Who's the Tory Moses?
Will Guthrie, Rogers, Bennett, Stevens, Cahan or Ferguson Don the Mantle of Meighen?
A POLITICAL WARRIOR
A RETIRED warrior, who has been near the chief when he was forming his cabinets, surveys the present situation of the Conservative party with much interest and some equanimity. Scarcely anywhere are parties in good case. They are still suffering from war fever. The Dominion Conservatives, looking for a Leader, remind one of a novel of Captain Marryat with which one’s lonesomeness was assuaged on the prairies over forty years ago—“Japhet in search of a Father.”
Mr. Meighen has gone. Mr. Guthrie can hardly be said to have come—he least of all expects to be acclaimed at the Winnipeg Convention. In the House, he was competent without being inspirational. The men liked him but the buglers don’t prefer former Grits. This is a time when any rank-and-filer, with a modicum of imagination, can set up his own leader.
Sir Robert Borden, lately in England lecturing on what may be called the higher Canadianity within the Empire, is really the only Elder Brother among Federal statesmen, though Sir George Foster is much his senior, and Bob Rogers had been ten years a Minister of the Crown before Sir Robert held office.
The tumult and the shouting are over for Sir Robert; but his serenity will not allow him to forget the difficulties in leadership which beset the birth of both his governments. He knows how grievous a thing it is for a man to have leadership thrust upon him.
Mr. Borden had won the election of 1911 with a majority of forty-six; but, as old George Taylor, who had been his Chief Whip in Opposition, and was his first senator in office, used to tell, he found his troubles so great that he would fain have asked Lord Grey to send for someone else—if only he had known whom to designate as the heir to the woes that attended the advent at Ottawa of over twenty Bourassic Nationalists.
All Mr. Borden’s cross-currents did not arise in Quebec. Nor were they caused as much by the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian Northern as has been alleged.
Some people called it a Canadian Northern Cabinet, but the name credited too little to the independence of Mr. White, who became Minister of Finance for his own reasons, after definitely turning down the job.
Dear old Andy Broder, who represented Dundas in the Legislature thirteen years before Sir James Whitney became his successor at Toronto, used to tell, with philosophic glee, how he was in that Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture up to an hour before the list was submitted to the Governor-General; and how, being asked by his chief what he thought of the idea of giving Sir Sam Hughes a seat in the Privy Council, had counselled contrarily, as a defence against trouble.
“There will be trouble if he comes in,”
said the Premier-elect, according to Andy, whose word was never impeached, “but I’m afraid there will be more if he is kept out.”
“Well,” said the philosopher of Morrisburg, “it’s better to have a fellow banging on the outside of the door than inside, smashing up the furniture, isn’t it?”
It is a little early to suggest the sort of compositions that will be imposed when the next Conservative Cabinet is formed on Parliament Hill. It is quite sufficient now, to try to count leaders before they are hatched.
Somewhere, one has read what was meant to look like an inspired word to the effect that Mr. Meighen aches to justify, some day, the Hamilton speech on November, 1925, to the party and country. I do not believe he cherishes any such design. For him, as for us all, the sincere counsel towards the Hamiltonian word now can only be “Forget it;” even when we know it can never be forgotten.
One’s belief that the Hamilton speech has made Mr. Meighen impossible as a leader now is not based on one’s own view of the ineptitude for statesmanship, to say nothing of party politics, which it displayed; but upon what happened concerning delivery. The story ought to be told fully now, if only in the interests of other leaders who may be tempted to fly in the face of their own party’s record, as well as against prudence, when a particularly tempting by-election appears.
It betrays no confidence to say that Mr. Meighen asserts that he made the Hamilton speech with the concurrence of a body of trusted opinion in the higher ranks of the party. But he should also never forget that certain men who, he thought, assented, merely refrained from dissent, and that the speech was delivered against the express advice of some he consulted; and whose judgment the event has vindicated.
One who knows him well has said that during Sir Lomer Gouin’s two years as a Minister at Ottawa he was the prisoner of his own prestige. At Hamilton, Mr. Meighen was the victim of his own agility. There is often a glorious virtue in Self contra Mundum: but there is also great wisdom in a maxim dear to newspapers— when in doubt, leave out.
