THE ISSUES AS I SEE THEM
W. L. MACKENZIE KING
A statement from the leader of the Liberal Party, drawn from his initial campaign pronouncement at Ottawa, outlining the position on which he bases his case for election to the Prime Minister s seat.
UNTIL members of the fifteenth Parliament of Canada were dismissed in the summary and arbitrary manner in which they were dismissed under Mr. Meighen’s direction on July the second, it was, I think, generally conceded that, despite all its uncertainties and difficulties, the session was one which gave promise of being particularly fruitful in legislation of the highest order and importance. I shall go so
far as to say—and this without fear of just contradiction —that despite what was lost in other directions, at no session of the Parliament of Canada and in no single parliament has as much been done to relieve all classes of the burden of taxation as was effected in the recent
session by the Liberal Administration under what is popularly and deservedly known as the Robb Budget. Let me ask the people of Canada, is there a man or a woman in this broad Dominion who has not been directly financially benefited by the reductions in taxation effected by the Liberal Administration under the Robb Budget? I care not how pretentious or how humble its circumstances, there is not a family that has not been helped, and is not better off to-day as a consequence of the reduction of taxation we were able to bring about. Take, first of all, the reductions in the tariff, the reductions in the duties on automobiles, motor trucks and motor cycles of all kinds and descriptions, which, without working injury to a single industrial establishment, has reduced the price of motors to every class in the community. Take next the reductions in the income tax, not alone the substantial reductions in the rate of taxation on incomes up to a very large amount but the increased exemptions from the payment of any income tax whatever. When, before, may I say, did taxpayers in Canada have returned to them in the form of a government cheque a portion of the taxes they had paid into the public treasury? Then there was the tax on receipts, not reduced, but abolished altogether. There were also reductions in the sales tax and excise taxes. Finally, there is the reduction in the postal rates—the return to penny postage. Add to all this that accompanying these reductions in taxation has gone a reduction in the national public debt and a balancing of the national budget over a series of years, together with an expansion of trade and a favorable balance of exports over imports unparalleled in the peace-time history of the Dominion, and you have a record of the administration of the country’s finances and business which has not been equalled by any government in Canada. This is a part of the record on which we make our appeal for their support to the electors of Canada. We need not promise reductions in taxations—we have already given reductions; we need not promise prosperity —everyone knows that prosperity has returned and that, with a continuation of Liberal policies, prosperity has ■come to stay. In the last general elections, an effort was made to defeat the Administration, not on the issues which were before the electorate, and which were being publicly discussed on the platform and in the press, but by an underground whispering campaign of the vilest kind, conducted systematically, and with an industry and ingenuity which surpasses belief. It is already apparent that this kind of underground whispering campaign is to be again carried on, and that the Duncan report and the investigation of the Customs Committee is to be made the basis of it. It is being suggested that there are things in the Duncan report which could never be published. If such were true, it was the business of the committee of the House of Commons which had the Duncan report and all exhibits before it to have said go, to have intimated what these things were, what were their source, and upon whom they reflected. The Duncan report, it might be added, appears in full in the evidence and was tabled with all exhibits in the House of Commons. It was, above all, the duty of the Committee or some member of it, if in any way matters referred to in the Report, capable of being substantiated, implicated the Government or any member of the Administration, to have said so, and to have said so in no uncertain manner. Thé committee was there to search out wrongdoing and wrong-doing of every kind and description
which had any bearing upon the matters into which it was delegated by Parliament to inquire. That the report is silent on the matters that are so much discussed in whispering and by way of suggestion, is prima facie proof that in the opinion of the members of the Commit-
tee who had everything before them, findings upon them were not justified by the evidence. As I said in Parliament, I am prepared to accept without reservation the report of the Committee of the House of Commons on the Customs inquiry. I believe that where that report reflects in any particular on any individual, that individual, be he whom he may, should be obliged to appear before a properly constituted judicial tribunal and in accordance with British practice and justice be given a hearing before final judgment is passed upon his conduct, but I also believe that when judgment is passed, be that judgment what it may, he and all concerned should be made to abide by its consequences to the full. May I add this. The work of the Committee which inquired into smuggling operations and the administration of the Customs Department, according to the statement of the committee itself, was far from complete. Inquiry should not be allowed to stop with the port of Montreal, nor with the period of time in which alone the late Liberal Administration was in office, nor with the investigation only of one or two specially selected distilleries, nor should the inquiry be subject to such limitations and restrictions as the present Prime Minister and Minister of Customs may wish, and will certainly seek, to surround it. It should be made the most searching judicial inquiry that has ever taken place in our country, and one that will not fail to command the confidence of men and women to whatever party or shade of politics they may belong.
