William Lyon Mackenzie King, Volume II, 1924-1932: The Lonely Heights 9781487589523

This second volume of the official biography of Mackenzie King (the first, written by R. MacG. Dawson, was published in

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William Lyon Mackenzie King, Volume II, 1924-1932: The Lonely Heights
 9781487589523

Table of contents :
PREFACE
CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE. THE REINS OF OFFICE
CHAPTER TWO. A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS
CHAPTER THREE. EDUCATING DOWNING STREET
CHAPTER FOUR. IN SEARCH OF AN ISSUE
CHAPTER FIVE. THE HUNG JURY
CHAPTER SIX. PARLIAMENT WILL DECIDE
CHAPTER SEVEN. THE WILL OF THE MAJORITY
CHAPTER EIGHT. A HOUSE DIVIDED
CHAPTER NINE. THE JURY DECIDES
CHAPTER TEN. DEFINING THE UNDEFINABLE
CHAPTER ELEVEN. THE GOOD LIFE
CHAPTER TWELVE. TINKERING WITH FEDERALISM
CHAPTER THIRTEEN. THE POLITICS OF PROSPERITY
CHAPTER FOURTEEN. LOOKING SOUTH
CHAPTER FIFTEEN. SHORING UP THE OLD ORDER
CHAPTER SIXTEEN. THE CALL TO ACTION
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. A REMEDY IS PRESCRIBED
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION
CHAPTER NINETEEN. THE DISTORTIONS OF REALITY
NOTES
INDEX

Citation preview

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING The Lonely Heights This second volume of the official biography of Mackenzie King (the first, written by R. MacG. Dawson, was published in 1958) covers the years 1923 to 1932. At the opening of this period, King was still an inexperienced and untried leader but the next few years were to test his qualities as he dealt with the concessions and compromises necessary in governing with an unstable majority and finally emerged the winner from the complicated chess games of parliamentary sessions. The Liberal success in the election of 1926 returned to office a Prime Minister with confidence in his own judgment and more inclined to hold firm to his own opinions against opposition from his colleagues or his party. After this election and the outcome of that in 1930, which handed over to the Conservatives the problems of the depression, the myth of King's political infallibility continued to grow. But a less able man would have been less lucky. As this book shows, King was a consummate party leader, wtih an unusual sensitivity to political danger and an unusual capacity to learn from his mistakes. Throughout skilfull use is made of the public records of these years, of the King papers, and the copious pages of King s own daily diary of his political problems, his conversations with colleagues and diplomats, his worries and frustrations over difficult decisions, his own aims and ideals. This book, brilliant and effective in conception and execution, is a study of political leadership in a divided nation, a nation which even in calmer times is proverbially difficult to govern. It is also a revealing andconvincing study of a complex man whose drab public image concealed unsuspected eccentricities. H. BLAIR NEATBY is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, of Oxford (M.A., 1955), and of the University of Toronto (Ph.D., 1956). Since 1955 he has been a member of the Department of History of the University of British Columbia, where he is now Associate Professor. In 1958, Dr. Neatby was asked by the Literary Executors of W. L. Mackenzie King to write hisbiography for the years from 1923 to 1939. He is now at work on the further volume for the period 1933-1939.

William Lyon Mackenzie King, 1926

William Lyon

MACKENZIE KING

1924-1932

The Lonely Heights H. Blair Neatfy UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS

London: Methuen & Co Ltd

1963

All rights reserved—no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine or newspaper. World newspaper rights to this material continue to be held by Canada Wide Feature Service.

All photographs are by courtesy of the Public Archives of Canada, unless otherwise noted.

TO J A C Q U E L I N E

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PREFACE

FIVE YEARS AGO, Mackenzie King's Literary Executors—W. Kaye Lamb, F. A. McGregor, J. W. Pickersgill, and Norman A. Robertson —asked me to write Mr. King's biography for the years from 1923 to 1939. We did not discuss my views on the man or the period; the Executors knew that I had never met Mr. King and that my special interest had been the Laurier era. They asked only that I should try to maintain the high standard of scholarship set by Professor R. MacGregor Dawson in his volume for the years from 1874 to 1923. Neither then nor later did they suggest any interpretation of Mr. King's career; nor have they ever questioned any of my conclusions. Now that the first of the two volumes for these years is completed, I hope they will feel that their confidence in me was not misplaced. Professor Dawson died shortly after writing the first volume. He had completed a later section of Mr. King's life which has since been published under the title The Conscription Crisis of 1944. Professor Dawson had also done some work on what was to have been his second volume. He left a manuscript for the period from 1923 to the election of 1925 and a preliminary draft of the controversy with Lord Byng in 1926. I had to duplicate much of his research but his memoranda provided an essential guide and I did not hesitate to incorporate some of his ideas and even some of his phrases in my study of this period. I only regret that he had not completed a preliminary outline for the rest of the book. I am also indebted to Professor Dawson for organizing some of the preliminary research for this volume. Professor F. W. Gibson had made a detailed study of King's relations with the Progressives; Dr. James Eayrs had written memoranda on Canada's external relations; Mr. Alec Lane had prepared studies of the financial policies of VII

PREFACE

the Liberal administrations in the 1920's. From my own acquaintance with the King papers I have acquired a sincere admiration for Professor Dawson's assistants; I have learned to rely on the thoroughness of their research and to respect their judgment of men and events. My debt to them has been increased by a number of conversations in which they supplemented the information in their memoranda. I am specially indebted to Professor Gibson, who freely shared his unequalled knowledge of Canadian politics for these years as well as his insight into Mr. King's character. And whenever I wanted information about any aspect of the project, I found myself asking Miss Lillian Breen of the Canada Council, who had been Professor Dawson's secretary. I could always rely on her to produce the answer. From 1958 to 1960 I was fortunate to have Professor Donald F. Forster as a colleague. Professor Forster prepared invaluable memoranda on economic issues in the 1920's and 1930's; his gargantuan appetite for documents was matched by his ability to organize and analyse. His contribution, however, goes far beyond this research. For two years we discussed personalities and problems over lunch and coffee, and I was constantly encouraged by the stimulus of his ideas and his enthusiasm. He maintained his close association with the project even after he joined the staff of the University of Toronto. My secretary, Mrs. Eileen Bond, has also been involved in every aspect of this book. She discovered relevant material in the uncatalogued papers at Laurier House, organized some of Mr. King's personal correspondence, and checked quotations with the originals. She has generously given some of her spare time to the project since joining the staff of the Public Archives. My dependence on these associates is explained in part by the size of the Mackenzie King collection. Mr. King saved his voluminous correspondence, many state papers, and the memoranda prepared for him on a variety of topics. His papers also include successive drafts of many of his important speeches as well as his personal financial and medical records. Even Christmas cards, invitations, and some of the scribbled notes passed to him in the House of Commons were preserved. It is estimated that he accumulated up to two million pages of archival material. This vast collection is now in the custody of the Dominion Archivist and will become the property of the Crown in 1975. The enormous task of sorting, cataloguing, and filing was begun vm

PREFACE

by Professor Gibson and was continued by Miss Jacqueline Cote, with the capable assistance of Miss Jean Ballantyne and Miss Laura Williams for many years. Their work made my research—and the research of future scholars—possible. Miss Cote left the Archives in 1961 to become my wife; since then Miss Ballantyne has maintained the wellestablished reputation of the Archives for courteous co-operation. Mr. King's diary was an invaluable supplement to his papers. The diary has daily entries for the period of this volume except for a gap of five weeks late in 1926. Mr. King made the entries by hand in these years, only occasionally dictating a record of an important interview for inclusion. I was able to rely on a typed copy of the diary, thanks to the painstaking work of Mr. F. A. McGregor. The diary might well serve as a model to anybody who expects to become the subject of a biography. Mr. King did not waste his time recording the weather or describing his meals. He concentrated on his personal problems, his discussions with colleagues and diplomats, the worries and frustrations of difficult decisions, and his own justification for his evasions or his decisions. His daily activities are described in great detail and with dependable accuracy, thanks to his excellent memory, his need for a record, and his sense of the importance of his life. His analysis of events and motives—especially his own motives—is much less reliable but it does unconsciously reveal his own preconceptions. Without this record, both his achievements and his personality would have been more elusive. State papers, secondary works, and other collections of private papers have been used to supplement the King collection. The R. B. Bennett papers and the J. W. Dafoe papers were the most useful and I am grateful to Lord Beaverbrook and to the Dafoe family respectively for allowing me to use them. I also interviewed many of Mr. King's associates and contemporaries. Senators N. P. Lambert, T. A. Crerar, and C. G. Power shared their recollections, offered their ideas, and supplied me with evidence from their own files. I also learned much from conversations with the late J. G. Gardiner, the late C. D. Howe, the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, Mr. F. A. McGregor, Mr. R. Finlayson, and many others. My work was made easier by the staffs of the Public Archives and the Parliamentary Library, who gave my requests the personal attention which Canadian scholars have almost learned to take for granted. ix

PREFACE

I was also fortunate to be working at Laurier House while Professor Frank Underbill was the curator. He become almost a resident consultant. And because of Mr, Roger Frankham, Laurier House was more like a residence than the museum it really is. The entire manuscript was read by Professor Forster and sections of it were read by Dean F. H. Soward, Dr. Margaret Ormsby, Dr. Eugene Forsey and Dr. John T. Saywell. Miss Francess Halpenny of the University of Toronto Press has again undertaken textual revision and criticism as a special assignment. As a result of the suggestions of these friends I have revised some sections and have been spared the embarrassment of many blunders. Mrs. H. M. Mounce then cheerfully produced a neat typescript from a disorderly draft. The University of British Columbia made my research possible by giving me a three-year leave of absence and a grant from the Presidents Research fund in 1962. I also received a summer research grant from the Canada Council in that year. I will not attempt to assess the contribution of my wife to this volume. In addition to her work on the King papers, she suggested topics and interpretations, discussed each idea from its inception, read every chapter at every stage, and then read the proofs. My debt to her is acknowledged inadequately by the dedication.

H. B. N.

X

CONTENTS

PREFACE

Vll

1

THE REINS OF OFFICE

3

2

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

12

3

EDUCATING DOWNING STREET

32

4

IN SEARCH OF AN ISSUE

45

5

THE HUNG JURY

60

6

PARLIAMENT WILL DECIDE

77

7

THE WILL OF THE MAJORITY

107

8

A HOUSE DIVIDED

130

9

THE JURY DECIDES

158

10

DEFINING THE UNDEFINABLE

176

11

THE GOOD LIFE

196

12

TINKERING WITH FEDERALISM

210

13

THE POLITICS OF PROSPERITY

244

14

LOOKING SOUTH

272

15

SHORING UP THE OLD ORDER

301

16

THE CALL TO ACTION

327

XI

CONTENTS

17

A REMEDY IS PRESCRIBED

343

18

THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION

369

19

THE DISTORTIONS OF REALITY

391

NOTES

413

INDEX

443

xii

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING The Lonely Heights

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CHAPTER ONE

THE R E I N S OF OFFICE

AS MACKENZIE KING grew old in office, his compatriots marvelled at his political longevity and puzzled over the secret of his success. The obvious assets of a political leader were missing. King had none of Macdonald's rascality or Laurier's dignified charm. Did he stay in office by Machiavellian cunning? Or was the man so ordinary that he was the average Canadian writ large—unconsciously embodying the aspirations of most of his countrymen? Or did he succeed by default, surviving only because his rivals were so tragically incompetent? There was no agreement, no consensus, because somehow this rather pudgy little man, best remembered for his indecision and procrastination or his uninspiring platitudes could never be reconciled with the political leader who had a talent for winning elections. And because no explanation seemed convincing, observers could only shrug their shoulders and assume that Mackenzie King was endowed with a mysterious gift for politics not shared by other men. In later years, this myth intimidated critics within his party, infuriated and also depressed his opponents, and had some effect when the voters went to the polls. The reputation for winning is as useful for politicians as for generals. There was no Mackenzie King myth in 1923. King was still a political novice. His party had won the last election but there was no certainty that he had engineered the victory; there was even less evidence that he could surmount the obstacles to staying in office. King was now middle-aged—he would be forty-nine in December of 1923—but he had been leader of the Liberal party for less than five and Prime Minister for only two years. He had been in the House from 1908 to 1911, first as a private member and then with the minor portfolio of Labour, but for the next eight years he had been out of

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Parliament and only on the fringe of Canadian politics. He was conscious of his ignorance of the complexities of parliamentary procedure and even more of the complexities of many of the issues on which he had to be the spokesman for his government. His ignorance was also apparent to his colleagues and his opponents. The age and experience of his Ministers underlined his own relative youth and inexperience. Among his colleagues, only two men were younger than King—Ernest Lapointe, Minister of Marine Fisheries and E. J. McMurray, the Solicitor-General—and thirteen of his eighteen Ministers could claim more time as members of provincial or federal legislatures. W. S. Fielding, the senior Liberal from the Maritimes, had been Premier of Nova Scotia for twelve years and Minister of Finance under Laurier for fifteen; this prim and opinionated man had been King's rival for the party leadership at the convention of 1919 and was once again Minister of Finance. The stolid Sir Lomer Gouin from Quebec, strengthened by his connections on St. James Street, had been Premier of his province for fifteen years and was now Minister of Justice. G. P. Graham, Minister of Railways and Canals, and Charles Murphy, Postmaster General, both from Ontario, had been senior to King in the Laurier administration and had been in the House during the years of opposition that followed. The western representatives were less influential than these men within the party but even they could claim more experience than the Prime Minister. W. R. Motherwell, the bucolic Minister of Agriculture, had held the portfolio of Agriculture in the Saskatchewan government for twelve years, and Charles Stewart, with the portfolios of Mines and Interior, had been Premier of Alberta for four. These men could speak for their regions with an authority which Mackenzie King could not easily challenge. King's relative youth and his dissociation from the controversies which had split the Liberal party during the war had been an advantage during the contest for the leadership. They did not ensure that his colleagues would now respect his judgment. Mackenzie King had no misgivings about his own capacity for leadership. He might deplore his ignorance of parliamentary procedure and administration, but he never questioned his own judgment of political strategy. He sensed which issues could affect the strength of his government or his party and formed his own conclusions as to what must be done. He was always respectful and tactful with his

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senior colleagues and was more cautious if they disagreed with him but he never submitted unwillingly to their point of view. His preparation for his political career was more adequate than his limited experience in Parliament suggests. As Deputy Minister and then as Minister of Labour and later as an industrial consultant, his work had been that of a conciliator. He had learned to analyse the conflicting points of view in labour disputes and to devise compromises acceptable to both sides. This had not been an academic exercise, in spite of the impression a reader might get from Mackenzie King's Industry and Humanity. The abstractions of labour, management, capital, and the community had never obscured King's sensitivity to the pragmatic problems of personality and prestige which complicate every industrial dispute. His experience as a conciliator was invaluable to the head of a party and a government. Until 1923, Mackenzie King had been more of a conciliator than a party leader. It was a diplomatic achievement to have formed a government at all out of the factions which made up the party in 1921. After 1917 the Liberal party had been little more than a French Canadian bloc. Even now there was still prevalent a suspicion that French Canadian influence within the party was excessive but at least all provinces were represented in the government. On the central issue of the tariff, such men as Gouin and Fielding had protectionist leanings while Motherwell and Stewart were low-tariff men. There were also personal animosities more bitter than any differences over regional jealousies or policies. Charles Murphy, the fervent Laurier Liberal, would never forgive men like Fielding who had deserted Sir Wilfrid over conscription in 1917. It was a credit to Mackenzie King that these men were now members of the same government. For two years they had agreed to support every government measure—or had agreed not to insist on measures which others could not support. It was also to King's credit that his government had survived two sessions of Parliament. His party did not have a stable majority. One hundred and seventeen Liberals had been elected in 1921; even with the support of an Independent Liberal and a Labour Liberal member, this amounted to only a bare majority in a House of 235. King could hardly expect every Liberal to be healthy and present for every major division; he could not even be sure that those who were present would vote for all government measures. In the session of 1923, for example,

