Let Economy Be Unconfined!

J. K. MUNRO March 1 1924

Let Economy Be Unconfined!

J. K. MUNRO March 1 1924

Let Economy Be Unconfined!


BY THE time these few kind words are before you the cannon will have boomed, the band will have played, the Windsor uniforms will have had their

annual airing, the statesmen of a nation will have assembled and Parliament will be away to a “flying start.” And as you sit in the Press Gallery “raised on high above the storm’s career” you’ll recall the various predictions that this is going to be a lively session.

Is it? Well, once upon a time when Hon. James Murdock had suffered one of those snubs some leaders think necessary to keep an eloquent young statesman from becoming too much of a nuisance somebody remarked, “I’ll bet Jim is doing some hard thinking to-night.” Then a cynical one inquired casually, “What with?” So as your eye sweeps the House in search of the beginnings of the promised “liveliness” you involuntarily ask yourself “What with?” For it was long ago admitted that the present parliament was a gathering of persons rather than personages and nothing that has been added to it or subtracted from it of recent months has served to add to its attractiveness either as a spectacle or as an entertainment.

As you observe the Liberals craning their necks to get a glimpse of their plump Premier they haven’t seen since prorogation your eye naturally turns to the seats in which a Fielding and a Gouin were wont to sit. And with a slight sinking of the heart you realize that two of the principals of the Cabinet cast are gone—the two who gave an occasional sparkle to the deadly dullness of the last session embalmed in Hansard. And as you do, you feel it in your bones that if that last session was bad, this one cannot fail to be worse.

Nor does a scrutiny of the “treasury benches” tend to

lighten the gathering gloom. That there are good men in that galaxy of talents no one would care to deny. But that there are brilliant ones no one would care to affirm. And good men are proverbially dull.

Take a look at that Cabinet yourself and see what you have to hope for. Start with the Premier, the best little Friday afternoon orator this young nation has ever known. Can you expect anything from him in the way of clever thrust or bright repartee such as Fielding used to furnish? You can’t.

A man who takes months to make up his mind on anything is hardly nimble enough to furnish the kind of conversation that makes good “copy.” Then there’s Hon. “Ned” Macdonald. In his old

Opposition days “Ned” was a fighter from the drop of the hat. Now that he’s Minister of Defence for a nation that depends largely on the Boy Scouts for an army and a fleet of stoneboats for a navy, “Ned” has conformed to the spirit of his department. He doesn’t exactly turn the other cheek, but—well, that other cheek is there if it is really needed.

Some Voices Are Hushed

TAKE Hon. Charlie Murphy, too.

Remember how he used to fill the air with Irish invective and bite little chunks out of the meek and lowly-like Wesley Rowell? Well, Charlie looks and acts like a man who is suffering from ingrown grouch. They do say that he does all his fighting in Cabinet council, and there

are those who declare that what he thinks of his colleagues wouldn’t stand publication. Anyway his voice is hushed. He doesn’t talk. It may be that he has sprouted a convic-

He doesn’t talk. It tion that he is the only one in the charmed circle who can think.

Hon. Ernest Lapointe, the new Minister of Justice, is one ray of hope. Before Sir Lomer Gouin crowded his way into the cabinet and Hon.

Ernest out of the Justice portfolio the latter was regarded as the “white hope” of Quebec. His speeches scintillated in spots and he would tilt with Hon. A.

Meighen in polished English

flavored with a French accent in a way that brought cheers from the serried ranks of Quebec. Following the accession of Sir Lomer to the regency it is feared that Hon. Ernest crawled back and sulked a bit. Now he is back where he has longed to be and he’ll find room for a full display of his talents.

Hon. James Robb, acting Minister of Finance, won’t electrify the House with his eloquence. His style of oratory is better fitted to the director’s room than the House of Commons. But he’ll be courteous and businesslike, and visiting deputations of business men will find that he is able to talk to them in their own language. Hon. Jim is only acting-

minister at present but chances are that he’ll be something more as soon as the doctors can convince the Little Grey Man that it is time for him to quit. Also Canada has had a lot of worse finance ministers than Jim Robb. There’s nothing exciting or excited about him. The promised liveliness will never emanate from that quarter.

Keeping on down the line, has it occurred to you how hard it is to remember the names of the present Cabinet? They don’t seem to stick out somehow.

