Plunged Into the Political Maelstrom

J. K. MUNRO October 15 1921

Plunged Into the Political Maelstrom

J. K. MUNRO October 15 1921

Plunged Into the Political Maelstrom


PREMIER MEIGHEN has pulled the unexpected and Canada has plunged into the horrors of a general election. The question that is uppermost in the minds of his countrymen is “why did he do it?” His followers in Parliament couple the rising inflection with a note of anguish. Did they not leave Ottawa early in June with a calm assurance that they could spend the session’s wages and depend on yet another indemnity to pay election expenses? Why then are they asked to turn with empty pockets to face the people they have served so well? Why? and again why? they ask, has the premier they elected turned on them and thrown them to the hungry wolves yclept the electors, without the wherewithal even to partially satisfy the pangs of the general hunger?

And the answer would appear to be divided into two parts.

(1) The Medicine Hat Election.

(2) The demands of certain influential people living in or about Montreal.

There is every reason to believe that when the young premier was placing the imprint of his eloquence on the assembled diplomats of our British Empire, he fully expected to favor Canada and help the Empire by holding the reins of government for yet another year.

Nobody wall gainsay the fact that when he was sowingthe seed of the Disarmament Conference he expected to lend a hand to the harvest at Washington. No one will venture to doubt that, while he was giving those stolid old British Statesmen some easy lessons in the new diplomacy, he was prepared to hold onto the handles of the Canadian plow for long enough to see some of the fruits of those labours that had raised a boy politician to the heights of statesmanship enjoyed by Sir Robert Borden, Sir George Foster and Hon. Charles Doherty.

Then the blow fell. The West that had given a Meighen to the Empire arose to smite him in the hour of his triumph. Medicine Hat spoke in tones of thunder. And ’tis whispered that as his voice echoed across the seas a certain little premier wilted and wdthered like a flower in full bloom that has been visited by an early frost.

That Crerar Virus

NOW the Medicine Hat election did not create any great surprise in Canada. People who had given even passing attention to the political probabilities some how felt it in their bones that the Great West had been inoculated with the Crerar virus. Also they knew that the rude Westerners rarely do things by halves .But premiers work under certain disadvantages. Most people they meet want something. And people who want something have learned that a good way to not get it is to start out by telling unpleasant truths to the person who must do the giving.

Premier Meighen’s intelligence department played him false. His alleged political machine filled him full of false hopes and—well the news from' the Far West played merry Hades with everything.

Now you’ll probably have noticed that Mr. Meighen is subject to panics. You remember the West Peterboro set-back, which was a political muddle rather than the repudiation of any policies the premier may have concealed about his person, brought on an attack of heart

failure from which he did not recover till the vote on the address had reassured him that one vote taken from a good working majority does not mean political disaster. But some inability to count or figure or reason, or something kept him in a blue funk for a matter of six weeks. So it was only to be expected that when the next blow fell he would relapse into one of those fits of despondency that are part of the paraphernalia attached to a pessimistic nature.

Anyway the voyage home was scarcely enjoyable. The same sun was not glinted back from the wavelets, the air had taken on a chilliness no heating apparatus could dis-

pel; and there was a gloom over the waters of the deep that no Newfoundland fog could hope to rival.

The pessimistic premier arrived home to find the two Tory papers in Montreal echoing MacKenzie King’s appeal for an election and he mistook them for the voice of the people. A vast yearning for the peace that camps over the Opposition benches entered his soul.

The M. P.’s Rancorous Roar

NOR was there lack of counsel from among his cabinet colleagues to the effect that a general election was something that would clear the air and bring peace and prosperity to a once smiling land. ' He was jail for an election.

But the roar that came from the common M.P.’s who had made him premier stayed his hand. They pointed out that Quebec which would give him all the way from three to one seats out of a total of sixty-five was hardly the locality in which to look for political advice. They reminded him that Calder, Reid, et al who shouted “go to the country” to him intended to hie them to the Senate for theirs.

They reminded him of his promises re redistribution. And incidentally they hinted that another little $4,000 wouldn’t do them any harm.

This gave the premier halt. For days and days he stood like the oft-mentioned hen on a hot griddle, whatever that is.

He was first on one foot and then on the

other. Finally a wave of glad content spread over hi s faithful M.P.’s. It was decided that a redistribution session should precede the deluge. And they settled away to figure how to make that session long enough to add $4,000 to each of 235 individual bank accounts.

But just as they had it all nicely figured the census man dropped in to say that the figures on which any redistribution must be based could not be ready till well on in the Winter—and the dam went out with a roar.

