Something About Government Plans and the Next Session

J. K. MUNRO March 1 1919


Something About Government Plans and the Next Session

J. K. MUNRO March 1 1919


Something About Government Plans and the Next Session


WHAT is going to happen at the present session of Parliament? How can anyone tell when the ministers themselves don't know? At the time of writing the opening of the House is still some weeks off. But even as you read, with the statesmen all in Ottawa and settling into their regular stride, you may rest assured that more than one member of the Cabinet is consulting the ouija board in a vain endeavor to 1iscover just what the future may hold for them.

Not long ago Hon. Geo. P. Graham, who, after months of fumbling in the dark, finally found the missing keyhole and is now safely back in the Laurier household, took occasion to comment on this Union Government.

Tt reminds me,” said Hon. Geo. P., “of the man who used to meet a bill with a promissory note and a fervent ‘Thank God that’s paid.’ ”

“So,” he continued, “this Government when it strikes & troublesome question refers it to a commission and says ‘Thank goodness that’s settled.’ ”

But if the prodigal George P. hadn’t been so busy finding his way back to Father Laurier, he might have discovered that this Union Government, of which we are ail so proud, bears a closer relationship to the man :n his parable than even the one he suggests. Unless all reports are false it has been making a series of promises that it cannot live up to. “We aim to please,” has been its motto. And if you watched the faces of the various delegations visiting the Capital, you had to admit that they all looked pleased wnen they departed. It mattered not what they wanted. If they came looking for lower tariffs they went away smiling. If a

solid protection was their prayer there was a grim satisfaction reflected from their faces as they boarded the train for home. If it was more prohibition, a little loosening of the liquor law, more advanced divorce legislation, a tightening of the moral code, or leniency for some suppressed member of the Bolsheviki, they just mentioned it and went home happy.

“It’s a darned mean cuss that won’t give a man a promise,” an old Western politician once said. No delegation that visited Ottawa during the past few months would dare to call the Union Government mean. Of course it is happily constituted to help along the promise industry. It has ministers to suit every possible taste and who could by selective draft be called upon to make almost any kind of promise. Would not Hon. Wesley Rowell, with a melancholy cheerfulness, swear to do his utmost to dash the cup from the drunkard’s lips, to keep divorce beyond the reach of the untutored masses and to otherwise safeguard the straight and narrovw path? Could not Hon. J. A. Calder and Hon. T. A. Crerar, knowing the feeling in the West, assure all and sundry that the desire of their hearts was to see the Western plains ploughed with tractors that had never paid duty and harvested by reapers that had not even hesitaed at the border? And if Sir George Foster, that grand old disciple of Sir John Macdonald, does happen to be busy with the map of Europe, don’t you think that even a good Liberal like Hon. C. C. Ballantyne could be persuaded to whisper that Canada’s future depended on protection for her infant industries and that this is his own, his native land?

Ask For What You Want

AKAND little Cabinet this when you come to look it over carefully. If you don’t see what you want, ask for it. A bank merger, you say? Just step this way and our expert on banks will fit you out. Meet Sir Thomas White! Land for Soldiers? Boy, call Hon. Arthur Meighen. What’s that? Just out of it. you say, but Hon. Arthur has gone out to try and buy some! Well, well, don’t worry, we’ll have it for you all ready for the spring plowing. Clemency for some members of the Bolsheviki? Oh. yes, that’s work for Hon. Gideon Robertson, our tame labor man. We hand-picked and imported him for the purpose. Tell him what you want and remember it’s no trouble to show goods. We’re a little short of help just now. Had to lend some of our staff to help clean up that European after-war muddle. But what’s left of us are willing. Read once more that motto on the door mat: “We aim

to please,” and then cast your eye yet again to the handwriting on that wall : “What you don’t see. ask for!” Through the merry winter months the corridors of the East Block have hummed with the low-toned but happy laughter of people who have come with prayers and gone forth with promises. But now the day of reckoning is at

hand. And what makes the answer all the harder is that nobody wants to see the Government beaten. The Cabinet are convinced that no other hands could demobilize the troops and reconstruct the country’s trade; the private members have an ever-growing fondness for that $2,500 per; and Laurier would fain dodge the present troubles of Government and incidentally give the West another year to try and forget the war.