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two Liberals had voted against the budget because there were no significant tariff reductions.1 Nor was the tariff the only controversial issue. On such issues as ocean and railway freight rates, the construction of the Hudson Bay railway, combines investigations, or monetary reform, Mackenzie King was threatened by open revolt if he took action and by the revolt of others if he did nothing. It was no small achievement to be still in office after two years. Had the Liberal government done anything more than survive? In two years had Mackenzie King strengthened his party? The changes within the party were intangible but significant. Frank discussions in cabinet and caucus and the united front in Parliament had nurtured the group feeling which is the cement of political parties. The schism of 1917 was not forgotten but King had managed to avoid being identified with either faction—in itself a triumph of diplomacy—and was accepted as leader by both groups. The struggle continued between the protectionist and the low-tariff wings of the party but King had at least confined the conflict to the privacy of caucus and cabinet. The acceptance of two budgets, however grudging, had made future compromises less difficult. The prestige of the party chief is one measure of party unity. Mackenzie King's caution and his tact had ensured that no influential Liberals had been alienated. By 1923 his authority within the party was growing. His personal prestige was founded on the success of his party in the election of 1921 and was enhanced by the mere fact of two years as Prime Minister. Liberals were becoming accustomed to thinking of him as their chief and tended to endow him with the qualities appropriate to his office. His talents as a conciliator had been useful. Mackenzie King had been more than a conciliator. He had been a leader and had given a sense of direction to his party. His most significant achievement had been in external affairs. Courage had been required to oppose the vision of a centralized British Empire after the fruitful co-operation among its members during the war and the Peace Conference; it had been even more difficult because the alternative seemed to be the disintegration of the Empire. Mackenzie King had deferred the high hopes of the centralists during the Chanak crisis and had blocked them by his determined opposition at the Imperial Conference in 1923. The Halibut Fisheries Treaty had dimly

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THE REINS OF OFFICE

outlined the different vision of a partnership of equal nations. Subsequent events were to prove that the course of Empire had been irrevocably altered. Mackenzie King returned from the Imperial Conference of 1923 with increased confidence in himself. It was the first important international gathering to plunge him into direct conflict with men whose experience in such matters was much greater than his own. He had every reason to believe that he had done well. "The Imperial Conferences/' he wrote in his diary, "have broadened my vision and added fresh and larger interests The experience has left me with added confidence/'2 His efforts at the Conference had also forced some prominent Canadians to revise their opinion of him. J. W. Dafoe's appraisal is worth quoting both because of his earlier doubts about King's ability and because of Dafoe's influence as a journalist. As for King, my regard for him has perceptibly increased by what I saw of him in London. He is an abler man than I thought; he has more courage than I gave him credit for; and he could be a very much better speaker than he is if he would cut out the platitudes and "get down to brass tacks." He really made some excellent speeches in London. While I agree that he has many excellent qualities for public life I am by no means sold on the proposition that he has the equipment for leadership for times such as these. In fact, I am rather convinced to the contrary. At the same time, in the event of a fusion [of a western bloc with a section of eastern Liberals] ... it is quite on the cards that King might continue to lead this party.3 The Imperial Conference had at least convinced Dafoe that Mackenzie King was capable of playing his cards well. The achievements in external affairs, however, added little prestige to the government at home. The issues had been involved and obscure and the victories had seemed mostly negative in character. The report of the Conference, for example, did little to convey the significance of what King had accomplished in six weeks in London. By refusing to press for a definitive resolution on Dominion status he had lost an opportunity for assuming a position which would have been more decisive and more inspiring. Nor could imperial policies alone bring much strength to his government. Canadians were more concerned with domestic problems than with external affairs. Few realized the new orientation in imperial relations; it would be many years before they would boast of their distinctive autonomy.

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In domestic politics Mackenzie King knew in which direction he wished to lead the party. The Liberals must regain the confidence of Canadians who had voted for Progressives in 1921. In two years in office, however, he had little to show for his efforts. The Progressive party was still a harsh and persistent fact. Sixty-four Progressives had been elected in 1921; the prairies had sent thirty-eight Progressives and only three Liberals to Ottawa. This third party had been conceived and nurtured by agrarian discontent—a discontent which went back to the defeat of reciprocity in 1911, the profiteering and the conscription crisis during the war, as well as the post-war depression in agriculture. Agrarian communities had found a scapegoat in "Big Business" which seemed to be exploiting them by its monopoly of finance and industry and by its domination of the Liberal and Conservative parties. It did not matter that this was an over-simplification of Canadian politics. Until Mackenzie King convinced them to the contrary, the Progressives and the people they represented would continue to mistrust his government. In political terms, King's problem was to absorb the Progressives into the Liberal party. King had understood this from the beginning. Apart from his instinctive preference for conciliatory tactics, the situation in the House of Commons left him little choice. His government depended on Progressive support for a stable majority. But Mackenzie King, unlike some Liberals, also sympathized with many of the aims of the Progressives. To him, the agrarian sentiments they represented were fundamentally Liberal. Progressives were misguided Liberals whose only error was that they did not realize that their influence could most effectively be exerted within the Liberal caucus and the Liberal cabinet. King did not deny the influence of business interests within his party. His argument was that agrarian interests could only be adequately protected if their representatives could exert a countervailing influence when government policies were being formulated. In 1921 King had asked T. A. Crerar, then the Progressive leader, to enter the government and he was still convinced that bringing the Progressive members into the Liberal caucus was the best solution. The candle was still burning in the window. Meanwhile, the Liberal home must be made more attractive to the Progressives. If the Liberal government could introduce the legislation they demanded, the misgivings of the Progressives about associat-

8

THE REINS OF OFFICE

ing with the Liberals might be overcome. Even if the Progressives at Ottawa persisted in their intransigence, many of their supporters in the rural constituencies might be won over. For two years Mackenzie King had patiently worked to dispel their prejudices. No political decisions were made without first considering the reaction of the third party. Some legislation had been initiated because of it. Mackenzie King had little to show for his efforts by 1923 for two reasons. The concessions he could offer were restricted to the policies which his own party would accept. He was willing to go to some lengths to seat Progressives at the Liberal table but not if it involved pushing away members of his own party. He had not been able to lower the tariff significantly. He had fumbled badly with the controversial question of the Crow's Nest Pass Agreement—the lower freight rates on grain and flour were still in effect but the final decision on the Agreement had been postponed until 1924.4 Also postponed was the construction of the Hudson Bay Railway and the railway branch lines in western Canada. The government had promised to build the former when finances permitted; its branch lines programme had been defeated in the Senate. But the two years had not been completely wasted. Some Progressives at least appreciated King's efforts to prevent any decision which contradicted their position. Yet King had not been able to offer any dramatic proof that he had converted his party to their views. The Liberal government—and its leader—was gaining an unfortunate reputation for procrastination. The other reason for the indecisive result of King's efforts was the division within the Progressive party. The Progressives were confused. The moderate wing, led by the Manitoba members, had ambitions to become a national party. This meant a national alignment of Progressive forces—which in effect meant absorbing the sympathetic wing of the Liberal party. The moderate Progressives were ready to modify their platform accordingly. Meanwhile, they preferred a Liberal to a Conservative government. They found many Liberals too reactionary but they believed that Mackenzie King at least was well disposed. They deplored his weakness and his tendency to defer to the rightwing Liberals, but, given sufficient guarantee that he could be firm, they were prepared to co-operate with him. The radical wing of the Progressive party, led by members of the United Farmers of Alberta, was less co-operative. It did not believe

9

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

in party government and was concerned only with the nature of the legislation before the House. Whether the government was Liberal or Conservative was irrelevant; the only responsibility of the radical Progressives was to vote for or against the bills which were introduced. T. A. Crerar had not accepted King's offer of a cabinet position because this wing of his party would not promise him its support.5 Robert Forke, who had succeeded Crerar as the Progressives' leader, had even less influence over the radicals in his party.6 Mackenzie King accepted the situation with his usual patience. In the face of Liberal opposition and the uncertainty of the Progressive reaction to his policies, he had felt his way by indecisive skirmishes and limited concessions. He had the advantage of being sure that his wooing of the Progressives was necessary and of being convinced that it would be effective. He was satisfied with the gradual attrition of the third party. Two Progressives had already deserted to join the Liberals and the widening breach within the Progressive party held out the hope of its steady disintegration. By the end of 1923, therefore, Mackenzie King was well satisfied with his achievements. He summed up his feelings in his diary on New Year's Eve. The old year is fast drawing to a close. It has been a good year—a wonderful year for me.... Another session of parliament has been carried through on the whole with satisfaction to the party and the country.... Then there has been the great experience of the Imperial Conferences, and a knowledge that I took the right positions in the main, and that the country's interests and the interests of the Empire and Anglo American relations have been strengthened thereby. . . . I have been able to serve my country in the government, to keep an honest and just administration, have gained I think the confidence and respect of my colleagues and loyalty of my party, and won added respect through the country. God grant that I do not overrate or overestimate what has been of good account. It is all with a spirit of humble gratitude that I thank God for it all.7

Mackenzie King was, however, inclined to exaggerate what he had accomplished. His achievements were intangible and indecisive. The Progressive party had been weakened but it was still a political force, resting on a solid antipathy to the old parties and on the conviction that the grudging concession to the farmers had been won because of the existence of the third party. While it was true that King's position within his own party was stronger, it was still not certain that his 10

THE REINS OF OFFICE

followers would support the measures he saw as necessary. His preoccupation with the Progressives was fostering a growing dissatisfaction in other regions, especially in the Maritimes where it seemed that problems were being ignored. The lack of Progressive response to his advances, Conservative successes in provincial elections in Ontario and Prince Edward Island and warnings from some of his most reliable advisers could not safely be ignored. Mackenzie King's false sense of security led him to discount some unpalatable truths.

11

CHAPTER TWO

A M E A S U R E OF B O L D N E S S

MACKENZIE KING confidently decided to bring his courting of the Progressives to a successful conclusion in 1924. The years of conciliation were only the prelude. He must now think in terms of the next election. What was needed was a political breakthrough, a dramatic achievement to convince the sceptical that his government was truly Liberal. Mackenzie King's analysis of the situation was unchanged. To him the problem was still to lure the Progressives into the Liberal party. The only change was that King now felt that he was strong enough to act. The result was to prove that Mackenzie King's sense of timing was not infallible. The problem of enticing the Progressives without alienating the right-wing Liberals could not easily be solved. King lowered the tariff in 1924 only to find that western Canada promptly demanded freight rate concessions. This was too much for some Liberals to concede in one year. Dramatic resolutions of the suspicions and hostilities of a decade are easier for playwrights than for politicians. Mackenzie King had to be satisfied with adding another act to his long wooing of the Progressives.

I The loss of two by-elections shortly after Mackenzie King's return from the Imperial Conference explains the decision to take drastic political action. He landed at Halifax at the beginning of December, 1923, spoke that evening in a by-election campaign, and went on to Ottawa, only to hear four days later, on December 5, that the Liberals had lost the Halifax seat. Local and personal issues were admittedly influential but a strong factor was the dissatisfaction with the government's persistent neglect of the Maritime region. 12

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

The defeat was a severe and unexpected blow. The by-election had not been necessary for the Prime Minister himself had created the vacancy by appointing the sitting member to the bench. King had not wanted to open the constituency but he had been persuaded to give his reluctant consent while overseas. The defeat marked the first Liberal reverse since the general election and it broke the "solid sixteen" from Nova Scotia. It also brought the Liberal majority in the House to the verge of extinction. Mackenzie King might well conclude that action was necessary. King did not question his former strategy. He still looked to the west to strengthen his position; the loss of Halifax only made action seem more urgent. He expressed his immediate reaction in his diary on the night of the by-election: I was strongly opposed to its [Halifax] being opened, and refused to take the responsibility.... Hereafter I shall be firmer and assert my own view more firmly.... I am inclined now to take the bold course and link up at once with the farmers Besides the agricultural point of view needs developing in our country. It will probably mean a break in our own party, but the gradual getting back to party lines. I am convinced we need to unite the East and the West, taking in of Crerar is a means to that end This good may come of it, it may force a union with the progressives sufficiently strong to give us a substantial majority on which we can count. For this I am grateful.1 Mackenzie King wasted no time. At a Cabinet meeting two days later he pointed out to his colleagues the mistake they had made, and did not hesitate to impress on them the fallibility of their judgment compared to his own. If the government was to be saved, he implied, its members must listen to him and accept his decisions. King expected difficulties with the conservative wing of his own party and his biting references in Cabinet to its bad judgment were doubtless intended to discredit the Old Guard. King then outlined his plans. Policy would have to be modified to appeal to the moderate Progressives and bring them to the government's side, with Crerar as a possible Minister. To this his colleagues gave a silent assent. Fate had already intervened to ease King's difficulties within the party. The day before the Halifax election, Fielding had suffered a paralytic stroke which was to keep him out of politics for the rest of his life. Nor was that all. Sir Lomer Gouin came to King after the Cabinet meeting to say that his physician insisted that he too give

13

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

up public life. There is some evidence to suggest that this was partly a protest. Gouin might have been persuaded to stay if his load had been materially lightened or if the Prime Minister had qualified his bold assertion of policy. Mackenzie King, however, welcomed his opportunity. He accepted Gouin's retirement with the customary expressions of regret. The withdrawal of Fielding and Gouin seemed most opportune. The loss in ability and prestige to the government would be more than compensated for by the disappearance of the leaders of the right wing of the party. If King was to move more decidedly in a western direction this was desirable, if not imperative. King's own position in the party would be stronger with his senior colleagues gone. Two Cabinet vacancies would be available to offer to the Progressives and a serious deterrent to their entering the government would be removed. And then, as if to emphasize the need for action, the Liberals lost a by-election in Kent, New Brunswick, in mid-December, two weeks after the Halifax defeat. The government's slender majority had vanished. Urgency did not lead to recklessness. Mackenzie King realized that Progressive support might involve dissociating himself entirely from the business interests in Montreal but this was a last resort. He puzzled over his dilemma in his diary early in January of the new year. I think the time has come now to cut the Gordian knot to sever this [Montreal] connection completely and bring the Liberals and the Farmers together. Fielding & Sir Lomer have both now gone. It remains to readjust. Lemieux wd be the strongest man to keep the Montreal group with us, the Bank of Montreal, C.P.R. etc. to lose that group is to consolidate the Conservative Party give it new life & financial support, on the other hand to consolidate the Liberals & Progressives is to make a strong party now with two years of office to prepare for appeal & to get back to two party lines. I do not want to lose Quebec support, much less incur active opposition of powerful financial & mffg. interests, they are against us anyway at heart, & we might as well have the fight in the open. If I can be sure of a straight alignment that will bring strength, I shall endeavour to reconstruct at once.2

Political losses in the east could only be tolerated if the gains in the west were more than commensurate. There could be no reconstruction of the government if the Progressives could give him no assurance of a "straight alignment." 14

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

Mackenzie King's bargaining position was much weaker than two years before when, straight from victory at the polls, he had assumed office. The losses in provincial elections and federal by-elections had diminished Liberal prestige and King's own parliamentary performance had been no better than mediocre. His one impressive achievement, at the Imperial Conference, was of no benefit. The Progressives were almost indifferent to what he had done abroad and were much more concerned with their own galling economic burdens.* King still had the advantage, however, of being in office, armed with two potent political weapons. He could reorganize his Cabinet and he could modify his government's policies. He was prepared to use either or both devices. His first step was to invite Crerar and Charles Dunning to Ottawa for a discussion. The invitation to Crerar rather than to the new Progressive leader was a recognition of Robert Forke's inability to control his followers. The inclusion of Dunning was a recognition of his rising reputation in western Canada. Dunning had succeeded W. M. Martin as the Liberal premier of Saskatchewan almost two years before and, like Martin, he had carefully kept himself publicly aloof from the federal Liberal party while keeping in touch privately. Although not yet forty, Dunning had been a leading figure in farmers' organizations before going into politics. He was a potential leader for a western bloc of Liberals and Progressives which Dafoe and others still saw as a possibility. By inviting him to Ottawa, King may simply have wished to put pressure on Crerar, or he may have hoped to get Dunning into the government where he not only would make a useful Minister but would be less independent and less dangerous as a political rival. King saw the two men early in January, separately and with others. He made no proposals, saying only that he wanted advice on how the Liberals and Progressives could best be brought together. Crerar's answer as to policy was the orthodox Progressive programme: tariff for revenue with large reductions on instruments of production; the alternative vote and proportional representation in the cities; maintenance of public ownership of railways; foreign relations according to King's *Thus Forke ignored the Conference completely in his speech on the Address in the 1924 session, and later curtly dismissed it by asserting that Canada had no great grievance against the British Government on constitutional matters. Can. H. of C. Debates, March 20, 1924, p. 521. 15

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

practice, with a Canadian Minister at Washington; government inspection of banks; more economy in the administration. Crerar also wanted a reorganization of the Cabinet to ensure a government more sympathetic to Progressive sentiments. Specifically he wanted the Finance portfolio for himself, with Dunning replacing Motherwell from Saskatchewan and A. B. Hudson instead of McMurray from Manitoba, and the addition of J. E. Caron, the provincial Minister of Agriculture, from Quebec. "He thought/' King noted, "this would mean an addition of 50 out [or] of 70 to our ranks in the House. Advised clean cut, all being done in a dramatic way at once/'3 King was more attracted to the scheme proposed by Dunning, a scheme which had already been outlined to him by correspondents.4 Dunning suggested that he should postpone any reconstruction of the Cabinet and confine his efforts to policy—tariff reductions, especially on implements used in primary production, and the completion of the Hudson Bay Railway. Crerar's suggestion would permit the Progressives to say that they had forced the government's hand, and the party would thereby again have demonstrated its usefulness to western Canada. The advantage of Dunning's proposal was that if the government brought down the right kind of legislation, the Progressives would be compelled to support it and the Liberals—and no one elsewould be able to claim the credit. The government would strengthen its own position in the west while undermining that of the Progressives. Dunning admitted that he would like to go into federal politics but thought he could do more good by staying in Saskatchewan for a time. He probably hesitated to join the federal crew until he was sure the ship would not sink. King was much impressed by Dunning and concluded that he was "a stronger saner & sounder man than Crerar/'5 The Prime Minister therefore modified his bold strategy to the extent of having adjustments in policy precede changes in Western personnel. He decided to retain Fielding for the moment and have James Robb, Minister of Trade and Commerce, take over as Acting Minister of Finance. Ernest Lapointe replaced Gouin as Minister of Justice and Arthur Cardin was given the portfolios of Marine and Fisheries. The new appointments took effect late in January, 1924. Lapointe, who had yielded Justice to Gouin two years before, now assumed a portfolio more commensurate with his position as King's closest associate within the government and his lieutenant in Quebec. Cardin brought to the government a gift for political organization of

16

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

the highest order. He was also one of the best platform speakers in Quebec and, as a further consideration, he could be relied on to win his by-election. Rodolphe Lemieux, with his close connections with Montreal financial interests, was passed over. Mackenzie King seems to have taken it for granted that, even without influential western Ministers, his altered Cabinet could be induced to accept significant concessions to the west. He evidently counted on his own strength and the absence of Fielding and Gouin to end any ministerial opposition. If this was King's assumption, it was soon confirmed. The first test was the programme which was to win over the Progressives. King outlined his ideas in a draft of the Speech from the Throne, which he submitted to the Cabinet late in February. The government would pledge itself to the reduction of taxes, strict economy in the public services, a balanced budget and, most important of all, a reduction in the tariff on the implements of production in the primary industries and other tariff changes. Originally King had inserted in the Speech a clause referring to the retirement of Senators at the age of 70 and the limitation of the Senate's legislative power to that of a suspensory veto, but objections from Liberal Senators and others induced him to shelve the proposals. They were to reappear later in the session. With this exception, King's draft was accepted by his colleagues with surprisingly little discussion. "The Cabinet swallowed the tariff references," was King's comment, "Dandurand, MacDonald & Robb present. We would never have secured this with Fielding & Sir Lomer."6 The next step was to try to ensure Progressive support for the government's programme. On February 27, the day before Parliament opened, King had the Progressive leader to lunch and put the case plainly before him: [I] talked with him of the line I was intending to take, of my desire to get East & West united, to go in for taking the duties off of Agric. implements, etc. if the Progressives would be half decent in their support. I explained that the length I would be able to go would depend on how outspoken they were in coming our way. That we might lose some of our own men, but I did not intend to fall between the two groups. He was wholly sympathetic & friendly & promised to do all he could.7

Forke's associates were apparently equally sympathetic. The Progressives voted solidly with the Liberals on the Address. "The first time in 17

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

prlt," noted King, "a great victory a splendid beginning/'8 The real test, however, would come when the government announced the details of its proposed changes in the budget. In drafting these proposals the Cabinet kept in touch with Forke and had at least one meeting with him and other Progressives to ascertain their views. The budget was introduced early in April. Mackenzie King grew apprehensive as the day approached. He expressed his concern in his diary: Budget debate comes on this afternoon (Thursday). I feel we have gone pretty far—farther than the country or members expect on the reduction of duties on agric. & other implements. It will make a cleavage. Our Ont. members will be aggrieved for the most part. We may lose three or four of them—Montreal M.P.'s too, Marler, perhaps Walter Mitchell & Sir Lomer. I think the Progressives will respond, but will be critical. The Tories will be bitter, & a savage campaign against the Govt. from now on may be looked for in the inspired Tory press.9

James Robb was in the fortunate position of being able to announce in his first budget speech that the government could show a surplus on its year's operations for the first time since 1913. Tax reductions were thus easily justified. In terms of revenue the lowering of the sales tax was the most significant change, involving a probable loss to the government of twenty-three million dollars. The tariff changes, however, were the centre of public interest. Customs duties were reduced or abolished on equipment used in primary industries and on material used to manufacture that equipment. The latter reductions were obviously designed to compensate those manufacturers who were likely to be injured by the lessened protection on the finished product. While fishing, lumbering and mining were affected, the chief beneficiary was agriculture. The tariff alterations meant only a small reduction in government revenue, amounting to some three-quarters of a million dollars. The farmers were encouraged out of all proportion to the tangible benefit they received because this was the first major step in the direction of freer trade since the government had taken office. The manufacturers, on the other hand, were alarmed, for they saw Fielding's promised tariff stability disappear and uncertainty and conjecture take its place. King's optimism returned as soon as the budget was presented. He was delighted with its reception in the House: 18

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

We have done the right thing. The House have responded. I believe that rural Canada will now respond. I really feel that coming at this moment when the farmers party is not only disintegrating but is being discredited in Ontario, we have constructed a bridge which will help to unite East and West, and to bring the Progressive party across into our ranks. I feel very proud, very happy—and very grateful to Providence who has guided me despite all my errors & shortcomings & failures. I really believe it will be, as I wrote Robb, an epoch making budget in the history of the Liberal party. It may bring us back into power by getting the Progressive forces and ours united. The one danger is that it will make all the interests active, they will use money, & spread lying propaganda & will get big interests allied together. I am happy that I have been true to Liberal tradition, true to the platform of the 1919 Convention, true to the pledges I gave the electors in 1921 and true to the people—the producers and consumers. Had Fielding or Sir Lomer both or either remained in the Cabinet we could never have done what we have done. I have had my own way from the start, and have carried every point for which I have fought. Robb has been very loyal & helpful. It is a good day's work.10

Mackenzie King was too optimistic. One budget does not make a government. The Liberal picture was still beclouded. The budget debate revealed a divergence of opinion which lessened the impact of the tariff changes. The western Ministers tended to over-reach themselves in trying to demonstrate how close the government was to the Progressives; they stressed how drastic were the tariff reductions and how, in the words of Charles Stewart, the budget would ring "the death knell of protection" in Canada.11 Speeches of this kind played directly into the hands of the Conservatives. They supplied alarming evidence to the protectionist east that the new budget had not only jettisoned the Fielding tariff but might also prove to be the first of a series of reductions over the whole field of manufactured goods. On the other hand, a number of Liberal speakers had followed the other alternative of playing down the significance of the budget changes. This was equally dangerous, for it tended to destroy the political advantages in the west which the government had hoped to reap. The Conservatives attacked the proposals, as King had expected. Arthur Meighen, apparently eager to contest the next election on the same issue as the last, reaffirmed his faith in a protective tariff. "Our party," he declared in the debate, "is for protection—for the farm, the mine, the factory, the whole of Canada Do not confuse the issue. Let its friends give battle to its foes. Let us have a clean, clear 19

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

fight and a definite verdict/'12 Mackenzie King, however, was less belligerent. It was not easy, as he had complained earlier in the session, "to lead a Liberal party that is so largely tory in spots/'13 Lead it, however, he must. His bolder policy had, of necessity, to be tempered with caution. He did not repudiate the extreme assertions of his western Ministers but neither would he promise more tariff reductions in the future. King did not want to force a definite verdict on uncertain allies and a divided party. The Prime Minister denied before the House that the budget was designed to appease the Progressives. For the benefit of uneasy Liberals, he argued that the changes were consistent with the LaurierFielding tradition of adjusting taxes to reduce production and living costs. At the same time, both he and Robb argued that the budget had extended this tradition and had outlined a new and broader "national policy." The thesis they expounded was simple. Canada's greatest assets were her primary industries; if these prospered, so would the entire economy. The budget proposals were designed for this purpose. Transportation, for example, would gain through the greater movement of commodities and even manufacturers would profit from lower costs of raw materials and the increased purchasing power of the primary producers.14 The economic argument was sound and the tactful exposition was expected to make it palatable to both Liberals and Progressives. Nevertheless, no arguments could obscure the fact that the government was reducing the tariff. Four protectionist Liberals voted with the Conservatives against the government on the final division, on May 16. Two Liberals from Montreal, Sir Lomer Gouin and Walter Mitchell, were not in the House for the vote and the latter resigned his seat in protest* Here was the proof that a bold policy was risky. Those who criticized the tariff reductions as inadequate could not deny that Mackenzie King had nonetheless gone too far for some of his followers. The Progressives also had had misgivings about the budget. They approved of its terms but some of them had insisted that the proposals should go much further. Thus when J. S. Woods worth, the leader of the Labour group, had moved an amendment—which was modelled on a budget amendment moved by Robert Forke a year earlier—that *It was alleged that the real reason was not the budget, but King's refusal to take him into the Cabinet. 20

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

the tariff should also be lowered on many of the necessities of life, the Progressives were sympathetic. Fourteen Progressives had voted for the amendment, which was defeated. In the final division on the budget, however, all but one of these Progressives voted with the government. They were prepared to criticize but not to reject the tariff reductions. The budget debate aggravated the cleavage within the Progressive party. The group was fast approaching the point where an open split was inevitable. A month after the division on the budget, ten of the Ontario and Alberta radicals who had voted for Woodsworth's amendment, broke away from the party. These doctrinaire Progressives reasserted the principle of constituency autonomy and delegate representation, and declared their emancipation from the party discipline and the compromises which had been imposed by the Progressive caucus. With the two Labour members, they formed a bloc which became known as the Ginger Group/ The separate corporate existence of this group was eventually recognized by the House and in such matters as membership on committees they were treated as another opposition party. This schism proved to be permanent. It killed the possibility that the Progressives might become a major national party. Mackenzie King's cautious administration, followed by the tariff reductions in the budget, had forced the Progressives to choose between reluctant support of his government or open opposition. The emergence of the Ginger Group showed that the Progressives had been unable to agree among themselves. King had won the confidence of the moderate Progressives; now that the radicals had left the party, if he could retain this confidence it was a matter of time until the moderates merged with the Liberal party. The schism did not, however, eliminate the Progressives as a complication in Canadian politics. The party could not hope to broaden its support but it could remain a powerful regional bloc if it continued to demonstrate its usefulness to the western voters. This it attempted to do by claiming credit for the tariff reductions in the budget. Charles Dunning was shocked by this ingratitude; "our *W. L. Morton, The Progressive Party in Canada (Toronto, 1950), pp. 194-7. The name had first been applied to the group of Conservatives who had opposed the Military Service Act in 1917.

21

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

Progressive friends/' he wrote the Prime Minister during the debate in the House, "are playing the faction game—giving wide publicity to the fact that every good done by the Government is done as a result of their putting a pistol to the head of the Government/' Dunning, however, was sure that western voters would not be deceived. Progressive tactics were making it 'Very difficult to restore real harmony among the Liberals out here On the other hand, however, there is no doubt that your Government has increased its stature with the people of Western Canada as a result of the forward policy/'15 The bolder policy had sharpened the image of the Liberal government. The Conservatives had been forced to reaffirm a high tariff policy. The bulk of the Liberal party had voted for tariff reductions. Without conceding the telling political recognition of appointing Progressives to the Cabinet, King had forced the third party to support his budget. The disintegration of the Progressive party had been accelerated. The government, however, had not received full credit for its policy. The western farmers still remained sceptical. Confidence is not reached at a single bound. II

A party of protest lives on its grievances; without them there would be no protests. The appetite of the farmers for tariff reductions was "almost insatiable," as Dunning wryly remarked;16 the comment could be applied equally well to other prairie complaints. Tariffs, railway and ocean freight rates, the Hudson Bay Railway, proportional representation, the return of the natural resources to the prairie provinces—there was no end to the parade of grievances.* The only question was which would occupy the centre of the stage at any particular time. In giving loud expression to these complaints, the Progressive movement was simply following a well-worn road. For the government to concede one demand was simply an invitation for two others to take its place. *A record wheat crop in 1923 had been accompanied by low prices; in 1924 a much lower yield was to give a fairly satisfactory return because there was a spectacular recovery in prices. This was still in the future, however, at the time of the 1924 parliamentary session. The manufacturing industries encountered a mild recession during the year.

22

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

The courting of the Progressives in 1924 ended with the tariff reductions. The hesitant response of the Progressives and the open opposition of a section of the Liberal party seemed to have depleted the government's reforming energies. Boldness gave way to caution. Instead of continuing with his plan to win over the Progressives at the risk of alienating eastern Liberals, Mackenzie King was now content with consolidating his improved position. Further concessions to the west were no more than an unwilling response to political pressure. On the subject of electoral reform, the government actually withdrew from the position announced in the Speech from the Throne. It accepted its decennial duty under the constitution and put through a Redistribution Act, but it did not bring to second reading its proposal to establish the alternative vote for single member constituencies. Opposition from Quebec accounted for this, aided perhaps by the belated recognition that while such a measure might be useful in weakening the Conservatives in western Canada, it would also tend to strengthen all third-party movements. A private member's resolution endorsing the wider scheme of proportional representation came to nothing. Nor were there any changes in railway policy, although transportation almost ranked with the tariff in the list of farmers* grievances. Proposals to proceed with the construction of the Hudson Bay Railway met with the usual opposition from the east, impatience from the west, and procrastination from the government. The branch line programme for the Canadian National, which had perished at the hands of the Senate in 1923, again encountered heavy going. Seven of the government's twenty-six bills for new construction failed to secure Senate approval. Most of the opposition in the House came from the Conservatives, who linked their criticism of the proposals with the criticism of the Canadian National Board of Directors which had authorized them. The members of the Board were all political appointees, and rather poor ones at that, and the government was at a serious disadvantage in trying to defend them. There was, moreover, a very real danger that the railway would be discredited as a publicly owned project because of this ineffective and partisan Board. Sir Henry Thornton, the President of the C.N.R., raised the 23

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

matter of personnel with the Prime Minister in August;* he had earlier been even more frank in a letter to J. W. Dafoe. "As long as the directors are purely political appointees/' he wrote, "they will come and go as the government changes. Such a Board excites no respect nor is it capable of constructive work/'17 The Senate's defeat of the branch line bills, following its display of zeal on a number of other measures within the preceding three years,f led King to consider once more the question of Senate reform. On July 19, the last day of the session, he informed the House that this had been considered by the Cabinet some months ago, but that action had been postponed until the need was more apparent. This need had now been demonstrated. He therefore assured Parliament that the government would seek legislation at the next session "whereby bills may be enacted by and with the advice and consent of the House of Commons under conditions similar in principle to those which have been sanctioned for the Parliament of the United Kingdom/'18 A decision on railway freight rates was less easily postponed. The Crow's Nest Pass Act of 1897, which substantially reduced rates on certain commodities between western Canada and Fort William, had been temporarily suspended after the war. In 1923 the government had restored the lower rates on grain and flour to the Great Lakes but had avoided any final decision by suspending the rest of the Act for another year.19 On July 7, 1924, the Act would once more be fully effective, applying not only to grain and flour moving eastward but to basic commodities moving westward. For the prairies, the Crow's Nest rates were not considered an economic privilege; the Act was the Magna Charta which guarded fundamental rights. "Rightly or wrongly," wrote T. A. Crerar, "the view exists in the Prairie Provinces that Eastern rates have always been governed by water competition, and that if there is not some governing maximum in the Prairies, the railways will do what they have always done, put on all the traffic will bear on this part of the Dominion."20 The farmer thus considered that he received no special or *Sir Henry Thornton to W.L.M.K., Aug. 27, 1924. King expressed the hope that he could discuss the question with Sir Henry, hut there is no record of any such discussion taking place. fOne of these efforts in 1924 should not he forgotten. The Senate amended the Redistribution Bill by changing the name of a proposed constituency from MissisquoiBrome to Brome-Missisquoi.

