Girding for the Fray

J. K. MUNRO January 1 1923

Girding for the Fray

J. K. MUNRO January 1 1923

Girding for the Fray


ANOTHER session of Parliament is lifting its head over the horizon. Yet a week or two and the cannon's roar will cause Rt. Hon. W. L. M. King and Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen to crawl into their Windsor uniforms, the gaily-caparisoned Governor-General will read an “address from the throne.” that will vaguely outine what the Government may think of doing and the mtamed orators will be off on another Marathon.

Did you ever feast your eyes on that heroic spectacle, :ne opening of Parliament? If you haven’t yet, get in on it some time. It’s worth the price of admission—a sort of page from the past as it w-ere—a clipping from the glad dd days when Knights were bold, romance whispered Ks ntrancing tales and the glint of scabbards breathed iatmosphere in which deeds, not words, were the measure of a man’s worth.

But somehow the knightly orators of to-day don’t to fit the picture. The average Canadian statesman wears a uniform as gracefully as a hired man carries a dinner suit. Running the gamut of them from Borden to Ballantyne and on down to the page boys you have to tdmit that Khaki was the only ‘‘badge of servitude” in which Tack Canuck ever showed to advantage. Meighen out for the opening charades looks like a cross be*ween the village undertaker and the leader of the silver - -net band. King resembles a Christmas pudding that has its gold rosettes on wrong side front. Sir Thomas White always reminded you of a school boy wdiom Mama ad dressed for the carnival in the skating rink and who was a bit doubtful whether the other boys wrould laugh or admire. And Bob Rogers—well Bob was a dream—given a white horse he would be chosen to lead the Orange walk n Orangeville, Ontario.

Now all this may be aside from politics and altogether trivial. But it goes to show what boys these statesmen are. Give them half a chance and they’ll rig themselves -ut like a lot of kids on Hallowe’en and strut around like urkey Gobblers in a barn yard. Only difference between 'hem and the Hallowe’en kids is that the latter know ■ - - ’re ridiculous: the former don’t. They think that the extra adornment adds distinction to men the nation delights to honor.

Facing the Music

\ NY WAY Parliament is about to open. Premier King * A has screwed up his courage, called his far-flung -olleagues home and decided to face the music. After all he concluded some time since that meeting Parliament is not quite so bad as going to work. And when you remember xw e suffered last session you admit that war must be as bad as Sherman ever said it was. Already you can picture him slumped down in his seat flanked on one side by the little grey rnar. from Nova Scotia and on the xther by the little dark man from Quebec; while the -'hip-like voice of the Meighen cuts across the floor and clips little chunks off his well-developed bump of selfesteem. What greater punishment could come to a young nero who knows in his heart that Canada is thrice blessed ' having him as her Premier?

It promises to be a long-drawn-out and somewhat dreary session at that. The two chief items on the bill of fare are the revision of the Bank Act and the Redistribution Bill. The former will have to be handled with much care. In fact there are rumors that the Government would like to find an excuse for laying it over for another session. For the Progressives from the Prairies, who play some small part in the Government’s political color scheme, are still worrying over the manner in which the merchants Bank disappeared from the financial map. The Merchants was the West’s pet bank, you know. It did things for the farmers, they’ll'’tell you, that the others never would do and some of those noisy Pros, may pin an inquisitive eye on Sir Lomer Gouin as they ask how it became necessary for the Bank of Montreal to rush to the Merchants’rescue and perform the rescuing after the manner that the whale rescued Jonah. Also those rude Westerners may recall the attempt made last session to divorce the shrewd little Frenchman from either his directorships or his portfolio. All of which recalls a story that is being smilingly whispered in inner circles at the capital.

A Liberal friend from Montreal dropped in to see Sir Lomer the other day.

It might be remarked in passing that Sir Lomer is more accessible than most of his colleagues and is always courteous and affable.

Anyway they talked politics, strange as it may appear.

‘‘The Government is gaining ;n strength,” ventured Sir Lomer with a rising inflection.

“No,” was the emphaticreply from the visitor who is not above taking a rise out of a statesman.

“But why?”

"Because you are always putting on more taxes, and never doing anything to divert the public mind. You know,” continued the visitor, “that when a surgeon performs an operation where an anaesthetic cannot be administered he always tries divert the mind of the patient. Now you are operating on the public and furnishing nothing by way of diversion.”