So the accumulations of promises and problems must be faced by the Union Government and by the Union Government alone. Nor will it be allowed to say: “We must lay this over. Sir Robert Borden is busy in Paris.” The questions that are to come before the House are too pressing to admit of further delay. The country wants action and absolutely refuses to be further denied. Moreover, though the Opposition may not want to see the Government defeated just yet, it does not follow that said Government is to be allowed to sleep on a bed of roses. On the contrary any time the Laurierites can throw a bunch of thistles on the Cabinet couch or a handful of tacks on the Government carpet, the opportunity will not be overlooked Nor will the Ginger Group of hard-shell Conservatives croon a cradle song in the ears of those statesmen who so efficiently operated the Order-in-Council machine On the whole it can be safely predicted that while the Union Government won’t die this session, there will be times when it will have all the symptoms of a very sick

Where the West Will Stand on Tariff

iNK of these times, of course, will be when the tariff question comes up—-that is. when it comes up in deadly earnest during the course of the Budget debate That the Liberals, convinced that the Cabinet is pro paring to make concessions, will make the first bid for the Western vote looks like the one best bet. An amendment to the address in reply to the speech from the throne looks like their move. But it won’t get them anywhere. The Western Unionists will not be hard to convince that the tariff belongs with the budget. They can easily justify a vote against a Laurier free trade amendment. They’ll be looking for something tangible and not be in a position to endanger it. In other words, they won’t be tempted to drop the Union bone to grasp for the Laurier shadow. And that will tide that trouble over for a month or two. But it will give the Western Unionists a splendid opportunity to cinch their deal for tariff concessions.

And while the Government is turning this tariff question over in its mind and looking for a method of compromising on its promises, the bill to Provide Land for Soldiers’ Settlement can be given to the members to play with. Hon. Arthur Meighen will introduce that bill. Ever listen to little Arthur on a job of that kind? He’s got an easy flow of the language you find in law books. By the time he has spoken fifteen minutes you conclude he’s making out a pretty good case. Half an hour later he’s into an argument with himself, and along towards six o’clock you feel like calling in Hon. Charlie Doherty to finish an explanation that will justify you in a conviction that you don’t know what either one of them is talking about. However that bill will take a lot of time and give the Government a chance to collect its thoughts. Not a man in the House but will want to tell a waiting world how much he wants to do for the soldier.

The Drys Are in Control

DUT there are other matters that will have to be hurried a bit. You may have noticed a number of your friends whose cellars are running dry keeping one eye on the Peace Conference and the other on Ottawa. They’re wondering if, between the time the war ends officially and new temperance legislation is enacted, there won’t be a temporary opening of the lines of communication between ultra-Quebec points and Montreal. For the order-in-council that stops the importation of liquor into dry provinces is under the War Measures Act. And some good authorities argue that, when that act goes out with the signing of the peace terms, the order-in-council will go with it.

Already the temperance forces are lined up to stop any possible break in the prohibition dam and the session will not be far along before Hon. Wesley Rowell rises in his place in the House to introduce legislation to meet the need of the hour. Will it pass? Nothing is surer. There is no vote the average member of Parliament is more afraid of than the “church vote”—and none that deserts him more faithlessly at election time. To be sure last election saw the Unionists sweep into power on the crest of a wave of almost religious fervor. But the circumstances were exceptional. The Hun was threatening Paris, civilization was trembling in the balance and hundreds of thousands of Canadian homes yearned for fighting sons crying from the trenches for the help that must be sent to them. Men’s hearts were stirred as they never were before and men voted not for party but from 'conviction. But now we’re drifting back to normal. The war is over. And the highly moral man will soon be voting with his party at elections no matter how loudly and piously he talks between times. But he’ll scare the statesmen just the same.

All or nearly all will vote for any kind of prohibitory legislation that is brought down. And right after they do it you’ll find a lot of them out in the corridors looking for a drink tp take the taste of their votes out of their mouths.

So prepare to meet dry legislation at the earliest possible moment. Also prepare to see it go sailing through the House with hardly a tack to beat up against an adverse breeze.

The Devilish Old Senate B UT there is yet one hope, ye thirsty one. There's the Senate! Aged and infirm it has been called. "Senile and showing 9 symptoms of decay" is ? among the sneering de

scriptions hurled in its direction. But only last session its leader Sir James Lougheed proudly proclaimed that “if it stood for anything it stood as a bulwark of vested rights against the clamor and caprice of the mob.” Surely one of man’s vested rights is his thirst! And surely those veterans of many a political battle are in a position to brave the “church” and all other votes. They don’t need them. Also this same Senate showed only last session that there is a strain of almost devilishness in the old men yet.