Mr. Meighen knew that his intention to declare at Hamilton that when Canada next decided to go to war overseas, no troops should leave the country till a general election had so sanctioned, would cost him the immediate countenance of some whose judgment he had every cause to respect, and whose influence he had no right to discount. He sent up no trial balloons. He exposed no editorials to the breeze of public opinion. His acute mentality was equal to justifying to himself ‘Ready, aye Ready,’ as the honest prelude to ‘We'll vote before we fight.' An old Liberal friend, wrhen he read the Hamilton speech, rejoiced exceedingly and said: “The Lord hath delivered
him into our hands.”
Perhaps party loyalty kept some from expressing their views at the time. But it seems to one student of British history
'ut nothing can excuse a statesman who comes so near to Charles the First’s obtuseness as Mr. Meighen did in his Hamilton proposal. Charles finally lost the forbearance of Parliament when he moved to overawe it with troops. There is surely no escape from the view that an equally pitiful error was in the Meighen plan that, whenever conditions might seem to call for a repetition of the Great Co-operation of August, 1924, the Government should decide to go to war, proceed at once to raise an army, and dissolve Parliament, for a general election.
The idea of dismissing the Houses (perhaps a few weeks or months after a general election), with the Government having an army at its disposal during the polling, never seems to have previously occurred to any politician in any English-speaking country.
Mr. Meighen's blunder was infinitely worse than his failure to triumph at two elections in less than a year. No man who knows how much faultiness of judgment, lack of courage at crucial moments, and failure of imagination when imagination is the direst need of the hour, can belong to fairly successful administrations; and who knows also, that prolonged lack of electioneering success is no last proof of political incapacity, believes that a leader is hopeless merely because lie has lost elections.
Mr. Borden was heavily defeated in 1904 and 1908. He became the doyen of premiers in the Imperial War
The West and Quebec
\yfR. MEIGHEN came out of the West. Just after the Central Committee decided to call the fall convention at Winnipeg, leadership talk put western men in the front. This may be partly due to Mr. Guthrie’s declaration that the West must be gained if the rest of the country is not to be lost. Mr. Guthrie might have said, with equal perspicacity, that the Conservative party must learn how to make large gains in Quebec, the natural born Conservative among che provinces, before it can hope for a secure reign ae Ottawa.
Old stagers disrespect the notion that successful leadership depends on geography. If it did, hoary " esterners like myself would be more hopeful of Bennett or Rogers. The party's difficulties are deeper than that. A party that cannot find a man who is bigger than his address has not much chance of being born again, which is the Conservative party’s direst need.
The West will not follow a leader merely because he lives in the West, any more than a prairie chicken will wait while you put salt on her tail. Mr. Meighen is the most difficult man the West has ever sent to Ottawa. His failure has, at least, demonstrated that, though he was born in Ontario, he could neither hold Ontario nor woo Quebec.
In giving Mr. Rogers, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Stevens the once-over, though, other considerations than this very natural desire to see an old timer
in the chief's seat, must decide a judgment that Would fain be fair as well as well-informed.
The late George McCraney, the member for Saskatoon, used to say that Bob Rogers was the humanist of the first Borden Government. There was a great deal of truth in the characterization. Everybody speaks of Sir Robert Borden’s first Minister of the Interior and second Minister of Public Works as ‘Bob.’ His opponents can agree that a criticism of Andy Broder’s about the first Borden administration does not apply to him. The criticism was: “This Government ain’t near the people—not a little bit. Look at ’em—six haven’t a child between them.”
Bob Rogers belongs to a school that swiftly approaches decrepitude. He has never denied that he will turn a political trick to win an election. His speeches never touch more than the material services of politics. In public he intones like a curate; and in private acts like a Richelieu. He keeps faith with his friends, and never forgets his enemies. After he left the Government in September, 1917, he asked a faithful henchman, who was influential wherever the Winnipeg Telegram flourished, how the boys were regarding him. “They’re all your friends,” was the answer; “but they ain’t none of them getting out the band for you.”
That was an odd judgment, especially when it is remembered that during the preceding winter Bob went to the Imperial War conferences with Sir Robert Borden. While he was there, business and other leaders in Winnipeg would join in no war effort with their party opponents unless his permission was cabled from London. This attitude towards Bob was a tribute to his power in the organization where he shines so long as it is not called a Board of Strategy. It has been said that his chances of leading the party are good for the singular reason that the party, doomed to a long sojourn in the wilderness, does not need a leader but an organizer. Perhaps that is plausible. To me, it certainly is purblind.
“DROM the point of view of a party that needs leader-
ship which will answer to the spirit of the Confederation Jubilee, it is required of a chief that he shall have something vital to say to the people, with a few sparks of inspiration in it. Bob is a genius with a collection plate, but he never moved sinners to repentance. Bob returned from a most illuminating experience at the Empire’s centre, but, so far as one recalls, neither in Parliament nor in the country did he say anything that could give light or strength to patriots with boys
at the front, striving to realize the awful magnitude of our adventure. Sursum corda may sometimes be truly politic, truly statesmanlike. But whoever heard our humanist say “Lift up your hearts?”
Bob was called the Minister of Elections. If we must have such, we at best regard them as necessary evils. It is not unpertinent to recall that though Rogers was in London with Sir Robert as late as May, 1917, he was the only minister to be dropped by Sir Robert as a prelude to the formation of the Union Government.
The story has never been told in print that Bob went out of the Cabinet—the day is well remembered when it was circulated about the Victoria Museum that papers were being burned in the otherwise fireless grate of the Minister of Public Works—following a deputational intimation to Sir Robert Borden, less than three months after the return from overseas, that certain Win-the-War support would be withheld unless it were definitely understood that Mr. Rogers would soon enjoy more freedom and less responsibility. So his dismissal was delayed until he was able to give it the small appearance of a resignation on the plea that a more vigorous prosecution of the war was necessary.
Except where mechanism is regarded as the principal thing in politics, I think there is no more magic in the Rogers’ name. It is not necessary to believe what ■ one read in a great newspaper recently, that, Mr. Rogers being the treasurer of the Conservative party, the Meighen defeat in 1921 was largely due to his refusal to open the purse strings—as if he were another Lloyd George. The election, it has been said, was being fought nominally by the National-Liberal-Conservative Party; and Bob was the only candidate running as a Simon Pure Conservative.
Bob was beaten outside Winnipeg in 1921; and, Liberals say, would have been beaten again inside Winnipeg in 1925, but for lamentably bad strategy, for which Mr. Mackenzie King is held to have been primarily responsible. Because Mr. Norris had been Premier of Manitoba, Mr. King urged his candidature as being most likely to defeat Bob. But there was more weakness than strength in that view, and a well-known lawyer, canvassing for Norris, quit cold days before polling.
It is no secret that the Conservative campaign managers of 1921 were the Hon. J. D. Reid and Hon. J. A. Calder, newly-retired from the Government and given haven in the Senate; and that there was sore disappointment as to campaign funds from those Montreal magnates who, four years later, kept Mr. Meighen out of the fight in Quebec—as futile a piece of generalship as the ageshave produced. How Mr. Meighendidnot get the financial support he expected from Montreal in 1921 is one of those episodes in political warfare which sometimes seem inevitable and are never publicly explained. Bob Rogers was not its author. The unavailability of Bob as leader is inherent in Bob, and not in any past antagonisms as be ween himself and Mr. Meighen. He belongs to a vanishing phase.
'“PHEN there is R. B. Bennett, whose chances of being the leader are better now than they have ever been. Six years younger than Mr. Rogers, he was a legislator two years ahead of him. He was in the North West Territories Assembly in 1898, at twenty-eight years of age. Bob reached the Manitoba House in 1900. But Bob had presided over a Manitoba Conservative Convention in 1891, when he was twenty-seven; so that political precocity broke out in both men at about the same age.