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A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

unfair advantages from the Act; its provisions merely stood in lieu of the wholesome competition which was enjoyed by the rest of Canada. The Crow's Nest rates represented one success in the continuing battle against the vested interests of eastern Canada. Failure to restore the rates in full would be interpreted on the prairies as further evidence of eastern domination over the federal government. On the other hand, the railways claimed that these rates were too low to cover the cost of hauling the goods covered by the Act. Their restoration would lead to increases in freight rates elsewhere to compensate for the losses; the higher rates would, in effect, be a hidden subsidy paid by the rest of Canada to the prairie farmers. British Columbia would have a special grievance, for the reduction of the rates from eastern Canada to the west would exaggerate the existing handicap of the high Mountain Differential rates between the Pacific province and the prairies. The antagonisms and recriminations had been postponed for a year by the partial suspension of the Crow's Nest rates in 1923; the delay had done nothing to dispel them. Mackenzie King was still baffled by the problem. The government tried to escape criticism in 1924 by doing nothing. The Crow's Nest Pass Act was allowed to come into effect on the appointed day. The railway companies refused to submit meekly to this loss of revenue; they retaliated by complying with the letter of the law. They restored the rates only for those points which were on the lines of the Canadian Pacific in 1897 when the original Agreement was made. The rates were highly discriminatory when applied to conditions existing a quarter of a century later. Newly settled areas found themselves paying higher rates than more distant points which by good fortune had enjoyed railway service in 1897. The new freight rate schedules created a chaotic and intolerable situation. The Prime Minister ignored the passionate protests from the west. Intervention was bound to be unpopular, whatever form it took, and King saw some advantages in delay. The whole freight rate structure was riddled with inequities and anachronisms. Public controversy would at least draw attention to the broader problem; the debate might make a compromise politically feasible.21 Meanwhile, the machinery existed for appeals on freight rates to the Board of Railway Commissioners and to the Supreme Court. King preferred to leave the initiative to the provincial governments most directly affected

25

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

by discriminatory rates. Let them make the appeals and accept some of the odium which would most certainly be attached to any final decision. King explained his tactics in a letter at the beginning of August to the Liberal member for Brantford: I am quite sure that the discriminations which the railway companies have permitted as a consequence of the restoration of the Crow's Nest Pass Agreement cannot long continue. The many injustices they entail in different parts of Canada are all too obvious. It is altogether probable that they will lead to an early consideration by the Railway Commission of the effect of the Crow's Nest Pass Agreement upon railway rates as a whole. With what consequences it is difficult at the moment to say. I have felt that it was not in the interest of our government to take the initiative in compelling the reference [to the Board of Railway Commissioners] which is certain to come, but rather to leave it to the Provinces and Municipalities affected, inasmuch as they will escape criticism of the consequences of the reference, whereas if our government takes the initiative, we are certain to be saddled with every grievance which may grow out of it. The Prairie Provinces are the most concerned. They wanted the restoration of the Crow's Nest Pass Agreement in full. They are feeling the effects of the discriminations involved. If they occasion the reference they may be expected to acquiesce in the findings whatever they may be. I am not so sure they will be as ready to fall in line with consequences which might grow out of any action of ours.22 The tactics were sound but on this occasion the consequences were embarrassing. The Board of Railway Commissioners began hearings in August on the discriminatory rates. In October it issued its judgment. To everybody's astonishment, the Commission asserted that it had authority under the Railway Act to override the Crow's Nest Pass Act of 1897. In effect, the Commissioners declared that the Crow's Nest rates could be altered by them as easily as any other freight rates. They then revoked the Crow's Nest rates on all commodities except grain and flour moving east from the prairies. The rates in effect before July 7 were thus restored. The decision of the Railway Commissioners was disastrously timed. Mackenzie King had reached British Columbia on his first trip to the west as Prime Minister, a trip which had been designed to convince the prairies of the benefits of a Liberal administration. The

26

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attempt to win over the Progressives by an attractive programme had lost its momentum but the tariff reductions might still be used to good effect. King hoped to reap the credit before the harvest was claimed by the Progressives. He could do little to win the western press to his side—the Liberals were dangerously weak there—but he could at least carry his message in person. After a preliminary series of meetings in Ontario and a dash into New Brunswick for a byelection, King had left early in October for the west. He divided five weeks almost equally between the prairies and British Columbia. The meetings on the trip were well attended, and King's speeches were listened to with interest and moderate enthusiasm. Naturally, he had taken full credit for what the government had done, insisting that the origin of the tariff reductions was to be found in the Liberal platform of 1919 and had no connection with Progressive pressure on his government. He had also claimed credit for the restoration of the Crow's Nest rates in his early speeches of the tour. He varied his appeal in each province but the difference was more of emphasis than content. In Manitoba he had pleaded for a reconciliation between factions of the party and asked for the co-operation of Progressives and Liberals to fight the forces of reaction and conservatism. In Saskatchewan, with a Liberal government in office, this had become an appeal for the west to rally to the Liberal party. In British Columbia he had slurred over the restoration of the Crow's Nest rates and dwelt on the province's abundant natural resources and the help which the new tariff would provide to exploit them. Then came the decision of the Board of Railway Commissioners. The west saw its one sure fortress demolished by this new and unexpected assault. Forceful and even violent appeals for intervention descended on the unhappy federal government—the earlier protests were mild compared to this outburst. The three prairie Premiers asked Mackenzie King to suspend the Board's decision but he refused to act until he had a chance to review the situation with his colleagues— a response based on indecision and on two impending by-elections in areas affected by the controversy. He did arrange to expedite the hearing of an appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada, although again he left the actual appeal to the initiative of the provinces most concerned.

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Western scepticism was confirmed by this evasion. Here was additional evidence of the political power of big business. The list of prairie grievances was still long and the west in general was still unconvinced that the Liberal party under Mackenzie King would shorten it. An editorial in the Regina Leader expressed the mood: Whether or not that union of Liberal and Progressive forces which Mr. Mackenzie King so earnestly desires is effected before the next general election will depend more upon what happens at the forthcoming session of parliament than upon anything he can say in the West at this time or on the eve of an election We are confident that the unsatisfactory results of dividing the progressive and liberal strength is [sic] now widely realized and that there is a desire in the West for a rapprochement if it can be effected without sacrificing the interests of the West; but we are equally convinced that no such union can be brought about except by concrete evidence that Mr. Mackenzie King's professions of friendship for the West are sincere.23

The western trip had not, however, been a complete waste of time. In Regina, the Prime Minister had made some progress with Charles Dunning. King had suggested the possibility of the Saskatchewan Premier entering the federal government. "Dunning expressed himself as much interested in Railways, as being willing to come to Ottawa, if & when he got someone to succeed him." But he was most reluctant to commit himself in public. King noted with chagrin that Dunning took no part in the official reception tendered by the city of Regina and neither he nor any of his Ministers appeared on the platform at King's principal Regina meeting. "A curious position for a Govt. with a strong Liberal following. This narrow vision/' was King's comment.24 The provincial Premier was not going to be scorched by any burning bridges. By the end of the year, Mackenzie King might well have begun to question his broad strategy. There was no evidence that the prairies would ever be satisfied and the problematical rewards of further concessions might never compensate for the losses incurred in central Canada and the Maritimes. A mere abatement of western suspicion would be a poor bargain for increased eastern resentment. King may have pondered the possibility of withdrawing his bid for western support, making his peace with the east and trying before it was too late to recapture some of the territory he had deliberately abandoned to the Conservatives. 28

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

Even the advice from the west was contradictory. J. G. Gardiner, the Saskatchewan Minister of Highways, was not optimistic about the chances of winning western gratitude. He suggested one last impressive gesture—preferably on the Crow's Nest rates and the Hudson Bay railway—but only as a final attempt to win over the Progressives. If this did not work, the government should admit that the Progressives were the real opposition in the west and fight them to the limit. "We have now reached the moment/' he added, "when we are in a position to strike out and win this province, but it must be won from the Progressives/'25 The belligerent Gardiner would like nothing better than an open fight. Mackenzie King would not admit that his strategy had failed. He conceded the force of Gardiner's argument but he had no desire to fight. The federal liberals, he reminded Gardiner at the end of December, needed the co-operation of the Progressives in the House of Commons: It may be in some particulars our own position will have to be more strongly asserted than it has hitherto been. The situation as I saw it in the West is one thing, and the situation as we face it in our Parliament is another. Both have to be considered, though I can well see that what may serve best in one direction may be the more costly in the other. Like all difficult situations which politics present there must be a point somewhere at which a proper balancing can be effected.26

To Mackenzie King a proper balance always seemed preferable to squaring off against potential friends. King's idea of the proper balance was shown by his decision late in the year on the ruling of the Board of Railway Commissioners. His eventual aim was a complete revision of freight rates based on "equality of rates for Eastern and Western Canada & special consideration for Middle West/'27 That special considerations for one region would violate the principle of equality was irrelevant. What King hoped for was a formula in which the inequalities would be so balanced as to make the compromises politically acceptable. One necessary inequality would be freight rate concessions to the west. Some of his colleagues were not convinced. King commented in his diary, after a long discussion in Cabinet in December, that he could "not recall a stormier session in Council, more division of feeling strongly expressed/'28 King was insistent. On Christmas Day, the

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Cabinet authorized an Order-in-Council to restore the Crow's Nest rates which the Board of Railway Commissioners had set aside. The rates would be in effect only until the Supreme Court ruled on the decision of the Board; the problem of the discrimination created by the railways' interpretation of these rates was ignored for the moment. The Order-in-Council, however, was welcomed by the west. The discriminatory rates would have to be adjusted and at least the government had conceded the validity of the Crow's Nest Pass Agreement. There were some indications during the year that King's judgment of the political balance was sound. Seven by-elections were held in 1924. The Conservatives retained one seat with a reduced majority; the government carried six, one of which was captured from the Conservatives. The by-election in the Montreal constituency of St. Antoine was of special significance. Walter Mitchell had resigned the seat in protest against the budget and the contest was thus centred on the government's tariff policy. St. Antoine was an urban constituency where presumably tariff reductions would be unpopular. The Liberal victory, even with a reduced majority, was acclaimed as a vindication of the budget. The other striking success was in Ontario, where the sitting Conservative member for West Hastings, E. Gus Porter, had resigned to test public opinion on an alleged impropriety by the Minister of Labour at the time of the failure of the Home Bank.* West Hastings had returned a Conservative at every election, save one, since Confederation; Porter had been its representative continuously for twenty years. He was defeated by more than 400 votes. Mackenzie King was naturally elated by these results. The verdict in St. Antoine strengthened his position as party leader for it seemed to vindicate his tariff policy. King had minced no words in the election about the necessity of the modified tariff in the Canadian economy;29 the election of the Liberal candidate was a decisive reply to the financial interests and the protectionist Liberals who had prophesied disaster. A few of the more sceptical observers suggested to King— * James Murdock, the Minister of Labour, had withdrawn money from his personal account in the Home Bank two days before its failure. He was accused of having taken advantage of confidential information received as a Minister. Murdock convinced a Committee of the House that he had learned of the impending bank failure from a friend, and explained that he had since returned the money he had withdrawn. He was exonerated.

30

A MEASURE OF BOLDNESS

though with little apparent effect—that local rather than national factors might have been primarily responsible for the result.30 Mackenzie King could find support for his optimism in the fact that most Liberals and some Progressives agreed with him. For the Conservative party, the by-elections had brought only disappointment. The promising ground of St. Antoine had proved treacherous. The challenge, so confidently and recklessly thrown down in West Hastings, had only discredited the party. The omens which had been so favourable early in the year had turned unmistakably in the other direction. The distress of the Conservatives was shown most convincingly by open criticism of Meighen's leadership. St. Antoine confirmed the fears of many that the party under Meighen could make no inroads in Quebec; if it could not win such a seat on the tariff issue, its chances elsewhere in the province were slim indeed. The defeat in West Hastings was also ominous for it was generally admitted that the constituency had been opened with Meighen's approval.31 The blunder suggested that he was carrying a double handicap: an unpopular reputation in Quebec and fallible judgment in Ontario.

31

CHAPTER THREE

EDUCATING DOWNING STREET

NOT ALL of Mackenzie King's troubles were on the home front. He was still involved in a running engagement with the British Government on the nature of imperial relations. A series of incidents—Chanak, the Halibut Fisheries Treaty, and the Imperial Conference of 1923— had given little time to draw breath, much less to assess the changing status of the Dominions. Further incidents would prolong the series until the Imperial Conference of 1926. In this struggle Mackenzie King was the constant aggressor. He accepted the disarmingly simple proposition that Canada was a selfgoverning Dominion and applied it rigorously whenever imperial policy was discussed. King did not mean to disrupt the unity of the Empire. He was more concerned with preventing the British Government from imposing responsibilities on Canada than with devising a distinctively Canadian foreign policy; he assumed that once the principle of self-government was recognized, Canadian policies would fit neatly into the broader imperial policies. Mackenzie King was not tilting at windmills. The British Foreign and Colonial Offices saw diplomatic unity as essential to the maintenance of the Empire as a world power. They did not want equality with Great Britain for the Dominions if it contradicted the principle of a common foreign policy, enforced by common action. British officials were prepared to flatter colonial egos and even to tolerate colonial idiosyncracies but they did not want any greater break with the past than was necessary. They found Mackenzie King's insistence on Canadian autonomy inconvenient. Without challenging the principle of autonomy directly they often ignored it. Their opposition would take the form—consciously or unconsciously—of a misunderstanding, a legal or a constitutional quibble, an emergency condition

32

EDUCATING DOWNING STREET

or an unusual situation which made it necessary to depart from the principle as a temporary expedient. Recognition of the changed status of the Dominion would have come more slowly if Downing Street had not had to contend with Mackenzie King's wary vigilance and stubborn insistence at every turn.