Hon. Charlie Doherty introduced a score of amendments to the criminal code that reminded one of the blue laws of the good old Puritan days.

Hon. Charlie did it as Minister of Justice and, for he’s got a large human streak in his make-up, he did it in an apologetic tone of voice. Just what those amendments provided would not make fit reading in a family magazine. It might be said, however, that they were so wide and sweeping, or rather so narrow and deep, that they almost made a man consult his lawyer before he asked his neighbor’s wife the time of day, or his stenographer to take a

note. The H o U S e thought of the church vote, threw hasty if ma lignant

glances in the direction of Hon. Wesley Rowell, and swallowed them whole.

But what did the Senate do? Why those brave old men simply tore those amendments limb from limb. They left that House bill a tangled and mangled and unrecognizable mass of wreckage. And on this evidence of their humanity the “wets” are hanging their hopes of one more shipment from Montreal before the season of drouth is made permanent. If the bill is hung up in the Senate and the Peace Conference will hurry up a bit there is yet a chance.

But those people who look for a relaxation of the divorce laws are in a different position. They haven’t a chance in the world. In the first place the Catholic members will vote solidly against any such measure and there are plenty of others to provide a majority opinion that the sanctity of the marriage tie is the foundation of a nation’s greatness. And even if the House did vote for

cheaper divorces and more of them, what would th Senate do? Would you deprive those brave old “bu warks” of their last amusements? Hearing the evidenc in divorce cases is one of the senatorial perquisites. 1 gives them something to chuckle over for the whol year. And sometimes if that evidence is “real good they’ll order it printed. Then if you're a truste friend you may secure a copy accompanied by a si wink and nod.

Rob the Senate of its divorce privileges! Not whil it is able to sit up and draw its indemnities and cas an occasional vote. This war may have produced it matrimonial tangles. Let those who suffer from th snarls grin and bear it as best they may. The Honorabl the Senators must not be made to suffer for trouble for which they can in no way be held accountable.

A ND while this moral question is before the Hous ^ perhaps a word or two about horse racing ma.

not be amiss. The track owners ant jockey clubs are naturally anxious t. / " get back to business. For in these latei

days the sport of kings has turned ini, one of the businesses that pay dividend: and large dividends too. One self-re specting track is said to clean up $300. 000 a season and some of the others do almost as well. Now the order-in council that closed the tracks did no! prohibit racing. It simply put a stop to the betting privileges—and the racing stopped automatically. That stoppage outlasts the war by six months and it would be just like the racing interest? to chase after legislation for an immediate resumption of activities. They had better go slow. Even before the Cabinet got busy a movement to put a finish to the racing game was under way. Ar.d it is a moral certainty that if that movement had got before the House in the shape of proposed legislation it would have carried. It’s that old “moral” or “church” vote again. Men who never miss a day at Connaught Park, and who even run up to Toronto for a week-end at the Woodbine, stated without a quaver in their voices that they would vote for it. They liked the game themselves—but the feeling in their constituencies— and after all they were there to represent the views of their constituents.

So if the horsemen are wise they will forget all about “the improvement of tne breed of horses” and similar lines of conversation and keep out of Parliament. In fact they will be very lucky if an effort is not made to have the order-in-council made permanent. The uplift element is going strong just now and it is getting the active assistance of some politicians whose political pasts may entitle them to places at the penitent bench. The once chance for the renewal of the racing is that in the crush of other business it escapes notice and that the order-in-council either lapses or goes into the scrap heap along with the other adjuncts of the War Measures Act. If the racing interests realize this they will be lucky. Their usual attitude towards the public is that of benefactors. And that won’t get them anywhere at present.

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TO get back to matters that are of more concern to the Cabinet it is admitted that pensions are bound to come in for serious consideration. Last session a committee studied the pension problem for weeks and presented a report that was squelched in half an hour. It came up at an unfortunate moment. The Premier wanted to get away to England, the Governor-General’s special train was lying ready to take him to the Woodbine to see the King’s Plate run, the speaker had an engagement to go fishing and the private members had their indemnity checks in their pockets and could already hear the low sweet call of the cows in the pasture field. So the pension report, was side-tracked. It may be that as a consequence the families of a few wounded soldiers have had to practise something more than wartime thrift. But trifles such as that are never allowed to clog the actions of the truly great. Anyway Hon. Arthur Meighen in a recent speech announced that another committee is to again consider the pension question. And this time there is hope that the report will not run into such a complication of adverse circumstances if it does the voice of Donald Sutherland will be heard in the House—and many another voice besides.

