Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXIV: the people and the parties - Modern Democracies, vol. 1.
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CHAPTER XXXIV: the people and the parties - 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 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.
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.