I In 1924 the major incident in this series of events was the Lausanne Treaty. The Lausanne Conference had been called in 1922 to negotiate terms of peace with Turkey, since the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 had not come into effect. Canada had not been invited to the Conference in spite of the precedents of the Paris and Washington Conferences. Mackenzie King had been relieved rather than affronted. Since Canada was not represented, his government would not have to approve the Treaty formally and would be bound by the terms only to the extent that the Canadian Parliament might decide. King had explained these implications in 1922 but the British Government had failed to appreciate or even to understand his position. Further explanations by King at the Imperial Conference of 1923 on no less than three occasions had apparently been no more successful.1 The MacDonald government had come into office in Great Britain in January of 1924, and Ramsay MacDonald himself took over the Foreign Office. A month later a despatch was sent from London to the Canadian Government expressing the hope that Canada would soon be able to concur in the ratification of the Lausanne Treaty; a further despatch on March 21st requested an immediate reply. King went over the old ground on March 24th and explained that his government would not ratify the Treaty but did not object to the British Government's doing so.2 It is impossible in a few paragraphs to set out fully the misunderstandings and confusion of the next four months. Ramsay MacDonald began by completely misrepresenting the Canadian position in speeches in the British House of Commons. Canada had been represented at Lausanne by the British delegates, he asserted early in April, and he assured the House that the Canadian Government would accept any obligations arising out of the Treaty.3 King's expostulations in a despatch had no effect. MacDonald replied that his

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WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

explanation in the House "may have been rather peremptorily expressed" but he still believed that he had conveyed "not what you [King] had actually promised to do on paper, but what you would do should circumstances arise."4 MacDonald did not criticize King's attitude—that would have been understandable. Instead he insisted on misinterpreting the Canadian position. The British Prime Minister was apparently incapable of realizing that Canadian autonomy could in any way affect the traditional forms of imperial diplomacy. His errors of fact and errors of interpretation were not unnaturally accepted as accurate by the British Parliament and press. Mackenzie King was embarrassed by these misconstructions. He was compelled to refute the errors in the Canadian House,5 and to set forth the Canadian position again in further official despatches throughout April.6 He also engaged in a personal and somewhat acrimonious exchange with the British Prime Minister, who refused to admit publicly that he had been mistaken. MacDonald would not make a retraction in the British Parliament,7 nor would he for some time allow King to quote the official records to set the account straight.8 Finally, after severe pressure from King, and after King had secured the consent of other Dominions involved in the Lausanne discussions, MacDonald agreed to allow a part of the correspondence between the two Governments to be published.9 The justification for King's stubborn stand on Lausanne was, of course, the fact that the Canadian view fitted neatly into the new scheme of Empire relations which he had been sedulously advocating. In a private letter to Ramsay MacDonald he explained: If the conception of the British Empire as a community of nations possessing equality of status is to have any meaning whatever, and the precedents established at Versailles are to be regarded as a part of the new order of things, I fail to see how we could have adopted an attitude other than the one we have taken.10

The changing concept of Empire, however, left the Canadian Government on constitutionally shaky ground. As King admitted in this letter, a state of war still existed between Canada and Turkey. The Canadian Government was willing to be bound by the Lausanne Treaty as far as the conclusion of a state of war was concerned, but it was unwilling to accept any other obligation under the Treaty or its accompanying Convention. It was not ready, for example, to 34

EDUCATING DOWNING STREET

assist in defending the neutrality of the Straits. This logical difficulty came about as the result of the radical change in the status of the Dominion. Canada had entered the war in 1914 as a subordinate part of the Empire through a declaration by the British Government, and now, ten years later, she was confronted with the need to make peace according to precedents which in the interval she had helped to create. When the British Government agreed with France that Canada should not be represented at the Lausanne Conference, King was given the opportunity to lay claim to the best of two worlds. He wished to follow the 1914 procedure and obtain peace with Turkey through the British plenipotentiaries, while at the same time he wished to avail himself of the post-war precedents to avoid commitments which formed part of the treaty. How could he accept one part of a document and reject the remainder? How could he revert momentarily to 1914 and then return to 1924? This constitutional difficulty was the one vulnerable point in King's position on Lausanne. O. D. Skelton clarified the implications of this position in a concise memorandum in April. At this time Skelton was King's unofficial adviser on external affairs; he was appointed Counsellor of the Department in July, 1924, and was promoted to Under-Secretary in the following year, a position which he occupied until his death in 1940. Skelton was to be one of Canada's most devoted civil servants as well as one of the most able. Even the sheer bulk of the memoranda he prepared for the Prime Minister is amazing; his comprehensive grasp of the problems and his lucid exposition are equally impressive. In these early years, Skelton was an invaluable associate in the defence of Canadian autonomy. In his biographies of Sir Alexander Gait and Sir Wilfrid Laurier he had exposed the scheming of British politicians to subvert Canadian self-government and their efforts to dominate the Empire from London, and this mistrust made him an ever alert guardian against any encroachment. On this occasion, Skelton pointed out four possible courses if King was to be consistent with constitutional practice. He could remain at war with Turkey; negotiate a separate treaty to end the war; ratify the present treaty; or admit that ratification by the British Government was binding on Canada.11 Mackenzie King preferred to ignore constitutional technicalities. The first course was absurd; the second was far too drastic and would

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have raised a host of controversial questions at home, in London, and in every Foreign Office of the world. The last two possibilities would have meant that King was abandoning his position that Canada could accept no obligation without representation. King refused to move from his equivocal position. "I am helping to make History in the lines along which I am defining relations between different parts of the Empire," he had written earlier in his diary, "& asserting a quality of status in fact not in name. We have the right position in the Lausanne matter & it cannot be gainsaid."12 The next day he wrote: "The Br. Frgn. office have been trying to impose a sort of Imperial right, superior to our national right—but have begun the wrong way this time. I know I am on the right lines/'13 Mackenzie King's unconventional stand was justified. At this transitional stage in the development of imperial relations, old theories could not cover new facts. King himself noted on Skelton's memorandum that ratification of the treaty by the British Government was binding "as between other countries & Br. Empire. As to extent within Empire depends on view parliament takes in light of all circumstances."14 Other nations would not recognize the new situation because the diplomatic unity of the Crown was still unimpaired in international law. The change would first have to be recognized within the Empire itself by an understanding of the responsibilities of its parts. In the Lausanne incident Mackenzie King had one tactical advantage; he could refuse to do anything, while the British Government had to act. It was fortunate he did not have to enlighten Ramsay MacDonald for the latter, even as late as May, had not only failed to grasp the Canadian position but was still putting into King's mouth statements that he had many times refused to accept.15 In July, His Majesty the King ratified the Treaty, and the state of war between Turkey and the British Empire (including Canada) came to an end. The exact nature of Canadian obligations remained conjectural. In the meantime Mackenzie King had given to Parliament on June 9 a more detailed account of his position. He admitted that the Lausanne Treaty would bind Canada as well as the rest of the Empire in its relations with other nations, but he declared that within the Empire it would create different degrees of obligation on the 36

EDUCATING DOWNING STREET

separate units depending on the activity of each unit in the formation of the Treaty. Thus Canada, having had no representative at Lausanne and having taken no part in the negotiations or signature of the Treaty, would be bound only to the extent determined by her own Parliament. He added: There is a distinction to be drawn between the purely legal and technical position in which this Dominion may be placed and the moral obligations which arise under treaties depending upon the manner in which such treaties are entered into, upon the parties who are present, and the representative capacities in which they acted while negotiations were proceeding. Legally and technically Canada will be bound by the ratification of this Treaty; in other words, speaking internationally the whole British Empire in relation to the rest of the world will stand as one when this treaty is ratified. But as respects the obligations arising out of the treaty itself, speaking now of inter-imperial obligations this parliament, if regard is to be had to the representations which from the outset we have made to the British government, will in no way be bound by any obligation beyond that which parliament of its own volition recognizes as arising out of the situation.16 Mackenzie King understood what he was doing. In these three sentences he had summarized the confused situation. His explanation was probably no more intelligible to most Canadians than it had been to Ramsay MacDonald. Indeed, Robert Forke, the Progressive leader, honestly admitted in the House that he was out of his depth and that his own speech on Lausanne "had added nothing to this debate."17 King's stand was approved by most of his compatriots, not because of his explanation but because it absolved Canada from possible international obligations. Lausanne, however, was consistent with King's previous stands on imperial incidents. Chanak, for example, had drawn a distinction between active and passive belligerency: one part of the Empire might be at war while another part, though legally a belligerent, took no part in the hostilities. Lausanne implied a distinction between active and passive responsibility. The whole Empire might be bound "legally and technically" by a given treaty, to use King's phrase, but Canada was not obliged to enforce the treaty. The extent to which the passive responsibility might become active would depend on the circumstances in each case, and would be determined by the Canadian Parliament. Arthur Meighen's criticism of King's policy was a tacit admission of 37

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

a partial conversion. He still wanted to reconcile Canadian autonomy and imperial co-operation by having Canada share in the formulation of imperial policy, but the "Ready, aye ready" attitude at the time of Chanak was gone. At Lausanne, he argued in the House, Canada should have insisted on having her views considered and her influence should have been used "to avert the British government from a line which affected the interests peculiar to Canada and directing it along a line which more suited Great Britain as a world Empire." Even Meighen, however, did not assert that Canadian representations would have had much effect, where Britain's interests were so obviously more directly involved than those of Canada. He suggested that if Canada was dissatisfied with a treaty, a clause could be added to the effect that it did not bind her unless she explicitly approved it by ratification.18 Thus even in Meighen's statement lay the possibility of a divided Empire policy. ii

Lausanne was only one of many issues in 1924 where British governments either ignored or misinterpreted the Canadian position in foreign affairs. Like the Bourbons, they seemed to learn nothing from experience. Mackenzie King was amazingly patient. He insisted on the principle of Canadian autonomy on each occasion but he did not create incidents in order to assert the principle, nor did he insist on public admissions of error when the principle had been conceded. In spite of the frustrating disregard of his position by British politicians, Mackenzie King was always tactful and polite. He was so sure that he was right and the British were wrong that he could afford to be patient. The recognition of the revolutionary government in Russia by the British Government, shortly after the Labour party took office, had been one such incident. No attempt was made to consult the Dominions. A few weeks later the Canadian Government gave its own recognition as an assertion of Canada's right to make its decisions on such matters.19 During the summer there was also the amazing performance of the British Government regarding Canadian representation at the Inter-Allied Conference on the Dawes Report on the payment of reparations. The meeting came under the agreement of the 1923 Imperial Conference dealing with the representation of 38

EDUCATING DOWNING STREET

the Empire at international conferences. The applicability of this agreement was admitted by the British Government, but it suggested that in this instance there was no need for Canada to have separate and direct representation. But Canada felt that she had an undoubted interest in the proceedings of a conference on reparations, and she therefore insisted on her rights. Eventually Ramsay MacDonald, whose blundering in imperial relations verged on genius, was forced to admit that he had already given away the Canadian right of separate representation and had agreed with the other Powers that in order to keep the conference small, the British Empire would have only three representatives. Inasmuch as the British Government asserted—and with reason—that it must be represented by two members, the Dominions had to be content with one, who was chosen daily from a panel of Dominion representatives. This was much inferior to the panel system used at Versailles and Washington where all Empire members were drawn from one large panel as occasion required.20 It could be argued that this sacrifice of Dominion rights was unavoidable because of the exceptional need for haste and the inability of other nations to grasp the idea of Dominion autonomy, but even if that be granted, it affords no explanation of the outright deceit practised by the MacDonald government in the early stage of the correspondence.21 This series of disputes and misunderstandings must have disturbed the British Government, even if it did not enlighten it. Even more ominous had been the announcement in June of 1924 that the Irish Free State was going to appoint its own Minister at Washington. The British Government was not reassured either by the promise that the Irish Minister would concern himself exclusively with matters relating to the Free State or by the supplementary statement that the arrangement "would not denote any departure from the principle of the diplomatic unity of the Empire."22 The innovation of a Dominion diplomat at a foreign capital could only be construed as a blow against a common imperial foreign policy. In the same month the MacDonald government had proposed that an Imperial Conference should be held in the autumn to discuss means of improving the existing system of "consultation with other self-governing parts of the Empire on matters of foreign policy and general Imperial interest/'23 A more suitable machinery would, it was hoped, abolish some of the existing weaknesses, and ensure

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immediate action (especially in foreign affairs) when measures based on common consent were thought desirable. The tenor of the message was to promote more effective centralization; its despatch four days before the beginning of the Dawes Conference correspondence was not likely to secure for it a very favourable reception. The response of Australia was, however, mildly encouraging. It suggested, among other things, that a special officer might be attached to the High Commissioner in London to furnish a closer liaison between the Australian and British Governments on foreign policy. The Canadian Government, on the other hand, stressed the complexity of the situation, with several self-governing communities scattered over the world each with different neighbours and different problems. It reiterated that an Imperial Conference was nothing more than a conference of governments and "in no sense an Imperial Council determining the policy of the Empire as a whole/' But it agreed to a conference. After several postponements, however, followed by the defeat of the MacDonald government, the meeting was abandoned. The Baldwin government, which took office on November 4, was certainly as anxious to speak for a united Empire as its predecessor. Austen Chamberlain, in his first speech as Foreign Secretary, baldly declared that: The first thoughts of an Englishman on appointment to the office of Foreign Secretary must be that he speaks in the name, not of Great Britain only, but of the British Dominions beyond the seas, and that it is his imperative duty to preserve in word and act the diplomatic unity of the British Empire. Our interests are one. Our intercourse must be intimate and constant, and we must speak with one voice in the Councils of the world.24 Lord Amery, the Colonial Secretary, doubtless agreed with this antiquated version of imperial diplomacy. Amery was a prominent member of the Round Table, an organization of influential men throughout the Empire which, for all its disingenuous disclaimers, was dedicated to the cause of fostering imperial unity.25 The new government might be more sophisticated than its predecessor but it would not be any more sympathetic to King's views on Canadian autonomy. Mackenzie King, who knew Amery well, was on his guard. One of the first steps of the Colonial Secretary was to institute informal 40

EDUCATING DOWNING STREET

weekly meetings at tea-time with the High Commissioners of the Dominions. His apparently guileless purpose was to keep them informed "collectively of what was going on in 'high polities' as well as in economic or other affairs in which they are generally interested/'26 King was immediately suspicious of these tea-parties. The whole thorny problem of consultation and communication within the Empire was involved. The faint line between being informed and being consulted would be blurred and possibly erased. If the Canadian High Commissioner was acquainted with British policies and the Canadian Government expressed no opinion, silence would be interpreted as accord. The subject might seem at the time so remote from Canadian interests that official comment seemed unecessary; the High Commissioner might not even refer to a minor matter in his despatch. It could then become embarrassing for the Canadian Government to exempt itself in the future from the consequences of these policies. The idea, wrote King in his diary, was "one of Amery's schemes to set up a round table council in London, & may create embarrassments. An effort to pull us into European affairs, Egypt, etc/'27 A letter from Peter Larkin, the Canadian High Commissioner, describing the first meeting, confirmed these suspicions. European and Egyptian affairs had been discussed and, what was more disturbing, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary had been there to explain British policies.28 The setting was informal but the purpose was obviously official. King was now convinced, he wrote to Larkin in December, of "the evident motive in the mind of the present Administration in England to form a sort of central council, advisory or otherwise, of the British Dominions/'29 King did not immediately forbid the High Commissioner to attend these meetings. He impressed on Larkin in the same letter that "as a Government we regard the question of so-called consultation between the Dominions and the Mother Country on matters of foreign policy and the methods by which this is to be effected, as far and away the most important of all matters with which, as a Government, we are being called upon at the moment to deal/' The problem was how to obtain confidential information and at the same time avoid the appearance of having been consulted or having endorsed any policy. This might be done, King thought, if the Canadian Government could decide what topics would be discussed. As he explained to Larkin several days later: 41

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

We feel that it should not be for the British Government alone to decide what matters are to be made the subject of conference, but that, as Ministers who will be held responsible for the outcome of conferences, as well as of matters on which we communicate direct, we should decide in the first instance whether the question is one in which we have an interest or concern and with respect to which we wish to make any representations. Whether these representations should be made in a form in which they will be regarded in a formal way, or we would prefer to have them made verbally through yourself as our representative, is a matter on which, like all the rest, we would wish, ourselves, to decide in the first instance.30

For the moment, these explanations to Larkin seemed sufficient. King hoped the meetings of the High Commissioners would "be discontinued in as tactful a way as possible"; in the meantime he relied on Larkin's discretion to avoid any tacit commitments.31 His confidence was well placed. Peter Larkin not only shared King's views on Canadian autonomy but his mistrust of the British Government was intensified by his resentment of British snobbery. "The trouble is/' he explained to King, "that in the minds of men here, we still continue in a state of tutelage; we are children and consequently troublesome instead of men on whom they can & do depend in grave emergencies/'32 Irregular meetings were held during the next two years but apparently Amery had at least learned caution. Only one meeting is reported at which the Foreign Secretary spoke and this was called, possibly by coincidence, when Larkin was out of London and Canada was represented by a junior official.33 Amery, however, was tenacious. After the Imperial Conference of 1926, as Secretary of State for the Dominions, he tried once again to re-institute regular weekly meetings of the High Commissioners. When Larkin refused to attend, Amery claimed to be unable to understand King's misgivings. "I think there must have been some slight misunderstanding in your mind/' he wrote to King, "which I could easily have cleared up if I had known about it."34 Nothing Larkin could say had any effect and King finally sacrificed tact for clarity. "These conferences/* he told Amery in March, 1927, "are either official or they are not." If they are not they should be avoided as liable, sooner or later, to create in the minds of someone an erroneous impression as to the obligations arising therefrom. If they are official, it would then appear that

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EDUCATING DOWNING STREET

by continuing to countenance them, our Government would be helping to build up in London, in conjunction with the Secretary of State for the Dominions, a sort of Cabinet... the members of which will have had from their Governments no instructions of any kind and with respect to the doings of which their Governments, in the nature of things will have no knowledge.35

Amery was not converted but he was blocked. 'The whole matter/' Larkin reported, "is settled now once and for all with the present Minister and any other who may succeed him/'36 The problem of Empire communications also involved the Governor-General. Viscount Byng of Vimy, fortunately, was pleasant and affable and generally anxious not to commit any blunders or to step beyond his proper authority. As the representative of the British Government he believed it his duty to ensure that the Canadian Government fully appreciated the aims and obligations of the United Kingdom but he also tried to appreciate the Canadian point of view and to reconcile the two sides if they conflicted. This was an eminently proper role although at this stage of imperial development it was a difficult one. Lord Byng on the whole did very well. Mackenzie King's exposition of the views of his government was naturally weighted on the side of autonomy; at least one reactionary official in Byng's secretariat tried to persuade the Governor-General that he was being led astray by his Prime Minister.* King sometimes found that Byng had to be converted one day and re-converted the next.37 It is only fair to add, however, that Byng proved to be an apt pupil and became almost as strong a nationalist as the Prime Minister himself. Mackenzie King's frank relations with the Governor-General on imperial matters are illustrated by two conversations on imperial policy in Egypt. The British Government wanted to obtain sole control of the Suez Canal from Egypt and late in 1924 sought the support of the Dominions for this policy. Mackenzie King refused to accept any commitments for Canada in the Near East. When the British Government continued to press for support King explained his predicament to Lord Byng. His Excellency then asked if I could not go so far as to express Canada's interest in the Suez. I replied I was prepared to admit our interest in *For the "mediaeval" attitude of this official on the publication of correspondence, see R. MacG. Dawson, William Lyon Mackenzie King, I (Toronto, 1958), 468n.