“Ah!” and Sir Lomer meditated a moment. “And you would suggest?”

“Well you, Sir Lomer, could create the diversion.”

“But how?”

“Well,” drawled the visitor, “supposing you should resign your directorships—the news would flash from Halifax to Vancouver and for six months the public would be too busy discussing it to care what else happened.”

For a moment the little Czar was thrown out of his stride. “If I am a source of weakness to the Liberal Party I can retire—” he started. His visitor cut him short to reassure him on that point.

But Sir Lomer never got to the extreme where he even hinted that he might resign those directorships. All of which may indicate that he is a financier first and a statesman afterwards. Also it gives added interest to Sir Lomer’s attitude towards the Bank Act. Will he approach it as a great Tribune of the people or as a tried and trusted di.lector of the Bank of Montreal? And will Andrew McMaster, the Calvinist from Brome, arise and ask with pointed forefinger and voice trembling with earnestness: “Can a man serve two masters?”

That promises to furnish one of the spectacular

features of a weary session. But parliaments, more notoriously than even the politicians of which they are built, seldom if ever keep their promises. Let a session loom up like a succession of pitched battles and the Gallery inevitably goes to sleep waiting for the first blow to be struck. So the annual argument, for the very reason that it looks from here like the dullest of a dreary lot, may sprout excitement in unexpected spots.

But don’t run away with the idea that any such excitement will ever get so far out of hand as to bring on an election. Lanark by-election killed the last chance of that. For the Liberals put a lot of effort into that fight only to emerge with their tail feathers plucked. They argued they had a good fighting chance and Hon. Tom Low risked a ready-made political reputation on the result. To be sure the late Hon. J. A. Stewart carried the county by 2,600 majority, in December. But Mr. Stewart’s was a name to conjure with both in the towns and wilds of Lanark. And in the provincial elections two Progressive members had been elected to the legislature. Moreover Dr. Preston, who had the Tory nomination, was one of the slain in the provincial fight.

Yes, Lanark looked like a good shot for a young and ambitious Government to prove that it was growing in

the affections of the country. So it unfurled its banner and hurled its forces into the fray. Its candidate. Findlay, was a staid business man with his name on every cookstove in the country and around him gathered the pride and chivalry of the Government at Ottawa. Hon. Charlie Stewart, who was born there or

thereabouts, lead in a speech|that sounded like “ ’Tis a handful earth from the land of'my birth.”

Hon. W. R. Motherwell followed close behind with heart to heart talks to the farmers of whom he is one of which. Hon. MacKenzie King led the main attack and told in the market places how he had kept Canada out of another war. Senator Archie McCoig, the greatest “agritooral” politician in captivity, roamed the concessions and side roads and whispered to the husbandmen how the sun would shine brightly and the rains fall more gently if only Lanark were transferred to the Liberal column.

And through Tory circles went a shiver of apprehension. The mournful Meighen countenance took on a

deeper shade of gloom. Some wise old Tory campaigners are said to have hurried off home to get out from under the impending crash.

The stage was all set for a Liberal triumph and the crepe was all ready to go on the Tory doors. And then the populace of Lanark,. the registered and legitimate voters thereof, walked out on election day and piled up a Conservative majority of 1,476. And the significant thing the Lanark results showed is that the Tory farmers in Ontario are drifting back home. For though the Tory majorities in the towns were cut by the Liberal onslaught, the townships came out with surprisingly strong figures for the Preston column. Lanark went a long way towards proving the claim that the Progressive cause in Ontario is lost and that the provincial election that must come before another year is past will see the old parties again to the front while the great Progressive movement that threatened at one time to sweep the country has dwindled right in the Banner Province to a small if noisy agricultural bloc.

And the power behind that block will not be Hon. E. C. Drury, statesman, but “that common old soul with the bald head,” J. J. Morrison. For just recently you know the U. F. O. held its annual convention in Toronto. In point of numbers it was sadly frayed and run down at the heel. To be sure it made a lot of noise, for debts instead of dividends were reported on its commercial operations and the farmer even as the manufacturer does not ooze patriotism at every pore while considering a vacancy in his pocket. So the talk was largely confined to: “Where did the money go to?” accompanied by an unspoken question: “Have politics made you rich?”

