“How They Love Those Farmers!”
J. K. MUNRO
WITH the first volleys from the big guns of the session still echoing through the corridors of the Parliamentary monastery there is evidence that this gathering of statesmen will be more interesting than the last. There’s a reason, too. You’ll remember that the late outfit were hand-picked. They all, or the majority of them, carried the Borden brand. But Jim Calder selected them in the West and Hon. “Doc” Reid did the picking in Ontario. Naturally they did not look for smarter men than themselves so the average of intelligence was not necessarily high.
This time the plain people had some slight say in the matter. To be sure they were materially assisted by some public-spirited patriots in Montreal, and one or two minor agencies elsewhere, but the net result could not help but be an improvement from the human standpoint. It was and is.
Then the change in the position of the official leaders helps some. Whether or not a session is to be lively or dull depends on the leader of the Opposition. If the latter is a slow thinker, given to long prosy speeches, the House will drowse along for a couple of months, wake up with a start, shove a mangled mass of legislation through the hopper and hike for the tall timothy and the kind-faced cows.
But if the Opposition chief be a man with a sharpened tongue, and a bunch of leaping ideas, be they good or bad, the sleeping will be done when the lodging is paid for and the assembled wisdom of the nation will sit up and at least take notice during the hours or minutes it favors the chamber with its presence.
You 11 notice that no names are mentioned in the above so no feelings can be hurt. But there has been a change of position. It may not help the country. But it cannot fail to add materially to Parliament as a place of public entertainment.
Our Prairie Press Agents
’ I 'HEN there are the Farmers from the Prairies. They have borne down on Parliament Hill in massed formation. Nor do they bring with them much of the bashful silence of the ordinary back bencher. They managed to restrain themselves till the three leaders had had their little say, but not a moment longer. They appeared to carry in common a fine conviction that the crying need of Canada was more information concerning the Great West. And were they there to give it? They were. Also to tell a listening public what is needed to make those prairies blossom in a beauty that will harvest prosperity for the whole Dominion.
It has been said of the Liberals that Sir Lomer Gouin is their cheer leader, and their college yell,“What is good for the C. P. R. is good for Canada.” Be that as it may, those embattled Western Farmers are ready, aye ready, to echo back the cheery news, “What is good for the Prairies is good for Canada.” And when those rival yells conflict a certain young Premier may read trouble in the political
And taking them by and large those Grain Growers are an addition to Parliament. They come from close to the soil. They have practised oratory in a school of hard knocks provided by Grain Grower gatherings and they promise to provide for consideration something more practical than can be gathered from the learned meanderings of the legal elocutionists.
But to get back to the leaders whose opening addresses generally indicate the general trend of the proceedings during the session. Before the new speaker had his threecornered hat on straight, King and Meighen were spitting and scratching at each other like 3 couple of midnight cats
on a back yard fence. And while "forward-looking men” frowned and talked in shocked whispers of statesmen who should be considering serious questions the Press Gallery lifted up its voice and rejoiced. For to the correspondent who has been forced to listen to Rowell, to Borden, to Doherty and to Foster, laboriously discoursing on the league of Nations, anything that promises a respite is hailed with unfeigned delight.
However, with Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux safely transformed into the first commoner óf Canada, the Windsor uniforms laid to one side and the left-over smells of talcum and flowers blown out of the corridors, things moderated a bit. And when Hon. Arthur Meighen found his feet in the debate on the address he was plainly under wraps. Somebody must have told him that the assembled husbandry did not take kindly to his waspish retorts to the young Premier. For it was with the contempt washed out of his voice and the kinks ironed out of his temper that he turned his back on his own little band of followers and pleaded with the Progressives to beware of the false friends on the other side of the House.
Farmers Avid for Oratory
ON. ARTHUR is evidently destined to set the fashions for this Parliament. For even as he addressed
himself to the Progressives so have all the other orators who have hurled themselves into the breach with the avowed intention of saving their country. No sooner does a statesman of the older school emit “Mr. Speaker” than he turns his back on the throne, his own followers and the press gallery, and pours his eloquence into the serried ranks of the Grain Growers. And how the latter listen! The game is new to them and they’re out to learn it. So they drink in done-over campaign speeches as if they were learned lectures on political economy. Perhaps, too, these rehash orations give them renewed confidence in their own oratorical qualifications. For every gap in the conversation finds a Farmer to fill it. The end of the first awful week showed that the sixty-five devoted followers of the Hired Man’s Hero had furnished fifty per cent, of the speakers while a score of others had scented the battle at close quarters and were displaying symptoms of a great desire to get in closer and garner a mouthful for themselves.