This time little Arthur did not give himself time to change his mind. He had worried and wavered till he could stand it no longer. He grabbed his hat, pulled it down over his ears, climbed aboard his private car and hurried to London, Ontario, where he blurted right out in meeting that his hands were in the air and a general election was in the offing.

With his mind at ease the premier settled away to pick a new Cabinet. With no by-elections to look forward to the job was apparently simplified wonderfully. But picking up Cabinet material is never easy. And when the material is needed to bolster up a lost cause it is infinitely more difficult. There were long nights of work and worry ere Hon. Arthur delighted his countrymen with a list of statesmen of his own choosing. Incidentally he was not slow to shunt Hons. Reid and Calder and Sir George Foster off to the Senate. And you can almost hear him exclaim: “Thank goodness they’re gone, anyway,” as the three cast-offs pocketed their Senatorships and struck gleefully for the door.

Is the Cabinet Any Better?

UT is the Cabinet any richer because of their absence? In place of the Old Schoolmaster we have Hon. Harry Stevens of Vancouver as Minister of Trade and Commerce. Hon. Harry does not round off his periods as did the old Knight. In fact it is said that he is a graduate of the Soap-box School of Oratory. But he goes after an opponent tooth and nail and is withal a pretty effective rough and tumble debater. He may not know much about trade and commerce but then good old Sir George did not know anything at all. On the whole it looks as if you could label Hon. Harry as a slight improvement.

Hon. Dr. Edwards takes the place of smooth James Calder. Time was that when the Frontenac doctor rose in the House every French-Canadian would see red and the press gallery would spend an enjoyable half-hour'

Then the pugnacious “Doc” fixed his eye on a Senatorship and the game chicken became a turtle-dove. All the •venom had been extracted from his remarks. And when a venomous speaker puts the soft pedal on he generally becomes a bore. The new Minister of Immigration and Colonization was no exception to the rule. Perhaps with the Senatorship beyond his grasp he’ll revert to form. Here’s hoping!

Stewart, of Lanark, who takes up the railway burden that has dropped from the shoulders of Hon. J. D. Reid, is a really clever young man of whom something might be expected if he enjoyed better health. He spent most of last session in the South and nothing that can be seen from here should interfere with a similar trip this winter. Of course the railway job is a rather hefty one, especially for a sick man. . But Mr. Stewart has sufficient intelligence to realize that his tenure of office will be brief and, like his predecessor, his knowledge of railroading is limited.

There are a host of other new faces in that Cabinet, among them three or is it four Frenchmen from Quebec? Now I confess to some slight acquaintance with politics and politicians but I confess here and now that I never heard of those two Cabinet Ministers from Quebec till they were mentioned in connection with the Patchwork Cabinet,knowing too something of the love Quebec holds for Hon. A. Meighen I have a feeling that I never will hear of them again after a certain fixed date this fall. So why bother even about their names.

A Bouquet for Doherty

DUT there is good old Charlie Doherty who, to make room for one of the unknowns, goes back to Montreal to live on his pensions. Never again will the House know such an “elucidator”. He could explain the simplest • question so that even he himself would be muddled. As for the assembled statesmen, they would simply hike for the corridors long before the elucidation had reached its most tangled stages.

But he was a lovable Irishman was Hon. Charlie. And when his own sunny smile seeped out of his eyes and trickled into every bone of his kindly face you forgave him every

But he’s gone and Hon. R. B. Bennett takes his place as Minister of Justice. R. B. is a very wealthy man. But his bank roll is a mere trifle compared to his vocabulary. If they could have hitched the Bennett delivery oh to a rapid fire gun the war would have been shortened by months if not years. Also R. B. is credited with having brains. But somehow he does not fit in with your idea of what a Minister of Justice should be. He has a legal rather than a judicial mind and if the milk of human kindness courses through his veins it does its coursing on a covered track. However, R. B. thinks pretty well of himself and will continue to think that way long after the Hansard reporters and a few others have thanked their stars that his tenure of the justice portfolio did not extend into a session of Parliament.

Then there is Hon. Dr. Manion who also talks fast and often. He did his bit overseas and has worked his way into a considerable popularity in the House. He’s got brains and adaptability. Mr. Meighen could make and has made many worse choices. Dr. Manion has charge of Soldiers’ Civil Reestablishment and at least knows something of the work that has been opportioned to him, pro tern.

As to the new ministers without portfolio little is expected of them and they won’t disappoint. Wilson, of Saskatoon, is a former mayor of his own home town and the chances are he made a good mayor. That no one has ever suspected that he was of Cabinet calibre is perhaps not so much their fault as his misfortune. He is a good Tory anyway and there is nothing against him.

