Front Page Titles (by Subject) CANADA 1 - Modern Democracies, vol. 1.
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CANADA 1 - Viscount James Bryce, Modern Democracies, vol. 1. 
Modern Democracies, (New York: Macmillan, 1921). 2 vols. Vol. 1
Part of: Modern Democracies, 2 vols.
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the country and the frame of government
The study of popular government in Canada derives a peculiar interest from the fact that while the economic and social conditions of the country are generally similar to those of the United States, the political institutions have been framed upon English models, and the political habits, traditions, and usages have retained an English character. Thus it is that in Canada, better perhaps than in any other country, the working of the English system can be judged in its application to the facts of a new and swiftly growing country, thoroughly democratic in its ideas and its institutions. Let us begin by looking at those facts, for they determine the economic and social environment into which English institutions have been set down.
The Dominion of Canada is a country more than three thousand miles long from east to west, with a region, which at the meridian of 114o W. is about seven hundred miles broad from north to south. This region is interrupted to the north of Lakes Huron and Superior by a rocky and barren, and therefore almost uninhabited tract, which separates the fertile and populous districts of Ontario from those of the Prairie Provinces, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, lying farther west. Unless valuable minerals are discovered in many parts of this tract, as there have been in some, it may remain thinly peopled. The natural resources of the Dominion, besides its still only partially explored mineral wealth, consist in vast areas of rich soil, in enormous forests, both in the eastern Provinces and in British Columbia and in the fisheries of the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which give employment to a large and hardy population. There is coal in Nova Scotia and many parts of the West, with large deposits on the Pacific coast also; and the total quantity, estimated as second in the world only to that in the United States and Alaska, is more than sufficient to cause the development of manufactures on a large scale. Severe as are the winters on the Atlantic side of the Continent, the climate is everywhere healthy, favourable to physical and mental vigour, the death-rate low and the birth-rate high.
These conditions indicate the lines which economic development will follow. Agriculture is now and may long continue to be the chief source of livelihood, and forestry may provide employment for centuries if fires are checked and replanting is carried out on a large scale. Mining is now confined to comparatively few districts, but it, and the manufacturing industries also, aided by the utilization of the enormous volume of water power, cannot but increase. At present the bulk of the population are tillers of the soil, dwelling in rural areas or towns of moderate size; huge cities like those of Britain and the United States being comparatively few. Two only (Montreal and Toronto) out of a total population of about 8,000,000,1 have more than 300,-000 inhabitants, and there are but five others whose population exceeds 50,000. Plenty of good land is still to be had at a moderate price, and the agricultural class lives in comfort as does also the less numerous class who produce goods for the home market. There is hardly any pauperism and need be none at all. No such opposition is raised to immigration as has been raised in Australia, so the population is likely to go on increasing for generations to come, especially in the western half of the country. The fact most important to note is that the land is almost entirely in the hands of small cultivating owners, an industrious and independent class. As great landed estates are unknown, so, too, great financial or commercial fortunes are comparatively few, those who have suddenly risen to wealth having mostly acquired it by an increase in the value of land, or of railroad properties, and by speculative land investments.
With the growth, however, of commerce and the development of the country generally the opportunities for accumulating wealth by business are now fast increasing as they did in the United States half a century ago. Meantime, one may note the absence in Canada of two factors powerful in the great countries of Western Europe and equally so in the United States. There are not many great capitalists, or great incorporated companies taking a hand in politics for their own interests and exciting suspicion by their secret influence. Neither has the element of working men, congregated in large centres of industry and organized in labour unions, yet found leaders of conspicuous capacity, nor acquired a voting power which, whether by votes or by strikes, can tell upon the action of governments and party organizations, constituting a force outside the regular political parties and, like the capitalists of France and America, using them for the furtherance of its own economic aims.
One feature which is conspicuous by its absence, alike in Great Britain, in the United States, and in Australia and New Zealand, is here of the first importance. It is the influence of Race and of Religion.
When Canada was ceded to Great Britain by France in 1763, the French-speaking inhabitants numbered 60,000. They have now grown to nearly two and a half millions, or about one-third of the whole population, and this by natural increase, the stock being very prolific, for there has been practically no immigration from France. The great majority of these French speakers dwell in the Province of Quebec, which was the region first settled, but a large number are also to be found in Eastern and Northern Ontario, in the Maritime Provinces and scattered out over the West. Of those in Quebec extremely few speak English. There they constitute a community retaining with its language its French manners and ideas, quite distinct from those of the British districts. This separation is mainly due to religion, for they are all Roman Catholics, deeply attached to their faith, and if no longer obedient yet still deferential, in secular as well as ecclesiastical matters, to their bishops and priests. Nowhere in the world did the Roman priesthood during last century exert so great a power in politics.
During the last twenty years the tide of immigrants to Canada has flowed freely, chiefly from Scotland and from the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe. There have also come into the Western Provinces from the adjoining parts of the United States a great crowd of farmers attracted by the cheapness of good land. Nearly all of these have been naturalized as Canadian citizens and are rapidly blent with their Canadian neighbours. Thus one may say, omitting the most recent immigrants, that the Canadian nation consists of two parts, nearly one-third French speaking and Roman Catholic, two-thirds English speaking and Protestant.1
The Constitution of Canada was prepared by a group of colonial statesmen in 1864 and enacted in 1867, by a statute of the British Parliament. The scheme of government is Federal, a form prescribed not merely by the diversities to be found in a vast territory stretching westward from Nova Scotia to the Pacific, but also by the aforesaid dual character of the population, one-third of which inhabits Quebec, speaking French and following the Roman law established there by France when her first settlers arrived, while in the other provinces the common law of England prevails. The Federal system roughly resembles that of the United States, framed seventy-eight years earlier, and that of Australia, framed thirty-three years later, as respects the distribution of powers between the Central or National and the Provincial Governments, each in the main independent of the other, while the former has nevertheless, within its allotted sphere, a direct authority over all citizens, with adequate means for enforcing that authority.
As this federal form of government has little to do with the subject that here concerns us, the actual working of democratic institutions, it may suffice to call attention to three important points in which the National Grovernment has powers wider in Canada than in Australia or the United States.
1. The legislative authority of the Dominion Government covers a larger field, and includes a power of disallowing acts of the Provincial Legislature. This particular power is, however, seldom used, and practically only where such a Legislature is deemed to have exceeded the functions assigned to it by the Constitution or to have violated any fundamental principle of law and justice.
2. Judicial authority (except as respects minor local courts) belongs solely to the Dominion Government.
3. All powers and functions of government not expressly assigned either to the Dominion or to the Provinces respectively are deemed to belong to the Dominion, i.e. where doubt arises the presumption is in its favour, whereas in the United States and in Australia the presumption is in favour of the States.
4. Amendments to the Constitution can be made not by the people, but only by a Statute of the Imperial Parliament of the United Kingdom. This follows from the fact that the Constitution itself is a Statute of that Parliament. But the provision is in reality no restriction of the powers of the Dominion, for it is well understood that in such a matter the British Parliament would take no action except when satisfied that the Canadian people as a whole wished it to do so, and were approving any request made by the Dominion Parliament to that effect, just as the Act of 1867 was passed to give effect to what had been shown to be the wishes of the Dominion itself. This theoretic or technical sovereignty of the British Parliament provides a more convenient method of altering the Constitution than the complicated machinery created for that purpose in the United States and in Australia,1 and is even more certain to give to a dissident minority whatever consideration it deserves.
The frame of the Dominion or National Government has been constructed on the lines of the Cabinet or Parliamentary system of Britain and all her self-governing colonies. Executive power is vested nominally in the Governor-General as representative of the British Crown; but is in fact exercised by a Cabinet or group of ministers, who hold office only so long as they can retain the support of a majority in the Dominion House of Commons. They are virtually a Committee of Parliament, and in it all of them sit. Thus the actual Executive is the creature of the House of Commons, possessing as against it only one power, that of appealing to the people by a dissolution of Parliament. If ministers do not dissolve they must resign, and if they dissolve and the election goes against them, they resign forthwith and a new Cabinet is formed. The relations of the Executive and Legislative Departments are thus far more intimate than in the United States, for the Ministry sit in the Legislature and are, just as in France and England, the leaders of its majority for the time being.
The Dominion Legislature consists of two Houses. The House of Commons numbers 235 members, elected on universal suffrage, woman suffrage having been in all the Provinces also, except three, recently adopted.1 Its legal duration, subject to a prior dissolution by the Executive, is five years. The Senate consists of 96 persons nominated for life by the Governor-General, i.e. by the Ministry for the time being, as vacancies occur by death or resignation. A number of senators proportionate to population is assigned to each Province. Except in financial matters its functions are legally equal to those of the House, but it is in fact far less important, for though it revises and amends Bills, it seldom ventures to reject or seriously modify any measure sent up by the House of Commons. The latter is the real driving force, just as the House of Commons is in England and for the same reasons. The House controls finance; and since it has the making and unmaking of the Executive Ministries, is the centre of party strife. Contests between the two Houses arise only when one party comes into power after another party has had for a long time the appointment of senators, and effective opposition disappears after a few sessions, when vacancies filled by the new Ministry have changed the party balance.
The judges of the Supreme Court of the Dominion, and of the Supreme Courts in the provinces, as also of the County Courts, are appointed for life by the Executive (i.e. the Dominion Cabinet), and can as in Britain and Australia be removed from office only upon an address of both Houses of Parliament. They are taken from the Bar, and the salaries paid, though lower than in England, are higher than those which generally prevail in the United States. An appeal lies from the Supreme Court of Canada to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England, of which a Canadian Justice of the Supreme Court is a member. There exists no veto upon the legislation of the Dominion Parliament except that which the Governor-General at the direction of the British Crown, or that Crown itself on the advice of the British Cabinet, might in point of strict law exercise, but does not in fact now exercise, although cases may be imagined in which its existence might be thought useful for the preservation of some interest common to the whole of the British Dominions or the fulfilment of some international obligation undertaken on their behalf. Neither does the Canadian Constitution contain any restrictions upon legislative power such as those imposed on Congress by the United States Constitution. The Dominion Parliament is limited only by the assignment of exclusive jurisdiction on certain specified subjects to the legislatures of the Provinces and by the fact that it cannot directly and by its own sole action alter the Constitution as set forth in the Act of 1867. Otherwise its powers are plenary, like those of the British Parliament, whose traditions it was desired to carry over into the New” World.