But, to get back once more to those leaders wlio must ever receive first consideration, it has already been stated that Hon. Arthur worked out his hobbles on. Also he followed a system all his own. He pleaded with the Farmers, levelled his serious charges at Sir Lomer Gouin and occasionally threw a handful of ridicule to the little Premier as he passed him by. He described the Grand Seigneiur from Quebec as “the master who sits to the left of the Prime Minister” and succeeded in conveying the general impression that William I was King by the grace of Gouin. Also Hon. Arthur sought to raise trouble by insisting that the House was entitled to the terms of the coalition with the Progressives which Mr. King’s emissary carried West in the early days of last December. The Premier in his child-like innocence rose to the bait. He raised the lowering
brows of Sir Lomer by a calm statement • that such Progressive leaders as had been approached with a view to joining the cabinet had been invited to come in as Liberals and not as Progressives.
For a moment the House held its breath. Would diplomatic relations between the Progressives and Liberals be broken by the Premier’s charge? It could mean nothing but that Crerar and Co. had considered deserting their followers to take office under the King banner.
One Tory Trap Avoided
BUT Mr. Crerar showed remarkable forbearance.. He is evidently in Parliament not to maintain his own dignity but to get what he can for the West. For when his turn came next day he quietly remarked that if he had been asked to enter the Cabinet as a Liberal he “certainly did not so understand it.” Thus the first Tory trap was avoided, not by the adroit Mr. King, who stepped right into it, but by the honest Farmer who did not intend to let a politician and his quibbling come between him and his objective.
As to Mr. King’s first speech as leader of the House it filled an hour to the brim with words. It was about onethird the usual length. And as a high-class Government leader should be able to say nothing and say it fairly well Mr. King is fitted by nature for the job.
Hon. T. A. Crerar as usual got down to hard facts and his few fervid sentences lacked the spectacular features of the other two orations. But he helped to remind the House that politics are no longer a sport, that a budding nation that is shouldering a two-and-a-half-billion-dollar debt has something to think about and that the people had sent them along to do its thinking.
And when you’re considering leaders you dare not for a moment overlook the uncrowned King of Quebec, the Warwick of the present Parliament. There were Liberals who didn’t want Sir Lomer to break into the debate. They had memories of what a broken silence had done to James Calder. They may also have feared that the little dark man who bosses corporation directors as if they were office boys might in his own autocratic way say a few things that would carry consternation into the hosts of agriculture. But all efforts to bring the debate to a premature close grossly failed and all efforts to keep Sir Lomer off his feet were equally futile.
Needless to say the House and Press Gallery were there to hear him. To say that he surprised and delighted his followers from Quebec is putting it mildly. Even the Farmers would have liked to believe him as he raised a reverent face to the rafters and softly murmured, “As for myself I am Simply a man of good-will. I come to the House but for one purpose—to serve my country.” This had come on the heels of an almost dramatic scene in which he refuted the base Meighen slander that he was master of the administration. With out-stretched hands, Sir Lomer apostrophised the smiling little Premier the while he chanted, “We have but one master and one only, the H onorable gentleman who leads this House.”
Did He Protest Too Much
TT WAS a neat speech that Sir Lomer packed into twenty minutes. He could only have improved it by keeping his mouth shut. But the words on many a tongue at the finish were “the lady doth protest too much.” In the
sordid political atmosphere of the capital one comes to feel there is no true patriotism that has not a tinge of selfishness.That one so pure and undefiled as Sir Lomer should have drifted-in from the rippling rills and grassy fields of Montreal was a little more than the Ottawa trained could swallow at one gulp. Thus it is that the truly good are always held under suspicion by those who sometimes conless to a trace of the sordid in their make-up.
