Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

J. K. MUNRO November 1 1922

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

J. K. MUNRO November 1 1922

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows


"THEY forget that political history started in 1917.” These were the words of the late Hon. Arthur Sifton. He had been sitting in the House listening to tirades against the Borden Government from the earnest but misguided Liberal opposition. The latter never seemed to realize that times had changed and that

the sole representatives of the Government in sight were two of the most uncompromising Grits of Yesteryear, viz. Honest, Fearless, Fighting Frank Carvell and the cynical-smiled little man who for years had held Alberta in the hollow of his hand. Others besides those Liberal M. P.’s forget that times have changed. In the good old days before the War and its final mingling of factions in the conscription campaign the thinking for each party was done by a single head. Sir John MacDonald orSir Wilfrid Laurier might listen to advice from the men they selected for their cabinets. But in each case just one man had the last think. And when he had spoken the others just folded up their minds and laid them away until their leader might again want to exercise them. Still less had the ordinary M. P.’s need for opportunity to use their thinking apparatus. In the Gallery the old timers still recall a Liberal caucus as it was in the days of the Plumed Knight. The faithful would duly assemble in the caucus room. Sir Wilfrid would appear led in by his faithful chief whip Fred Pardee. There would be three cheers for LaurThe Premier would state what was upper most in his mind Again there would be three cheers for Laurier And the caucus would be And if a common run-of-mine member did so far forget himself as to do a little independent thinking or voting direful indeed were the results. He was sent to Coventry not only by his own party but by the party opposite. Both

he and his family were made to feel that the most heinous crime in the political calendar w’as to have thoughts that did not emanate from the Lord’s anointed, the leader of the party. If you doubt this ask "Billy” Nickle, of Kingston, or R. B. Bennett, of Calgary, who once so far forgot themselves as to "bull moose” on a well-remembered C. N. R. deal. It was months before they were partially forgiven. That they were never fully absolved is evidenced by the fact that the former never attained cabinet rank and is still looked on with covert suspicion by the Old Tory tribe while R. B. only got into the sacred circle when Hon. Arthur Meighen was trying to piece out a makeshift cabinet with any material he could lay his hand to. And yet any observer at Ottawa will admit that either or both lias ability away beyond that of the average cabinettee. Never Mind What For AND in those good old days how they did round up the boys for a division! Fred Pardee would invade the Liberal smoking room. "You fellows get in and vote.” “What are we voting for?" “Never mind what, you get in and vote.” In those days the ship of state sailed according to chart and the captain from the quarter deck laid out the course. Then Borden faltered. The Conscription issue was too strong medicine to be swallowed unless diluted. Naturally he did not turn to those he had bossed so long for the dilution. That would not have been human nature. He turned to those who by their opposition to his politics had impressed him withtheirstrength. And mostheturned to those who had fought him most bitterly. Then it was

that the doors of the political dormitories were torn down and the startling allotment of bedfellows began. The Dominion looked on in wonder when Frank Carvell curbed his caustic tongue and began to warble sweet inanities in the ears of Sir Robert Borden. It sat up and rubbed its eyes when "Jim” Calder who a few months previous had been in Ottawa urging the Liberals 1o stand by Laurier turned up in the tinsel and coronet of a Union Cabinet Minister; its eyes were misty with tears when it saw Hon. Wesley Rowell forsake a life devoted to uplift that he might lend his saintly countenance to a ministry headed by the same Sir Robert Barden whose political honesty he

had so often impugned. And when Crerar, Sifton and A. K. MacLean came trooping along to prove that they placed country before party and patriotism, before prejudice, a deep and aweinspiring silence brooded o’er the deep. But the lights of Liberalism met and mingled with such relics cf old Tory-

ism as Sir George Foster, Hon. J. D. Reid, Hon. Tom Crothers and others of that ilk. On the outside they put up a front. Over the doorway they hoisted the motto “God Bless our Happy Family.” But privately they smiled a bit and otherwise side-stepped the best traditions of former cabinets. Ere long some of them went so far as to openly criticise their colleagues to outsiders. And eventually most of them took to the cyclone cellars in time to escape the storm that wrecked the Union Government and strewed the shattered remnants of the Conservative Party along a cruel and rock-bound shore. And -then began the semi-bolshevism that exists in Parliamentary circles at Ottawa to-day. Hear the Angels Twang BUT before going further it might be well to explain that Cabinet Ministers are human, particularly human. They’re simply promoted politicians and politicians must be human else they wouldn’t know their fellow men well enough to get their votes. Trouble is that a partisan press has divided them into two classes that are as far apart as heaven from hades. When a Tory paper talked of a Tory statesmen it raised him so high above the clouds that he could hear the twanging of the harps. When it defiled its columns with mention of a Grit politician it slipped him down so far that he could smell the sizzling sulphur. The Liberal press did little otherwise. Consequently the earnest Liberals and the Conservative Tories have come to believe that their political heroes are sup-

ermen. Also they hate to have anyone tell them anything else. But if they had to live with “statesmen” all the time they would discover that they are only men at best—and most or them just ordinary men at that. Some of them were picked for their outstanding ability as debaters or executives. But most of them have been taken in because they were Nova Scotians or British Columbians, Orangemen or Catholics, Labor men or representatives of the big interests. And it does not take much of a man to look big when he is privileged to write “Hon.” in front of his name and is decked out in the dignity which a portfolio lends. Many of them have redeeming features. That goes without saying. Otherwise they wouldn’t be where they are. But by the time most of them listen to a few hundred addresses and after dinner speeches in which their finer points are set forth, added to and magnified, they begin to believe that in the distribution of gifts they had sidestepped the vices and gathered in only the virtues. And as the public is apt to take a man at his own valuation— well there you are.