While the Ministers and a very few of the higher officials change with the departure from power of one party and the accession to power of another, all the other posts in the Civil Service are held for life or “good behaviour,” i.e. a man once appointed is not dismissed except for misconduct or proved incompetence. There is therefore no Spoils system in the United States sense of the term, a Civil Service Commission having been recently created which fills up all posts. But in such higher appointments as are still left to the Executive, party affiliations and the influence of leading politicians counts for much, so that it is not necessarily the best men who are selected. Civil servants having a secure tenure are not expected to work for their party, but they are not forbidden to do so, though if they do, and their party is defeated, they will probably be dismissed as offenders against propriety.
The Governments of the Nine Provinces (which correspond to the States in the Australian Commonwealth and in the U.S.A.) are also created, or rather re-created and remodelled by the Constitution of 1867, for most of them had existed before it was enacted.1 They reproduce the system of Cabinet and Parliamentary Government provided for the Dominion, save in the fact that it is only the legislatures of Quebec and iSTova Scotia that have two Chambers. The head of the Executive is the Lieutenant-Governor, who is appointed for a five years' term by the Governor-General, i.e. by the Dominion Cabinet for the time being, and is usually a member of the party to which the Cabinet belongs, and a leading politician of the Province. He does not, however, take any share in party politics,2 but fills the place of a sort of local constitutional king, being advised by a ministry of six or seven members which has the support of the majority in the Legislature and is responsible to it. The system is, in miniature, that of the British Parliament and Cabinet. The Legislature is elected by universal suffrage for four years, subject to an earlier dissolution by the Cabinet. It has, under the Constitution Act of 1867, the power of amending its Provincial Constitution, subject to the rarely exercised power of disallowance vested in the Dominion Government. In the two Provinces which have retained Second Chambers filled by the appointment of the Executive as vacancies occur, few controversies have arisen, the Second Chamber generally complying with the wishes of the popular House. No desire for the creation of a Second Chamber has been expressed in those provinces which do not possess one, perhaps because they take their notion of such a Chamber from the Dominion Senate, a body which, though not wanting in talent and experience, is weak because nominated: but the bicameral system has been, where it exists, of service in preventing jobs, and a Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario spoke to me of instances in which the existence of a revising body would have been useful in making it possible to reconsider and reverse an unfortunate decision taken by the Assembly.
This scheme of government seems at first sight less democratic than that of the United States, because the direct action of the people is not so frequently invoked, their people's share in the government being limited to the election of representatives to the legislature, Federal and Provincial. But the power of the people is in fact by and through that one function so complete that nothing more is wanted, and it is in one point ampler than in the United States, because the legislatures are restrained by no such limitations as both the Federal and the State Constitutions contain. In choosing and instructing their representatives the citizens have all the means they need for giving effect to their will, for the representatives choose the Executive, and if the Executive and the Legislature differ, their differences can be promptly settled in appealing to the people by a dissolution of Parliament. The Frame of Government which I have described in outline is accordingly highly democratic, and the experience of England in last century commended it as having proved both democratic and efficient. It fixes responsibility upon representatives each of whom can be called to account by his constituents, and upon a small number of administrators each of whom can be watched, questioned, censured, and if need be expelled from office by the Legislature. Given favourable economic and social conditions in the country where it is to be worked, it ought to give excellent results.
If any source of danger to peace and good government was discernible, it lay in the existence of two races which, though not hostile, were mutually jealous and showed no tendency to blend.
Government of Canada has been worked, as in every other free country, by Party. That was contemplated when the Constitution was enacted, for parties had been in full swing for generations before 1867, and insurrections had occurred so late as 1837. In Canada as in England the parties run both the legislative and the administrative machinery, and are responsible to the people for the use they make of it. But before proceeding to examine how that machinery is actually worked it is well to look a little more closely at the conditions which Nature and History have here provided. They are eminently favourable, not only to the growth of population and of national wealth, but also to the orderly development of free self-governing institutions.
the people and the parties
This land in which settlers from the two great races of Western Europe have been called to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth is a land where there is room for everybody for generations to come, and in which the ground is cumbered by few injustices to be redressed, no sense of ancient wrongs to rouse resentment, no slough of despondent misery out of which the worker finds it hard to emerge.
About three-fourths of the Canadian householders are farmers, nearly all of them owning their own farms, living in comfort, and all the more so because sobriety has become more general than it was thirty years ago. Not only are they well off, but nearly everybody is well off, the native part of the wage-earning population also being well remunerated and on good terms with the employers. It is only lately, and in places where there is a mass of recent immigrants, that labour troubles have created serious strife, and such grievances as the traveller hears of in the rural districts relate to the maintenance of a tariff on imports which raises the price of manufactured goods for the benefit of home producers and to the undue power which great railroads can exert in the districts they traverse, and, in some districts, to the action of great companies in controlling facilities for the transporting and disposal of crops. In Ontario and the Maritime Provinces as well as in the Western Provinces the schools are so abundant and excellent that there is practically no illiteracy except among the new arrivals from Europe. Every native English-speaking Canadian is educated, reads at least one newspaper, and as a rule takes an intelligent interest in public affairs, national and local. This is no less true of that large body of immigrants in the Prairie Provinces 1 which has come in from the United States during the last thirty years, but not true of the recent immigrants from Eastern Europe. The people are assiduous churchgoers, and are, especially in the Scottish districts, much occupied with church affairs, but the pastors, although respected, do not generally exert political influence on their flocks. No rural population except that of Switzerland, is better qualified for the duties of citizenship and more ready to discharge them, though it ought perhaps to be added that there have been those who allow their willingness to be stimulated by the receipt of pecuniary inducements at elections, glossing over this lapse from civic virtue by the argument that they ought to be compensated for the time lost in going to the polling-place. This habit, not infrequent in Ontario, is quite as prevalent in the State of Ohio, on the other side of Lake Erie.
The class of workers in manufactures or mines is, as already observed, comparatively small, for there are few great industrial centres, and only four cities (Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver) with populations exceeding 120,000. So much of that class as speaks English or French is educated and takes an interest in politics, but it has not yet grown large enough to form in any one area, except, in Ontario and British Columbia, a working men's party in a Provincial Legislature. It is, moreover, less permeated by Communist or Syndicalist doctrines than is the same class in France and Australia, Here, as in the United States, the great strength of the two old parties which embrace men of all classes, has retarded the creation of a third party resting on a class basis. Except in the Maritime Provinces, the most recent immigrants perform a great part of the unskilled work of the country, and they furnish a soil more favourable to the propagation of the doctrines of any group of European extremists than does the native population. Till the Winnipeg strike of 1919, there had been few signs of antagonism between the wage-earners and the employers.
In the French-speaking districts of Quebec and of Eastern Ontario the conditions are altogether different. The inhabitants of these districts do not call themselves “French “but either simply “Canadians “or “French speakers,” for they have little in common with modern France except their language and some traits of character. So far as they belong to France, it is to a France of the eighteenth, not of the twentieth century. Since the Eevolution of 1789, and still more since the establishment of the present Republic in France, they have been but slightly affected by French political institutions or ideas; for though educated men read French books, the anti-clerical attitude of the Kepublicans who have governed France during the last forty years has been repellent. All through last century English thought and English ways told very little upon them; and that remarkable assimilative power which French culture possesses was shown in the fact that those Scotsmen or Englishmen who settled among them were almost always Gallicized in speech and religion. It is remarked to-day that few French speakers are to be found among the undergraduates of the leading non-Catholic Universities. Were the two elements to blend, they might possibly produce a new type of character, combining what is best in each, but of blending there is at present no sign. The difference of religion forbids it.
The birth-rate is so much higher among the French speakers than in the English districts that some of the former have hoped that Canada would end by being a French country, but the immigrants, if they come from the United States, speak English already, and if they come from Continental Europe learn English and not French. The probabilities therefore are that English will ultimately prevail and be the general tongue of the Dominion.
As compared with the British population of Ontario and the West, the standard of material well-being among these Quebec habitants is lower, because the land is poorer, the farms mostly smaller, the families larger, the people less energetic though equally industrious, and less well educated. But the greatest difference is seen in the power of the Bo-man Catholic clergy. The Church has large estates, with numerous and wealthy monastic establishments, and the people are nearly all fervent Catholics. The bishops used to rule through the priests, who were wont to direct their parishioners how to vote, and were generally obeyed, not only by the cultivators of the soil but by the wage-earners of the towns, till about thirty years ago. Even now they retain a real though much diminished power. Owing to the rapid increase of the French-speaking population, which would be still more rapid but for the high rate of infant mortality, there has been a considerable migration from Quebec into Eastern Ontario as well as the Western Provinces. Wherever the emigrant goes, the priest follows and retains a certain influence, but it counts for more in the homogeneous French-speaking masses of Quebec, the Provincial Government of which, though legally quite as democratic as that of Manitoba or Alberta, is by no means the same in its working.
Taking the native population of Canada to be as intelligent, educated, interested in self-government and qualified for self-government as a traveller finds in any part of the English-speaking world, we have next to enquire what are the subjects which chiefly interest it, what are the issues by which it, like all free peoples, is divided into political parties, and in what wise those parties conduct the affairs of the nation. As I am not writing a general account of Canada but concerned only with those phenomena which illustrate the working of democratic government, it is enough to note in passing, without attempting to discuss, some topics which, important as they are, do not belong to the sphere of party controversy, such are the means of developing the natural resources of the country, and its relation to Great Britain and to the other Self-Governing Dominions. External affairs, however, need a few words, for the fiscal relations of the Dominion to the United States have at times become involved with differences of opinion between Protectionists and the advocates of Free Trade or of a low tariff, and did in that way affect internal politics, the Protectionists declaring that the policy of their opponents would make Canada dependent on her powerful neighbour to the south. This ground of contention has tended to disappear as other disputes with that neighbour have subsided. In recent years a series of treaties and commissions determining all boundary questions and providing methods of arbitration for the adjustment of whatever controversies may arise over water rights and transportation on railways along the borders of Canada and the United States, have virtually removed causes of quarrel, and hold out a promise of permanently good relations between the two great neighbour peoples. The arrangement made in 1817 by which no ships of war, other than two or three small vessels armed for police work, were to be placed on the Great Lakes, has been loyally observed, to the immeasureable benefit of both nations, for it has not only made forts and fleets superfluous, but has created an atmosphere of mutual confidence.