As a test of Sir Lomer’s ability that little speech was all that could be asked. The House had looked on the somewhat harsh, almost forbidding, countenance of the little capitalist and wondered if he could possibly have a mind above dollars. It found in him a charm that almost brought memories of Laurier and a dignity that must come from a satisfying self-analysis. That the Conservatives and even some of the Farmers still doubt his sincerity is only natural. That he strengthened his hold on his heroworshipping French followers is beyond peradventure. And so long as Sir Lomer Gouin holds Quebec in the hollow of his hand the present Parliament must do his bidding or do without its indemnities.
But a word about this debate that figures so large in the press reports. What part does it play in our economic system? It gives a long list of orators and ear-orators a chance to embalm their campaign speeches in Hansard. It produces recrimination, insinuation and innuendo that add acrimony to discussions that should be purely deliberative and it wastes the time and money of a young nation that should be hustling to pay its debts and find work for its unemployed. If it could be piled on top of the tinfoil and talcum, the village carnival costumes and mummeries that help to make the opening ceremonies ridiculous, and a match touched to the pile, Canada would have taken a long stride away from foolishness and toward business, away from snobbery and toward that democracy for which a great war has been fought and alleged to have been won.
Railway Question Looms Large
BUT if the first awful week of oratory indicates anything it is that the railway question is the one big thing this Parliament has to deal with.
You can feel railways in the air. You can hear rumors of a railway lobby but you can’t find them.
For the day of the cigar-smoking, wine-drinking lobbyist is gone. Great corporations now select their lobbyists early and send them to parliament as M. P.’s. They spread their propaganda from the floor of the House. They mingle with their fellow members in the smoking room and at dinners and in casual conversation create an impression that sinks in day by day and in the end brings votes when votes are needed.
Meighen and Crerar, as far apart as the poles on most things, are demanding the consolidation of the Grand Trunk with the National Railways and the operation of the whole for the profit of the people. King and Gouin are loud in their declarations that public ownership of railways is to have a fair trial accompanied by an investigation that will show what is wrong with them. But though the Speech from the Throne speaks of “co-ordination” the word “consolidation” has yet to pass Liberal lips. And even among the Progressive allies of the Liberal Government there is a deep-rooted suspicion that the road will be allowed to drag along till the public, disgusted by ever-growing deficits, is ready to allow the captains of finance to step in and make such disposition of them as they will.
But the Western Progressives will push for immediate consolidation with all their might. And their position in the House is so strong that already Sir Lomer is said to be considering an appeal to the country with the railways as the issue. Anyway, some one has started Quebec feeling in that direction. French members have been told that they can get acclamations in their constituencies now that
the Meighen forces are broken, discouraged and without either campaign funds or means of raising them. Also the French pride is being appealed to. Why, they are being asked, should you be dependent' on the Farmers for your majority? With the Government in your hands and the enemy helpless before you now is the time to go out and sweep the country.
So, Sir Lomer has his solid Quebec trained to the minute and in a position to strike. Also he has a solid Nova Scotia at his beck and call. For headed by “Ned” Macdonald and Hance Logan, a couple of the Knights of old, Nova Scotia has raised her battle cry. It is, “A separate management for the Intercolonial with the old rates and customs.”
And as anything that will separate the National railways and let each go to the devil after its own peculiar fashion fits Sir Lomer’s alleged book he can give Nova Scotia what she asks and get in return what he wants.
No Love For Toronto ESSRS. Macdonald and Logan, who are the Nova
each is casting an anxious eye—both broke into the debate and both are orators of the type that rejoices the Blue-nose heart. Handsome Hance Logan stands several inches over six feet in his slippers. He wears a morning coat to advantage and decorates his eye-glasses with a black ribbon that makes him look every inch a statesman. Nor did his oratory belie his appearance. Starting back along about
the creation he reached for the rafters and pulled himself up through the centuries. Arriving somewhere around the present day and date he voiced Nova Scotia’s railway woes and pleaded for a return to the conditions of old. That those conditions consisted of a railway that was a plaything for politicians was not mentioned in the prayer. But the fact remains that the “solid seventeen” from down by the sea are behind Mr. Logan’s every word. They were not elected so much as a tribute to young Mr. King as a protest against a government that allowed the Intercolonial to be managed from Toronto. Their native pride is hurt and then they never did love Toronto, nohow.