Bennett was a sort of Boy Wonder at Regina, twentyeight years ago. His speeches then were like his speeches now. He was voluble in long, rolling sentences which sometimes seemed to lose themselves in his Calgarian air. But, taken in shorthand, they always came out correctly. They haven’t the stateliness of Pitt’s majestic flow, but they roll just as surely.
Before going West, Bennett had practised law with a future Lieutenant-Governor of his native New Brunswick, where he joined young Senator Lougheed, who had married a niece of Lord Strathcona; and came in for Hudson’s Bay and C. P. R. legal business. Bennett did extremely well in law, also in real estate. He became wealthy in the West, and has become more wealthy in the East.
Bennett has been called a whirlwind orator by those who imagine fluency to be oratory. There are few like him. He carries you along, especially when you first hear him. He is too much in a hurry to touch your heart or exalt your fancy. He never makes audiences think of the kids at home. He has all kinds of ability; and his riches have not puffed him higher than the requirements of political leadership.
He is a passionate Imperialist, regarding the Empire much as Lord Northcliffe regarded it. He is a profound protectionist, a convinced Conservative. He dislikes kaleidoscopes. If he were left to his own guidances in leadership, and formed two Governments, he would not desire his own ministerial experience to be repeated in other young men.
Mr. Rogers may have been Minister of Elections. Mr. Bennett was certainly a Minister for Elections. He has been Minister of Justice during one general election, and Minister of Finance from the start to the finish of another. He, Manion and Stevens are in a trinity all their own. He says, rather grimly, that the Shadow Cabinet of 1926 was not a shadow of things to come. If he is not the only Minister of Justice who never named a judge, he certainly was the only Minister of Finance who never laid a Budget.
Mr. Bennett declined to be nominated for the job Mr. Guthrie adorns, to the angry surprise of the only Mr. Church. It will not be astounding if he refuses again, for it is no new thing with him to avoid a Conservative
leadership. He may think party leadership is somewhat like marriage, which Carlyle said was made up of drizzle and fine weather. He was defeated in the first election to the Alberta Legislature in 1905.
He rejected^ the Conservative leadership therein in 1910. He has
He can talk sound protection and speak of economic enemy countries in the same paragraph and still help run a concern which derives from an economic enemy country. There is abundant need for sentiment in politics, since no sane man can afford it in business. If Mr. Bennett becomes the Conservative leader he will bring distinction all his own to the office, whether he brings western members or not. Like Mr. King, his brother bachelor in the front rows, he will exhibit a becoming shyness when discussing our urgent need for population.
Mr. Stevens of Vancouver
CAF Mr. Stevens more would have been said a year ago than can be offered now. He deserves the popularity he has long enjoyed in Vancouver, where he is as much sans pretension as he was when he drove stage in the Okanagan Valley, soon after leaving his
has alleged against himself that he is a little too cantankerous to be a happy chieftain.
His sense of humor never submerges his fiducial or financial facilities. As a Minister of Finance he might have been a rare success. His proposal last winter to turn eighty per cent of the national debt into the banks and insurance companies on a four per cent, basis captured the interest of the House of Commons as nothing from a budget critic has done these many years.
In this House of Commons, Mr. Bennett is the only Conservative from Ignace to Banff—twelve hundred miles. No possible leader stands to gain so high a percentage and perhaps so small a content of support in his own province. He has some advantages from other geographical points of view. Being in Big Business on his own account, and not because he was an early benefactor of Lord Beaverbrook when that acquisitive genius was hustling in Calgary, he is a director in some of the most expansive and striking Canadian concerns, native or domiciled, including the International Paper Company, and the Eddys, the matchless matchmakers of the Ottawa.
native Bristol. He has brains, character public spirit and staunchness. He fought against odds from his own camp when he set cut to clean up the customs mess. He was connected with an unhappy oil company, the memory of which will be kept odorous by his foes for a longer time than it would take him, otherwise, to become acclimated to the Leader’s room. While the customs
fuss was on he wrote to his wife that he expected his staunchness would drive him out of politics. There is no fear of that, Harry Stevens is a good man; not perfect in a world where the only perfect things are perfect fools. But he is not likely to be the Conservative leader.