Most of them have found their jobs so big that they get lost in the corners of them and are seldom visible to the naked eye. You feel like bunching them as an ordinary lot but common politeness and the titles they wear perhaps entitle them to individual mention. There’s Hon. W. N. Motherwell, “Grand” Motherwell some one has dubbed him, who brings in hordes of little bills that will eventually put as many restrictions on agriculture as the uplifters have put on our morals. There’s Hon. Charlie Stewart, whom everybody would love if he didn’t try to make speeches. There’s Hon. Dr. Beland, the soul of courtesy and carrying a full portion of the milk of human kindness. He doesn’t bore the House, but, as a poet should, he sings it to sleep. There’s Hon. Jacques Bureau, who comes in to laugh his estimates through and then goes out to fight with the public he does business with. There’s Hon. A. B. Copp, patiently waiting for a place on the N. B. bench and doing most of his waiting in silence.

There’s Hon. Tom Low; of course, Hon. Tom really is a politician and with his help Hon. Arthur Meighen has splendid prospects of sweeping Ontario at the next general election. There’s Hon. Dr. King, of B. C., Minister of Public Works; you always somehow feel sorry for him. But his friends, and every minister has friends, continue

to argue that he is a nice fellow.

Also and besides there is Hon. George P. Graham, entertainer extraordinary to his Majesty the King. George really does give excellent dinners. And his after-dinner speeches are generally gems. But he has just returned from the League of Nations. He has imbibed statesmanship at its source. At a dinner given in his honor after his return he hardly cracked a joke. He took a

war-scarred world to pieces and declared his faith in the League to patch it up again. He gave grounds for a dread suspicion that mirth and cheerfulness had beenseared from his system. He created a horrid fear that politics had lost one of its all-too-few jokers and added yet anotheer to its long, long list of statesmen. Which Heaven forbid!

Then there are the latest arrivals in the sacred circle, Hons. MacMurray and Cardin. It is said of the former that when he heard that Messrs. Crerar and Dunning had demanded, as part of the price of western support in the recent pourparlers, the head of a certain Winnipeg lawyer on a platter, that he waxed exceeding wrath. He even promised to contribute his mite to the promised liveliness of the session. But he has had time to think since then. He likes his job. The robes of office are becoming to his person. The incense that is ever wafted towards the minister is sweet in his nostrils. He’ll be good. But that’s about all.

As for Hon. Pierre Joseph Arthur Cardin of Richelieu, Minister of Marine and Fisheries, let me whisper in confidence that when his appointment was announced I couldn’t remember ever having seen the gentleman Consequently you’ll admit he didn’t exactly stick out from among his fellows. But those who know M. Cardin declare that he doesn’t carry all his goods in his front window. They add that he doesn’t believe in wasting his eloquence on a gathering of statesmen who always know in advance how they’re going to vote. But take him on the hustings where causes are won and lost, where governments rise and fall—there Cardin is a whirlwind. As a campaigner it is said there is not his equal in all Quebec. As the King Government has all the votes it needs in the House but can possibly do with a few more in the country, it may seem that the selection of the silent member from Richelieu is not among the worst the premier has made.

That selection may mean other things, too. It may mean that the Government at the next election will depend on rural Quebec rather than in Montreal for the bulk of its French support. Of course it has not yet, as

some people will tell you, broken entirely with Montreal. Senator Dandurand is still a power in the Cabinet, even if he has no portfolio. And the Senator is no stranger to St. James St. Then, too, Hon. James Robb is too popular with the Montreal Gazette to be considered an outsider. He can be counted on to be fairly well informed as to what Montreal would like and why.

Still it must be admitted that the powers that dwell in the Metropolis that is in Canada but not of it—you never knew a Montreal man to admit that he’s a Canadian; he’s a Montrealer first, last and all the time—are not as friendly to the King Government as they were when they elected it and put Sir Lomer Gouin in charge of it. In fact some of those powers are said to have switched their allegiance and now to be loyal supporters of Hon. Arthur Meighen. And if there’s any more fussing with the Farmers the breach will widen materially.

If it should, the young premier will have in his service Lapointe and Cardin, the two best campaigners in the Ancient Province, to swing the habitant to his standard. Meanwhile Hons. Dandurand and Robb, sometimes assisted by Hon. Geo. P. Graham, Hon. Charles Murphy and Hon. Thos. Low, will whisper in his ear what Montreal thinks he must do to be saved.

A Progressive Alliance?

NOR is there any immediate danger of a hard and fast alliance with the Western Progressives. The conference in which Crerar and Dunningmet the premier did not do anything to cement the ties that bind the two factions in closer union. They parted none too well pleased with each other and each side endeavored to show that the other made the early advances. And Mr. King’s announcement that he had not asked either westerner to enter his Government sent the Hon. Tom and Charlie back their western haunts with none too grateful feelings towards the man who brought them east.