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keeping the route open as an important world route, but did not think I should lay myself & Govt. open to an attack throughout Canada of our interfering in Near East politics. I pointed out my duty was to keep Canada united, contented, loyal that if the people got the idea we were to be drawn into European arena, there wd. certainly be a movement to the U.S. which had kept out of the League of Nations on that account & political union with the U.S. might become a subject of discussion. His Ex. stressed the point that he did not like to see Canada take too aloof an attitude towards Br. Empire concerns, that saying nothing made a danger the other way. He knew & understood our attitude but was anxious not to be always on the defensive in having it understood in England. He said the Egyptian internal situation was in no way a concern of ours; it was not us who laid that egg, but that we were interested in keeping the Suez open. I replied I agreed, but that I thought we favoured it being internationalized & matter being dealt with by the League of Nations & I did not imagine Grt. Br. would thank us for that expression of view.38

King then prepared a despatch, after consulting his colleagues, which explained that if the British Government insisted on a statement of Canada's position, the Canadian Government would be forced to oppose the British policy of sole control of the canal. Later that day he had a second conversation with Lord Byng. The GovernorGeneral read the despatch "& said he could not take exception to any word of it, thought it was very good—was much pleased, was sure I had done the right thing and the bigger thing as leader of a great country like Canada/'39 Lord Byng, at least, could admit that imperial and Canadian interests were not always identical. The many incidents involving imperial relations in 1924 derived their character from Mackenzie King's tactful but stubborn insistence on Canadian autonomy. His Canadian opponents often criticized his views and belittled his efforts. "I am not worried," Arthur Meighen boasted on one occasion, "by the ghosts that seem always before some persons; I do not think, with them, that we have been waging a terrific battle against a reluctant Downing Street in order to gain our rights/'40 Meighen was wrong. There had been a continuing battle and Downing Street had certainly been reluctant. And one outstanding fact emerges. In all this welter of inconclusive disputes, on the major trends of thought in the Dominions and on the basic concept of future Empire relations, Mackenzie King was right and Downing Street was wrong. 44

CHAPTER FOUR

IN SEARCH OF AN ISSUE

THE SESSION of 1925 was intended to provide a striking gesture to the west. The Prime Minister's diary had again recorded on New Year's Eve that it had been "a good year"1 but in spite of his optimism, knew something more was needed. The bold intentions at the beginning of the previous year had petered out with the budget. "When we look back over our past tenure of office," an old Liberal told him frankly, awe can't find any legislation that will appeal to the masses of the people, however important some of it has been to people who are able to appreciate the work that has been done in reorganizing after the recent period of stress."2 The coming session, to begin early in February, would probably be followed by an election; a record of sound administration would not rouse much enthusiasm on the hustings. King's plan was to reduce transportation costs.3 "Freer trade" had been given substantial recognition in the last budget and, while there were demands for still further reductions in tariffs, it seemed wise to attempt little more in that direction. The attack on transportation rates could be described as a logical sequel to the reductions in the tariff and sales tax, as part of the broader policy of reducing production costs. The shift in emphasis was all the more logical because the government was already committed to deal with two major problems in this field. The question of railway freight rates was not yet settled, and a plan to reduce shipping rates on the Atlantic was well advanced. No government, of course, could hope to derive much benefit from any measure on railway rates; at best all that could be achieved was a temporary pause in an unending struggle. Mackenzie King knew that meddling with these rates could be hazardous. He was less circumspect in dealing with ocean rates. 45

WILLIAM LYON MACKENZIE KING

By the end of the session he had learned the need for caution in both matters. I

The railway freight rates issue could not be avoided. The Orderin-Council, restoring the Crow's Nest Pass rates of 1897, was only an interim measure. The decision of the Board of Railway Commissioners to override the Crow's Nest Agreement had been challenged before the Supreme Court. In February of 1925 the judgment was announced. The Court ruled that the Railway Commission had no power to ignore the Act. The rates restored by the Order-in-Council, with all their unfair and discriminatory consequences/ were confirmed. As Mackenzie King had hoped, the confusion and indecision of the previous years made a compromise settlement of the freight rates question more acceptable by 1925. The prairies were now so eager to rid themselves of the intolerable discrimination that they might agree to some concessions. British Columbia and the Maritime Provinces were still clamouring for attention. The way was open for a comprehensive national revision of rates with an amendment of the Crow's Nest Pass Act as a central feature. The railways were naturally alarmed at the prospect of any meddling with rates, for they knew that in a general scramble for advantage they would be certain to come off second best. They therefore urged the government to hand over the entire task of revision to the Railway Commission, which would be more likely to show impartiality among different areas and more concern for the solvency of the railways— a problem which was fast assuming alarming proportions.4 On the other hand, the maritime and the four western provinces were not at all willing to trust the Commission with so important a function, especially as these provinces were insistent that the question should not be considered solely on economic grounds. King himself believed that any comprehensive revision should not rest on a decision of the Commission alone, but must carry the specific endorsement of Parliament. The government brought down its proposals in May, three months after the Supreme Court's decision. These proposals paid lip-service to *See page 30.

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the principle of equalization of freight rates to "the fullest possible extent/' and the Railway Commission was directed to make a complete investigation with this principle as its guide. It was instructed, however, that the maximum rates on grain and flour then in force under the Crow's Nest Pass Act should not be exceeded and should be applicable to all points on all western lines, both present and future. The Commission was also requested to give "due regard to" certain claims of the Maritime Provinces, the encouragement of traffic through Canadian ports, and the increased traffic westward and eastward through Pacific coast ports.5 These recommendations left the Railway Commission little chance to apply the principle of equalization. The Conservative party in opposing the proposals chose the path of logical simplicity. It denounced all the exceptions which the government had suggested to temper the rule of equalization. These were nothing but special privileges and were therefore indefensible. Low freight rates were vital to the prosperity of all parts of Canadawest, east, and centre—and the only justifiable policy was therefore one which treated them all alike. The responsibility for setting the rates should be placed entirely on the Railway Commission subject to whatever directions in principle Parliament might issue. King's speech in the House on June 18 was a defence of what for him was a typical middle-of-the-road compromise. The Progressives said he had gone too far and deprived the west of much of its security, while the Conservatives said he had not gone far enough. The arguments which had been advanced against the government's tariff policy were simply being transferred to the policy on freight rates. This, he pointed out, "simply helps to emphasize the very difficult position of any government which attempts to deal with it in a manner calculated to bring into effect the application of one great governing principle that will be just and equitable to all parts concerned." The government had tried to avoid both extremes and present a workable solution: The government has felt that it is dealing with a condition, not with a theory. Theoretically, I do not believe it can be disputed that the only basis on which freight rates can properly be fixed is that of allowing to the railway commission an absolutely free hand. That is unquestionably the sound, theoretical position. On the other hand, in the endeavour to

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make effective that policy, the government, as I have said, is confronted with an existing condition that at the present time and for many years past the middle west has had a certain degree of protection in its maximum rates.... The government has had to consider the circumstances under which that [Crow's Nest] agreement came into being, the position of western Canada to-day as contrasted with the time when the agreement was entered into, and also what would be the effect at this moment, having regard to the sentiment of the middle west and to other considerations, of the complete removal of any security to the middle west respecting maximum rates on the important commodities of grain and flour.6

The Commission ruled in September that only the Crow's Nest rates on grain and flour moving eastward would be enforced; it later extended these rates to grain and flour moving to parts of British Columbia. The west had lost its preferred rates on other commodities but at least the Crow's Nest rates on the two most important items had been confirmed and they now applied to all railway lines on the prairies. The Progressives naturally objected to any changes in the old rates but there was little force behind their protests. After the indecision of the last few years, the west was relieved to have won on the major point. Mackenzie King's procrastination had been effective. Only the railways were disappointed by the decision. Mackenzie King could defend the settlement but he could not deny that it was a compromise. He had known for some time that the complexity of the freight rate structure and the strength of vested interests, regional and commercial, would leave the government no alternative. Compromises, however, are not the most suitable issues for an election. The government still needed to take the initiative with a resounding policy which would brighten its rather prosaic domestic record. The control of ocean shipping rates had appeared to be such a policy. Ocean freight rates had attracted attention for some time. A Special Committee of Parliament had reported in 1923 that an ocean shipping combine existed, and had suggested that the government use its own merchant marine as a weapon to force a reduction in rates. Some reduction was made early in 1924 by the intervention in England of the Imperial Shipping Committee, but when the Canadian Department of Trade and Commerce tried to secure concessions from Montreal shipping interests nothing could be done because these interests were tied up with the North Atlantic Shipping Conference. 48

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In February of 1924 the government had appointed W. T. R. Preston to inquire into "the alleged discrimination in freight rates covering Canadian shipments from Atlantic seaports/' It was a most unfortunate choice. Preston, then seventy-three years of age, had been a government official and an ardent party worker in various capacities. He was noted for his vigour, resourcefulness, and pugnacity; he was also noted for his extreme partisanship and his complete lack of discretion. This was so well known that no report of his would be received with any confidence.7 Preston, moreover, had been involved only two years before in an investigation of shipping rates on the Great Lakes,8 and his report had had some influence on the attempt to control the rates by federal legislation; as might have been foreseen, this cure was frustrated by the impossibility of regulating American shipping companies on the Lakes. Preston had learned nothing from this experience. A brief inquiry into ocean shipping now convinced him that the North Atlantic Shipping Conference was setting extortionate rates. Preston promptly proposed a dramatic scheme to fight this combine. The surprising fact is that the government adopted his scheme. Preston's proposal had been that the government should subsidize a new shipping line. Sir William Petersen, an independent Scottish ship-owner, was prepared to build ten ships of modern design to carry freight on the North Atlantic route at government-established rates in return for an annual subsidy. Preston had convinced T. A. Low, the Minister of Trade and Commerce, that the project was feasible. Low was essentially the optimistic, over-confident promoter with a degree of self-esteem and self-confidence which his performance never justified. He had assured King in August, 1924, that the scheme was "one of the biggest and strongest appeals which could be put before the people as a clear-cut issue in a general election."9 The political possibilities of this scheme were impressive. As Senator Hardy had pointed out in November: This new scheme cannot, I believe, antagonize a single element, save a very small shipping one, and it is one that will appeal to practically every voter who knows how to read, to say nothing of diverting to your support many thousands who are supporting the Progressives. With the discriminatory action of the combines brought out in evidence, it can be made a sensational move It would be a great party move, the best part of which is that it would also be an even greater national one.10

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Reductions in ocean rates would help the eastern consumer and manufacturer as well as afford compensation to the western fanner for the government's failure to provide any further reductions of the tariff.11 Such issues were not too common. Mackenzie King found the subject attractive on personal grounds as well. The idea of fighting the North Atlantic Conference caught his imagination and appealed to his natural antipathy towards combines and big business. When Preston had pointed out in his report that the Conference was "one of the most powerful organizations in the world''12 there is no reason to believe that King was at all dismayed. He liked to think of himself as a giant killer and a scourge of evildoers. Indeed, when he spoke on the subject in the House in March, 1925, he compared the combine to Goliath and its challenger to David, though his listeners were left in doubt whether David was being played by Preston, by King himself, or by the Liberal government.13 The government went into the details of the contract with great care. The proposed rate structure was checked by the general manager of the Canadian government merchant marine. Eugene Lafleur, one of the ablest lawyers in Canada, was also brought in to advise the government. The Cabinet negotiated with Petersen for several weeks, considered a number of variations of the original terms, and in December eventually obtained what it considered to be a favourable contract. Less concern was shown for the feasibility of the scheme. Would Petersen be able to fulfil his contract"? Mackenzie King could hardly rely on Preston's word; of Preston's report he had written: "it is a very strong and fearless indictment. I only hope it is to be relied upon throughout."14 He had no more confidence in T. A. Low's judgment. Low was "a very poor Minister to have a matter of the kind in hand," he commented in his diary after a discussion of the contract in Cabinet. "I fear there is going to be much rough sledding on this matter, largely due to his inability & conceit, tho' I think the measure a wise one politically & likely to work out all right."15 Inquiries about Sir William Petersen's financial standing produced a report that he was "well regarded" although another source had described him as "clever, reputation of being sharp... somewhat adventurous in a business way."16 Whatever the terms of the contract, the scheme had 50

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been proposed by two men of unreliable judgment and was to be carried out by an adventurer. Why did Mackenzie King, a man of unusual caution, support the scheme? He was encouraged by the fact that two shrewd businessmen, Sir Clifford Sifton and Sir Henry Thornton, had strongly endorsed the proposal.17 His critical judgment was also warped by the political attractions of the plan. "If he [Petersen] can do what he proposes, it is a big policy & wd. constitute a masterstroke. It will have to be very carefully gone into," he had written in his diary in November.18 By March of 1925 he had convinced himself that all was well. "I have not the least doubt/' he wrote Sifton, "that Preston will be able to substantiate to the full all that he has represented in his report and also that Sir William Petersen will be able to enlighten members of the House very considerably with respect to the operations of the North Atlantic combine/'19 Events soon proved that King was wrong on both counts. Disillusionment came with the debate on the bill in March. The Conservatives, as expected, criticized the proposal without restraint. They argued that the government's own merchant marine should have been used, as the Special Committee of 1923 had suggested, or a scheme worked out with the co-operation of other authorities within the Empire. This was the kind of issue that Meighen could master and elucidate with unrivalled skill. He delivered an exhaustive attack on the proposal in all its aspects, and ended with this terse summary: "On every count there has been failure to review, failure to consider the circumstances, failure to delve to the heart of the difficulty. There has been nothing but a hasty, ill-considered, reckless plunge; and the Government hope, I suppose, because of its mere recklessness, because of the spectacular character of this legislation, that in some way they are going to attract attention to the question, and finally drift to a solution."20 The Progressives were sceptical and hostile, an unexpected attitude in view of their eagerness for cheaper transportation of farm products. They distrusted W. T. R. Preston's judgment and reliability and his association with the earlier lake shipping investigation. They feared a possible boycott of Canadian ports by other lines. They believed that the proposed ships were too few and too small, and that all subsidies paid to private companies were inherently objectionable. 51

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Above all, they had no confidence in the government's ability to cope with this problem when it had made so complete a failure in its attempt to control rates on the Great Lakes. Mackenzie King gave an unusually able and comprehensive presentation of the government's case. His general attitude was conciliatory. The government had announced that it would like the bill to go to a Special Committee for investigation and report; and King stated (no doubt to reassure the Progressives) that the major endeavour was not the contract but the control of ocean freight rates. The government was therefore willing, if necessary, to amend the contract in accordance with the wishes of the Committee.21 The Special Committee, with Andrew McMaster* as its chairman, did its work thoroughly. It held forty-five meetings, heard thirty-six witnesses, and examined many documents. A number of officials from steamship companies gave testimony and the role of star witnesses was carried by W. T. R. Preston and Sir William Petersen. The whole inquiry, however, was impaired by the refusal of the steamship lines to provide specific and detailed information about their voyage accounts, so that the vital question of whether existing rates were reasonable or exorbitant could not be ascertained. Preston made a very bad witness when exposed to examination by the counsel for the steamship lines. His report was shown to be guilty of exaggeration, of omissions, and of inaccuracies; he lost his temper under pressure; he admitted his ignorance of English and American reports which had been made on the same general subject. Nor did Sir William Petersen emerge unscathed. Serious doubts were cast on the need for as high a subsidy as that proposed, and equally serious doubts on the reliability of many of Petersen's estimates of earnings and expenses and on the alleged superiority of the ships he had proposed to construct for the new trade. The hearings of the Committee were a grave embarrassment to the government. There was no doubt that a combine existed and it was probable that the combine was setting excessive rates. None of the misgivings about the Petersen contract, however, had been dispelled. Even King's confidence in the scheme was greatly weakened. There*Andrew McMaster had been chairman of the Select Committee on Agricultural Conditions in 1923, which had reported on ocean freight rates and had been highly critical of the steamship companies.