Wise Men from the East
V\ 7"HO are the wise men in the East? Premier Rhodes W of Nova Scotia was mentioned, but he has faded, for a curious reason. He is not as popular in Halifax as he promised to be. His nearer friends say he is too big to be Premier of Nova Scotia. There might be something in that, if there were not also something in the teaching about being faithful in a few things. He is hedged and guarded by a dislike to be intruded upon. In a province where the Joe Howe tradition still throbs— that volatile tribune, at election meetings, kissed the wives and daughters of his friends, and seemed to have known everybody all their lives by their Christian names—familiarity does not breed contempt in the people.
This former Speaker of the Commons, who was renowned for the firmness with which he upheld many ancient dignities, and established some on his own account, has capacities for first citizenship from the collar up; but he is scarcely warm-handed enough for these difficult Conservative times.
Nobody else in the East is talked of seriously until you come to Ontario. Ernst, the Rhodes scholar, who defeated the Rough Bill Duff in Lunenburg, has lots of promise but no age. New7 Brunswick is shy of size. Quebec has Cahan, who has lots of age but less of promise. Still it seems a pretty safe bet that Cahan will be proposed by powers which operate usually in St. James Street, Montreal. A leader from Quebec must be suggested, if only to make impressive the apparent transfer of support to some other man.
Most of the Conservatives from Ontario share the eminence attributed by a caustic colleagueto the members for Toronto, of whom he said that they are distinguished
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for their indistinction. That may be unkind to a former Minister of Finance and to Dr. Manion, who has joined the glorified bar-keeps with D. B. Hanna.
Except that Mr. Meighen found a haven of refuge in an Ontario seat from 1921 to 1925—he forsook it in 1925— no Ontario commoner has been Dominion Conservative leader since Sir John Macdonald died in 1891. Northrup, of Belleville, dreamed dreams at one time, but they ended at the Clerk's table. The dearth of Ontario leadership timber in the Commons is saddening to behold; for other reasons than that it compels us to look at the Premier of Ontario.
Premier Ferguson’s Chances
A/TR. FERGUSON’S chances would
seem to be the best of any Eastern man’s; even though the handicaps are heavy upon him. There is a natural reluctance to go to provincial stables for a federal horse; though, when you think of it, the provinces have given more to the Dominion than they havo received from it in legislature strength. The question of an Ontario premier becoming Dominion leader will have to be settled on other grounds than a geographical preference, whether the geography has to do with the man’s domicile or the legislative house in which he has gained his experience.
It is easy to divest oneself of prejudice against Mr. Ferguson on account of his residence in Ontario or his absence from the House of Commons. Providence moves in a mysterious way our leaders to disclose. In telling, without prejudice, what one has found to be Mr. Ferguson’s qualifications, it may be as well to say that one is aware that they will have to be regarded as very strong before the West and the farther East will fall over each other to embrace an Ontario man, who, it will be said, is showing a warm side to the French now, but whose real disposition towards them was displayed in his abortive resolution in the Ontario Legislature in 1911, demanding that English alone be the language of instructionin Ontario Schools.
A few men at Ottawa are rather fond of telling Mr. Dunning that his ways might be all right in Saskatchewan but they are not exalted enough for the House of Commons. It isn’t very likely any critic would tell Mr. Ferguson that. He was born within an hour of Parliament Hill. He imbibed the atmosphere thereof from his youth up; for his father was a member of the House. He has been over a quarter of a century in the Ontario Legislature. Although his free and easy way with Mr. Raney would not chime with the dignity of the House of Commons, there is no real reason to fear that he would not attune himself to the heavier air.
Premier Ferguson has been called a mere politician of the departing school. Years ago there was excuse for limiting praise of him to that dubious distinction. But he has grown as his years have increased—and you can only say that of men of some magnitude.
Those who are nearest to Ferguson like him best. A deputation of prohibitionists who saw him when four disappoint four was in its luckless crib, reported to their amazed convention that they believed him to be sincerely anxious for temperance progress.