However, this Parliament has still three years to live. It does not expire by effluxion of time till January 15,

1927. A lot of political water can flow under the bridge before that time —and we shall see what we shall see.

Meanwhile you’ll notice a dying out of the rumors that a general election is just below the horizon.

When Halifax went wrong Kent followed

suit, Sir Lomer resigned and Mr. Fielding was stricken, the political world was dazed by what seemed a series of body blows to the Government. But the gloom is gradually being dispelled. The wise ones can see that there are a lot of M.P.’s whoTove $4,000 p^r more than they do a general election. Moreover, it is*admitted that almost any kind of a crew will do for a ship that does nothing but drift. And isn’t that just what the ship of state has been doing ever since January, 1922?

Having thus looked in vain for signs of a certain liveliness in the cabinet and decided that elections are no concern of the immediate future, let us take a fleeting glance at the other side of the House before passing on to the sessional bill of fare. First, of course, comes Hon. Arthur Meighen. Of him it can be said that he had not been idle preceding the session. Down in Quebec they may be saying of Hon. W. L. Me.King: “We voted for him once without seeing him. Are you going to ask us to do it again?” Hon. Arthur since prorogation has been in all parts of the Dominion. But the question as to whether he has done the Conservative cause good or ill by his flittings is still unanswered. It is also a question, and one of considerable concern to a certain young premier, whether his disposition has been sweetened by the numerous banquets he has attended. There’s that incident that in a burst of frankness he described to an Ottawa assemblage: Hon. Dr. Tolmie, the general organizer of the Conservative party, dropped into his office with the remark: “The trouble is, Mr. Meighen, that the country thinks you are the vice-president of the Undertakers’ Association.”

Mr. Meighen found this funny. So did the meeting. But it is doubtful if they both laughed for the same reason. Anyway there is every reason to believe that Hon.

Arthur intends to give Mr. King a busy session. And that he’ll occasionally grab a defenceless young premier by the nape of the neck and scatter his mangled remains over the furniture goes without saying. But it probably also means that Mr. Meighen will be so busy that no one else on the Opposition side will get a chance to get a word in edgeways. And after you’ve heard one man seventyseven times in one day—wasn’t that Mr.

Meighen’s record last session?—it begins to get just a trifle monotonous.

So if Hon. Arthur is going to get right down to work as intimated, why bother about his followers? To be sure Hon.

Harry Stevens will contribute one or two well-thougnt-out speeches. But Hon.

Harry has discovered that the road to greatness is not paved with conversation and he’ll govern himself accordingly.

Sir Henry Drayton will continue the smile that has marked him as its own and to make speeches that are equally germane. Hon. Hugh Guthrie will be as ponderously eloquent as always and have as much effect on the House as the hoarse boom of the Chaudière. Hon.

John Babbington Macaulay Baxter has taken unto himself a bride and that may help some. Hon. Edmund Bristol will drop around often enough to retain a bowing acquaintance with the clerk, and Hon. Dr. Manion will help his leader to apologize for protection as a party policy.

tion as a party policy.

Now, on second thoughts. I won’t apologize for men-

tioning the aforegoing statesmen. Unless they were brought to your attention occasionally you’d probably, if you thought of them at all, be wondering if they had been numbered among the slain at the last election. They’re still with us but you can hardly look on them as a first aid to liveliness.

The 1924

THEN what of the bill of

fare? Is there in it that which will make even dull people interesting? Well, hardly. Just at présent the air is full of economy cries. MacLean 's started them and the whole country seems to have swung in on the chorus. Also you’ve heard of that thing called “political economy.” They have professors in the universities who can tell you everything about it except its postoffice address. But sadly, I confess, that I have never seen anything even faintly resembling it in Parlia-

it a

ment Hill. Political extravagance is some-

thing we know all about. But political economy! If it ever strayedthrough the portals of Parliament the House would be adjourned while the committee of the whole hanged it to the nearest tree.

Take an example of how our statesmen economize.

You’ll remember that Branch Lines Railway Bill the Senate killed last session. The Liberal press howled

its head off over it and called the poor Senate a block on the wheels of progress and several other things even less complimentary. Now when that bill went through the House, scarce a voice was raised against it. During its discussion every man who came to his feet wanted to tack on a little branch line for his own constituency. Everyone, or nearly everyone, who should have called a halt threw a few more miles of railway on to the load and then got in behind and helped to shove it through. The Senate hadn’t the power to amend it, so they threw it out bodily. And now some of the Liberal press that howled loudest against the Senate then is discovering that it contained a couple of branch lines in Nova Scotia that are economically unsound. They are to be left out of this year’s bill and the country saves four or five dollars. But no thanks to the Commons for that. They bolted it whole and hollered for more. For an M.P. does hate to criticize even an opponent who is getting something for his constituency. He knows how he would like to get something for his own. And perhaps if he helps the other fellow the other fellow will help him to gather in a few little somethings for himself.

