The Ginger Group Jolts Parliament
J. K. MUNRO
WITH the old parties practically agreed on the Redistribution Bill, ministers packing their trunks for Wembley and the heat bearing down on the Capital with unbroken front, the symptoms all indicated (as I began this screed) that the end of the Session was at last in sight. It is one of the unmistakable laws of nature that when it gets too hot to talk, oratory must cease. And when oratory ceases, Parliament must perforce prorogue.
The one obstacle in the path of early July prorogation was the Broncho Progressive Group. They’re ten in number, this undaunted band, but they have more ideas per head than any aggregation ever wished on a suffering legislature. Also, they have more words than ideas. They are wild and woolly independents who have found the mild rule of Robert Forke the heaviest of fetters—men who will bow to no interference and who doubt that even Providence can get along without their personal and perpetual assistance.
They have no leader. They just keep kicking and whether they do it in unison matters not just so long as they kick. They have raked the political horizon for some one they might follow. They have considered everything available from the exalted spiritualism of Hon. Wesley Rowell to the rugged stolidity of Hon. J. W. Dafoe. Nothing fits the job. This matter will probably be finally settled by an oratorical marathon. The man or woman— for Agnes McPhail has smiled upon the new group—who talks loudest and longest may get the job.
Who are they, you ask, in this latest improvement on things political? You’ve probably heard of, if you haven’t heard, some of them before. Garland, of Bow River, has talked most to date and must consequently be mentioned first. He’s from Ireland and is reported to have a talking diploma from Dublin University. “Over home” he might be called an agitator. Here he’s a statesman. Coote, of Macleod, comes next. He’s an authority on finance. Spencer, of Battle River, is his running mate in the financial stakes. Anything these two have not moved in the way of amendment to the Bank Act is of minor importance. Then there’s Good, of Brant. He admits that he is an economist as well as a farmer: that makes him study economy. Gardner, of Medicine Hat, is there too, prepared to advise the country on any and all subjects and occasions. Agnes McPhail too. But of Agnes it must lie said that she does not exercise too frequently either of the alleged feminine privileges of talking and changing her mind. She talks infrequently and to the point and has stuck to her former first platform closer than any other member of the Progressive party. She is one of the few members of any party who has grown in the esteem of her colleagues during this long dreary session now happily drawing to a close.
These are the outstanding members of the “Bronchos.” The others, Campbell, of Mackenzie; Ward, of Dauphin; Kennedy, of Edmonton; and Elliott of Dundas are just, plain ordinary journeyman talkers who can fill in any gaps the others leave in a day’s conversation.
And these gentlemen and lady farmers were the only obstacles between hard working statesmen and the ' er vest fields. W hen they ran down we all went home.
Meanwhile it is worth while to glance backward and 'ry to discover what the session has brought forth. And
you find that there has not been even the usual ounce of action for the pound of talk. In the matter of men none has risen to fame and few have done much more than was expected of them.
Hon. W. L. Mack. King has muddled through and emerged politically, if not personally, stronger than he was at the start. There may be a special providence that takes care of boy premiers. If there is, he has been working overtime looking after Willie King. Not only did he blunder into a budget that endeared him to the West but he was forced into a position that forced him to vote with the losers in the Church Union fight. Now the latter may not appear significant to people who don’t know the Scotch Presbyterian. Those who do realize that hell hath no terrors like a dyed-in-the-wool
member of the Auld Kirk forcibly divorced from the doctrine of predestination and his church property.
And right here may be as good a place as any to tell the true story of how near Church Union came to disaster just on the eve of complete victory. You’ll remember that the Stork amendment referring the matter to the Supreme court before further action was taken was ruled out of order on the night Union engulfed the devoted Presbyterians. Well, the real father of that amendment was the Premier himself. The news that it was coming, with the premier behind it, stampeded the Unionists. That eminent man of letters, Hon. W. R. Motherwell, raised his hands to heaven and declared “all is lost.” The spiritual committee met in hurried session and decided that it was better to withdraw the bill than to allow it to go t hrough with that amendment tacked on. They even drafted a letter to the Premier to that effect. They came to their political adviser, Alex Smith, with the letter.
