit permeating the Carlyle convention is in evidence throughout the whole province. Because of the forthcoming bye-election, Assiniboia was better organized than the other constituencies, but at the same time the enthusiasm is no more keen than it is elsewhere.

After reviewing the situation from coast to coast, the Regina Daily Postsays: “The political movement of the

organized farmers is one of high significance. The politicians who are still solacing themselves with memories of the Patrons of Industry and similar movements of the past are due for a rude shock.”

And Then the Ladies

FINALLY, there is the fact that woman suffrage is becoming an accomplished fact. It seems to be generally accepted that woman, lovely woman, will not be caught by shop-worn shibboleths or permanently shackled to any party chariot. She is going to be an unknown quantity for a while. Professional politicians look at this askance. They feel that personal considerations and the issues of the day will sway the feminine voter more than the appeal of party loyalty. There is still an idea extant that flattery will help out and so we find the good old Toronto Mail and Empire, after a stodgily long appeal to women to vote for Hearst in Ontario, winding up with the following:

“The women may prove themselves Ontario’s best electors. In some respects the feminine judgment is more trustworthy than the masculine judgment, and we are inclined to believe that in the marking of the ballot woman will show her peculiar good sense. Women, we believe, are more inclined to regard the suffrage as a trust than men are. They are more inclined than men to look upon public office rather as a responsibility than as a prize. Their vote is given less as a favor to the receiver than as a call to service. The woman voter puts the business up to the candidate, and the man who is elected will in most cases be made to feel that his women supporters are keeping an eye on him.”

But, anyone, who has seen the part that the women of the West are playing in public affairs, knows and knows well that woman’s part in the handling of this country is going to be a big one and that it is going to be a progressive and courageous part; and also that the professional politicians may as well pack up their wares in their old kit bags and amble along.