But why the Hon. Edmund Bristol of Toronto? Prominent Toronto people when asked the question have ans-

wered in the words of the poet: “Search

me!” He used to visit Ottawa at such infrequent intervals that he attained the distinction of being the only member Deputy Clerk Buchesne failed to recognize on a division. Last session Mr. Bristol reformed. He became an almost habitual attendant and emphasized his change of heart by giving a series of dinners. Perhaps the dinners did it.

Of the old Ministers who remain in harness Hon. Hugh Guthrie is probably the most disconsolate.

There is a vacant judgeship in Ontario he feels would just

fit him. But he must go over the jumps yet again. Once before Hugh almost made his escape into the judiciary. That was in 1911 when reciprocity swept the Laurier re-

gime into the coal scuttle—and Hugh’s judgeship went with it.^JNow here it comes again. Can you blame Hugh if herlooks a bit blue? Hon. C. C. Bailantyne threatened to get out and really did it. But a suffering country called and he returned. Anyway he has a Windsor uniform that is a beauty—and it is not nearly worn out.

A Patch-Work Cabinet

BUT, come to think of it, that Patch-work Cabinet is not causing Tory hats to fill the air. It bears the trade-mark of its maker. It is meant to please everybody. It is composed of protectionists and low tariff men, Grits and Tories, Catholics and Protestants, Frenchmen and Frenchhaters. And if there is outstanding ability anywhere in its make up will somebody please point it out?

Unless, by the way, that aforementioned ability crops out of the 'person of Col. J. B. M. Baxter, of St. John, the new Minister of Customs who takes the place of that famous man of letters, Hon. Mr. Wigmore. Down whore the politicians grow the colonel is credited with knowing a heap about politics. He is a quiet-spoken man who might rise from among the congregation and utter a few earnest words perhaps taking "patriotic potatoes” as his text. And though he has passed through the fire of political scandal he apparently emerges unscathed, still holding his head high and his place in the hearts of his people.

He is a lawyer and a good one. If he bumps into Hon William Pugsley in his fight for a seat in the House that fight will be a championship fixture and seats at the ringside will be worth something. And no matter which wins there will come to Ottawa a man who will be worthy of more than a passing glance.

Well, there you are and Hon. Arthur has the election for which he yearns and a Cabinet of his own selection to fight it with. What odds do I bear on his chances of winning?

Truth to tell, even among the closest friends and greatest admirers of the little lawyer from the Portage, there has been little of what might be called optimism. As the fight gets warm and the blood gets hot you may see the wish fathering the thought that the embers of the old party of Sir John Macdonald may be gathered together and formed into a flame that will start a conflagration. But sitting down in cold blood and with a nicely sharpened lead pencil you can’t figure Hon Arthur as anything except an also-ran. Everybody admits that the West from the Lakes to the Mountains will go Farmer. Everybody knows that Quebec is going to vote Liberal whether it feels that way or not. This starts both Crerar and King with leads that Meighen cannot hope to overcome. The Maritimes will only lengthen the King lead. British Columbia may help Meighen a little but its power for good or ill is limited. Only in Ontario can the Premier look for the seats he needs so badly. And there, despite the sins of omission and commission of the Drury Government, the Farmers are still strong—so strong that they are confident they can carry a plurality of the seats. At the least Ontario sends only 82 members to the Federal House. To cut a real figure in the next Parliament the Government would have to carry practically them all. It can’t be done. There are the French seats that will go to King and one or two others besides. The Farmers have lost little, if any, of their strength and it must be remembered that they were strong enough at the provincial elections to get control of the Government.

How many seats will Meighen get in all this broad Dominion?

That question was asked of a political reporter by a for -mer Unionist Cabinet minister who keeps pretty closely in touch with the political situation.

“Whisper,” answered the reporter, “about forty.

“That’s what I’ve been figuring,” the minister whispered back, “but I’ve been afraid to say it to anyone but myself.”

Of course you know how elections are. When the boys get together and hard at work they talk themselves and each other into a confidence that the circumstances don t warrant. A few months ago MacKenzie King was wooing T. A. Crerar and coyly suggesting that a union would be Canada’s salvation. Already in Quebec an impression is spreading that the Liberals will have a majority over all and denunciation of Crerar as a conscriptionist is becoming part of the platform program.

Also at Ottawa things are changing a bit. The leaders of the forlorn hope sometimes called the National Liberal and Conservative party can see the skies brightening. And as for the Farmers they have the West safe m the locker while as wise a man as Premier Drury is credited with the prediction that Farmers and Labor win carry fifty of the eighty-two Ontario seats. Pretty early isn t it for all these parties to have the election won. However neither King nor Crerar have so far wasted any valuable time picking cabinets. And every student of politics realizes that the real political game will be played after and not before the election.