“We’re going to withdraw the bill,” they announced.
“You are not,” quickly replied the political philosopher. He had seen
people stampeded before and was not to be fooled again.
“Yes, we are,” they came back. “Here’s the letter doing it.”
Mr. Smith took the letter, glanced over it and then, tearing it up, threw it in the waste basket.
“You engaged me to look after the fortunes of this bill,” he said, “and I am going to do it.”
That night the debate came on in the House. The Stork amendment was ruled out of order, as twenty-four hours’ notice had not been given. The premier’s speech was broken and disjointed as a consequence. Hon. Arthur Meighen surprised most people by coming through with a great defence of Union. The vote was taken and the majority was so large that the “antis” haven’t recovered yet.
Yes, it was a great speech Mr. Meighen made. Competent critics agree that it was one of the greatest of his oratorical career. Mr. King’s was a comparatively poor effort. But the two taken together just help to show the luck in which some people travel. The premier, owing tO' his smothered amendment, and with his half-hearted speech, was forced to vote against Union and with the losers. And it is a first principle of politics that while winners never remember, losers never forget. Consequently there are close observers who figure that Mr. Meighen’s brilliant effort made him a hundred thousand enemies and not a single friend. The Presbyterians are so angry at him that they have almost forgotten Premier King’s backing and filling before circumstances finally put him in a fairly good political position on the fiercest issue that has invaded politics in half a century.
First String Ministers
OF THE minor stars in the political firmament there is not much to report. Hon. Ernest Lapointe has
fitted into his new dignity as Minister of Justice rather well. Once or twice he has lapsed into practical politics to show only that in that school Hon. Jacques Bureau has still much to teach him. Hon. Geo. P. Graham has weathered the season well. He’s still a great entertainer even if he does show signs of the languor that frequently attacks prosperous men. Hon “Ned” MacDonald has recovered some of his old fighting spirit. He may have shown too much of it as chairman of the Redistribution Committee. Anyway, it looked for a time as if that body would still be scrapping when the snow started to fly. Hon. Jacques Bureau looks younger than ever and is still as chirpy as a schoolboy. Hon. James Robb has carried the double burden of finance and immigration so accept-
ably that nobody growled when he made an early exit in the general direction of London.
But of the back row or second string ministers not much can be said. You look along the line: Cardin, Dr. King, Tom Low, James Murdock, Charlie Stewart, "‘Poppa” Motherwell, McMurray, Copp and John Sinclair and find little indeed to applaud. Hon. Charlie Stewart is perhaps the redeeming feature. He is one of the workhorses of the cabinet. And a man who combines indefatigable industry with a likeable personality can find a place in any cabinet. Hon. James Murdock can at least make himself heard in the House and he carried himself through his harrowing Home Bank experience with a buoyancy that reminded one of a rubber ball. But that about lets him out. Cardin and King showed an ignorance of their estimates that proved that Cabinet ministers do not have to pass a civil service examination. Also they appeared afraid to speak above a whisper while said estimates were dragging their weary length through committee. Of Low it must be said that his health is bad. It is hoped that the trip to Wembley on which he has embarked will strengthen both his voice and his knowledge of his department.
Hon. W. R. Motherwell has not talked so much this session. But don’t blame him. He fell foul of the Tories when he fired a prominent civil servant and the raking over he got from those Tories would have discouraged even a chronic talker. Anyway, he tried his ’prentice hand on letter writing, taking Church Union for his subject. And the growl that came back as an answer must have assured him that he talked fully better than he wrote.
Hon. W. N. McMurray is a man of much heart. The long list of men he has let out of jail is abundant proof of that. And you can hardly expect to find both heart and genius in a second-string minister. As for Hon. John Sinclair it is generally agreed that his presence in Ottawa makes more room for the rest of the population on the tight little Island of Prince Edward. No, that back row is not brilliant. At least once a day it brings a query from somewhere: “How do they keep Billy Euler and Hal McGivern out of that Cabinet?” And it must be admitted that the pair so frequently mentioned are very promising cabinet material.