Now at this meeting the big feature was to have been a fight to a finish between Drury and Morrison on the “Broadening out” doctrine of the provincial premier. And it looked for a time as if there might be blood on the moon. Some optimists went so far as to predict that after J. J. and the U. F. O. got through with Drury that distinguished statesman would grab his hat, write his resignation and never stop going till he was safely back on his farm at Crown Hill, Ontario.

But of course nothing like that happened. Wise men were there circulating among the multitude— men whom hasty action would rob of a sessional indemnity, probably the last one that would figure in their young political lives. And eventually everything was arranged quite nicely, thank you. Morrison took an afternoon session and put through a resolution that cast the “Broadening Out” plank far from the Farmers’ platform. Then on the same evening Premier Drury did his bit and preached the “Broadening Out” poli c y to cheers of the assembled husbandmen. Thuswere all parties satisfied. The political Morrison got the votes and the somewhat vain Drury got the cheers. But if Drury wants to play in the Liberal yard he’ll have to find play-mates other than the members of the U. F. O. clubs. So you may gather that with Lanark showing the Farmers drifting back to party lines, the U. F. 0. convention showing a wide split in the Progressive ranks and the U. F. 0. commercial enterprises showing a succession of bad years, a certain third party is rapidly vanishing from the political fray.

Ontario the Pivotal Point

ONTARIO, in other words, is approaching normalcy.

And history shows that a normal Ontario isa Conservative Ontario. And that is the one reason why the Federal general election so freely predicted for, or immediately after, the coming session has been indefinitely postponed. For it has been pointed out before that the Government must look for the gains to give it a majority right in Ontario. It can’t gain in Quebec or Nova Scotia, you know, for both are solidly Liberal right now. It might pick up a seat or two in New Brunswick, for St. John likes to run hand-in-hand with the Government. It can’t hope to break the Progressive ranks on the Prairies, for it gold-bricked the grain growers with its wheat board. And it is doubtful if it can do as well in British Columbia where the Crow’s Nest argument is not popular and anyway the Government has been a bit too polite to the Chinese. So you see the Government, to increase its majority, must make its gains in Ontario. Lanark shows it can’t be done.

Anyway there are other reasons why that promised, or rather predicted, election will be postponed. One is that Parliament as it stands, or sits, suits Sir Lomer Gouin, even if it does harrow the finer feelings of MacKenzie King. Sir Lomer can get by with anything he really wants even if the premier has to shift his policies to suit the changing tides of opinion across the floor. And if Sir Lomer is satisfied, why should Mr. King kick? Didn’t Quebec win the election; didn’t Quebec make Mr. King

Premier? It says it did both and nobody knows better than the Black Prince that but for some check such as the Progressives furnish, Quebec might go to lengths that would tumble the whole house of cards.

Then, without going to the country at all, the Liberal majority has started to sprout. Hasn’t Hammill, the Muskoka Progressive, announced that, hereafter, he throws camouflage to the winds and comes out as an open supporter of the Government? And Hammill won’t be the only one. With the breaking up of the Farmer party in Ontario there are quite a few minor statesmen who realize that if they are going to hold down their jobs after the next election they must start playing for Liberal nominations and they can’t start too soon. There are others, too, who sadly admit that this is their first and last appearance at Ottawa. They enjoy the company, they like the honor and oh, how they do love the indemnities! So they’ll stay as long as they can and the only way to prolong their stay is to vote early and often for the Government whether they wear the proud name of Progressive or shift a point or two on the political compass and borrow a suit of Liberal plumage.

With the Government safe in the saddle, and the signs of political storm keeping it from straying in search of the shadow, let us get back for the coming session. It doesn’t take a prophet to predict that there will be no serious meddling with the tariff. The Government took that jump nicely last session and there is nothing in its subsequent history that would justify a suspicion that it is out gunning for trouble. So the tariff will go as it lays.

Then of course there are the National Railways. Like other varieties of the poor the National Railways are always with us. They always carry political storms in their wake. And this year the storms promise to blow with exceeding vigor. For those National Railways have a new president and a new board of directors and whereas the new president spends much of his spare time announcing that politics are to be kept out of the administration, the Board of Directors are held by some suspicious Tories to be living proof that politics have already entered in.