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after his efforts seem to have been directed to the task of beating a retreat as best he could from what had become a vulnerable position. The Committee contained a majority of Liberals and one or two well-disposed Progressives, but it could not support a contract which had insecure foundations. On the other hand, it was not prepared to discredit the government. The essence of its findings was that a combine of ships trading in the North Atlantic undoubtedly existed, and that some control over its activities should be sought. But the Committee was very doubtful as to what means should be used for that purpose, and if the Petersen contract was to be accepted, at least some of the basic facts had to be established more firmly. The Committee therefore recommended that before the contract was ratified Sir William should confirm by actual performance (and presumably at his own expense) the accuracy of the estimates he had submitted. The government was unexpectedly extricated from this embarrassing situation. The day the report was tabled in the House of Commons, in June, 1925, Sir William Petersen died of heart failure in Ottawa. With suitable expressions of regret, the government seized the chance so opportunely provided, and abandoned the measure. Unkind critics would later revive memories of the Petersen contract; but the government had taken its lesson to heart and it showed no desire to experiment further with the control of ocean freight rates. The weaknesses of the scheme should have been obvious to Mackenzie King from the beginning. He had recklessly committed his government to what was, at best, a gamble, tempted by his need for a dramatic election issue. Meighen had gone to the heart of the matter when he had described it as "a hasty ill-considered, reckless plunge/'22 In later years, Mackenzie King had a well-deserved reputation for caution. He earned this reputation because he learned from his mistakes. The Petersen contract was one of these mistakes. The Petersen contract had more immediate consequences. The Canadian Pacific, with its shipping interests, had opposed the scheme from the beginning,* and there is evidence to indicate that at least in the last stages the attitude of the government had been to some *The government had offered to extend the same terms to the C.P.R. that it had given Petersen. Sir Edward Beatty refused them. "He sd, in view of Preston's report & charges they wd. have to fight through committee." (Diary, March 9, 1925.)

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degree affected by this pressure.23 This concession, however, may very well have been made too late, and the resentment of the Canadian Pacific may have been carried over into the future. The government's war on ocean rates did not stand alone as an irritant. It was only one of a number of occasions when the government had shown an inclination to give more weight to political factors than to the interests of this railway and the various enterprises allied with it. The Conservative party, by comparison, had usually been a powerful defender of those interests. It is quite possible that the attack of the Conservatives on the Petersen contract may have greatly improved the relations between them and the Canadian Pacific, and helped to bring to an end the estrangement which had been a great handicap to the party in the 1921 election. This, however, is admittedly conjectural. One other sequel, however, is beyond question. On December 10, 1925, it was announced that the steamship companies using Canadian ports had left the North Atlantic Conference and had set up a separate Canadian Trans Atlantic Conference to deal with eastbound traffic. The government could perhaps derive some measure of comfort from this achievement which was a direct result of its attack on ocean rates. The Prime Minister, for all his difficulties at the time, could still be whimsical when he felt so inclined. The sober intensity of the dedicated public servant was occasionally belied by a lighter touch in his private correspondence. While the Petersen contract was still being debated in the House, King received an awkwardly printed letter addressed to "Dear Government" from a little girl in South Africa who was worried about the red-skins being locked up on reserves and not being allowed to shoot "Grizzily Bears."24 King's reply25 was worthy of A. A. Milne: Ottawa, March 28th, 1925. DEAR ELIZABETH: I cannot begin to tell you how very pleased the members of the Government of Canada were when they received your letter. Some of the letters they receive are so very hard to read—not beautifully written as yours was—and sometimes people ask for the most extraordinary things! You would hardly believe me, I am sure, were I to tell you all the things the people in Canada ask for!

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The only difficulty about your letter was that each Minister thought he should answer it. However, I was very firm and told them I was the one to do it. I then spoke, at once, to the Minister of the Interior, who looks after Indians, and he tells me, Elizabeth, that there is nothing you need worry about. It's like this. Supposing the Indians had all gone a-hunting, some one might come and settle on their lands or steal their tents—all kinds of dreadful things—while they were away. So the Government just puts up big signs "This land is reserved for our Indians,"—and no one dares to touch anything. But the Indians are never shut up, Elizabeth, and if any Grizzly Bears come, they can always shoot them if they feel like doing so. You say you are coming to Canada when you are fifteen. That is splendid. The Minister of the Interior says that if he is still Minister oi the Interior (you never can be quite sure), he will see that we have a good supply of Indians on hand. The Minister of Defence says that if he is still Minister of Defence, he will give them plenty of ammunition with which to shoot the bears. And I feel sure that some one else—probably the Minister of Agriculturewill arrange for the grizzly bears—so that's all right, Elizabeth. But there is something I want you to tell me—about South Africa. This Government has never been there but perhaps some day they might feel like going. Now is it true, Elizabeth, that when you have your tea in the garden, lions sometimes come and sit down beside you? And when you go for a walk, do you have to be very careful, for fear a rhinoceros or a hippopotamus might want to walk with you? It would be apt to make the Government very nervous. There is so much you must tell me when you come. Of course, I know you always ride on elephants. But I shall have to say good-bye now. It was very nice of you to write (we all thought the letter paper beautiful!) Will you let me thank you again for the Government and with all good wishes, say at present Good-bye Elizabeth. Yours sincerely W. L. MACKENZIE KING With such a government, how could any little girl continue to worry about the red-skins? It is a pity that King was so successful in suppressing his whimsicality in public.

ii If the session of 1925 was supposed to furnish a rallying point for the Liberals in the coming election, it was a failure. The partial settlement on railway rates was a praiseworthy achievement but even here the complaints of British Columbia on rate discrimination had

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remained unanswered until September, and those of the Maritime Provinces were postponed indefinitely. The most obvious failure was the complete collapse of the attempt to reduce ocean freight rates through the Petersen contract. Other issues were debated during the session but virtually everything the government did displayed an infirmity of purpose. The Prime Minister, for example, did not keep his promise to Parliament in 1924 to reform the Senate. The question was held over to be considered by a Dominion-Provincial conference (which was not called), but the real reason for inaction was apparently the deepseated conservatism of the French Canadian Liberals. King did take one step in the promised direction when he resolved to make no appointment to the Senate without exacting a pledge from all new Senators to support "whatever reform the Government proposes."26 So secure, however, did the Senate feel against any immediate assault that it refused to compromise with the House of Commons on a controversial money bill, and the House, after some demur, accepted its amendments. The government evidently did not want to fight at this time, but such pusillanimity was scarcely in accord with the brave words of the Prime Minister at the end of the preceding session. The alternative vote in single-member constituencies had also been promised for 1925, and the bill to introduce it was given its first reading in May. It was never heard of again. This measure would have been extremely useful to the Liberals in the threecornered contests which were sure to appear in the coming election. King had received many warnings from western Liberals of what to expect unless the alternative vote was introduced,27 but apparently Quebec was still opposed to the measure.28 King, too, had at last become convinced that whatever its short-run effects might be, it would not be politically advantageous over a long period. He wrote: It tends to encourage and perpetuate third parties. Whatever the effect of this may be locally and even provincially, I do not think that from the federal point of view this is in the best interests of our Dominion. The difficulty of maintaining unity in Canada is very great indeed. It can best be achieved, I believe, by parties prepared to unite on definite policies, declared to the electorate in advance. The group system tends to make for continuous unrest and perpetual upheaval.29

The budget of 1925 contained few and minor changes. The Minister of Finance proposed to tighten up the regulations to pre56

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vent foreign firms from selling surplus goods in Canada at less than cost price but, as King lamely explained to a friend, "The opposition from our own people was so strong that the Government found it was impossible to carry it through/'30 The government swallowed its low tariff principles in one case: it raised the duty on coal in response to an outcry from British Columbia, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. There were no other tariff changes. The creation of an advisory tariff board which had been announced a year before was again promised. While this promise was gratifying to both Liberal and Conservative protectionists, it aroused the suspicions of the Progressives who were already dissatified by the absence of tariff reductions. The only encouraging feature of this "stand-pat" budget was that the Progressives were even more indecisive than the government. For the second time in two years, the group split on the budget division. Some of them denounced the details in harsh terms but seventeen voted with the Liberals. Their attitude may have been affected by the imminence of an election. Some Alberta Progressives had coal mines in their ridings and others hoped their support would forestall the nomination of a Liberal candidate in their constituency.* The government at one stage had intended to include some minor tariff reductions in the budget. These reductions were to have been part of a trade agreement with Australia. They did not appear because the government was so inept in its negotiations. James Robb had successfully concluded a treaty with Australia after two years of negotiations and the necessary resolution had been passed by the Australian Parliament in 1924. It was only during Cabinet discussions on the 1925 budget that King learned, to his horror, that the proposed treaty involved increases in Canadian tariffs as well as decreases. Australia was to receive an increased preference on some agricultural products by a combination of increases in the general tariff and reductions in the British Preferential tariff. King flatly refused to accept the agreement as it stood and none of the changes were included in the budget. He blamed Robb for the blunder; what the government needed was a new Minister of Finance, he wrote in his diary in March, adding that Robb was "too Tory and protectionist by instinct and not a big enough man for the position."31 It was true *Of the seventeen Progressives who voted for the budget, three ran as Liberal candidates in 1925, six were not opposed hy Liberals, and five did not seek re-election.

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that Robb should have known that tariff increases were politically dangerous; King's judgment was harsh, however, considering that he himself had had ample opportunity to learn the proposed terms long before the negotiations were completed. The government could not bury its mistake. The Australian Government was importunate; the Canadian industries interested in the Australian market, led by the pulp and paper manufacturers, insisted by telegram, letter, and delegation on ratification; the Conservatives repeatedly asked for information in the House. The government was in no position to give information. Mackenzie King, with some difficulty, had persuaded his colleagues to provide the increased preference by larger reductions in the British Preferential tariffs* only to have the Australian government refuse to accept any changes in the agreement.32 King eventually negotiated a modified treaty by offering tariff concessions on additional items33 and, by urgently pressing for a prompt response from Australia, was able to have the bill passed in June, in the last week of the session. Even then, the Australians discovered an error in the hastily drafted Act34 and the treaty did not come into effect until October. The terms of the treaty provoked little controversy in the debate. Meighen argued that the tariff reductions meant that the Canadian farmers were paying for the benefits received by some Canadian industries but his most telling criticism was of the government's ineptitude during the negotiations. Some Conservatives supported the agreement because of pressure from local industries. The Progressives who entered the debate only belittled the importance of the agreement. It was not until some years later that imports of butter from Australia and New Zealand, under the terms of this treaty, enraged Canadian dairy producers. At this time, any anxiety was stilled by Robb's assurance that there was no danger of serious competition by dairy products from the Antipodes, The rest of the session merits little attention. The Cabinet marked time on the Hudson Bay Railway and its immigration policy. It moved slowly towards an agreement with Alberta on the return of natural resources. It took no steps to cope with the serious problem of mounting railway deficits, except to make them larger through its action on freight rates. It did show a sort of negative virtue in *Diary, March 25, 1925. There was an increase in the general tariff on raisins and currants which had been agreed upon two years before.

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refusing to bring about railway amalgamation,* although here inaction was certainly the path of least resistance. There was nothing in all this to compensate for the blunders of the session. This would have been an unimpressive record at any time; in an election year it was suicidal. After four years in office, the government had no conspicuous achievement of which to boast. It was true the Liberals had come into power at a difficult time and had inherited a part of the long post-war depression but, although they had tinkered with a large number of problems, the economy had not responded in any very positive way. There were signs that the economic tide was on the turn but confirmation was still lacking. The government, through strict supervision over expenditures, had balanced the budget and placed the national finances in a sound condition but this had attracted little public attention. The tariff changes of 1924 had shown some imaginative leadership but this first move had been the last. Even King's efforts in imperial relations had been largely ignored. Yet Mackenzie King could not admit that this record was meagre and uninspiring. In July of 1925 he wrote that "our last Session went very well on the whole. Indeed at the time of the conclusion of the debate on the Budget the Government stood higher in the estimation of the public than at any moment since we came into office/'35 The record shows little to justify this optimism. This lack of conspicuous achievement, however, must be kept in proper focus. King's immediate task had been to remain in office by keeping strife within the Liberal party to a minimum and by maintaining as friendly relations with the Progressives as possible. Instead of presenting dramatic measures, the government was forced into a succession of compromises. But Mackenzie King had done more than stay in office. Behind this effort at Ottawa was King's strategy of rebuilding the Liberal party on a national scale. The farmers' movement had been his greatest obstacle. The Prime Minister, by his compromises, had assiduously cultivated the Progressives' goodwill, in spite of the opposition from within his own party. His leadership lacked boldness but it was conciliatory, tolerant, and patient. Given enough time, these qualities would be more effective than boldness. The question in 1925 was whether King had had enough time. The answer would be given by the voters at the next election. *A committee of the Senate investigated the railway situation in 1925 and reported in favour of the joint operation and administration of the C.P.R. and C.N.R.

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CHAPTER FIVE

THE HUNG JURY

MACKENZIE KING waited until after the session to make up his mind on the date of the election. He never considered a fifth session seriously. Like all Prime Ministers, he was averse to allowing Parliament to run its full term. "The uncertainties and inevitabilities which necessarily surround it should be avoided/' he wrote to Larkin in July. "I believe the bolder course, and the wiser, is to choose one's own time within limits rather than be forced to go to the country at a given moment."1 He also believed that the government's precarious majority added special dangers. Supporters would be tempted to impose conflicting demands as the price of their continued support, and the Opposition could cause serious embarrassment by its ability to block legislation and hold up supplies.2 Other conditions also favoured an early appeal. The broad lines of Liberal policy were now fixed; whether the government's record would be improved by a fifth session was questionable. Mackenzie King could see no new issues to supplant old compromises. The one necessary preliminary to an election campaign in 1925 was the reconstruction of the Cabinet. Fielding was inactive and Gouin had gone, but some colleagues still favoured tariff increases. "I am tired," King had written in March, "of trying to keep the two groups in the Cabinet true to Liberal policy."3 New faces might bring the Liberal look which four years of compromises had only dimly outlined. New men might also bring vigour and enthusiasm to the hustings. In the months that followed the session, Mackenzie King gave more attention to reconstruction of the Cabinet than to the Liberal platform. I The decision on the election date was preceded by innumerable consultations and scanning of the political skies. King had ended the

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session with a mistaken idea of the strength and popularity of the Liberals and the weakness of his opponents. He was soon disillusioned. The results of the Saskatchewan elections in June had been gratifying—the Liberals under Dunning won fifty-two of the sixty-three seats —but later in the same month came the election in Nova Scotia. The Liberal party was not merely defeated; after a continuous period in office of forty-three years, it was almost wiped out, with only three Liberals elected in a legislature of forty-three members. Mackenzie King was shaken but he still thought it would be unwise to postpone the federal election until the next year. In March he had discussed a possible date with Lapointe, and as the summer advanced the possibilities were freely explored both inside and outside Parliament. A Cabinet meeting on July 27 was devoted entirely to the subject, with a majority favouring an election in the fall. The following day the Prime Minister made this revealing entry in his diary: "I am following intuition mainly in going to country, supported by reason. I feel strongly this is the time." One day later he came to his own private and tentative decision that October 29—exactly three months later— would be the most suitable date.4 "There is at least this satisfaction in the prospect," he wrote to a friend, athat the result will be either a majority or no majority, so that some measure of relief will be afforded from the constant anxiety of the present."5 Even Mackenzie King's nerves could be frayed by prolonged indecision. As the summer wore on the portents of disaster multiplied. On August 10 a Liberal government in New Brunswick also went down to defeat. But the Prime Minister could not allow himself to be turned from the course he had decided upon. The plain fact was that his government could not continue without drastic reconstruction and a renewal of authority. Two days after the defeat in New Brunswick King wrote: I confess I am thinking somewhat of the advisability of postponing an election, because of the wave that seems to have set in against all govts. & because conditions are beginning to improve and may vastly improve during this winter, a fine harvest better manufacturing & trading conditions. At the same time my thought always goes back to the shape we may be in when we meet prlt and the inability of the Government as constituted to grapple with the real questions. I feel, however, in a personal way that I might be unequal to the strain of an uncertain fall, a trying preparation for a last session, and the turnout of the H. of C. & a general election in the spring of next year. It would be a sort of hell on earth for six months