Whilst the people of Canada have the highest regard for the distinguished abilities of Sir Francois Lemieux, Chief Justice of Quebec, a single judge, however named, chosen from one province alone, and directed by counsel appointed by Mr. Stevens and Mr. Meighen, to investigate in such places and with respect to such matters only as they may decide, will never satisfy the public conscience in this matter. What is needed and
what alone will satisfy the people of Canada is a Royal Commission composed not of one judge but of three judges nominated in the manner I have already suggested, who will be required to conduct the inquiry in all parts of Canada where there is suspicion of smuggling or irregu-
larities of any kind, and before whom any and every person whose conduct may be in question shall be brought, and made to answer to any charges that may be laid from any responsible quarter. That and that alone will enable the public to get at the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a matter that is of supreme importance not alone to the reputation of individuals, to the effective administration of one of the Departments of Government contending with a great social menace and evil, but to our national honor as well. The Constitutional Issue LET me come now to a consideration of British usage, British practice and British law in their bearing upon events of the past few weeks, which events touch the very heart of our parliamentary institutions and traditions, and go to the very root of the system of responsible self-government which, under the British Crown and the British flag, we believe it to be our rightful inheritance and our great privilege to enj oy. When I became convinced that the late parliament could not last, that no leader could so control the business of the House as to enable government to be carried on in a manner befitting British parliamentary institutions; in other words, that the government of the country could not be conducted with the authority which should lie behind it, I so informed His Excellency the Governor-General, and advised an early dissolution, to which, in accord with British practice, I believed I was entitled. I was not seeking to be continued in office, I was not asking His Excellency to declare that the government of which I had the honor to be the head had the right to govern. I was simply asking that the people who are, or who, at least, ought to be, the sovereign power in the nation, might, in the necessity of the circumstances, be given an opportunity of themselves deciding by
whom they desired their government'to be carried on. The first question I should like to ask is, was I right, or was I wrong in the advice I tendered His Excellency in saying that dissolution was necessary and inevitable? When I advised His Excellency that, in my opinion, a dissolution of Parliament was necessary, my colleagues and I enjoyed the confidence of the House of Commons, I had been Prime Minister throughout the whole of the session then near its close, and had been Prime Minister throughout the whole of the preceding parliament. For four years and a half, in a very difficult period of our country’s history, I had held that high office and never once as Prime Minister had I encountered defeat. I was in every particular entitled to advise, and, according to British practice, I was entitled, I believe, to have my advice accepted. The second question I should like to ask is whether I was right or wrong in stating to His Excellency that if, as Prime Minister, I could not carry on in a manner befitting the honor and dignity of Parliament under conditions as they existed in the House of Commons, that neither Mr. Meighen nor any other member of the House could? If I was wrong, why did Mr. Meighen’s government not last longer than two days and a half, why did Mr. Meighen end the session in such a summary fashion, not even waiting to arrange for a formal prorogation? I think I do full justice to His Excellency when I say that he conceived it to be his duty, in the circumstances of the late Parliament, to act as a sort of umpire between the political parties in Canada. . ,. w I took the position that ü«ü*íeTghen’s chances to secure support had been quite as good as my own, that Continued on page 32
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throughout the session the House of Commons had consistently declined to give him its confidence, and I did not see how it could now be expected to give its confidence to any ministry he might attempt to form; that as to which political party had the right to govern, that was a matter which, as I had pointed out after the last general elections, it was for parliament to decide, if parliament were in a position so to do; that when parliament ceased to be in a position to make a satisfactory decision as to which party should govern, it was then for the people to decide. In neither case, I maintained, was it a duty or a responsibility of the GovernorGeneral to make the decision. I stated that in my humble opinion it was not for the Crown or its representative to be concerned with the differences of political parties, and that the prerogative of dissolution, like other prerogatives of the Crown, had come under British practice to be exercised by the Sovereign on the advice of his Prime Minister. It was for the Crown’s advisor to say whether or not dissolution was necessary and for the Crown’s advisor to take the responsibility of the advice tendered. Once a dissolution was granted, the people would soon say whether in the circumstances the advice tendered was or was not in accord with their wishes. Ina word, the position I took was that in Canada, the relation of Prime Minister to Governor-General is the same in all essential respects as that of Prime Minister to the King in Great Britain.