And truth to tell some of those Directors do bring political memories. There’s our old friend John Sinclair, John of Guysborö, as good a Grit as ever followed the standard of the Flumed Knight, but a Grit nevertheless who knows more about the political end than the operating department of railways. Then Decarie, of Montreal, is a good business man who is soon to come under the suspicion of those Tories who charge that all their political troubles are centred in the Quebec metropolis.

Jim Stewart, of the prairies, was looked on as a redeeming feature till he suddenly decided to become a director of the Bank of Montreal, and again Old Man Suspicion stuck up his nose and sniffed.

Dawson, of Prince Rupert, is another who is credited with knowing more of politics than Eddie Beatty does of railroads while Gould of Toronto is a respectable furrier wrho can be accused of nothing worse than a certain intimacy with Hon. P. C. Larkin, once the only man in Toronto who wore his silk hat always, instead of only on July 12th.

As for Moore, Beland Ruel, the two former have been so long around Ottawa that they carry the perfume of politics in their hair, while the last-named, who h a s been general counsel for the National Railways, probably knows more about said railroads in a minute than all the rest of the board, president included, do in a month. So look out for a roar about that New Board. And if the Liberals plead that the new men are entitled to a chance to make good, listen to the wicked Tories yell!

“How much chance did you give the outfit we put on the job?”

Oh yes there will be a few pleasant afternoons over railway matters. Here’s hoping that Hon. W. C. Kennedy, minister of railways, is well and hearty and in a position to get his share of them. For one man in the Government who appeared to be honestly endeavoring to give the National Railways a chance to make good was Hon. W. C. Kennedy. And the good wishes for his return to health come just as sincerely from the Progressive and Tory benches as from his humble followers from Quebec. The latter, indeed, appeared to look on him occasionally with a certain wondering suspicion.

What of Sir Henry?

BUT if you haven’t yet had a chance to see and hear the new' president you may be wondering what manner of man Sir Henry Thornton is. And truth to tell he is a fine chunk of a man. He stands six-feet-four and is plenty broad enough for his height. It was Sir Thomas White who remarked that Sir Henry resembles George Washington in build and appearance, and it was that Montreal Scotchman, Sir Andrew MacPhail, who contributed: “The new'manager is indefatigable as a speaker;

he is so w'illing to keep the railways out of politics that he is willing to plunge in himself.” Anyw'ay Sir Henry, born in the republic to the south of us, has added to a railway education received in the United States a post-graduate course taken in England. It is only natural that to native loquacity he has added the love of a square meal. His ability to handle the biggest railway problem as well as the longest railway system in the world remains to be proven. But that he can speak at two banquets in a day and hand out an occasional newspaper interviewon the side is already a matter of record. He has a fine open countenance, a complexion that only England could give and that after-dinner smile that naturally goes with: “Gentlemen, we have with us this evening.”

Sir Henry is entitled to his chance at managing railroads and keeping politics out of them. But as Sir Andrew McPhail suggests he is into politics himself right now, in up to the neck. Moreover, he is occupying, between banquets, a suite of offices at Ottawa. So he’ll be right on the spot when “Chubby” Powers and Lucien Cannon try to put over another director to represent the American capital on the C. N. R. Board. If he can head off that pair of Irish-French firebrands, he’ll be off to a good start. Here’s luck to him! He’ll need it.

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Of course there are always lots of minor arguments that help to liven the leaden hours. The moral reformers are sure to be along with amendments to the criminal code that should make for the betterment of the Canadian family. And, as per usual, the Commons will dutifully pass them and the sinful old Senate will just as dutifully throw them into the waste paper basket.

Some of these times I’m going to take a page or so of this great family magazine and tell you a few things about this much maligned senate. It sleeps a lot and gets its money easy. Sometimes, too, it, to quote Sir James Lougheed: “Stands as a bulwark of vested rights against the clamor and caprice of the mob,” and it is so pig-headed and stubborn and set in its ways that you get mad and want to lead it out to the back of the buildings and shove it into the Ottawa River. But at other times it is right on the job ready, aye ready, to kill a lot of fool legislation that would otherwise clutter up the pages of the criminal code and make Canada more like a Sunday school class than an independent, self-respecting nation. And. on the whole, you conclude that it plays its part in a scheme of Government that, with all its faults, is just a little bit better than the best our neighbors can boast.