Continued on page 38

Continued from page 19

XTOWJit may not have occurred to you that Montreal is pulling the strings on both the Liberals and Conservatives in the present argument. It has already been pointed out that Montreal brought on the election. You may have noticed too that when Mackenzie Kingjhad a nice easy seat in P.E.I. picked out for himself he dropped off at Montreal and the wise man there made up his mind for him that'duty^called him to North York, Ont.

Now Mr. King made the announcement at the Lemieux banquet in Montreal that he would run in the Ontario constituency. At that banquet gathered together under the same big top were such sworn political enemies as ErnestjLapointe and Sir Lomer Gorin. The~growing belief down in that neighborhood¿thatIthe Liberals will make a sweep of the country had drawn them together. Also at that dinner Premier Taschereau points out to young Mr. King what a valuable ally Sir Lomer would make. And it is whispered that when the boy leader announced that he would run in North York the smile that^broke over the usuallyj expressionless face of Sir Lomer Gouin was à thing of beauty.

For you know before the Quebec Liberals got carriedfaway by’over-confidence a pretty little scheme was in the hatching. The financial men'are said to have been behind it and it provided for the hitching up of the protectionists of Ontario and Quebecjagainst the Farmers. Of course all this was to take place after the elections. Now those knew that young Mr. King was not big enough to do the uniting. Also they knew that no Quebec man dare serve under Meighen. So the pretty little plan provided for the ditching of both King and Meighen and the placing of Sir Lomer Gouin in charge of the united forces. Sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it? But business men are always a bit crazy when they dip into politics. They’re even more at sea than the politicians are when they tackle business.

But, after all, circumstances seemed to play into their hands. King is hardly conceded a chance to carry North York while Premier Meighen is none too sure of election in Portage la Prairie. And, under the new law, a man, even if he is a premier, cannot run in two constituencies. With both the leaders of the house and big business pushing behind whoi,knows what might have happened? But all that is off now. Quebec has the bit in her teeth and her own Liberal party is going to rule Canada without having to say “by your leave.” to either Farmer free trade or Tory protectionist. Also the Tories can see victory hovering in the offing and they’ll stick by Little Arthur so long as he has a senatorship to hand out or a judgeship in his inside pocket.

Of course the Liberals will send Sir Lomer to Ottawa just the same. If Hon. Willie is going to become Premier he’ll need a business manager. And, make no mistake, Sir Lomer knows business, whether political or of the ordinary variety.^ Meantime Crerar has been attending the meetings of the council of Agriculture and laughing at Meighen’s latest attempt to steal his farmer following by the wheatpool method. By the time this is in print the Hired Man’s Hero will have broken into speech, and so will King, and so will Meighen. And the talking contest will be on.

But admit for the sake of argument that they can’t all win. Then you have to get busy and figure which is the likely one. And you have admitted that East of the Ottawa river it looks like King and nobody but King. Quebec Liberals count on carrying from 63 to 65 of the 65 seats in the Lower Province and that canny Scot, Premier Murray of Nova Scotia, is quoted to the effect that Quebec will elect more supporters of Union Government than will Nova Scotia. Nor can the Meighen forces expect heavy reinforcements from New Brunswick.

Some Figures for the Dopesters

THE West will go Farmer with mighty few exceptions. Premier Meighen has a fighting chance in the Portage and Bob Rogers thinks he can carry Lisgar

and R. B. Bennett may scrape through in Calgary. But that is about all—perhaps more than all. British ^Columbia may come through with half a dozen seats, with the rest scattering. But Ontario is really the only province the Government can look to for substantial support. As said before, the Farmers claim that with the help of Labor they will carry fifty seats and if they do, hats off to Premier Crerar. But they’re claiming a whole lot.

To boil it all down and average the figures of the various claimants you must conclude that W.L.M. King will have the largest group in the House but that he will still be considerably short of a majority. The figures should possibly read:

King........................90 to 100

Crerar ......................80 to 90

Meighen ...................50 to 55

These figures, of course, are not final. They are subject to revision after the returns are all in. And don’t forget for a moment that when those returns are all in the real fight will begin. Those Quebec Liberals won’t be near as friendly when they find they don’t control Parliament. The different factions only need an excuse to fly at each other’s throats—and the excuse will surely follow in the train of the coming election. Then who knows but that Farmer Crerar with his smaller but more compact followers may become premier of Canada.