There were at one time persons in the United States who talked of the incorporation of Canada in their republic as a thing to be desired and worked for, and there were a few, though always only a few, Canadians who, looking upon this as a natural consequence of geographical conditions, held it to be inevitable. But during the present century such ideas have died out in Canada, and it is only a few belated and unthinking persons in the United States that still give expression to them. Those apprehensions of designs on the part of the United States for which there might have been grounds forty years ago, are now idle. The people of the United States have laid aside not only any thought of aggression but even that slightly patronizing air which formerly displeased the smaller nation. Sensible men in both countries recognize the many reasons which make it better for each nation that it should continue to develop itself in its own fashion, upon its own historic lines, in cordial friendship with the other. The United States feels itself large enough already: Canada does not wish to forgo that nationhood into which she has entered by the recognition accorded to her claims in the Peace Treaties of 1919.
In a country inhabited by two races of a different language and religion, it might be expected that these differences would form the basis of political parties. This might have happened in Canada, but for two causes. One is the Federal system of government which has permitted the French-speaking and Roman Catholic population to have their own way in that Province where they form the vast majority, and which similarly permits the inhabitants of English speech and Protestant faith who predominate in the other Provinces to legislate there according to their own views. The other cause may be found in the party system itself, which has associative as well as a disruptive power. On many questions which have nothing to do with race or religion English speakers are in agreement with French speakers, Protestants in agreement with Catholics, so that each political party is composed of both elements, neither of which could afford to offend and alienate the other. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the distinguished leader whom the Liberal party lately lost, was a Catholic from Quebec, though too independent to be acceptable to the Catholic hierarchy. Yet he had the support not only of many Catholics in that Province but of Presbyterians and Methodists in Ontario and the west, while the chiefs of the Conservatives have frequently been helped by Catholic votes. When controversies, sometimes acute, have arisen over religious teaching in State Schools in Provinces where there is a considerable Catholic minority,1 there has been a disposition to settle them by compromises, for the leading statesmen on both sides, feeling the danger of raising a racial issue between the French-speaking and the British elements in the population, do their best to smooth matters down, neither side wishing to commit their party as a whole because each would by such a course alienate some of its supporters. A like tendency to division between the two elements of the population has occasionally been revealed when questions arose involving the relations of Canada to Great Britain. This happened also when the use of the French language in schools placed in districts with a considerable French-speaking element. Though opinion comes near to unanimity in desiring to maintain a political connection obviously beneficial to both elements, the French-speaking population is less zealously ready to bear its share in responsibilities common to the British dominions as a whole, so at the outbreak of the Great War of 1914—18 the opposition to a proposed general levy of men to serve in that war found a wider support in that population than among the English-speaking citizens. The controversy, however, though it affected politics for the time being, passed away, and similar circumstances are not likely to recur.
Another subject which has been constantly before men's minds during the last twenty years has never, as it has in England, been taken up by either of the established political parties, because each has feared to lose at least as much as it could gain by committing itself to a policy. It is that of the regulation or prohibition of the sale of intoxicants. Party leaders have been shy of touching this live wire, because it cuts across the lines of party division in the Provinces, so the agitation for prohibitory legislation, now enacted everywhere except in Quebec, was, as in the United States, left to independent organizations.1 The question that has since 1867 been the most permanently controversial is that of a Protective tariff, a question argued less on general principles than with a view to the direct pecuniary interests of manufacturers on the one hand and agricultural consumers on the other. The struggle is not between the advocates of Protection and those of tariff for revenue only, but turns on the merits of a lower or higher scale of import duties.
Since 1867 — and for our present purpose we need go no further back — the qvtestions which have had the most constant interest for the bulk of the nation are, as is natural in a prosperous and rapidly growing community, those which belong to the sphere of commercial and industrial progress, the development of the material resources of the country by rendering aid to agriculture, by the regulation of mining, by constructing public works and opening up lines of railway and canal communication — matters scarcely falling within the lines by which party opinion is divided, for the policy of laissez faire has few adherents in a country which finds in governmental action or financial support to private enterprises the quickest means of carrying out every promising project. So when party conflicts arise over these matters, it is not the principle that is contested — no Minister would expose himself to the reproach of backwardness — but the plan advocated by the Government or the Opposition as the case may be. The task of each party is to persuade the people that in this instance its plan promises quicker and larger results, and that it is fitter to be trusted with the work. Thus it happens that general political principles, such as usually figure in party platforms,: count for little in politics, though ancient habit requires them to be invoked. Each party tries to adapt itself from time to time to whatever practical issue may arise. Opportunism is inevitable, and the charge of inconsistency, though incessantly bandied to and fro, is lightly regarded. The tendency to an adaptive flexibility is increased by the duty —indeed the necessity — of tactfully handling the racial and religious feelings of the voters. Thus politics is apt to become a series of compromises, and the bitterness with which elections seem to be fought is softened by the fact that there is no sentiment of class hostility involved. The rich and the less rich — for one can hardly talk of the poor — the farmers, merchants, manufacturers, shopkeepers, professional men, have been found in both parties, and if the country be taken as a whole, in tolerably equal proportions. No Labour party has arisen except among the industrial workers of Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, and among the organized unions of the miners on the Pacific coast. But though the feelings of antagonism which most powerfully affect men's minds are sedulously kept in the background, though most of the topics which during the last few decades formed the staple of controversy have been of transient import, not involving large general principles, the fact remains that parties have carried on a ceaseless strife with a surprising keenness of feeling. The historical causes of this lie far back in the past, behind 1867, and only one of them need be referred to — a religious aversion which, though not always avowed, intensifies party spirit among the more extreme Protestants as well as the more ardent Catholics. There is still in Ontario an Orange party, well organized in its Lodges, which rejoices to celebrate with triumphant processions and speeches, on the shores of the Great Lakes, the anniversary of a victory gained more than two centuries ago by one of the two parties that were then struggling for mastery in an island, distracted then as now, that lies three thousand miles away beyond the Ocean.
In Canada the motive of personal advantage which stimulates the activity of many party workers in the United States is hardly felt, for the places to be won are too few to enter into the mind of the average private citizen.
Neither is an attachment to doctrines essential, for here, as among the English-speaking peoples generally, the impulse to combat and to associations for the purposes of combat in politics is so strong that it can dispense with doctrines. Party seems to exist for its own sake. In Canada ideas are not needed to make parties, for these can live by heredity and, like the Guelfs and Ghibellines of mediaeval Italy, by memories of past combats. The pugnacity of a virile race is kept alive by the two unending sets of battles which are kept going, one in the House of Commons at Ottawa, the other in their Provincial Legislature. Men grow up from boyhood identifying themselves with their party and regarding its fortunes as their own. Attachment to leaders of such striking gifts and long careers, as were Sir John Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, created a personal loyalty which exposed a man to reproach as a deserter when he voted against his party. And besides all this, there was that sort of sporting interest which belongs to a struggle between the Ins and Outs.
This vehemence of zeal I have described was, however, not usually carried into Provincial and much less into municipal elections, which latter have not generally been fought on party lines, though of course a candidate who happens to be popular with his party is likely to attract their votes. Neither does party feeling, except in a few localities, introduce bitterness into social life. As in England and the United States, it can co-exist with personal good feeling between the opposing armies. The same kind of sentiment which makes the undergraduates of Oxford and Cambridge cheer the rival oarsmen who have just vanquished their own crew in a boat race, and which requires the defeated candidate for the Presidency of the United States to telegraph his congratulations to his successful competitor, mitigates party strife. This happy tendency, quite compatible with violent talk and reckless imputations at election time, has helped to produce, and has been itself strengthened by, the excellent institution of the Canadian Clubs. About the beginning of the century a club was founded at Hamilton, Ontario, intended to foster both Dominion patriotism and local patriotism, and to promote the growth of an enlightened public opinion by bringing together men of both parties or of no party to listen to addresses on all sorts of non-partisan topics at lunch or dinner. Finding favour, the idea spread fast and far, till within a few years similar clubs had sprung up in nearly all the cities of the Dominion. They have been of great service in accustoming men of opposite parties to know one another personally and work together for common civic or national aims, and are now, especially in the English-speaking cities, a valuable factor in Canadian life, giving to eminent visitors from Europe and the United States opportunities of bringing their views and counsels before Canadians of all classes, while in some places also filling a function similar to that of those non-partisan associations of business men in the cities of the United States which have there work for the betterment of social conditions and municipal reform.
Part of what has been said applies rather to the recent past than to the present, for the years since 1914 have seen many changes. The first of these was a schism in the Liberal party, arising over the question of compulsory war service, which led to a coalition of a section of that party with the Conservatives then in power. This combination may be transitory, and is less significant than the still more recent emergence of a small Labour party in some industrial areas, such as Montreal, Toronto, “Winnipeg and the mining districts of British Columbia, and of a Farmers' party, which in the Province of Ontario1 suddenly found itself after an election the largest of the various groups in the Provincial legislature, and formed a Ministry there. The example of the independent action which the landowning farmers had been taking, outside the old parties, in the North-Western States of America, did something to rouse Canadian farmers to a like assertion of their own special interests, inadequately represented in the legislature. But something may also be attributed to a general loosening of party ties and loss of confidence in the successive party Ministries, and indeed in the politicians generally who had been at the head of affairs in the Dominion and in the Provinces during the last fifteen or twenty years. Of this more hereafter.
Party organization is looser than in the United States and scarcely so tight as it has grown to be in England: nor is the nomination of candidates that supremely important matter which it long ago became in the United States, for there is no such octopus of a party machine extending its tentacles over the country and practically controlling the action of most voters. A man gets accepted as candidate much as happens in England, often because he is of some local note, sometimes because, though not a resident, he is recommended by persons of influence in the party; and if once elected is, if assiduous and loyal, generally continued as the local party standard-bearer. Although, therefore the right of the constituency to determine its candidate is taken as a matter of course, the methods of choice are as fluid and informal as they have usually been in Britain. There is an increasing tendency to prefer local men as candidates. Provincial elections excite less interest, except when it is desired to punish a discredited Ministry, than do those to the Dominion House of Commons, and though both, speaking generally, are fought on the same national party lines, there are those who think it well to vote for candidates of one party in a Provincial and those of another in a Dominion election in order that the former may feel itself more closely watched. Neither in the Provinces nor in the Dominion does a party victory carry with it a distribution of “good things “among the minor politicians. To win an election is of course a gain to the leading politicians on the look out for office and to those few underlings who expect sometime or other to receive favours at their hands, but these places are trifling in number compared to those that have to be fought for as spoils of victory in the United States. In Canada, therefore, one hears little of Rings, and the Boss, though he exists both in and out of the legislatures, is nothing more than the figure, familiar in many countries, of the politician who brings to the business of intrigue more of the serpent's wisdom than of the dove's innocence.
