Изображения страниц

It is not necessary to believe that the French-Canadian clergy were latterly or at any time parties to any Quebec Ueber Alles policy. They were attending to their duties as pastors of their people. In the hard times of the late 'eighties and the early 'nineties they had an experience which taught them that the youth of Quebec would soon depart from the submissive way of life in which they had been brought up, if they were allowed to wander from their social and religious institutions. In those days thousands of young men and women from the province, finding it difficult to make a living at home, went to the Eastern States of the neighbouring republic, and there obtained employment in the cotton mills and paper mills and other industries. Many of these made their homes there, and no people in the United States have been readier to accept conscription and enrol in the army that country is raising for overseas service against Germany than the sons of these Canadian exiles. This war difference between French-Canadians in the Eastern States and the French-Canadians in Quebec must be set down to difference in social surroundings. The exodus from Quebec to the United States in the lean years mentioned produced effects that came more immediately under the notice of curés. When these young people came home to spend the Christmas holidays or to begin life anew there, it was observed that they had forgotten some of their manners. Instead of showing the old-time deference to the parish priest they behaved with curtness. More than that, they remarked upon the oddness, the backwoodness' of their parents in rendering humble duty to the local clergyman. That experience had the effect of starting a strong movement under Church auspices to open up colonies and build railways thereto within the province itself, so that homes could be found and industries established to provide for the overflow from the congested districts. And when French-Canadian settlers went into other parts of Canada, notably into Ontario, it was usually in settlements of many families, and under the wing of the Church.

This clerical solicitude for the French-Canadian people has undoubtedly, in a sense, hindered the 'Dominionizing' of Quebec; but to say that the political ideas that have sprung up on French-Canadian soil are the fruit of clerical planting would not be just. These for the most part are the work of

other sowers, of politicians who are shrewd enough to keep dutiful to the Church, but who have their own axes to grind and who have few scruples about misrepresenting Englishspeaking Canadians and discrediting the British connexion. With the clergy it is pro ecclesia rather than contra imperium. Some of the warmest expressions of loyalty to Great Britain and the Empire that have been heard in this war-time have come from the higher clergy of French-speaking Canada. How any thinking French-Canadian could entertain the idea of having his province under any other flag than the Union Jack it is not easy to conceive. Sir Etienne Tache's declaration that the last gun fired in support of British supremacy in British North America would be fired by the hand of a French-Canadian was no mere rhetorical flourish, but a reasoned statement.

Quebec has the advantage of having at the head of its Provincial Government a man of sanity and tact, Sir Lomer Gouin. At the beginning of the session of the legislature in January, one of the members of the Assembly, Mr. Francœur of Lotbinière, introduced a resolution to the effect that if other provinces desired Quebec to withdraw from confederation, Quebec would be prepared to consider the matter. Ominous as it seemed, this resolution ended well, as was no doubt intended at the outset. Looked at as a thing of the past, it has the appearance of a parliamentary manœuvre to set Quebec right in the eyes of the world. The debate on the resolution was conducted on a high plane, the speeches being such as well became the members of a legislature of a selfgoverning province under the British Crown. Especially admirable was Sir Lomer Gouin's speech, in which he gave eloquent expression to his feelings of loyalty to confederation and to British connexion. His administration of his native province has been along progressive lines. The production of wealth has greatly increased and the public credit was never higher. On its eastern frontier Quebec touches the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, as well as the province of New Brunswick. The St. Lawrence river, the great artery of Canada's commerce with transatlantic countries, passes through the province of Quebec. Thus environed, it is impossible that the rural people of Frenchspeaking Canada should remain in their present state of

simplicity and let their opinions continue to be made for them by unworldly men of religion on the one hand and designing demagogues on the other.

For Canada coalition' is a word of happy association and of good augury. It was a Coalition Government that brought the old Province of Canada-composed of Ontario and Quebec-into the great project of confederation, and it was by ministers of that coalition, conferring with representatives of other British North American provinces, that these were brought into confederation at the same time. Fifty years after the meeting of the first parliament of the Dominion of Canada, the thirteenth parliament was elected to support a Coalition Government. It would have been well for the Dominion had the same concord held between the two political parties throughout its history as at the time of its birth. Some things that were in the prospectus of the first Dominion Government remain to be finished or to be taken out of misdirected courses. Some good the Dominion may have got out of party politics, but more harm. Canadian partyism has been the bulwark of Quebec nationalism.