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or more, & more than one man could endure. The party has a fine record to date. The Govt. stands four square and with a clean record and much accomplished despite hardships of a quite exceptional kind. If we are defeated, if I should be defeated, it would give me a chance to get a much needed rest, to get my house—the house of my mind & heart—in order, to see where I stand in the sum of things. I would not regret a much needed rest from strain, it might mean longer life, stronger life, better life and truer happiness—on the other hand, if victory comes the way will be easier, it cannot be more difficult than it has been.6

Mackenzie King's own misgivings were echoed in the reports which came in large numbers from different parts of the nation. Few Liberals in any part of Canada really wanted an election. In Quebec and Saskatchewan, where the outlook was good, there was confidence; at the other extreme, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where the outlook was very bad, there was despondency. Elsewhere, as might be expected, the reports showed no unanimity. In general, however, the chances of victory seemed to be slightly in the Liberal favour. On August 15th, King had breakfast with P. C. Larkin, on leave from London, and "poured out his woes": the provincial defeats, the lack of organization, the loss of the support of the Toronto Globe* the weakness of the government, the failure to secure a satisfactory reconstruction of the Cabinet. "I confess," he wrote, "I never saw such a combination of adverse circumstances, such a formidable array of difficulties—I found it a relief to be able to talk with Mr. Larkin."7 Nobody, however, could relieve him of the decision which would affect the fate of the party as well as his own career. Two days later King carried his pessimism into the Cabinet. A careful review of the constituencies indicated that the government was not likely to win a decisive majority; it would probably come back "as strong as we are at present, or within two or three, which with Progressive support should carry us on another term." An opinion, taken by "going around the table," showed that the Cabinet was split on whether an election should take place in the fall or the following spring. "I stressed the gloomy side," wrote King, "to make my colleagues see I saw the worst, stressed the Globe conditions, the lack of literature, lack of funds, etc. I gave the picture at its worst."8 The *W. J. Jaffray, the proprietor of the Globe, was violently opposed to race-track gambling and blamed the government for not prohibiting the publication of betting information in the press.

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tone of the Council meeting may best be gauged, however, from Lapointe's comment that King's presentation was "like attending our own funeral." "I pointed out/' King replied, that "bad as the chances were, that staying on would be worse still & mean rout of the party/' Here, in all likelihood, was the decisive consideration. King's report in his diary the next day reveals even more the extent of his discouragement, accentuated, no doubt, by the news he had just received that the Vancouver Sun was withdrawing its support and by a depressing talk he had had that morning with W. E. Foster, the leading Liberal in New Brunswick. In Council this afternoon I stressed the gloomy side again, testing the metal of our men. I felt that Cabinet was very weak, lamentably weak in fact—really nothing to grip to. Many like barnacles rather than fighters. I felt, however, determined whatever the outcome to adhere to decision to bring on an election this fall It would be impossible to frame a policy that wd give us prestige at the next session.9

A few weeks later, early in September, King announced that the date of the election would be October 29. The Prime Minister had concluded long before September that it would not be wise to ask for a public vote of confidence in the existing Cabinet. He was only too conscious of the limitations of his colleagues. He became increasingly critical of them, both as individuals and as a group, as the need for changes became more urgent. His diary in March of 1925, for example, is full of complaints: "It is a weak Cabinet"; "There is need of new strength and blood"; "We really need a lot of younger and abler men"; "The Ministers do not know their own minds and are unequal to the tasks in hand." King was always tempted to criticize his colleagues when pressure mounted but there was ample justification for these judgments. He had known for some time that many of his Ministers were weak. He had done nothing. Matters had been allowed to drift until now the approach of the election made action imperative. A special worry was Jacques Bureau and his Department of Customs and Excise. Canadian wholesalers had been complaining to the government for some time of the unfair competition from goods smuggled from the United States, and had alleged that preventive officers in the Customs Department had not merely failed to end the smuggling but were actually in league with the smugglers. At one

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Cabinet meeting in March, King had expressed his opinion that the Department needed a thorough "house-cleaning."10 The Minister, Bureau, was a very friendly person but a weak administrator and quite unable to cope with the situation. He was also in poor health and had been kept from his office for a number of months. It is an illuminating commentary on the quality of the Cabinet that, in King's opinion, there was no other Minister available with sufficient drive to clean out the stable. The Cabinet had discussed the situation a number of times but took no adequate action. Two treaties had been negotiated with the United States to curb smuggling and rum-running, the Canadian criminal law had been amended for the same purpose, additional enforcement officers were promised, one official was dismissed, and the efforts to detect offenders were continued. The obvious need, however, was to find a new and competent Minister. The search had been held in abeyance until after the session. When Mackenzie King did begin to reconstruct the Cabinet, he first turned to western Canada. His aim was still to increase his support from the prairies. Manitoba had been without a Minister since May, when King had asked E. J. McMurray to resign. McMurray's law firm had owed money to the Home Bank at the time of its failure; when the government decided to compensate depositors for their losses it was obvious that McMurray's personal affairs made his position in the government an embarrassment.11 King's decision was made easier by McMurray's failure to end the squabbles between Conscriptionist and Laurier Liberals in Winnipeg and his unpopularity among the Progressives.12 W. R. Motherwell, the Minister from Saskatchewan, was overshadowed in that province by Charles Dunning, the provincial leader. Alberta's Charles Stewart was too partisan to co-operate with the United Farmers of Alberta and too weak to challenge them. New colleagues from the west might reflect more accurately the Prime Minister's desire to co-operate with the Progressives and might make that co-operation more probable. 'We can only hope to win as we carry the West," King wrote in his diary early in July, "and we can only carry the west as we are a Liberal party in name and in fact."13 Charles Dunning, fresh from his victory in the provincial election, seemed more than ever the answer to King's problem. The farmers obviously had confidence in him. King found that Lapointe and 64

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others were quite willing to have Dunning as a colleague. The provincial Premier could not come to Ottawa for consultation until August 10, the day of the election—and defeat—in New Brunswick. Then King put to him the old argument of the importance to the west of stronger representation in the Cabinet and he suggested taking in Crerar and Brownlee (the Attorney-General of Alberta) while giving Dunning the portfolio of Railways and Canals. Dunning appeared to be pleased with the proposal and was especially drawn to the Railways Department for himself. However, another talk a few days later—after Dunning had made a trip to Montreal—convinced King that Dunning was very doubtful of the outcome of the election and that he was disposed to stall on any decision. He wrote in his diary: He stresses the need for Cabinet reconstruction, but cannot point to how I can bring it about. He does not feel too sure of the Montreal interests> attitude. They are only friendly because they do not like Meighen. On pressing him for a statement of just where he stood & what I might count on, he came down to—he would like to come, would try to arrange matters so that he could come in, but did not believe he would be able to so arrange. I took this as meaning he did not like to decline, but was fearful of the result of an election. My own feeling as I left him was that he would not come in: just now at all events.14

Dunning wired on August 22 that he could not make the necessary arrangements. The reasons behind this refusal can only be surmised. Dunning probably decided that if the Liberals did win the election, he could yet be Minister of Railways; if they lost, he was still Premier of Saskatchewan. This was King's conclusion. Dunning, he decided, "is a safety •first man in politics, tho' of a fine clear mind and ability/'15 Dunning, however, may also have calculated that if the Liberals, after the election, could only muster a majority with Progressive support, his great opportunity might then come. Mackenzie King's continued leadership of the Liberal party might be in doubt. Charles Dunning would be the obvious candidate for the succession. Dunning's refusal ended King's hope of strengthening western representation in his government. The Saskatchewan Premier refused to part with J. G. Gardiner, his Minister of Highways, who was King's next choice from the province. Any approaches to Brownlee were

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precluded by a reorganization of the provincial government in Alberta. T. A. Crerar was reported to be undecided on his future and A. B. Hudson, an able Winnipeg Liberal, had decided not to run for re-election. Dunning had at least promised King his whole-hearted support in the election and King wrote to say that he would look to him as his "chief lieutenant in the West with respect to the campaign/'16 Western farmers, however, would still look in vain for a member of the government who represented their interests effectively. Mackenzie King's failure to find new colleagues from the prairies made it more necessary than ever to strengthen his government in central Canada and the Maritimes. His sustained courting of the west now seemed unlikely to produce striking Liberal gains: in the meantime, his obsession with the west had weakened the party in the east. Few of his eastern colleagues brought much strength to the party or much administrative ability to the government. Moreover, the Conservatives were arguing that the tariff reductions had forced hundreds of factories to close and thousands of workers to emigrate to the United States for jobs.17 If industrial Canada was to be reassured, King must find new Ministers—and these Ministers would have to be protectionist Liberals. Mackenzie King admitted the necessity. His hope was for men whose protectionist views were well known, yet who would be willing to compromise to the extent of accepting the existing tariff. The Prime Minister's problem was to find such men; once found, it would be easy to create the necessary vacancies in the Cabinet. In Ontario, George Graham and Charles Murphy were on the verge of retirement. T. A. Low and James Murdock, Ministers of Trade and Commerce and Labour respectively, were younger but could be safely discarded; they had little weight within the Cabinet and little prestige in the province. Unfortunately, no back-benchers from Ontario had emerged as promising candidates for promotion. King would have to look outside the House of Commons. Of the Ministers from the Maritimes, Fielding was incapacitated and A. B. Copp of New Brunswick had been Secretary of State for four years only because somebody had to represent this province. The Liberal party was so weak in the Maritimes that only E. M. Macdonald had been available to represent Nova Scotia after Fielding's illness. Macdonald's qualifications were simply his loyalty to the party and his twenty years of 66

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experience in the House of Commons. The province of Quebec was well represented, with the promotion of Lapointe and the appointment of Cardin, but Jacques Bureau and Henri Beland, the Minister of Health, brought no strength to the government. The Prime Minister found two suitable candidates: Herbert Marler and Vincent Massey. Marler was a wealthy Liberal with extensive business interests in Montreal. His sympathies were clearly protectionist, and had been effectively demonstrated by his vote against the budget of 1924. Massey, from Toronto, was president of the MasseyHarris Company, a major producer of agricultural machinery. Massey was not in Parliament but he did favour a protectionist tariff and neither he nor his firm bore any love for the tariff changes of 1924.* Marler agreed without much hesitation to join the Cabinet without portfolio, and he was sworn in on September 5. Massey, however, held out for some time for a higher inducement. Eventually he came in, on the 12th, without portfolio. This, wrote King, "is a great stroke. Will be a body blow to the tories—will help to rally the Unionist Liberals & wavering mffrs."18 Mackenzie King had little success in propping up the dwindling strength of the Liberals in the Maritimes. Fielding's illness had deprived the region of its only able representative in the government and King did not find an adequate successor. The best he could do was to persuade W. E. Foster, a former Premier of New Brunswick, to become Secretary of State. He replaced Copp on September 25th. Local issues had weakened the Liberals in the Maritimes but Mackenzie King was also partly to blame. For four years he had shown a complete disregard for the interests of the Atlantic provinces. He had invited a sharp rebuke from a region which had elected Liberals in twenty-five out of a total of thirty-one constituencies in 1921. It seemed likely that the rebuke would be forthcoming. Two other Cabinet changes were made, both of which seemed slightly to increase the bias towards protection. On September 5th Robb was raised to the full status of Minister of Finance to succeed *King had written in his diary in 1924: "At noon had a talk with Vincent Massey of Toronto who called in to make a last plea on behalf of the mffr's of implements against a reduction especially on hinders. He claims it will work havoc with the industry, also that his firm has heen lohhying a good deal among progressives & that they incline rather to reductions in textiles rubbers, etc. I think they are pretty sure to demand this, no matter what we do. I gave Massey little encouragement." (Diary, April 7, 1924)

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Fielding, who had now resigned. King was still dubious about Robb's fitness for the post but had found no alternative. On the same day George H. Boivin, who was reputed to have protectionist leanings, became Minister of Customs and Excise. Bureau, Copp, Beland, and Murphy went to the Senate, although Beland and Murphy retained their departments until after the election. Mackenzie King's advances to the manufacturing and commercial interests were not a deliberate reversal of his policies of the previous four years. The failure to find prominent Ministers from the west made some reassuring gestures necessary in eastern Canada but King hoped to hold firm to his old strategy. Six weeks before the election Aubrey Davis, an influential manufacturer in King's own constituency of North York, tried to exact the promise that King would make no more reductions in the tariff. King recorded his reaction in his diary: I wanned up in Marler's presence. I gave him [Davis] to understand that I would not tie my hand in any way. Wd form a Govt. after elections with farmers as mainstay if mffrs did not give me the support needed in Ont. & Quebec. If they were reasonable I wd be equally so. The apptmnts. of Marler & Massey shld be guarantees sufficient of my intentions 1 was on the point of telling him I did not care what he did but felt it better to refrain. I let Marler see I was not to be influenced by pressure of any kind.19

For all King's blustering, he had nonetheless been influenced by the need for support in eastern Canada. His hopes were still for Liberal gains on the prairies but, at the last moment, he had hedged his bet. If his reconstructed Cabinet was any indication, there would be no further concessions to the west in the immediate future. King was still leading an ill-matched team of low and high tariff Liberals but the high tariff wing had been strengthened. If industrial Canada responded to this tardy gesture, the next Liberal government might be less eager to appease the Progressives. ii

The Prime Minister opened his campaign at Richmond Hill on September 5. His appeal was based on his government's record, achieved despite its meagre majority, and the need for a good working majority in the next Parliament, so that the government could continue its efforts. The Liberal policies were the only truly national

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policies and only the Liberal party, he argued, had any hope of securing the stable majority which a government needed. The Liberal platform contained no surprises. Mackenzie King described the economies of the Liberal administration: taxation had been reduced, the budget had been balanced, and the national debt slightly reduced. These policies, he said, must continue but they must be supplemented by vigorous action in other fields. One such field was transportation. The Liberals would continue the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific as separate railways but wasteful competition must be eliminated by some form of voluntary or compulsory control. The government wanted no monopoly in transportation on land or sea—as witness its attack on the North Atlantic Shipping Conference, cut short only by the untimely death of Sir William Petersen. The railways needed more passengers and more freight and to this end the government had taken measures to encourage immigration. Mackenzie King's reference to the tariff was a reiteration of broad principles. The Liberals believed in "a tariff primarily for revenue" and not for protection. He pointed to the recent tariff reductions, to the increased British preference, and to the trade treaties which his government had negotiated as aspects of the new national policy aimed at reducing the costs of production in Canada's basic industries. A protective tariff, such as that advocated by the Conservatives, would tear Canada apart and set east against west. A middle path must be found between the extremes of protection and free trade, "a common sense tariff," one based on national requirements, on general and not on special interests. In determining what this would be in practical terms the government would be guided by a tariff board; but the board would be advisory only, and the last word would be given by Parliament. The Prime Minister went on to say that the government had found itself hampered during the past years not only by the lack of a firm majority in the House, but also by a hostile Senate. The Senate must be made more responsive to the popular will, and a DominionProvincial conference would be called to discuss reform. King then announced the appointment of eight new senators who, he said, were pledged to support any measure of Senate reform which the government might introduce,

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This Richmond Hill speech was the backbone of the Liberal campaign, though special appeals were added in different areas. In urban Ontario, King drew attention to the evidence of increasing business activity as proof that Canada was about to enter a great period of expansion; in rural Ontario, he argued that the Liberal party embodied all the ideals of the farmers' movement. In the Maritime Provinces he showed how Liberal policies would redound to their advantage, though he was singularly inept in countering the "maritime rights" movement which had proved so useful to the Conservatives in the two provincial elections. In the west he gave the Hudson Bay Railway a cautious endorsement. He stated frankly that if the prairies wanted to get things done they should send a strong Liberal contingent to Ottawa, "men who will come into our caucus and fight for the needs of Western Canada." The same argument applied to western members in the Cabinet. He could scarcely be expected, he said, to choose his Ministers from those members who considered themselves aloof and voted only on results.