When the citizen comes to the polls as a voter, by what motives is his vote determined?
In English-speaking districts, primarily by his party allegiance, and to some extent by his ecclesiastical sympathies, which in some districts are markedly anti-Roman. In French-speaking districts, primarily by the influence of the priesthood; yet that influence does not always prevail, for it may be overridden by attachment to a French-speaking national, or even local, leader who maintains an independent attitude. Secondarily by his own material interests, whether they take the form of desiring the imposition or the reduction of protective import duties, or that of seeking grants of public money for some local purpose, or of urging the construction of a railroad calculated to benefit his neighbourhood. This class of considerations has been often strong enough to override not only religious but even party loyalty, and is likely to grow stronger as party loyalty declines. Seldom, however, does it affect all the voters in any given locality. Thus the result of an election used to be somewhat more predictable in Canada than in the United States or in England, because party loyalty was, generally speaking, a more important factor.
working of the government
From this study of the average citizen and the sentiments that move him when he comes to deliver his will on public affairs, we may pass to the machinery by which that will is brought to bear on the government of the country. His first duty is to elect representatives, so to elections a few sentences may be devoted.
These are fewer than in the United States because no administrative officers are chosen at the polls, all, both in the Dominion and in the Provinces, being appointed by the Executive Ministry. Elections are believed to be honestly conducted so far as the presiding officials are concerned, but personation and repeating occasionally occur, perhaps even ballot stuffing, for in Ontario a Government was not long ago supposed to have fallen because its electoral misdeeds had shocked the conscience of the best citizens. Neither are there any such riots as used to be frequent in England in former days. Each party allows the meetings of the other to he held peaceably, satisfied with having discharged its own heavy artillery of vituperation. Treating is no longer common, the consumption of intoxicants having been restrained by law, and will probably decline with the increased size of constituencies. Bribery, however, is not rare. The laws enacted on lines found effective in England failed to restrain these malpractices, usually managed by underlings, and apparently by both parties alike. Happening to hear a politician complain bitterly of the heavy expenditure by the opposite party which had caused the defeat of his own, I enquired why petitions had not been more largely presented by the losing side, and was answered that things might have come out which were better left in darkness. Each side had bribed because it believed the other to be bribing, and the wealthier party got the best of it; for money counts here as in most countries, and campaign funds are thought indispensable.1
From the electors we pass to the legislators. Those who sit in the Dominion House come chiefly from the professional and commercial classes, many of whom have a private income making them independent of their salaries, with a fair sprinkling of agriculturists, rarely from the wage-earning class. The percentage of lawyers is decidedly smaller than in Congress, and rather lower than in the British House of Commons. In the Provincial Chambers there is a larger proportion of lawyers of the second or third rank, the rest mostly farmers, and the average level of ability and education is somewhat lower than at Ottawa. Iso law or custom requires a member to reside in the place he represents, a fortunate adherence to British custom, for it opens to talent a wider door; but though some men of mark from the cities sit for constituencies with which they have no tie of family or residence, the majority, especially in the Provincial Legislatures, reside in their constituencies. The tendency to retain the same member from one election to another helps to increase the number of those persons who possess some experience. There are very few rich men, not because such persons would be distrusted by the electors, but because they prefer to attend to their business enterprises, finding it almost as easy to exert political influence on legislation from without as within. Membership in the Dominion Parliament has some little social value, but no more than that which attaches to any conspicuous success in commerce. In a country which opens up great possibilities to the man of business capacity, politics as a career does not greatly attract a man too scrupulous to use his political position for gainful purposes, unless of course his oratorical talents are such as to bring him at once to the front and to keep him there. It is not surprising, therefore, that the average of ability in the Federal Parliament should be, as most Canadians declare, rather lower to-day than it was thirty or forty years ago, in the days of Macdonald, Mackenzie, and Edward Blake. Nevertheless the presence of some men of eminent ability occasionally raises the debates to a high level. The House of Commons need not fear a comparison either with Congress or with the Parliament of Australia. Proceedings are orderly: obstruction is seldom resorted to; only in exciting times has there been any marked personal acrimony. That kindly bonhommie which is characteristic of Canadians generally maintains itself even in the political arena.
The payment of members is inevitable in a country where there is practically no leisured class, and where most members coming from long distances to live in a city of only 90,000 people, which is not a centre of commerce, must sacrifice their business to their political duties. It has not produced a class of professional politicians. The salary is $2500 (£500) for a session exceeding thirty days, subject to a deduction of $15 a day for each day on which attendance is not given, a sum not large enough to draw a man into a parliamentary career, though it may sharpen his eagerness to retain his seat. A feature in which Canada stands almost alone is the recognition of the leadership of the Opposition as a sort of public office, service in which is thought fit to be remunerated by a salary of $7000 (£1400) a year, the Speakers of the Senate and the House having each $4000, in addition to their allowance as Members of Parliament.
The rules, based on English precedents, which regulate procedure on private bills have limited the field for “lobbying,” rendering it less general and pernicious than in the United States. There is nevertheless a good deal of jobbery and logrolling in the Canadian Legislatures. It occurs frequently in connection with the granting of public money to localities, such grants being the means whereby a member commends himself to his constituents, while at the same time committing himself to a support of the Ministry which has conferred the favour on him and on them. Though transactions of this kind have lowered the standard of honour and the sense of public duty, they have not led to the grosser forms of political corruption, for these are as rare as in the United States Congress, while the Provincial Legislatures are probably purer than those of most American States, though the average virtue of members varies so much that it is hard to make any general statement. None sinks so low as do the Assemblies of New York or Pennsylvania, but the atmosphere of two or three is unwholesome; and nowhere can absolute soundness be found. So far as one can ascertain, the level of honour in them and in the Parliament at Ottawa is below that exacted by public opinion from members of the Australian and New Zealand Legislatures. Probably the temptations are greater, especially in the Provincial Legislatures, largely occupied with local matters involving pecuniary interests, and the proceedings in which receive comparatively little attention from the general public.
From legislators in general we may proceed to those who have risen out of the crowd to be party leaders and Ministers. In Canada, as in England, political life is practically a parliamentary career which culminates in the Cabinet. There is little distinction or influence to be won in any other political field, though of course the heads of great banks or railroads, sometimes also those of great universities, may exercise quite as potent an influence. A man must begin by entering a legislative body and work his way up by proving his quality there. Whoever shows unusual ability is, as in England, marked out for office and for place, so long as he can hold his seat, whereas in the United States a man may be summoned from the Bar or business to some exalted post and return to the Bar or business after four years with no prospect of further public service. It may, however, happen that an office requiring special knowledge or experience is given to some one not in Parliament, and in that case a seat will be found for him or he will receive, as soon as a vacancy occurs, a place in the Senate carrying with it the prospect of office, so he seldom falls for long out of the running. Though eloquence and the tactful handling of men are, as by all Parliamentary Governments, valued more highly than administrative capacity, there is no lack of the latter quality. Such important departments as finance, justice, agriculture, and fisheries are usually in competent hands.
Describing these things by way of comparisons, which is the best way available, one may say that in every Canadian Cabinet there are two or three men equal to the average of a Cabinet in London or Washington, although the range of choice is naturally smaller in a smaller population. In the composition of a Ministry regard must be had not only to talent but also to the necessity for representing different parts of a vast area, both because this pleases the outlying Provinces, and because the national administration, being also the supreme council of the party in power, must be duly informed as to local political feeling as well as local economic conditions.
The methods followed'in legislation have been generally similar to those of the British Parliament, and here as there speaking has become plain and businesslike, with little rhetoric. At Ottawa, as at Westminster, the never-ending battle of the Ins and Outs has gone on, the Ministry proposing measures and the Opposition resisting them, the Ministry taking steps and making appointments which the Opposition condemn as blunders or jobs. When there are no large issues of policy to divide the two parties, there are always questions of grants or subsidies or other administrative matters to furnish grounds for attack and recrimination. Much time is thus lost, but the process is inevitable where office is the prize contended for, and where every mistake brought home to the Government weakens its hold on the country and raises the hopes of the Opposition. It is moreover a necessary process, for if there were no fear of criticism and resistance who can tell how many more mistakes might be made and jobs perpetrated with impunity? Canada, like Great Britain, imposes no constitutional restrictions on the power of Parliament except those few contained in the Act of 1867, so the immense power possessed by an Administration backed by a majority would be abused if the right to interrogate and attack the Executive did not provide safeguards against the abuse of power equivalent to, though different from, those which the scheme of Checks and Balances provides in the United States. Criticism is wholesome for Ministers, and gives a certain sense of security to the people, yet it is not a full security, any more than are the checks and balances. Although there exist in the Canadian Parliament and in the Provincial Legislatures rules, modelled on English precedents, regulating procedure in the case of those bills, which have a local or personal object, these rules are less effective than in England, because not supported by so strong a force of long habit and watched by so vigilant an opinion. Many occasions arise for secret bargaining over bills as well as grants, many ways in which public interests may be sacrificed to projects promising private gain.
Government is in Canada more concerned, with matters affecting the development of the country than Europeans can realize. The dominance of material interests has brought into the field great corporate enterprises, such as lumber (timber) and mining and machine-making and fishery companies, and above all the railway companies. The great railway systems have been few but powerful, indeed all the more powerful because few. There has been much “trading “between them and prominent politicians, for they need legislation, and in return for it they can influence votes at elections. An organization which has no politics except its own profits is formidable, and as an eminent Canadian has said, “Capital ends by getting its way.” Some philosophic observers and some men of radical views have been alarmed. But the Canadian farmer is so eager for the extension of railroad facilities, and the man of business sees so clear a gain in the rapid development of the country's resources that there had been, down to 1914, comparatively little of that angry hostility to railroad corporations which had stirred the Western United States during the last thirty or forty years. At present, however, the tide of public opinion has begun to run more strongly than formerly against “Big Business.” 1
These conditions, and especially this ardour, not altogether selfish, of every community to expand and to make the most of its resources faster than its neighbours, have made every district and town and village eager to get something for itself. When the country began, about thirty years ago, to be settled more rapidly and thickly than before, roads were wanted, and bridges, and in some places harbours or improvements in rivers, and everywhere railroads, for the proximity of a line opens up a district and makes the fortune of a town. As in each locality there was little or no capital even for bridge or road building, resort was had, and in some instances properly enough, to the public purse. The public purse once reached, and those ministers who held it finding no surer way of getting local votes than by obliging local applicants, it became the aim of every place and every member to dip as deep as possible into the National treasury. The habit was a demoralizing one all round. It intensified the spirit of localism which is as marked a feature in Canadian politics as it is in the United States, and for the same reasons. It lowered the standard of political thinking among the statesmen; it turned the political interest of the citizens away from the larger aspects of civic duty. These are phenomena which, though their beginnings are intelligible, surprise one in communities now so active and so prosperous as to be well able to tax themselves for many purposes on which grants are lavished by the Dominion Government, grants often needless, for they are given only “to bring money into the town,” and apt to be wastefully administered. But the habit persists, as it is found persisting in New Zealand also.