The alien within our gates will also be a fertile topic of consideration. It was promised last session that, if something was not done, the returned soldier was liable to handle the alien per-

sonally. The something was not done and the promise is being kept. And this with the majority of the soldiers still overseas. It is one of the most troublesome matters with which the Union Government has to deal. For some of its own members, such as F. B. Carvell, have ere this lifted up their voices and moaned because the Austrians and Germans were deprived of their votes. Shrieks of anguish may be expected if an attempt is made to deprive them of their jobs. But the returned soldier appears to be making up his mind to that effect. And if he starts out to do it you can see political as well as physical troubles in front of the Government that tries to stop him. Nor can you expect any sane Government to further aggregate matters by giving the enemy aliens back their votes. There is a new Federal Franchise Act coming down. It will íeplace the Wartimes Franchise Act. But information from well-advised quarters is to the effect that the antialien clauses in it will be strong enough r,o suit even the Ginger group and Sir Wilfrid Laurier will have ample opportunity to continue his remarks regarding the noble qualities of the Germans as a people.

What About Reconstruction?

ALL the foregoing is in addition to the reconstruction and repatriation work. That is the Government’s excuse for continuing to live. What about) these two greatest problems with which any young nation ever wrestled? Aye what? And again, what? Hon. J. A. Calder has gone forth and spoken to a listening public. So have Hon. Sidney Mewburn and Hon. Arthur Meighen and Hon. Frank Carvell. And of course Hon. Wesley Rowell simply must speak once or twice a week. The children cry for him. And when you have heard them all you go back and sit down and again ask yourself: “What?” That is as far as reconstruction is concerned. You finally conclude that reconstruction is evolution under another name and that the country will just blunder back to a peace basis as best it may. The Government might help a little by an early statement of its tariff policy. But how fan it do that and keep all the promises it has made?

t>UT it is different with repatriation.

That has all been arranged for. H. J. Daly is looking after that himselfWho is H. J. Daly? He is a find of Hon. Gideon Robertson’s He is a Napoleon of industry and organization—his press agents say so. He also owns and operates a departmental store in Ottawa. Incidentally he is a director of repatriation, and while he is not operating the store he will gently take three or four hundred thousand Canadian soldiers by the hands and lead them into the peaceful paths of civilian life. That looks like a large order for a small man. But Mr. Daly is not a small man except in a physical way. Also he keeps a most complete staff of press agents, any one of whom will tell you that repatriation is safe in the hands of H. J. Daly. They have told it to the Government. The Government believes it. It has heaved a great sigh of relief and exclaimed: “Thank heaven that problem is solved!”

The New Napoleon

\/"ES it was Hon. Gideon Robertson . who discovered Mr. Daly. That is Gideon’s lifework. When Sir Robert Borden went down to Welland he picked up a more or less obscure official of the Telegraphers’ Union and made him first a Senator and then Minister of Labor. You perhaps wondered what the object of it all was. You’ve kept on wondering as you watched Gideon wrestling with statesmanship. But you know now that the clear-headed Borden was even at this early date solving the problems of repatriation. He was discovering Gideon that Gideon might discover H. J. Daly.

XJOW be warned and don’t take the ^ above list of activities as a schedule that Parliament will work to. It will vary of its own accord. Moreover, there are influences that will furnish other variations and even discords. There are somewhere between 900 and 9,000 orders-in-council that have been sorted out. Most of them go into the discard. But some of them come along to be transformed into regular laws. And when they do you’ll hear Col. J. A. Currie and many another besides say things about that order-in-council machine that may start an argument. Then some one will get curious as to Victory bonds that were taxless but not commissionless. That "will start W. J. Kennedy of North Essex making remarks—and again others will join in the conversation. Some day someone will mention daylight saving. That will bring Uncle Billy Smith to his feet. He will use a few well-placed words that will start a regular farmers’ tornado.

As a matter of fact almost anything may happen in this session — except dissolution. They’ve all resolved to carefully avoid going that far. And if this Government has as much political brains as James Calder is said to carry under its hat it will encourage conversation on almost everything before it gets to its real troubles, the tariff and the aliens. For a talked-out House is easier to handle.

How long will the session last? Well a Cabinet Minister figures it at four months. So you can throw in a couple more months for contingencies and hope that the rural members will be home in time to help in with the harvest.