An Ontario friend tells me that an old time prohibitionist, like William Keith, who lost his seat for North York because of a traditionary gratitude to his Liberal opponent’s grandfather, swears by him as one of the finest men— not faultless, but faultless enough—you could wish to meet. No love has been lost between Ferguson and Drury, his predecessor, or between him and Raney, for whom he is too dexterous as well as too disdainful. But he is still the first humanist of his Government and of the House.
A politician is not to be blamed for thinking that the electioneers of his youth exemplified the only political arts that were worth practising. Over a hundred years ago, Mr. Ferguson’s country of Grenville was known for the vehemence and range of its election methods. Some partisan orthodoxies survive in Eastern Ontario, of which little is known near Detroit. In one section of Mr. Ferguson’s constituency there is a co-operative cheese factory whose proprietors boast that every one of them is an Orangeman, a Tory and a Dry.
Mr. Ferguson’s domestic political strength draws largely on Orange devotion, But his popularity is more entrenched in his own qualities, and in his experience in holding what he has won, than it is in his adherence to Orangeism. When he goes home to Kemptville, it is Howard this and Howard that. He calls members of his old brigade into council, as if they were in Queen’s Park itself. A handle to his name hasn’t lifted his chin the least little bit.
He has the none too common gift of capacity for large affairs with intimate knowledge of and regard for the average man’s political attainments—which may mainly consist of limitations but are the only media through which shrewd leaders can retain their power. Another of his personal advantages may not be apparent to the multitude which does not meet Prime Ministers in familiar converse. He is not afraid to talk freely, and to give something to those who see him, while he keeps his own counsel on major, affairs. Comparisons are odious, but this Ferguson quality is kindred with Laurier’s, and contrastive to that of a former aspirant for the Ontario premiership who habitually gave the impression of concealing his thoughts from his friends, and always wore a poker up his political back.
During his unsuccessful speech to the unique Bonne Entente banquet at the Chateau Frontenac, two years ago, Mr. Ferguson said he had one of the Toriest minds in Canada. The assertion meant that Mr. Ferguson stands where his party has traditionally stood in adherence to the Imperial tie, to protection, and to the politics which those overmastering principles imply.
Mr. Ferguson first saw Europe in 1925. He returned with a wider grasp of the statecrafts he met than was the case with the excellent Mr. Whitney, who, too, never visited London until he was a Prime Minister—a rather misleading juncture of conditions. Mr. Ferguson brought back a firmer devotion to Imperial solidarity, and also a keener appreciation of the distance some of our friends over there must go before they learn how to maintain it.
Though he does not like to be called a colonial, he is staunch as Bennett to the Conservative conception of Britannic indissolubility which does more to guarantee peace to the world than anything else that can be reckoned in these mutable years. From that point of view, he has said, over and over again, without wishing any secrecy to be observed, that Meighen’s Hamilton speech was altogether unfortunate—suicidal, indeed.
His conception of British dominion in the Dominion has broadened out, so that it depends more on essential ideas than on forms of expression. He smiles indulgently, as to a past era of impressionable youth, when he recalls that he moved the Legislature to prevent French being spoken to French children who could not understand the English. He has mellowed since those days. What he said in Quebec two years ago means that, should he come to Ottawa, he will give ungrudging acknowledgment to the fact that he sits in a bilingual Parliament. Some of his Orange friends are already beginning to talk of his readiness to yield more to the French than they could stand for—but that may not mean much. Montreal Conservatives long to take the French to their political bosoms. Cahan’s appearance in the leadership ring will be partially dictated by this sentiment. Without French support, without Western support, no party has a future. It is a fair guess that, whatever is behind Cahan will go to Bennett at the appropriate moment.
What chance has a strong protectionist of winning the West to the Conservative side? Obviously, so long as Quebec and the West refuse to be wooed, the Conservative party has excellent facilities for exploring the wilderness. As Sir Lomer Gouin never wearies of saying, Quebec is essentially conservative. Its cities are protectionist, as all cities are—and as many Liberals are, we must never forget.