What has been said of the Dominion House of Commons applies generally, allowing for their much smaller scale, to the Provincial Legislatures. They are divided upon the lines of the National parties, and upon these lines elections are chiefly fought, though with less heat than is shown in Federal contests, and with more frequent changes in the balance of party strength. The wide powers allotted to them by the Constitution, the only check upon which (save as regards education) lies in the power of disallowing their statutes reserved to the Dominion Government, are sometimes not wisely used. Cases have occurred in which legislation has virtually extinguished private property without compensation, a thing forbidden to a State Legislature in the United States, and the Courts have held that such a law, however objectionable, is within their legal competence. Whether it furnishes ground for the exercise of the Dominion disallowance has been doubled: but in a recent instance the propriety of that exercise has been affirmed by the Federal Government.1 The methods and rules of procedure of these Provincial legislatures reproduce generally the practice of Westminster and of Ottawa. In them also the salutary principle that the public money can be voted only at the instance of the Executive holds good.1 Authority is concentrated in the Legislature and Ministry, instead of being scattered among a number of directly elected officials; full accounts of expenditure are presented; members can interrogate Ministers regarding every item.
There are few Standing Committees, usually eight only; nor are there many private bills, circumstances which explain the slight demand hitherto made in Canada for those institutions which have won so much favour in many States of the American Union, viz. the Popular Initiative in legislation, and the submission to a Referendum, or popular vote, of acts passed by the State Legislature. The chief sources of that demand are explained in the chapters relating to the United States, where it is shown that State legislatures have lost the confidence of the people because they pass many private acts for the benefit of the selfish interests of the rich, and omit to pass some acts desired by large sections of the people, at the bidding in both sets of cases of powerful rich men or companies. Hence the Referendum is applied to kill the “bad bills “and to pass those “good bills “which the legislature refuses to pass. In Canada this has happened to a much smaller extent, because the rules of procedure make it harder to play such tricks, because there is no powerful party machine by whose irresponsible control of a Legislature such bills can be put through, and because the majority, i.e. the Ministerial party, if it should try to oblige the “selfish interests “aforesaid, would have to bear the hostile criticism of an alert party Opposition. Assuming the level of public virtue to be much the same among the legislatures of the two countries there is this difference. that in an American State Legislature it is not the business of any one in particular to check and expose a jobbing bill, whereas in Canada — though it does sometimes happen that unscrupulous members of both parties agree to “put through “a job — the leaders of an Opposition have a constantly operating personal motive for detecting and denouncing the misdeeds of any Ministry which should become the tool of rapacious wealth. Apart, however, from private bills there are sundry ways in which the Honey Power can pursue its ends by obtaining benefits from representatives or ministries, sometimes through legislation, sometimes through the disposal of contracts or concessions. Suspicion has been rife as to the influence which the owners or promoters of large business enterprises can put forth in these directions, and enough has been unearthed to justify suspicion. Most Canadians say that although these evils are not new they have grown with the growth of the country, but at the same time express the belief, or at least the hope, that the fuller attention recently given to them will lead to their extinction.
The whole of the higher judiciary in Canada acts under Federal authority, although the administration of justice is left to the Provincial governments. Both the judges of the Supreme Court of the Dominion and those of the Provincial Courts are appointed by the Dominion Executive, and are selected from the Bar, the police magistrates only being appointed by the Provincial Governments. Men who have made their mark in politics are, as in England, sometimes chosen, but this, if it sometimes places second-rate men where first-rate men should be, has not injured the impartiality of the Bench, for though a man may owe his appointment to political party influences he ceases to be a politician so soon as he takes his seat, having no promotion to work for, and knowing his post to be secure so long as he does his duty faithfully. English practice has also been followed in making appointments for life (subject to a power of removal on an address by both Houses of the Dominion Parliament), but the salaries assigned even to the High Court Bench, ranging from $7000 to $8000 (with $10,000 for the Chief Justice of the Dominion), though sufficient to secure men of learning and ability, do not always attract the leaders of the Bar. The Courts have, as sound principle requires wherever a legislature is restricted in its powers by the provisions of a constitution enacted by superior authority,1 the function of passing judgment on the constitutionality of statutes; but it is a function of less scope and less difficulty than in the United States, because practically the only questions that arise relate to the respective competence of Federal Courts and Provincial Courts as defined in the Canadian Constitution of 1867. Moreover, the final decision in such cases belongs to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England as the ultimate Court of appeal in suits brought from the Dominion, or from the highest Provincial Courts. ISTo such complaints as have been made in the United States regarding the cutting down of statutes by judicial decisions are heard in Canada, and this may be one reason why no one suggests popular election as a proper mode of choosing judges.
The respect felt for the judiciary contributes to that strict ministration of the civil law which are honourable characteristics of Canada. Lynch law is all but unknown. The enforcement of the criminal as well as to that impartial ad-only recent breaches of public order serious enough to rouse alarm were those which occurred during the great strike at Winnipeg in 1919, and they are attributed chiefly to the presence of a mass of recent immigrants from the backward parts of Eastern Europe. The disorders of mining camps, once so common in the western United States, are not seen: nor have bands of robbers infested even the wilder districts, for the Dominion Government has maintained there a force of mounted police whose efficiency has been the admiration of all travellers, and the officers of which have been allowed — without complaints from the inhabitants — to exercise pretty wide semi-judicial as well as executive powers. Such of the aboriginal Indian tribes as remain in the North-West and in British Columbia have been on the whole humanely and judiciously treated, with few occasions for the employment of armed force, and with few or none of those administrative abuses which the United States Government found it during many years impossible to prevent or cure, because the administrative posts were so frequently given, by way of political patronage, to incompetent or untrustworthy men. Nothing has been more creditable to Canada than the maintenance of so high a standard of law and order over its vast territory. Here, as in Australia, the people are not jealous of executive authority, because Englishmen have been long accustomed to see it exercised under parliamentary supervision.
Of Local Government not much need be said, because it presents few features of special interest. National politics have fortunately not been allowed to enter into the elections of the local councils, in which the chief aim is to find the best men of the neighbourhood. The rural schools are honestly but rather too parsimoniously managed: the towns pay the teachers better and maintain a creditable level of instruction. As regards the smaller municipalities the same holds generally true. In the large cities the conditions are different, and approach those which afflict the great cities of the United States. Where there are large sums to be spent and to be raised by taxation, large contracts to be placed, large opportunities for land speculation offered by the making of city improvements, and where the bulk of the voters have no interest in economical administration, abuses must be expected. Though there is in a few large cities some jobbery, the only grave scandals have occurred in Montreal, where about ten years ago peculation on a great scale was brought home to the municipal authorities. Toronto has a tolerably good record: so have Winnipeg and Vancouver. The local party organization sometimes takes a hand in the election of councillors by putting forward men who have served it, but the voters do not follow slavishly, for their chief desire is to find honest and capable men. It will be remembered that there is not in Canada, not even in the cities, a powerful party machine for choosing candidates, and that there are no administrative officers directly elected by the people except, in many towns, the Mayor.
the action of public opinion
In estimating the volume and force of public opinion in Canada as compared with European countries and the United States, one must remember that vast as the country is, its population has not yet reached nine millions, that there are only three or four cities large enough to contain a society of highly educated men who can give a lead in political thinking, and that only three or four universities have as yet risen to that front rank which is represented in Britain by nine or ten and in the United States by more than double that number. There is, moreover, a deep cleft which separates the French-speaking Roman Catholic element, most of it under ecclesiastical influences, from the other elements in the nation, so that on nearly all non-economic subjects divergences must be expected, for where fundamental ideas and habits of thought are concerned, the French mind and the British mind do not move on the same lines, even when both may arrive at similar practical conclusions. One cannot talk of a general opinion of the whole people as one can for most purposes in Great Britain, and could in Australia till the rise of the Labour party. As a set-off to this disadvantage there has been, until recently, little in the way of class opinion, the native Canadian wage-earners having been moved by much the same sentiments as the farmers and traders, neither of the two great parties any more than the other identified with the interests of the rich or of the poor, and neither seriously accused, whatever imputations may be launched during election campaigns, of being the permanent friend or tool of capitalists. Most of those questions of material development which fill so large a place in men's thoughts, find favour or arouse hostility as they affect one particular region of the country, so that upon only a few of them can any common or national view be looked for.
Comparing Canadian opinion with that of the country which most resembles it in economic conditions as well as in democratic sentiment, it is to be noted that whereas in the United States there is much discontent with the working of some institutions, such as the system of elections, the conduct of the Legislatures and the political machine, and the reforming spirit is evoked by a sense of faults which have to be cured, no similar discontent took shape till it found voice recently in the Farmers' movement in Canada. The legislative and administrative machinery had been working smoothly, if not always creditably, and such dissatisfaction as arose impugned not the machinery but the men who worked it. Scarcely any one proposed constitutional changes. The self-governing powers of the Dominion have so long been admitted by the Mother Country that most Canadians, welcoming the fuller recognition given, especially in the negotiation and signing of the Treaties of 1919 and 1920, to the right of their Government to be consulted in and express its views upon all matters affecting the policy of the British Empire as a whole, see no need for altering the present constitutional relations, loose and undefined as they are, of the different parts of that Empire. Such large issues as those of State interference with private enterprise, of the respective merits of State or private owned railroads, of subsidies to steamship lines, of the regulation of immigration, especially as regards Oriental races, are discussed not on grounds of general principle, but rather on the merits of any particular proposal made. Few people stop to think of the principles. What interests them is the concrete instance, and it would be deemed pedantic to suggest that an apparent immediate benefit should be foregone lest deviation from principle should set a dangerous precedent. The press is ably conducted, and exerts quite as much influence as in the United States, but the daily newspapers, even those who speak with authority for their party, have only a slender circulation outside their Provinces, so great are the distances which separate the populous towns. When any grave scandal is brought to light, either in an abuse of its patronage by the Dominion Government or in some unsavoury job committed by one of the Provincial administrations, there is an outcry in the press, and the people put a bad mark against the peccant Minister, perhaps even against the Cabinet of which he is a member, for the people are sound, and hate corruption in whatever form it appears. But they do not see how such things are to be prevented, even by the dismissal of the particular offender, for the fault lies in the men, not in the institutions; so they await the next elections as a means of giving effect to their displeasure, though with no confident hope that those whom the next elections instal in power will be better than their predecessors. Thus there had not arisen before 1914 what could be called any general Reforming movement with a definite programme. Public sentiment has, however, since then enforced one considerable reform, viz. the extension of the Civil Service laws to cover nearly all offices, and thereby virtually extinguish political patronage.