That sort.of thing stuck out like a sore thumb when the “pork barrel” estimates were going through in the dying days of last session. Hon. A. Meighen had spent a whole forenoon fighting an iniquitous wharf that had helped elect that genial Irishman “Tim” Healey in North Essex. Hon. Arthur took hold of that appropriation with his teeth and shook it again and again while the hands of the clock told off the hours. And as he shook and shook you could see that certain of his followers -were getting restive. Luncheon came to the rescue. For the frenzied little Opposition Leader was a few minutes late in getting back when the House resumed. And when he did arrive he found that a whole fleet of wharves and breakwaters had gone through in a block. His followers were in on the deal. “Whew!” one of them remarked, “if Meighen had hung on much longer the Government might have got even by knocking out my wharf. Then I’d have been welcomed home, I don’t think!”

So it may be gathered that primarily the trouble is with the people “back home.” They are prone to judge an M.P. by the plums he can gather for his constituency.

So what would you do if you were a humble but honest M.P. and wanted to be re-elected?

Yes, there will be lots of economy talked this session, but mighty little of it practised. And words without deeds don’t help to keep down the taxes.

Probably the two items on the bill of fare that will create the most human interest will be Church Union and the Home Bank. They’re both bound to

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Let Economy Be Unconfined!

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eome up. One will be fought by people who have lost their money, the other by people who don’t care to take a chance on losing their souls. The Frenchmen declare they will stay out of the Church fight. But you have your doubts as to whether they will or not. Every Scotch Presbyterian has a friend or two among the Frenchmen and if the latter value that friendship they’ll have to lend a hand. For the longer a Scotsman has been away from church the more he is opposed to Union. And some of them haven’t been to church in a long time.

Then there’s the Home Bank affair. It is both a financial and political squabble. Already the Conservatives and Liberals are passing the buck as to responsibility, and as nearly every member has con•tituents who were depositors, he knows that it is up to him to get busy. This is no place to decide whether the Government should come to the relief of those depositors. Suffice it to say that there will be a lot of sleepless nights for a lot of people before the question is finally decided. One man never realized how serious that question is till he remarked to a prominent Liberal: “It was the sales tax that knocked Mr. Fielding out.” That Liberal thought for a moment. “Yes,” he finally agreed, “that and the Home Bank.”

Of course the sales tax has to be fixed up too. It has developed so many tangles and snarls that is has both disgruntled and upset the business men of the country. ‘ That sales tax alone would beat the Government if it went to the country right now,” one of them remarked, the other day. And he was a good Liberal, too.

Bills That Are Planned

DUT aside from the aforementioned u there is little out of the ordinary on the order paper. The change of government in England has left little if anything from the Imperial Conference to be satisfied. Of course Mr. Motherwell, will offer little bills to improve the methods of hens in laying eggs, etc., and it will be strange if the Immigration Department has not new schemes for making immigrants stop

off in Canada for a few minutes on their way to the LT.S. And of course the Commons at the behest of the moral reformers will tack a few amendments on to the criminal code which the Senate will equally, of course, lop off. Also the hesitation in calling the House will not cut into the months and months of time that is wasted in waiting for the Government to get its legislation ready. The middle of July is given as the first guess as to the time of prorogation.

But you never can tell. It largely depends on how soon the Ottawa heat gets in its deadly work.

But, just suppose the unexpected should happen and we should blunder into a general election, what do you think would happen? That question put to a prominent politician who was not a Tory brought this reply, “Meighen would win.” And here’s how he figured it :

“Quebec has not turned to Meighen, but it has turned on King. Also the powers that be in Montreal have switched. Meighen would carry every seat on Montreal Island. He would get twenty in Quebec all told. He would get another twenty in the Maritimes, seventy in Ontario and ten west of the Lakes. That would give him 120 seats in a House of 245 and he would attract enough stragglers to enable him to carry on.”

Another of the well-posted variety, a Liberal this time, didn’t see it just that way. “The Maritime Provinces won’t go to either party,” he said. “There is a Maritime Rights Party forming down there and it will sweep all three provinces. Then Quebec, although it is not strong for King, will stay pretty well in line. Ten seats will be the limit of Meighen’s gains. Ontario will go very much as.it did in the provincial elections and the West will stay western whether or not it is Progressive. If you can figure a winner out of that, I can’t.”

Neither can I, at present. Moreover I don’t have to, for the election is still afar off. But incidentally there will be a hard fight over that Redistribution bill before it goes through, even if most of it is staged behind closed doors.