Euler is one of the clearest thinkers in the House and can express himself with a conciseness that others might envy. Of course he’s a protectionist and a public ownership man.
But it takes all kinds to make cabinets.
As for Hal McGivern, as chairman of the Private Bills Committee he refereed the Church Union fight and did it so well that he was congratulated by both sides. Then, when Ill-health forced Hon. Tom Low off the Redistribution Committee, Hal took his place and ■did his part to clear up what looked like a hopeless tangle. He’s a sportsman, too, and a little more of the sporting spirit would help even the King Cabinet.
Concerning the Opposition
ACROSS the floor there is little or no im• provement. Hon. Arthur Meighen is just about the same, thank you. He’s still the greatest of critics and worst of politicians. As a leader he leads himself and the rest straggle along behind any way they like. If he ever comes back to power, don’t blame him. It will be because the people have grown so tired of the King Government that they •decided to put it out no matter who or what comes in in
its place. As for Sir Henry Drayton, if talk makes the man, he is in a class by himself. Those who can count claim that he rose in his place no less than 161 times in one day. Of course there are misguided people who prefer the man who says much in a few words to him who says nothing in many.
With such Sir Henry is not popular.
The rest of the Tory leaders have worked fitfully.
Men of whom something might be expected, such as Hon. Dr. Tolmie, Hon.
Dr. Manion and Hon. Harry Stevens seem inclined to leave it to Meighen and Drayton. On the whole the Tory Opposition is not promising. It is the real strength of the King Government.
Nor have the Progressives grown much in the
public estimation during the weary months gone by. They’ve never looked the same since Crerar left. The tall grain grower did wander in for a few days this session but
he took rather a passive interest in the proceedings. He appeared to have made up his mind that he had to quit either business or politics and to be trying to make a choice. And the one best guess now is that T.A. Crerar will never fit himself into the King Cabinet. In fact, it would not be surprising if he resigned his seat in Parliament. Some day he may come back—but don’t expect him in the too near future.
As for Robert Forke, he holds his Progressives with too loose a rein and agrees too readily with the Government to command the respect of all his following. It must be remembered, of course, that he is following the course mapped out by Crerar when the latter declined the leadership Opposition and its little salary of $10,000 per. That course called for sitting on the side and getting for the West the wages of support given the Government. Nor can it be charged that the wages collected are below the union scale. To date they’ve got reductions in the tariff to an accompaniment of the “death knell of protection.” They’ve got the whole Crow’s Nestagree-
ment in freight rates. And it’s a cold raw day when the Government does not hand them the price of an elevator or a branch line railway or two. Oh, yes, you have to admit that the Progressives have got pretty much all that is coming to them, even if you don’t applaud them as orators and statesmen.
Branch Lines Slaughter
S PEAKING of branch line railways, the good old Senate lived up to its threats and carved an occasional mile and an incidental million off Sir Henry Thornton’s branch line programme. As a matter of fact it eliminated eight of his twenty-seven branch lines and reduced his spending power by twelve millions. It cut out some lines that he wanted cut outsuch as the Guysboro—and may also have killed an occasional one that he wanted. But he can only blame himself. If he had been perfectly frank and trimmed the list himself, he’d have got what he really wanted. So long as Sir Henry is willing to let the politicians play their game with him he must expect to get an occasional bat from the other side. Sir Henry probably knows this, for it is readily admitted that as well as being a big railway man, he is one of our best little politicians.
In the matter of new legislation the session has not developed much that is startling. But it has produced a number of new jobs for the faithful. After the Home Bank disaster government bank inspection became inevitable. It was provided for and no matter what the results may be, the salary of $25,000 per will do good to some one.
Then, declining revenue coupled with little or no curtailment in expenditures, make new methods of raising the needful imperative. So Hon. Jacques Bureau has been handed the tax bills and given an advisory board to tell him how best and with the least pain, he can extract more money from the suffering people.