The people watch what goes on in the Parliament at Ottawa and in their Provincial Legislatures with as much attention as can perhaps be expected from a busy men in a swiftly advancing country, and they show an abounding party spirit when an election day arrives. The constant party struggle keeps their interest alive. But party spirit, so far from being a measure of the volume of political thinking, may even be a substitute for thinking. A foreign critic who asks, as some have done, why the spirit of reform may seem to have lagged, or flagged, in Canada may be reminded of three facts. One is that the evils which rouse the reformers to action, such as has been taken, have usually been flagrant, more destructive of true democracy than have been the faults of which Canadians complain. A second is that in Canada, where the population is small in proportion to the territory, that section of the citizens which is best educated and has leisure for watching and reflecting on the events of politics has been extremely small, scarcely to be found except in a very few urban centres; and a third is that these centres are widely removed from one another, with thinly peopled tracts interposed. Toronto and the towns to the west of it form one such centre, Ottawa and Montreal another. Quebec stands detached to the east; Winnipeg is far away to the North-West, Vancouver and Victoria still farther off on the shores of the Pacific. Most of these cities are of recent growth, and in each of them the number of persons qualified to form and guide opinion is not large. The public opinion they create is fragmentary; it wants that cohesion which is produced by a constant interchange of ideas between those who dwell near one another; it is with difficulty organized to form an effective force. Here, however, time must work for good. The volume of serious political thinking in Canada may be expected to increase steadily with the growth of the leisured class; with the development of the Universities, already gaining more hold on the country; with the increasing numbers and influence of the younger and progressive section of the western farmers, half of them, it is said, university graduates; with the presence of a larger number of men of a high type in the Legislatures; and with a sense among all thoughtful citizens that the problems, especially the social and economic problems, which confront them in our day require more exact and profound study than they have yet received.
Here we get down to bed-rock: here the question arises, Is it a fault characteristic of popular government that the problems referred receive insufficient study, seeing that in such a government as Canada possesses every opportunity exists for the men the country needs to show their capacity and make their way into parliaments and ministries, and seeing also that the nation, not distracted by questions of foreign policy and having long ago settled all the constitutional controversies, is free to bend its mind upon domestic questions? Has Canada been behind other countries in dealing with social reforms, with labour controversies, with tariffs, with the systematic development of national resources?
I will try to answer this by observing that the most burning of social reforms, that of the sale of intoxicants, has been dealt with, because public opinion took hold of the matter and did not wait for party politicians to trifle with it, and that to the adjustment of labour disputes Canada has made one of the best contributions of recent years in an Act prescribing enquiry and delay when strikes are threatened. The tariff is being still fought over, but so it is in many States, and Canada is so far not behind any other English-speaking country. But it must be admitted that the right method of conserving and developing natural resources either has not yet been found or that it has not been properly put in practice, though no subject is more essential to the welfare of a new country. Here the problem is threefold. The aims generally sought have been (a) to provide the maximum of facilities for turning forests and minerals to the best account, and for the transportation of products; (b) to prevent the absorption by speculators, for their own gain, of these and other sources of natural wealth; (c) to secure for the nation, so far as can be done without checking individual enterprise, the so-called “unearned increment” or additional value which land, minerals, and water power acquire from the general growth of population and prosperity. The pursuit of these three aims raises difficult questions as to the principles which ought to be laid down, questions which demand the patient thought and wide knowledge of the ablest minds that a government can enlist for the purpose. The application of these principles to a series of concrete cases must be entrusted to men of practical gifts, with clear heads and business experience, and with proved integrity also, for temptations arise on every side. Neither the eloquence of a debater nor the arts of the political intriguer are in place. But the British parliamentary system as worked in the self-governing Dominions is not calculated to find the men most needed. The talents it brings to the front are of a different order, and if men of the gifts specially required are found in a ministry, this will generally happen by a lucky chance. Canadian politicians have not, any more than those of Australia and the United States, searched for such men, and taken pains to stock the public service with them. The principles to be adopted would of course require the approval of the legislature, but political pressure ought not to be allowed to disturb their systematic and consistent application. So long as these matters are left to the chances of rough and tumble parliamentary debate or to be settled by secret bargaining between ministers, members, and “the interests,” there will be losses to the nation as well as ground for the suspicions to which politicians are now exposed.
As it is one of the most interesting features of the political system of Canada that in it institutions thoroughly English have been placed in a physical and economic environment altogether unlike that of England and almost identical with that of the Northern United States, and as the political phenomena of Canada and those of the United States illustrate one another in many points, it is worth while to summarize here the main points in which the institutions and the practices of the latter country differ from those of the no less democratic government of Canada.
The States of the American Union have wider powers than those of the Canadian Provinces, for the Constitutions of the Union and of the States impose restrictions on the National and the State Legislatures, whereas in Canada there are no such restrictions, except those which arise from the division in the Federal Constitution of functions between the Dominion and the Provinces.
The President of the United States has a veto upon the acts of Congress. There is (in practice) no similar veto on the acts of the Dominion Parliament.
The Senate is in the United States the more powerful of the two Houses of the Legislature. The Canadian Senate exerts little power.
The State Governor has in nearly all of the States a veto on the acts of his Legislature. The Lieutenant-Governor of a Province has no veto, and the power of disallowance vested in the Dominion Government is exercised rarely and only in very special cases.
In every American State the judges of the higher Courts are either (in a very few States) appointed by the Governor or elected by the Legislature, or else (in the great majority of States) elected by the people. In the Canadian Provinces they are all appointed by the Dominion Government.
In each of the American States some administrative offices are filled by direct popular election. In the Canadian Provinces all such offices are filled by appointment, nominally by the Lieutenant-Governor, practically by the Provincial Ministry, and the only elections (besides the municipal) are those held for the choice of representatives.
In the United States all elective offices, National and State, are held for a fixed term. In Canada posts in the civil service, except those very few whose occupants change with a change of government, are held for life, subject to dismissal for fault or incompetence.
In many States of the Union the people vote directly on projects of legislation by means of the Popular Initiative and the Popular Referendum on bills passed by the Legislature, and in some they may vote also for the dismissal or retention of officials, by the Popular Recall. In Canada the Constitutions do not provide for a direct voting by the people on such matters.
In the United States all Legislatures are elected for a fixed term, and cannot be dissolved before it expires. In Canada they may be dissolved by the Executive Ministry before the legal term expires.
In the United States the principle of the Division of Powers between the three Departments (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial) is recognized and to a large extent carried out. In Canada the Executive and Legislative are closely associated.
As a result of this difference, Responsibility is in Canada more concentrated and is more definitely fixed upon a small number of persons than it is in the United States. In Canada, both in the Dominion and in the Provinces, Power rests with and Responsibility attaches to the Cabinet. In the United States, Power and Responsibility are divided between the Executive (President or State Governor) and the Legislature.
In the United States Federal Government the Cabinet are merely the President's servants. In the States of the Union the Governor has no Cabinet and advisers such as the Lieutenant-Governor has in a Canadian Province.
In the United States no Federal official can sit in Congress, no State official in a State Legislature. In Canada Federal Ministers sit in the Dominion, and Provincial Ministers in the Provincial legislatures.
To these constitutional contrasts let us add three other differences of high significance in practice.
There is in Canada no party organization comparable, in strength and its wide extension over the whole field of politics, to that which exists in the party Machines of the United States.
The only Canadian elections fought on party lines are those to the Dominion Parliament and to the Provincial Legislatures. Local government elections usually turn upon local issues or the personal merits of candidates.
Such influence, now greatly reduced by the creation of the Civil Service Commission, as the Canadian Executive possesses over the bestowal of posts in the public services applies only to appointment in the first instance. Officials are not dismissed on party grounds to make way for persons with party claims, i.e. there is no “Spoils System.”
Viewed as a whole, the government of Canada, although nominally monarchical, is rather more democratic than that of the United States. No single man enjoys so much power as the President during his four years, for the Prime Minister of the Dominion is only the head of his Cabinet, and though, if exceptionally strong in character and in his hold over his majority in Parliament, he may exert greater power than does a President confronted by a hostile Congress, still he is inevitably influenced by his Cabinet and can seldom afford to break with it, or even with its more important members, while both he and they are liable to be dismissed at any moment by Parliament The voters are in the United States more frequently summoned to act, but in Canada their power, when they do act at an election, is legally boundless, for their representatives are subject to no such restrictions as American Constitutions impose. Were there any revolutionary spirit abroad in Canada, desiring to carry sweeping changes by a sudden stroke, these could be carried swiftly by Parliamentary legislation.
In winding up this comparison let us pause to note another difference between the United States and Canada which has some historical interest. In the former there has been from early days an almost superstitious devotion to the idea of popular sovereignty, and at some moments enthusiasm for it has risen so high as to make every plan which invokes the direct action of the people act like a spell. In Canada the actual power of the people is just as effective, and the same praises of the people's wisdom are addressed to the people by every orator with a like air of conviction. But in Canada neither the idea in theory nor its application in the incessant exercise of voting power has possessed any special fascination. The Canadians have never, like their neighbours to the south, fallen under the influence of this or any other abstract idea. They are quite content to be free and equal, and masters of their fate, without talking about Liberty and Equality. Having complete control of their administrations through their legislatures, they are therewith content. Popular sovereignty receives here, as in every democracy, all the lip service it can desire. But it is not a self-assertive, obtrusive, gesticulative part of the national consciousness.
general review of canadian politics
To say that a Government is democratic through and through is not to say that it is free from defects. Of those which appear in Canada, some may be set down to the newness of the country, and others either to the form of the institutions or to those faults in their working which spring from the permanent weaknesses of human nature.