E. M. Macdonald, known to friend and foe alike as “Ned,” was a Nova Scotian stalwart before 1917. He dropped out when the conscription election came on and drifted back on the crest of the tidal wave of December last. “Ned” had the flow of language peculiar to the climate that he breathed at birth and as he is a “big business” lawyer he arrays it nicely. He started in on ancient history and stayed there so long that there were whispers of “Ned has forgotten that he was away for a parliament.” But the blows he handed out were right from the shoulder and whether his influence be for good or bad it is always admitted that he adds to the joy of living.
Coming back to that part of the House which does its duty as audience it is also furnishing abundant evidence that it can do something more than listen. The odd dozen or so of Farmers who have broken into the debate have handled themselves fairly well. Forke of Brandon undoubtedly made the best impression. He has a pleasing manner, a soft-Scottish accent that endears him to sons and grandsons of “au! Sçotia”
and a lot of hard common sense to leaven his remarks. Speakman, of Red Deer, is also a young man of promise. As the successor to “Red Michael” he came in for special attention and it was generally admitted that he had all the latter’s assurance even if he lacked considerable of his oratorical ability.
Then there was Neil of Comox-Albemi a “truly rooral” independent with a sense of humor and a platform all his own. Words came from him like water from a spout and the House laughed with, not at, him.
^ But it is as a whole that the Farmers have created
a favorable impression. They are young—as politicians—and take an enthusiastic interest in the game. Then they have no past. They are not worrying about who is responsible for the railway problems. They are out to discover a solution. They don’t care which party tied up to the Nationals in 1911. They want to know how to bring prosperity to the prairies to-day. No one doubts their sincerity. For their object is admittedly selfish—to add to the value of the Prairie farm and its products. Whether they, incidentally, would add to the wealth of Canada is beside the question. They want something and that something is not office—not yet. They promise to draw House discussions away from old feuds and down to the business in hand. And if they do nothing more they will have accomplished much.
And through it all the young Premier continues to wear his look of stolid satisfaction. He sheds his troubles as a duck does water. The railway question: he disposed of that with a simple wave of his hand and a brief “The Minister of Railways will handle that.” A Presbyterian by persuasion he is a firm believer in the doctrine of fore-ordination. He believes that he was destined to become Premier. And apparently has an abiding faith that the same providence that arranged his coming will look after him now that he has arrived.
And well it is for him that he knows not troubles when they see him. For such things ever stack up along a Premier’s pathway. He rewarded Fred Pardee with a senatorship. This broke the standing rule that only anti-conscriptionists should participate in the fruits of victory. And the howl that came from Quebec was fierce and only partially subdued. It is doubtful if he even heard it.
And now Justice Longley of Nova Scotia is dead. That makes a vacancy on the bench of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia into which D. D. MacKenzie was to step and thus escape from the perils of political life. Also Ned Macdonald was to come in to give Nova Scotia her quota in the cabinet. But just at present nobody, with the possible exception of “Ned” and maybe “D. D.,” is hankering for a change. The Government needs the Progressive help and as it stands .is just getting by with its allies. The latter look on “Ned” with that suspicion they attach to the apostles of Big Business.
Anyway, what happened in Manitoba the other day will make the minor statesman a bit careful. There the Tories, Farmers, etc., got together for one mad moment and defeated the Norris Government. Next day they realized that they had voted away their sesssional indemnities and they got together and asked Premier Norris to go on with his job and forget the one hasty moment of indiscretion. But it so happened that Mr. Norris was sick and tired of the whole job so his resignation went in just the same. AÍ of which will make the Federal M. P’s. go a bit slow. Manitoba has taught them that some Premiers can t take a joke. And put it to yourself—if you had survived the vigors of a political campaign and got nicely settled in a seat in Parliament at $4.000 per.; if you could ride free on the railways, eat at reduced rates at the Parliamentary restaurant and have your wife mingle with the great, and the near great, the fashionable, and the near fashionable, would vou, just for a moment’s principle, vote yourself back
on the "farm with only the hired man for company and the village fair for dissipation? Would you, now?