Having got that much off my stomach let us get back to the bedfellows. You’ve seen what an unmixable mixture crept into the make-up of the Union Government and how most of them didn’t wait till after death to get their removal. Among the latter the name of Newton Wesley Rowell does not appear. Hon. Wesley having helped to save his country and wreck the Tory party did not feel that his life’s task was finished. But he did perceive that the time was not.propitious for further political activities on his part. He is a Grit by birth, instinct and training. He has done more for his party than any living Liberal. Yet strange to relate the Liberals look on him with a certain suspicion. It will take time to live it down. But he ’ll come back; and he knows how to wait. Moreover he’s a good lawyer and industry is the breath of his body. So he’s back practising law —and doing it well till the political sun begins to shine on his side of the street. Also he is laying up treasures on earth and they are part of the equipment of a politician who would play the game for all it is worth. The Trio From the West NyOR can you pass from that gathering in « Union pyjamas without a last look at a few of them. Take that trio that came down from the West—Sifton, Calder and Crerar— Grits every one of them but distinctly different types. The smoothest one came from Regina. Some one has said “No one could be so wise as

Jim Calder looks.” Sifton carried a burden of ill-health along with one of the ablest minds in the country, having attained wealth and position and wearing a smile that said “all is vanity.” For he knew even when he came to

Ottawa that his time was short. And Crerar, with his boyish face and hearty laugh, studying even the driest details of the game with the enthusiasm of the beginner. Don’t these three show that even with those of the same political faith the great game draws together men whose ideals are different even if they are playing for the same goal? Nor need you go further than the present government to see that chosen enemies can be political friends. The oft-mentioned case of Lapointe and Gouin need hardly be again quoted. But I remember one morning in the Chateau Laurier just a few days after the election. Hon. W. L. M. King was wiring his friends to come on to Ottawa and help him form a cabinet. One of the first to arrive was taking breakfast that morning and I was there in my newspaper capacity trying to “kid” him into saying something. “What’s the use of you fellows making a slate?” I threw at him. “Gouin will just come along and smash it for you.” He rose to the bait beautifully. “Let me tell you something,” he said, “Ernest Lapointe can get two votes in Quebec for Gouin’s one. Don’t forget that for aminute.” But in spite of all this the slate was made, Gouin did come along and break it. And Sir Lomer Gouin, his rival for the affections of Quebec, Ernest Lapointe, and the man who made that statement are all members of the cabinet while the Motto “Heaven Bless our Happy Home” is still worked in the doormat outside the entrance to the council chamber. Nor are these the only conflicting factors in a Government that agrees splendidly in the summer time when its members are scattered to the four corners of the universe. There’s Hon. Charles Murphy, a pretty brainy chap but by no means a patient one. When he boils over and tells some of his colleagues what he really thinks of them the rest must tile the keyhqle lest the sweet w-hispers of love escape to the outer world. And when D. D. Mackenzie looses the vials of his wrath and starts throwing chunks of the shorter catechism around the council room even that eminent conversationalist, Hon. James Murdoch must sit awed and silent . Then think of the arrogant Sir Lomer tied up in the same room with dear old “Popp” Motherwell and the latter using copious supplies of that bucolic oratory that has made him famous. How it reminds the Black Knight of the stately meetings of Bank of Montreal directors he attends with such regularity.

Words Conceal the Ideas AND the Little Grey Man who has become a bit impatient with advancing years and , physical infirmities. How he must writhe under the showers of words with which some of his colleagues try to conceal their lack of ideas. Also he knows that some there are who would willingly see him slip into the discard and leave his portfolio to some one more amenable to reason. In fact they do say that when the cabinet was being formed it was softly hinted to him that perhaps some less onerous portfolio might fit him better. But he tossed his head and said “Perhaps. But for the present I’ll take Finance.” And no one was brave enough to go further and face the storm of public opinion that would have followed any attempt to bench the last of the Liberal Scouts who measured up to the standard set by Laurier. Fielding by the way seems to thrive on work. He is still going strong and promises to last through more than another budget. But when he does finally retire what a wild little fight will follow. One faction of Grits want Hon. A. K. MacLean as heir-apparent. The Quebec forces will line f

up behind Hon. Walter Mitchell. 1 : may be the spark that will cause the explosion which own. wise Liberals expect to precede the obsequies of the King Government. But things are happening in Que >ec that may cause the “solid sixty-five” to shade thei • arrogance a bit. Sauve, the Opposition Leader in i he legislature, has