Quebec farmers, though they develop co-operative enterprises on large scales, have not similar political outlooks to their prairie brethren. The underlying, overhanging aspiration of the Canadiens is the recognition of their place throughout their native country as being legally co-equal with that of their Englishspeaking compatriots, as it is in Parliament and the Supreme Court. There may be long, wide and deep difference as to this fundamental, but there is no use in sunposing its implications can permanently be avoided. The difference is that the English say that Canada is a country with a bi-lingual province, and the French contend that Canada is a bilingual country. We point to Regulation Seventeen: they hold up Hansard. Armand Lavergne is a member of the committee which is arranging the Winnipeg Convention. Who can herald him as a root out of a dry ground?
Whatever the outcome may be, we are all agreed that on both sides of the lingual difference our business is to appreciate the others’s point of view in goodwill and with an unprejudiced desire to find a course that is beneficial to Canada. The bi-lingual situation is in evolution rather than in issue. In that region Mr. Ferguson would start as Conservative leader without the dread that would attach to any statesman who was closely identified with the Union Government, however excellent that war-time expedient may have been. If he could hold the Orangemen and satisfy Quebec that he has finally abandoned his anti-French attitude of sixteen years ago, he could offer far more promise of carrying Ontario in the same direction than a Western leader could do. Similar’y, if the West felt that an Eastern leader were sympathetic to it, it could also feel that he would be a powerful friend in the East.
As to protection, the Home Market is a biff factor, but it cannot suffice us if the West’s vacant lands are to be tilled to the point of stabilizing the railway and
industrial situations. The Conservative 1 party, to gain appreciably in the West, j must find some way of getting rid of the idea that it is bedfellow of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association—an erroneous notion; but persistent, all the same. Without pretending to speak for anybody else, I will venture to suggest a course which at least offers a hope of escape from the continuing impasse as between the organized farmer and the organized manufacturer.
This is the Diamond Jubilee Year of j Confederation, and should therefore be ] the greatest stocktaking year in our history. The Conservative Convention, meeting in the West, may fittingly take stock where stock has never been taken before—of Canada as one business concern.
The Liberal party has created the Tariff Commission, and will regard itself as discharged, accordingly, from further prime solicitude about the platform on which Mr. King was elected leader in 1919. The Commission gives ear to such applications and objections as come before it. Like the Joint Inter| national Commission, it can report but cannot express its views. If it produces within itself some new child of national service, it will risk a charge of concealment of birth rather than put itself where it must contend for the faith contained in a new idea. The time is ripe for a new fiscal move, based on recognition of the truth that the tariff is an expedient, not a religion.
The venerable custom was for a Committee of the Cabinet to rove the country about every ten years seeking guidance for the next tariff revision. The manufacturer told how much protection he wanted; the farmer said how little he should be allowed to get away with. Tons of evidence were taken in dozers of places. The Commission was a sort of court which never gave a judgment on the evidence submitted. The next Budget made certain or uncertain changes but it gave no general findings upon what had been heard.
Against such a fashion of muddling through, the country needs to know what sort of a business it is, so that it may know what sort of a course to steer. The only way to obtain that is to make a thorough inquiry into our resources and our capacities for exploiting them. What is our actual and potential wealth in developed and undeveloped lands and waters, above and beneath? To develop it, how should the population be distributed to secure the most profitable and abiding growth of the natural prosperity?
If you were to buy a great, but ailing newspaper, with a view to giving it robust financial health, you would first ascertain whether the mechanical, editorial and business departments were properly equipped and properly related to each other; and would ruthlessly adjust conditions accordingly. A similar economic survey is surely the first requisite to knowing whether Canada is reasonably well-balanced.
We are weeping now over loss of population to the United States because, when agriculture growth was our need of needs, city speculation ran wild; and the railroad magnates failed to discern that too few people were going to the plough and too many were climbing the locomotive. Our troubles today are not so much due to tariff tinkerings as to the fact that we allowed our economic structure to get top-heavy. As Sir George Paish told us just before the war. we had furnished ourselves with railway and other plant sufficient to handle fcur times our production from our only native sources of wealth.
What we require, then, is a new' style of conversation, that will appeal to every brand of patriot, on farms and in factories, in offices and overalls. What agency in conservatory strength should equal the Conservative party?