The Liberal Position
THAT is the position for which I now stand and for which the Liberal Party in Canada stands. It need not involve His Excellency in any particular. I am prepared to accept all that is implied in the maxim, “The King can do no wrong.” and to say that it applies equally to His Majesty’s representative in Canada. The present Prime Minister has fully accepted responsibility for the action of the
Governor-General in refusing to accept my advice. The issue, as respects the constitutionality of the Governor-General’s course of procedure, is not between His Excellency and myself, but between the political parties represented by Mr. Meighen and myself, since, in the name of the parties we respectively lead, we have accepted full responsibility for views which are diametrically opposed as to what in a situation such as has arisen is the right constitutional position. In this matter, it is through their support of the respective political parties that the people of Canada have now the opportunity to make their opinions and wishes known.
It is not the conduct, the honesty or the personality of Lord Byng which in any particular is being called in question, but the constitutionality of a course of procedure in the relations of Governor-General and Prime Minister which lies at the very root of the whole system of responsible self-government under British parliamentary institutions, and which has a bearing upon constitutional government as wide as the British Empire itself. The issue would be the same whether any other living person held the high office of Governor-General and any other living person held the high office of Prime Minister.
Mr. Meighen says there is no constitutional issue. Let me tell the present Prime Minister that he will find before the present campaign is over that there is a constitutional issue greater than any that has been raised in Canada since the founding of this Dominion, and that it overshadows everything else.
The Prime Minister and Parliament
SERIOUS as is the issue which has been raised with respect to the relations of Prime Minister to Governor-General, it pales into relative insignificance when compared with the issue of the relations Continued on page36
Continued from page 32 of Prime Minister to Parliament raised by the actions of Mr. Meighen himself. The supremacy of Parliament, the rights, the dignities, the existence of parliament have been challenged by the present Prime Minister in a manner that surpasses all belief.
Mr. Meighen, when he accepted the office of Prime Minister, undertook, notwithstanding Parliament was in session at the time, to carry on the government of Canada by a ministry that in no sense of the word was a responsible ministry, and by his advice, knowingly, made the Crown through its representative, a party to this unconstitutional course of procedure.
For a period of two weeks including three days during which Parliament was in session, Mr. Meighen did not hesitate to advise His Excellency with respect to all Canada’s domestic, inter-imperial and international affairs and to administer all the departments of the government of Canada without a single minister sworn to office, save himself. He alone was the Government of Canada over that period of time. If that is not anarchy or absolutism in government I should like to know to what category political philosophy would assign government carried on under such conditions. Surely it will not be termed responsible self-government under the British parliamentary system.
Do the people of Canada wish their constitution with its time-honored precedents, inherited from the mother of Parliaments, treated as a scrap of paper, to be torn to shreds by a self-appointed dictator? Or do they desire that the institution of parliament, with its traditions and customs, shall be observed in this part of His Majesty’s dominions with the same veneration and regard as is accorded the British Constitution after which it is fashioned and modelled and which stands as the greatest safeguard to a people’s liberties known in the world to-day?
It is the principles of liberty and freedom embedded in the British constitution, and secured to those who live within its guarantees that have made men of many races and many climes a great brotherhood in name and in heart. To the people of Great Britain it is one thing. To the community of British nations which comprise the sister Dominions beyond the seas, it is the same thing, but something more. Scattered as they are amid the several oceans of the world, their coasts washed by the waters of many zones, it is the sheet anchor which holds all true to the little isles in the northern sea. The Crown and the Flag are symbols, symbols that we reverence and which help to keep us one; but in Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South Africa, in Newfoundland, in Ireland, it is the British Constitution that is the sustaining and enduring element in loyalty alike to the Crown and to the Flag. It is the magnet which counteracts all tendencies to separation from Britain, or to annexation to other lands. This is the constitution by which the Liberal party in Canada stands; and for which it is prepared to fight to-day.
In the name of our King and of our Country, I appeal to my fellow Canadians because of all that the British Constitution serves to inspire in Canada, of liberty, freedom and loyalty, to vindicate its might and majesty at the polls.