The U.F.O. Attitude Explained

The U.F.O. Attitude Explained


Kindly permit a few words of friendly comment on your editorial “The Provincial Political Arena.”

Let me say at the outset that, to the best of my knowledge, the farmers’ political uprising is absolutely spontaneous. It is not planned for or directed from headquarters; at best the central officers can but advise and try to send speakers in response to requests for them. It may be that a mistake is being made in nominated too many candidates, but the officers could not, even if they would, control this matter. Local initiative is responsible, and local judgement is the main factor in guiding the movement for greater representation. And personally I would rather that mistakes should be made than that there should be any machine-like control from a central organization. Local autonomy and local initiative are something worth while in the growth of democracy, and we may honestly thank God for this real (if sudden and possibly not too permanent) interest in public affairs. Therefore, while I am quite prepared to admit the possibility of mistakes, I would not raise a finger to interfere with a movement which, whatever its ultimate success in external politics is, after all, a spiritual resurrection or regeneration.

Let me say in the second place that, while three-cornered contests are to be regretted under our present electoral methods, the voting for a party candidate simply because he is a farmer, may be much more regrettable. In this matter, if you will pardon frankness, I think your judgement is much astray, and I must dissent very emphatically from your statement that you “still have sufficient confidence in human nature and farmers generally to expect a bona-fide farmer elected to the Legislature by his own people, to do the right thing, if given a chance, regardless of what party or organization put him there.” The trouble has been that many farmers in the past have been party nominees and have been elected as such under the definite obligation that they would support Mr. So and So, the party leader. They have accepted the nomination under these conditions, have been elected on that basis, and have felt conscientiously bound to respond to the crack of the party whip. As a matter of fact, a great many of them, elected representatives on this basis, have been little better than rubber stamps, despite the fact that they have been personally likeable fellows, and bona-fide farmers. No doubt the trouble has been that, as you say, agriculture has been inadequately represented. But this is the least part of the trouble. There have always been quite a few farmers in our legislative bodies - sufficient, at least, to make things lively if they had been free to speak and vote as they honestly thought. But, apart from what they may have said in caucus, behind closed doors, they have been as useless to agriculture as if they had been lawyers or doctors. I do not wish to blame them unduly. The people who supported them voted them in on a certain understanding and if they lived up to that obligation no one can condemn them. But I do condemn, and condemn severely, the system under which such farmers were nominated and elected, and under which they became as so many postage stamps in the Legislature.

Therefore, it has become necessary to run farmer candidates who are not under obligation to support either of the old parties, but who are either quite independent of parties and obliged only to serve, independently, the public interest, or who are pledged to a platform which is understood and approved by the majority of the electors. The old older has passed away, and I for one do not regret it. And I am inclined to think that the present insurrection indicates that there are a vast number of farmers who, like myself, think quite right in saying that the primary object of the farmers’ movement (so far as present political action is concerned) “is to have agriculture properly and adequately represented … by able, progressive, broad-minded, loyal farmers.” But you are very far astray in thinking that this object can be attained without breaking away from the obsolete system of the past and electing either Independent farmer representatives, or else men who are pledged to carry out a definite program. At least, that is my conviction.

As to what may happen if the U.F.O. should secure a majority of representatives in the next Provincial Legislature, or as to how we may be compelled to modify our constitutional system if no one party should have a clear majority in the next assembly, much might be said which I cannot undertake to say here and now. Suffice it to say that a short (or longer) term of government by the farmers’ party might not be too bad for the country, and that in any event it will do us no harm to be jolted out of the rut of partisan conventionalism, and forced to devise some political machinery more in accord with modern requirements. Moreover, let me say that U.F.O. members have their share of human frailties and that their venture into the world of politics doubtless carries with it great danger and great responsibility. Their troubles may be just beginning. Nevertheless, the observant citizen cannot but regard the movement as one of great promise, no matter what mistakes may be made. It has been wisely said that it is the privilege of democracy to make mistakes. The child will never learn to walk alone without a few troubles.

There is another very good reason why the organized farmers should not vote for party nominees. Having in mind the alliances and methods of the past and the accusations now being made, it would be impossible to so vote without being seriously misunderstood, without inflaming old prejudices, and laying themselves open to charges of being camouflaged Grits or camouflaged Tories as the case might be. This, along with the other reasons set forth, seems to me to justify abundantly the decision of the United Farmers to “hoe their own row.”

Brant Co., Ont.
W.C. Good.


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