Taken as a whole, the institutions are well constructed, being in the main such, as long experience has approved in Britain. Canada has made the first attempt to apply the Parliamentary system to a Federation; Australia and South Africa have followed. The experiment has been successful, for the machinery has worked pretty smoothly. Though some say that the Provincial Governments, each in the pursuit of its local interests, try to encroach on the Dominion sphere, while others complain that ten Legislatures and Cabinets, each with its administrative staff, are too many for a population of less than eight and a half millions, yet it must be remembered how difficult it would be to govern from any single centre regions so far apart and so physically dissimilar as the Maritime Provinces, the East Central Provinces, the Western Prairie Provinces, and British Columbia beyond the barrier of the Rocky Mountains.
Upon the working of the institutions, however, both of the Dominion Government and of the Provincial Governments each in its own sphere, divers criticisms may be made which need to be enumerated.
(1) There has been bribery at elections, though extensions of the suffrage have latterly reduced it, and from time to time and in some districts, a recourse to election frauds. Few elections — so it is believed — would stand if either party pressed the law against its opponents. Large sums are spent in contests, illegally as well as legally; Government contractors and persons interested in tariff legislation contributing to campaign funds, and until the days of Prohibition liquor flowed freely at the expense of candidates or their friends.
(2) How much corruption there is among legislators it is hard to discover, probably less than is alleged, but doubtless more than is ever proved. Members rarely sell their votes, though a good many may be influenced by the prospect of some advantage to themselves if they support a certain Bill or use their influence to secure an appointment or recommend a contract. Two or three Provincial Legislatures enjoy a permanently low reputation: in the others scandals are more sporadic, while the Dominion Parliament maintains a passably good level.
(3) Suspicion has from time to time attached to Ministers in the Dominion as well as in Provincial Cabinets. Charges have been brought of the abuse of official position for purposes of personal gain, which, though seldom established, have obtained sufficient credence to discredit the persons accused and weaken the Administrations of which they were members, the heads of which were thought too lenient in not cutting off those branches which were becoming unhealthy. Calumny has never assailed any Prime Minister. Sir John Macdonald was blamed and forced to resign for having received from a great railway company large contributions to party funds, alleged to have been given in return for benefits to be conferred on it, but he never took anything for himself, and grew no richer through office.
The position may be compared with that seen in the United States for some years after the Civil War, when scandals were frequent, though they were both more frequent and grosser in scale than they are now in Canada, and when public opinion, though shocked, was yet not greatly shocked, because familiarity was passing into an acquiescence in what seemed the inevitable. However, things slowly improved, and the public conscience became as sensitive as it is now in New Zealand and was in England from 1832 till 1914. So it may become in Canada when the pace of material growth slackens, when temptations are less insistent, and men cease to palliate the peccadilloes of those who are “developing the resources of the country.”
(4) The power of large financial and commercial interests over legislation and administration has at times been so marked as to provoke a reaction; so public opinion now looks askance at the great Companies, and sometimes deals rather hardly with them.
(5) There is, especially in the Dominion Parliament, which has larger funds to handle, plenty of that form of jobbery which consists in allotting grants of public money to localities with a view to winning political support for the local member or for his party.1
(6) The intrusion of National party issues into Provincial Legislatures has resulted in lowering the quality of those bodies, because persons who would not be chosen by the voters on their merits are supported as “good party men,” and because their colleagues of the same party are apt to stand by them when they attempt jobs, or are arraigned for jobs committed.
(7) There is, as in all democratic countries, lavish expenditure and waste. The insistence of members who want something for their friends or constituencies, and the multiplication of offices in order to confer favours,2 are the unceasing foes of economy, while the prosperity of the country makes the people splendidly heedless.
(8) The permanent Civil Service, though not inefficient, and containing some few admirable scientific experts, has not risen to the level of modern requirements, because too little care was taken to secure high competence, and favour prevailed even where special capacity was needed, affecting promotions as well as appointments at entrance. There has not yet been time to test the working of the recently created Civil Service Commission.
(9) The career of politics does not draw to itself enough of the best talent of the nation. This defect is often remarked elsewhere, as in Australia, France, and the United States, but in the last-named country there are obstacles to be overcome which Canada does not present, viz. the power of the nominating party Machine, and the habit of choosing as representatives none but residents in the district. In Canada the attractive opportunities opened to ambition by other careers partly account for the phenomenon, the general causes of which all over the world will be discussed in a later Chapter (Part III.).
(10) That decline in the quality of members of which Canadians complain has helped to create, here as elsewhere, a certain want of dignity in the public life of a nation that has already risen to greatness. The imputations which party violence scatters loosely even against men of spotless character must not be taken too seriously: they do not exclude a large measure of good nature and kindly personal intercourse. But they lower the tone of politics, and affect the respect of the citizens for the men who direct the affairs of State, bringing those affairs down to the level of that type of business life in which a man's only motive is assumed to be the making of a good bargain for himself.
Against these criticisms, which have been stated as nearly as possible in the way I have heard them made in Canada, there are to be set certain main ends and purposes of government which democracy has in Canada attained.
Law and order are fully secured everywhere, even in the wildest parts of the West. There is no lynching, and there had been, till the Winnipeg strike of 1919, hardly any unlawful action in labour troubles, on the part either of strikers or of employers. Civil administration goes on smoothly in all the Provinces.
The permanent Civil Service of the Dominion is, taken as a whole, honest, fairly competent, and not given to bureaucratic ways.
The judiciary is able and respected. Criminal justice is dispensed promptly, efficiently, and impartially.
The secondary schools and the elementary schools in the towns are excellent, and particular care has been bestowed on the provision for scientific instruction in agriculture.
Legislation of a public nature is as a rule well considered and well drafted. The finances of the Dominion, apart from those grants to localities already referred to, have been managed with ability though not with economy. National credit stands high, and taxation is not oppressive, having regard to the capacity of the people to bear it. No abuses have arisen comparable to those which Pension laws have led to in the United States.
There are those who regard the prohibition of the sale of intoxicants as an inroad upon individual liberty, however great the benefit to the community. Apart from that controversial matter, the citizen is nowhere, not even in Britain and the United States, better guaranteed in the enjoyment of his private civil rights. The Executive interferes as little as possible with him. Neither does public opinion.
A government may deserve to be credited not only with the positive successes it has achieved, but with the negative success of having escaped evils that have vexed other nations living under somewhat similar conditions. A few of these may be mentioned.
Demagogism is supposed to be a malady incident to democracies. Canada has suffered from it less than any other modern free country except Switzerland. Some of her statesmen have been not over-scrupulous, some have deserted sound principles for the sake of scoring a temporary triumph, but few have played down to the people by lavish promises or incitements to passion.
Strong as party spirit has been, party organization has not grown to be, as in the United States, a secret power bringing the legal government into subjection for its selfish purposes.
Municipal administration, though in some cities extravagant, has been in most of them tolerably honest and efficient, not perhaps as pure as in English, Scottish, or Australian towns, but purer than in the cities of the United States, and than in some at least of those of France.
The spirit of licence, a contempt of authority, a negligence in enforcing the laws, have been so often dwelt upon as characteristic of democracies that their absence from Canada is a thing of which she may well be proud. To what shall we ascribe the strength of the Executive, the efficiency of the police, the strict application of criminal justice, the habit of obedience to the law? Partly no doubt to the quality of the population, both French-speaking and English-speaking; but largely also to British traditions. The habit was formed under governments that were in those days monarchical in fact as well as in name, and it has persisted. Though it is often said that the law is strongest when the people feel it to be of their own making — and the maxim is true of Switzerland — there is also another aspect of the matter. The sentiment of deference to legal authority, planted deep in days when that authority was regarded with awe as having an almost sacred sanction, has lived on into a time when the awe and sacredness have departed, and rooted itself in the British self-governing Dominions. It was in England never a slavish sentiment, for the citizen looked to and valued the law as granting protection while it demanded obedience. This is not the only point in which the Common Law of England has resembled the law of Republican Rome. Both, while they enforced submission to duly constituted authority, gave a legal guarantee to the individual citizen for the defence of his personal rights against any form of State power, always associating Liberty with Law.
ACTUAL DEMOCRACIES: CANADA
The student of Canadian affairs who compares what Canadians have accomplished in developing by their own energy the material resources of their magnificent country, creating in many districts a wealth and prosperity which amazes those who remember what seemed the stagnation of half a century ago, feels some disappointment when he surveys the field of politics. Struck by the advantages which popular government enjoys in a country whose people, exceptionally industrious, intelligent, and educated, have a vast area of fertile land at their disposal, and enjoy the comforts of life in far larger measure than do the inhabitants of war-wearied and impoverished Europe, he expects to find democratic government free from the evils that have impeded its path in the Old World. Here, where there are no memories of past wrongs, no dangers to be feared from foreign enemies, no lack of employment, no misery or other ground for class hatreds, ought there not to be honest and efficient administration, general confidence in the government and contentment with the course which public policy has followed? These things, however, he does not find. He does indeed find much to admire and to rejoice at, yet the people, proud as they are of their country, are dissatisfied with their legislatures and their ministries. There is an unmistakable malaise, a feeling that something is wrong, even among those who are not prepared to say where the cause lies.
We are apt to expect public as well as private virtue wherever the conditions of life are simple; and it would be a pity if this amiable presumption in favour of human nature were to vanish away. But do the facts warrant the presumption? A virgin soil just cleared of trees may be made to wave with wheat, but it may also cover itself with a luxuriant growth of weeds.
The difficulties due to the differences of race and religion in the population do not explain this discontent, for those differences have not corresponded with party divisions and have not prevented the growth of an ardent national patriotism in both races. When on festive occasions one hears the English-speaking Canadian singing “The Maple Leaf,” and the French-speaking Canadian the softer and sweeter air “O Canada, mon pays, mes amours,” one perceives they are both alike expressions of devotion to Canada, and of sanguine hopes for a happy future. Whatever political difficulties may arise in the Dominion Government from the necessity of keeping the two racial and religious elements in good humour do not arise in Provinces where one or other element is entirely preponderant. Administrative errors, financial waste, the rather low tone of public life in three or four Provinces, cannot be thus accounted for; and they are the same defects that are complained of in Dominion Government. May there not, however, be certain conditions incident to a new country which help to explain the dissatisfaction which seems to be felt by thoughtful Canadians?