changed his tactics and recent bye have shown him a real factor in the politics of the province. The bye-election in St. JohnsIberville saw the habitant bolt from the Liberal traces and elect a farmer in place of the regularly stamped and O. K.’d machine candidate. In Labelle, Sauve wiped the hated name of “Conservative” from his standard and roused the habitant against the Montreal financial ring who have so long controlled his political destinies. The Government candidate won in a fight costing tons of money and truck loads of liquid refreshment. But ’tis whispered that it took some expert mathematics to produce his majority and those who know politics as they are in Quebec will now tell you that while the Taschereau Government will probably win the next election it will have to hurry to the country to get a verdict. Already it is said the solidly French constituencies will send Sauve supporters to the ancient capital. And the uneasiness is spreading. For the habitant like most docile men is a bit

capricious when roused and liable to bolt when he gets the bit in his teeth. Now all this must have an effect on Ottawa. Those fiery young Frenchmen who have been howling for an election in order that they may get more patronage

won’t be so enthusiastic if they realize that an election in place of providing plums may deprive them of their indemnities. And the enemies of Sir Lomer in the Cabinet will be quick to seize on any diminution of his power in Quebec to curb his ambitions at Ottawa. Wliat of Crerar and I.apointe?

THAT Mr. King is still sticking close to Crerar was evidenced when he called the Farmer Leader to Ottawa to consult with h'm over the crisis in the Near East. And again Crerar comforted the ycung Premier and told him if trouble came it were safer to meet Parliament than to go to war. With Crerar and the Progressives at hand to use as a life raft in case the present ship of state goes to pieces Mr. King can afford to look on the splitting up of this solid Quebec with considerable equanimity. If Quebec splits in provincial matters there is no chance of the habitant farmers looking to Crerar as Leader. But they might give Ernest Lapointe his chance and that is pretty much the same thing. For given an assured following for Lapointe and the Progressives Crerar could carry into the Grit camp King could draw enough support from the Maritimes and Ontario to free him from Gouin Domination and give him a chance to realize his dream of a government representative of every part of Canada and every class of her people. BUT a lot of political water will flowunder the bridge before that comes to pass. The present Parliament has still a long time to live and so long as its members continue to love their indemnities,

Sir Lomer will continue to dictate its policies. And all the more so that the Progressive party appears to be dying on its feet in Ontario and breaking up into factions in the West.

Alberta the Farmer M.P.’s have practically become a party unto themselves and in Saskatchewan Premier Dunning, a bright young man who knows, the grain grower from the ground up, is said to be making some inroads into the party that has only Maharg to look to. And even in Manitoba those jealousies from -which even farmers are not exempt are reported to be condemning the Crerar supremacy. The Long Grain Grower alw-ays appears to lose power between times and then come up smiling in the pinches. But there is no doubt that in the eyes of many of his followers suspicion is bred by his too close herding w-ith the Grits. The West is not yet ready to go back to old party lines. It has paid it to stand on the outside and collect wages for services rendered. And when Crerar tries to lead the way into a Liberal Government it looks as if he would find only a skeleton of his old following at his heels.

As has been frequently remarked things political are in a state of flux. There is an almost, monthly change in the condition on which prophecy must be based. And he would be neither a wise man nor an honest one who w-ould say just what the future may bring forth. But it won’t be the near future that will do the bringing. That much seems assured. And all the more so that the Government has labored and brought forth a president and Board of Directors for the National Railways that hasn’t caused riots in Quebec or any of the other outlying parts of Canada. To be sure Chubby Powers and Lucien Cannon have lifted up their voices and howled because Quebec City is not represented on that Board. But that wastobe expected. Chubby and Lucien how-led for a cut in militia estimates —and got it. They howled for a million and a half for Quebec harbor—and got it. Probably they 11 get what they are howling for this time. For they seem to have discovered that the way to get anything is to howl for it and to keep on howling till you get it, a simple, sound and profitable practice.

A “Better Than was Expected” Board B UT better the than Board was on expected.” the whole Sir is best Henry described Thornton, as the president, is a big man physically and may be big in other ways, He’s a bit of a stranger and you can’t just tell from where you sit. The members of the Board are all good Grits and that should keep politics from creeping into the management. None of them are infected with the public ownership germ to any alarming extent so they should be in a position to give public ownership a fair show. But from “Jim” Stewart, the big Western Scotchman, down to John Sinclair, the Nova Scotian st at es man. none of them have been indicted for t he more serious polit ical crimes. That makes them “better than w unexpected” and entitles them toa cháncete make good. Meanwhile politicians of all stripes 1 auh arned with real sorrow of the death of Hon. .1. A S \ art. w I» Minister of Railways in the Meigln n i> was an earnest, worker, and a fair fighte ,-ho made kept a multitude of friends on both sideof tin Ib-us As said before politicians arc human, very human The rejoice in the enemy’s ,1,lirai misfortunes. Bul t I respond instinctively ». man who invites and de or friendship and of t hese d any quest n ■Jar Stewart of Lanark.