Another advisory board on tariffs was another opportunity for three-hard-working men to make a living. But, finally, Jacques Bureau dropped the idea. It might have furnished the farmers with expert evidence that the country needs the money and that with constant cuts in customs duty there is bound to be a scarcity.. They might indeed have put a few punctuation marks in the Progressive movement towards free trade.
Of course Church Union and the Home Bank have’been the outstanding issues of the session. The latter has been' so dawdled along, first raising the hopes of the poor depositors and then dashing them again, that prorogation found it still in the air. To be sure the McKeown Commission produced the promised error of judgment on the part of Sir Thomas White. Also the committee that considered it, came along with a moral but not legal right of the depositors to consideration. But with the stage all set for reimbursement the string broke, the acting Minister of Finance sailed for England and the closest friends of the bereaved depositors are saying: “Not this session but next.” And alas, likewise alack, for the legislation that has to wait for “next session!"
From a purely political angle the Redistribution and the bill to wish the single transferable vote on this suffering country excited the most interest. Redistribution came at last but so tardily as to indicate that there was a disposition on the part of the Government to lay it over till Continued on page 36
The Ginger Group Jolts Parliament
Continued, from page 21
next session. As to the transferrable vote the daily question from the Progressives brought the stereotyped response “still under consideration.” Not only are the Tories opposed to it, but Mr. King’s French following view it with grave suspicion. For long days and nights the Government held it over Tory heads with a tentative offer to saw it off against the Redistribution bill. But the Tories laughed “tell that to your Frenchman.” In caucus assembled they swore to stay in Ottawa till the snow fell or get Redistribution. And finally they got it.
But the very fact that the Government didn’t want redistribution this session should quiet the rumors of a general election this fall. For the new political map gives the West ten new seats and they can hardly fail to rally to the support of the King policy of lower tariffs. On the other hand the Tories had nothing to gain by Redistribution and little to hope for from any other source. It is probably this hopelessness that makes them see in every movement the shadow of an approaching election. They’ll tell you that the Liberals have everything to gain and nothing to lose by going to the country this fall—that the Progressives are in line now but won’t stay there without further concessions that may alienate Quebec. In short they’ll whisper that King must go to the country —that he’s crazy if he doesn’t.
What they forget is that Quebec outside of a few industrial seats doesn’t care a hang for the tariff. Also that in those industrial seats the powers that be in Montreal are preparing to nominate protection Liberals to make sure that Meighen does not get a foothold in their private preserve. They don’t love King. But they fear Meighen and the development of the St. Lawrence waterways that might take place under his rule.
They, that is the Tories, also overlook the fact that in order to have an election a certain young premier must make up his mind. There is nothing to indicate that he
has started on that monumental task. And if he hasn’t, there isn’t time for him to do it before the autumn is upon us.
There may be an election this fall. Nobody would dare to predict definitey what might happen in this leaderless world of politics. But there are no signs of it at present. And when anyone asks you what the Government is going to do answer “nothing.” Nine times out of ten you’ll be right.
Of course the cabinet fairly shrieks for reorganization. Hon. W. S. Fielding is minister of finance in name only. Hon. Charles Murphy, P. M. G. has not been in the House this session. Hon. Tom Low is told by his physicians that he needs complete rest and lots of it. Also that row of second string ministers could be vastly improved.
But Mr. Fielding still hopes to be back in the House. And so long as he feels that way Hon. J. A. Robb will continue to be acting minister of finance. Hon. Charles Murphy wants to get out and he may be replaced by Tim Healey, of Essex, who walked into the public eye over the Belle River breakwater. Tim is a shrewd Irishman who has gathered a sort of watchful popularity. He’d easily be better than some of the present wearers of the cabinet purple. Hon. Tom Low will know more about his future when he finds what a sea voyage has done for his health.
Nor are there any signs that Hon. Charlie Dunning or Hon. T. A. Crerar is about to rush to the Government’s aid. They have undoubtedly got a first payment under the conditions laid down by them when Premier King called them to Ottawa last fall. If either or both of them ever decide to move to Ottawa it will likely be to take places on a reorganized cabinet with which Mr. King will face the country.
And as emphasized before, there are no signs of the Government going to the country before its appointed time.