The charge most frequently brought against Canadian statesmen is that of Opportunism. It is a word which may be used, with no dyslogistic implication, to describe the action of a statesman who finds himself obliged to postpone measures which he thinks more important to others which he thinks less important, because he can carry the latter and cannot carry the former. In politics one must use the flowing tide, one must turn to the best account a people's fluctuating moods. But the term is more frequently meant to impute to a politician the absence of convictions, or at any rate of any fixed policy based upon principle, a trimming of the sails to catch every passing breeze so as to retain office by making the most of whatever chance of support may come from any quarter. If this latter kind of Opportunism has been frequent in Canada and has told unfavourably upon its public life a reason is not far to seek. Since 1867 the large and permanent issues of policy, such as that of Protection against Free Trade, have been comparatively few, and have sometimes been allowed to slumber; and in their absence the smaller but nearer issues by which votes are captured have occupied the field. Such were questions relating to public works, including that of transportation facilities, particularly by the construction and financing of railways. To a country of vast spaces like Canada canals and such facilities are of supreme importance, but they are treated as questions not so much of principle as of practical needs, involving the claims of different localities in which local wishes have to be regarded. There have been many occasions in other ways also in which questions of material benefit to a district, or a city, or a great undertaking, or a strong financial group came before ministries and legislatures. As the country grew, demands for assistance from public funds went on growing, and those who planned enterprises for their own gain had occasions for securing benevolent help, or acquiescence, on the part of Government, whether Federal or Provincial. Administrations placed in the middle of this struggle for favours demanded by the representatives of the districts affected, used their opportunities to strengthen themselves in the country and make sure of seats that had been doubtful, while now and then individual ministers as well as members were not above turning to personal account the knowledge or the influence they possessed. In every country a game played over material interests between ministers, constituencies and their representatives, railway companies and private speculators is not only demoralizing to all concerned, but interferes with the consideration of the great issues of policy on a wise handling of which a nation's welfare depends. Fiscal questions, labour questions, the assumption by the State of such branches of industry as railroads or mines and the principles it ought to follow in such work as it undertakes — questions like these need wide vision, clear insight, and a firmness that will resist political pressure and adhere to the principles once laid down. These qualities have been wanting, and the people have begun to perceive the want. In the older countries of Europe there is a body of trained opinion, capable of criticizing and more or less even of controlling the action of Governments, and the upper ranks of the Civil Service are a reservoir of knowledge and experience upon which ministers can draw. Canadian ministries enjoy these advantages in slighter measure, and the element of educated opinion is dispersed over an enormous country in cities far from the Federal capital and far also from one another. That opinion has not been strong enough nor concentrated enough to keep legislators and administrators up to the mark in efficiency or in a sense of public duty.
This last-named function may seem incumbent not on the few but on the many, that is on the great mass of honest and sensible citizens. But how are they placed? The worthy hard-working farmer in Ontario or Alberta reads in his newspaper attacks on Ministerial jobs, but as the newspaper of the opposite party denies or explains away the facts, he does not know what to believe. The seat of his Provincial legislature is far off, and Ottawa still further. If some gross blunder or crying scandal is brought home he may punish the offending Ministry by voting against it when next he gets the chance, but the candidate for whom he votes may be no better than the member his vote rejects, and may support a Ministry of no whiter a hue.
In every country, whatever its form of government, and where a rapid exploitation of natural resources drags administrators and legislators to an abnormal extent into the sphere of business, opportunities cannot but arise for bringing exceptional temptations to bear on those who have favours to dispense, and the atmosphere which surrounds the tempters and the tempted grows unhealthy. This has happened from time to time in England and in the United States also. Their experience warrants the hope that when normal conditions return, and the air has cleared, the temptations will be reduced and the larger issues of policy again become the chief occupations of legislatures. As the country fills up and the class that is enlightened and thoughtful grows large enough to make national opinion a more vigilantly effective force, the tone of public life may rise, as it rose in England after the middle of the eighteenth century and in the United States after 1880. There are already signs of a keener sensitiveness and a stronger reforming purpose in the general body of the citizens.
The political faults visible in new countries may be disappointing, but they are more curable than those of old countries, so historians note with a graver concern symptoms of decline in European peoples to which the world had looked to as patterns of wisdom or honour. Yet these also may be due to the sudden advent of new conditions bringing dangers hitherto unsuspected, and these, too, may pass away as one generation succeeds another. A young country like Canada must be expected to have some of the weaknesses of adolescence as well as the splendid hopefulness and energy which make the strength of youth. The great thing after all by which popular government stands or falls must be the rightmindedness and intelligence of the people. These Canada has.
Striking the balance between what democracy has done for her and what it has failed to do, it must not be forgotten that the coexistence, not only in the Dominion as a whole but in several provinces, of two races differing in religion as well as in language, contained the menace of what might have become a real danger. Think of Ireland! Canada has so far avoided that danger by the elastic nature of her institutions and the patriotic prudence of her statesmen. To those who have been watching the wild and wayward excesses to which the passion of nationality has been running in Europe, this will seem no small achievement, no small witness to the wisdom of the Canadian people and the spirit of mutual consideration and good feeling which the practice of free self-government can form. As the other general lessons which a political philosopher may draw from the history of democracy in Canada have been already indicated, one only seems to need further enforcement. It is drawn from a comparison of the experience of the United States. The Canadian Constitution was an adaptation of the British Constitution to the circumstances of a new country in which a Federal and not a unitary government was needed. It reproduced, with variations, certain features of the United States Federal system which experience had approved, while seeking to avoid the defects that experience had disclosed. It followed in other points the parliamentary and Cabinet system of Britain; and — what was no less important — it carried over into Canada the habits and traditions by which that parliamentary system had thriven. Hardly anything in it is traceable to any abstract theory. The United States Constitution was also created partly on the ancient and honoured principles of the English Common Law, and partly on the lines of the self-governing institutions which had worked well in the North American Colonies before their separation from the Mother Country.1 But both the Federal Constitution and those of the several States of the Union were also largely affected, if not in spirit yet in form, by abstract conceptions, especially by the dogmas of Popular Sovereignty and of the so-called “Separation of Powers.” 2 Experience has shown that those constitutional provisions in which the influence of these doctrines went furthest are those whose working has proved least satisfactory, both in the National and in the State Governments.3 Here, as elsewhere, history teaches that it is safer to build on the foundations of experience and tradition than upon abstract principles, not that the abstract principles can be ignored — far from it — but because it is seldom possible to predict what results they will give when applied under new conditions. Philosophy is no doubt the guide of life. But political philosophy is itself drawn from the observation of actual phenomena, and the precepts it gives are not equally and similarly applicable everywhere: if they are to succeed in practice they must be adjusted to the facts of each particular case.
This suggests the remark that the experience of Canada has been short. Only half a century has elapsed since the Federal system of the Dominion was set to work. Since then the country has been developing and population has been growing at an increasing rate of speed. Though immigration is not likely to change the beliefs and tendencies of the inhabitants, and though the proportions of the French-speaking and English-speaking elements appear likely to remain for some time the same as they now are, so too the preponderance of the rural population over the urban, of the agricultural over the manufacturing, though it will diminish with time, as it is already diminishing, will apparently remain because depending on the conditions Nature has created. Neither is there any present prospect that institutions which have gained the general approval of the people will be fundamentally changed. But as economic problems arise, threatening internal strife and as intellectual movements are propagated from one nation to another, new ideas inspire new political aspirations and find their expression in politics. This much may be said: Canada is well prepared by the character of her people, by their intelligence and their law-abiding habits, to face whatever problems the future may bring, finding remedies for such defects as have disclosed themselves in her government, and making her material prosperity the basis of a pacific and enlightened civilization.
END OF VOL. I
printed in the united state of america
In order to prevent the first volume of this book from being much larger than the second it has been thought desirable to relegate the chapters on the United States to Volume II. And place in Volume I. the shorter chapters on Canada. The reader is, however, recommended to peruse first the account of democracy in the United States, as much of what is said regarding Canada will be better understood if the description of the United States, the economic and social conditions of which resemble those of Canada, while the political institutions are different, has been previously read.
In 1911 the population was 7,206,000.
Though very nearly all the French speakers are Catholics, by no means all the Catholics are French speakers, for many of the German, Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants are Catholics, so it might be more exact to say that three-tenths are French speaking, and rather more than one-third Catholics. Conversions from either faith to the other are uncommon, but the children of Catholics from the European Continents often lapse from their faith, the Irish rarely.
That machinery will be described in the chapters on Australia and the United States respectively. Other points in which the constitutional arrangements of Canada differ from those of the United States will be noticed in Chapter XXXV.
In the beginning of 1920 it had not been enacted in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island Women are eligible for seats in the House of Commons, and are already members of one or two Provincial legislatures.
Manitoba. Saskatchewan, and Alberta have received their constitutions and Governments since 1867. Their territories were purchased by the Dominion Government from the Hudson Bay Company.
Instances have occurred in which a Lieutenant-Governor took independent action in what was deemed to be the general public interest, the most recent being that in which (in Manitoba) a judicial enquiry was ordered into misdeeds alleged to have been committed by a Ministry. See as to this and the earlier case in Quebec the book of Mr. Justice Riddell on the Constitution of Canada, p. 108.
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
Especially in Ontario and Manitoba. In Quebec the Roman hierarchy get their own way.
The sale of alcoholic liquors (except for medical and scientific purposes) and for export has been practically forbidden, in slightly different forms, in all the Provinces save Quebec.
The “Grain Growers of the West Association,” lately formed in the Prairie Provinces, and now prospering there is another sign of agricultural discontent.
It was alleged at a general election not many years ago that large contributions to party funds had been made by some great manufacturing firms.
These lines describe things as they were before 1914. The taking over by the Dominion Government during the War, and the recent financial collapse of some important lines have so altered the situation that one must not venture to speak of the future.
See as to this interesting point, Mr Justice Riddell's Lectures on the Constitution of Canada, pp. 98 and 112 and notes, and also an article by Mr. Murray Clark, K.C., in the Canadian Bankers? Magazine for Jan. 1919.
In these and other respects Professor Henry Jones Ford compares the Provincial Legislatures with the State Legislatures in the United States, to the advantage of the former (North American Review, No. 194 (1911)).
This principle is, however, not followed in Switzerland nor indeed fully recognized by most lawyers of the European Continent. See Chapter XXVIII. p. 401, ante.
This is called in the U.S.A. the “Pork Barrel.” It is common in New Zealand also, and not infrequent in France.
This is complained of in France also (see Chapter XX. ante).
Visitors to Canada are apt to be misled by the external resemblances to the United States, in such things as the aspect of the streets, the hotels, the newspapers, the railway cars, the currency, into supposing the people to have been more affected by influences from their southern neighbours than is really the case. In character and in political habits there are marked differences.
This subject will be more fully explained and discussed in the chapters on the United States.
Such as frequent elections, short terms of office, the election of judges by the people, the relations of Congress to the President.