It has been Canada's experience that where the Party System rankly flourishes, the Spoils System is seldom in a languishing state. Personally, ministers may wash their hands in innocency, but, when the machine rules, the party campaign fund must be kept filled, contributions to it must be repaid by the tariff favours, the fat contracts, railway concessions, senatorships, etc., of which future delivery was implied or expressly stipulated in return for the cash turned over to the party war chest. The zeal of party workers must be rewarded and places of trust and emolument are given to them, however unfitted for such offices they may be. The public estate is made poorer by the transfer of agricultural areas, coal lands, timber berths, power sites, railway grants, etc. Wasteful expenditure is made upon undertakings, not because the country needs them but because the exploiters need the money and because votes can thereby be bought in round lots. The public service, carried on at an excessive cost, is kept at a low state of efficiency. With extravagance, patronage, graft, all of them the offspring of party government, Canada had her own troubles in that piping time of peace and hey-day of her material development,

the first decade of this century. Of the wild oats sowed in that seed-time some of the crop is shooting up in the midst of the yield of a later and better husbandry.

A big railway problem that cannot be waved aside now thrusts itself upon the attention of the government, when its own powers and the country's financial resources are kept under the heaviest strain by the business of the war. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, the National Transcontinental Railway (a government-built road which the Grand Trunk Pacific was to operate), and the Canadian Northern Railway came to a pass at which choice had to be made by the government between allowing their usefulness to be greatly impaired or taking the responsibility of providing for their finances. Never was it so important to the country that the efficiency of the railway should be at the maximum as it is now, when the winning of the war may depend on the production and transportation of supplies, especially of Canadian foodstuffs. To follow up the old government policy of loaning money to the railroads or buttressing their credit would be to get deeper into a quagmire into which many scores of millions of public money have already disappeared. The Canadian Northern Railway and its tributary lines have been taken over by the government, and the question of what sum must be paid to the company to complete the government ownership is now a matter of arbitration. After being constructed at an enormous cost to the public, the National Transcontinental Railway, which was to have been operated by the Grand Trunk Pacific, proved, as every reasonable critic predicted, a misplaced enterprise. If there had been less of politics and more of sound business policy in the railway construction of the first decade of the century, the railway situation in Canada would not have been in its present welter. According to the reports of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the affairs of the National Transcontinental Railway, upwards of $40,000,000 of the public money was unnecessarily spent upon it. The situation in Canada's railway affairs has brought forth a clamour for government ownership. If the Laurier government had not meddled with the Grand Trunk Railway Company's project to extend its system into the west, the present government might not have been embarrassed with the brood of troubles that have come home

to roost. The demand for public ownership is in some quarters sweeping enough to include the Canadian Pacific Railway, a system that is nearer business perfection than any service or undertaking carried on under public ownership in Canada. Its forwarding of the crop from Western Canada this autumn was truly wonderful. The C.P.R. has shown itself to be one of the great war service organizations of the Empire.

While it may be true that in all democratic countries the material interests of the nation are to some extent made the sport and spoil of party politics, it is less commonly true that the nation is thereby pulled out of the course charted for it by its founders. Partyism was deflecting the needle of the Canadian compass. The party system was taken advantage of by racial leaders who had little use for either Toryism or Gritism.

Suspicion and dislike of English-speaking Canada and of everything British were systematically inculcated by some leaders now revered by the French-Canadian people. And there have been not merely local but national leaders in Canada, some of them English-speaking, who did not disdain to truckle to the ill-feeling thus generated in Ontario against things British. This had the mischievous effect of putting sometimes one, sometimes the other, of the English-speaking parties in a false light as towards British connexion.

It looks as if Sir Robert Borden had wrought a moral revolution in Canadian politics that will put an end to all serious divisions in the Dominion and bring about that more perfect union looked forward to by the greatest of the Fathers of Confederation. The difficulties were tremendous, but by infinite patience he carried one position after another. Sir Wilfrid Laurier's refusal to join in a 'fifty-fifty' coalition to put through parliament Sir Robert's announced plan for reinforcing the army by selective draft did not discourage the Premier. He persevered in his efforts to form a Union Government. He had the hearty co-operation of his own colleagues in the Cabinet and but little countenance from the leading Liberal politicians. Sir Robert's Conservative fellowministers had placed their resignations at his disposal. If he could find enough responsible Liberals to fill half the places under him in the Cabinet, he would have no difficulty in getting those places vacated by Conservatives then occupying them.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »