January 25, 1940

CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

No; I should like to have it read.

Topic:   GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I will have it read by the clerk assistant.

Honourable Members of the Senate:

Members of the House of Commons:

During the months which have elapsed since the close of the special session, my ministers have given unremitting attention to the organization and prosecution of Canada's war effort. The government has been in constant consultation with the government of the United Kingdom, and the measures adopted have been those which it is believed will best serve the common cause.

Vigorous action has been taken through all branches of the armed forces to provide for the security and defence of Canada, and for cooperation with the allied forces on land, on sea and in the air.

For the effective prosecution of the war, Canada's industrial, financial and other resources are being steadily mobilized and all war activities coordinated. The production and marketing of agricultural and other primary products have been given constructive direction; and safeguards have been provided against undue enhancement, under war conditions, of the prices of food, fuel and other necessaries of life.

Since last you met the developments of the war have made increasingly clear the nature of the struggle in which we are engaged. The very existence of nations that cherish independence and democratic ideals is menaced by enemy forces of ruthless aggression which aim to dominate mankind by terror and violence. The Canadian people have shown their determination to share with Britain and France to the utmost of their strength in the defence of freedom.

My ministers are of the opinion that the effective prosecution of the war makes it imperative that those who are charged with the grave responsibility of carrying on the government of Canada should, in this critical period, be fortified by a direct and unquestioned mandate from the people. My advisers, accordingly, having regard to existing conditions and the stage of the life of the present parliament, have decided upon an immediate appeal to the country.

Honourable Members of the Senate:

Members of the House of Commons:

In all that pertains to the discharge of your responsible duties, may Divine Providence be your strength and guide.

Topic:   GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
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WAR MEASURES ACT

ORDERS IN COUNCIL RESPECTING WAR EMERGENCY MATTERS TABLED

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to

table certain orders in council respecting war emergency matters. These are the various orders that have been passed under the War Measures Act. There are typewritten copies of all measures that have been passed since the close of the special session and up to and including January 17, 1940. All orders in council passed under the authority of the War Measures Act having the character of legislation are being printed and I have every reason to believe that they will be ready to table in printed form, both in French and in English, by the middle of next week.

Topic:   WAR MEASURES ACT
Subtopic:   ORDERS IN COUNCIL RESPECTING WAR EMERGENCY MATTERS TABLED
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ACTING DEPUTY SERGEANT AT ARMS

LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I have the honour to inform the house that I have appointed John Laundy to be acting deputy sergeant at arms during the present session.

Topic:   ACTING DEPUTY SERGEANT AT ARMS
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DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT

STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to

move that the house do now adjourn, but if the house would permit me so to do I should like to make a statement to hon. members with respect to the paragraph in the speech from the throne which refers to an immediate dissolution. Hon. members will be interested in knowing the circumstances which

Dissolution of Parliament

have actuated the ministry in advising his excellency that no time should be lost in having an appeal to the country.

The paragraph to which I have particular reference is the following:

My ministers are of the opinion that the effective prosecution of the war makes it imperative that those who are charged with the grave responsibility of carrying on the government of Canada should, in this critical period, be fortified by a direct and unquestioned mandate from the people. My advisers, accordingly, having regard to existing conditions and the stage of the life of the present parliament, have decided upon an immediate appeal to the country.

The house will recall that at the special session my hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. Manion) asked me if I was prepared to give an undertaking that an election would not 'be called by the present government before parliament had again been summoned. I gave him that assurance and I should like to read to the house the words used in that connection. They will be found at page 157 of Hansard. They are as follows:

As to the question of a general election before another session, my hon. friend has been kind enough to say that I told him some time ago that I would not think of anything of the kind or countenance it. Nor have I had a suggestion from any member of parliament that a general election should be thought of between now and another session.

I wish to direct particular attention to these words: "before another session'' and "a general election should be thought of between now"-that is the time at which I was speaking last September-"and another session."

I then gave to the house my own views with respect to the undesirability of parliament extending its own term. Perhaps I had better give that paragraph, as it follows in natural sequence. I said:

The term of parliament is five years; and as time runs on there may be in the minds of some a temptation to follow the course which was adopted during the last war and have parliament perpetuate its term, provided the war is not over at that time. Personally, I never liked the extension which was made during the time of the last war. In my opinion, the people of the country have the right to say whom they wish to have administering the affairs of Canada, and they should exercise that right periodically at the time provided for in the constitution. I do not think any parliament should take it upon itself to deprive the people of that right. That is my feeling, very strongly, at the moment. There may be conditions between now and the end of this parliament which may necessitate a reconsideration of this question, but I should hope that everyone would expect that the people of Canada should have a chance to express their minds freely with regard to the administration,

95828-AJ

the opposition, third parties and generally with their representation in parliament within the period of time which the constitution provides.

I returned to the question of calling the next session of parliament, and said:

It is my intention to have parliament called again in January. It may possibly be necessary to have parliament called before that, but I should expect that we would follow the usual procedure and bring hon. members together some time in the month of January. At that time, we will be in a position to consider what steps may be most necessary with regard to developments that may ensue meanwhile. I hope I have made perfectly clear the position of my colleagues and myself.

Then my hon. friend the leader of the opposition was kind enough to say:

May I be allowed, Mr. Speaker, to break the rules and speak again merely to express my thanks to the Prime Minister for his straightforward answer to my question.

I think it is quite clear from, what I have read what was in my mind at the time as to the different circumstances that might arise in a period of war; and that my intention was that before there should be a dissolution of this parliament, parliament itself should be summoned and given that information; in other words, that there would be no election between the last special session and the calling of the present session.

May I say, Mr. Speaker, that at that time I had hoped that circumstances might be such as would permit of another session of this parliament being held before a general election. But as I have said, no one can foresee what is likely to take place in a time of war, and none can foretell the degree to which a government may continue to enjoy the confidence of the people in carrying on the affairs of the nation at so critical a time. I was careful therefore to say that it would be desirable when parliament next assembled to have had a careful review in the interval of all circumstances which would bear on the question of whether it would be advisable to proceed in a period of war with a preelection session, or to have on the hustings such discussion as must necessarily take place- in other words, to avoid two political battles, one in parliament and one on the hustings as well.

. ^ ^aci felt, I must say, up until a very short time ago that it was going to be possible, at a session called in the month of January, to present to this parliament the measures which the government felt it would be necessary, before an appeal to the people, to carry through for the effective prosecution of the war. I had always been very much concerned, as I think the house is well aware, about the long period of time required by our elections act for a general election. Under the act and its administration I think something like eight weeks

Dissolution of Parliament

is required to elapse between the date of dissolution and the day of election. I had felt that possibly we might get over the difficulty of having such a long interval while war was on and parliament was not in session, by shortening the time in which there would be no parliament through an amendment to our elections act to reduce the period in which the country would be without a parliament to something like four weeks. I spoke to my hon. friend the leader of the opposition about that prior to the special session of last year. I should have liked to introduce such a measure at that time, but I gathered from what he said to me and from what others have said, that the introduction of any measure to amend the elections act would be certain to create some suspicion in the minds of some hon. members and to provoke a kind of discussion that would not be advisable.

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

If the right hon. gentleman will permit me to interject, I should like him to take his own responsibility for his acts and not try to put it on other people.

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I am going to take full responsibility, Mr. Speaker-

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Then take it.

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I thought I

had done my hon. friend a courtesy in mentioning that I had talked the matter over with him before the last session and that he had given me his view that it would be unwise to attempt a measure of that kind.

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

The right hon. gentleman told me that he was going to bring it in at this session of parliament. I pointed out that such a period would not give a leader time to cross this country, and my right hon. friend's reply was, "Why should a leader cross this country?" So far as bringing in such a measure last session is concerned, there was no discussion.

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Possibly there may be some misunderstanding in the mind of my hon. friend as to just what our conversation was. At any rate he is quite right when he says that he had mentioned to me, as one of the reasons why it would not be advisable to try to shorten the period for the election, that the leader would wish to take seven weeks, at least, in discussing issues before the electorate in the country. However, my hon. friend has made quite clear his own point of view, which is that he should have a period of something like eight weeks, because that is about the time required under the act, to address the electorate in a period of .a general election.

If that is the case, it demands consideration at once of just when a dissolution should take place which will involve a campaign of something like eight weeks, and controversy on electoral matters throughout that period of time, at a time when the country is in a state of war and Europe is in the condition which we all know it to be in to-day.

But I am getting away from what I had wished to make clear to the house, which was that I had hoped there would be a feeling of sufficient confidence in the present administration, and an evidence of sufficient unity between all parts of this country to have enabled us, at a session at this time, to introduce a number of measures and then to go to the country a little later on. Until a week or two ago-indeed, until a week ago- it was my intention that this should be the procedure. But, as hon. members know, just a week ago to-day, or jresterday, the premier of the largest province in this country-

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

A Liberal.

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

-introduced in the Ontario legislature a resolution which was directed in no uncertain terms at the government of Canada now administering its affairs. That resolution was seconded by the leader of the Conservative opposition in the Ontario legislature; and when it came to a vote, the resolution was supported by all of the ministers of the Ontario government who were present in the house at the time, by some of the members of thq, Liberal party in Ontario, and by all of the Conservative members in the legislature. The resolution had been preceded by some discussion in the legislature-a discussion which had taken place, I think, for a couple of days-attacking the manner in which this government has sought to administer the affairs of the country during this period of war. I think I would have paid little or no attention to that discussion had it been confined to the leader of the government of Ontario and to the leader of the opposition of Ontario; I would have allowed it to pass, and not made further mention of the matter other than to discuss the merits of any points which might have been raised in the discussion. However, when the Ontario legislature adopted the resolution and it was given a permanent place on the records of the legislature, quite a different situation presented itself to this government. May I read the resolution?

' That this house has heard with interest the reports made by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition of the result of their visit to Ottawa, to discuss war measures with the national government and this house hereby endorses the statements made by the two members in question and joins with them in regretting that the federal government at Ottawa

Dissolution of Parliament

has made so little effort to prosecute Canada's duty in the war in the vigorous manner the people of Canada desire to see.

I ask hon. members to notice the extent of the charge which is made there. It is a charge against the federal government. It is not against myself alone personally but against the entire administration. There have been, as no doubt hon. members are aware, many other attacks upon me personally as leader of the government; but this is against the government at Ottawa, and the charge is that we have made so little effort to prosecute the war. It is further suggested that this criticism, or censure, or whatever it is, is being made in the name of the people of Canada, because it reads: "to prosecute Canada's duty in the war in the vigorous manner the people of Canada desire to see."

I do not think I need say to hon. members that, since war was declared, and this parliament decided that Canada would participate in the war-decided in the unanimous manner in which it did-my colleagues and myself have given every ounce of our strength and every hour of our time in the most devoted manner possible endeavouring to further Canada's war effort, and the interests of the nation. We have not tried to do so in a dramatic or spectacular way. We are too conscious of the gravity of the responsibility which is ours. But we have steadily, day in, day out, given the most careful and thoughtful consideration to every step that should be taken to see that that step would be taken in a manner which would meet with the approval of the people of Canada, and which, so far as the war is concerned, would best serve to further Canada's war effort in the most effective possible way. I had thought, and I believe, that the Canadian people approve both the manner in which the government has undertaken its duties, and the way in which it has discharged them. The very fact that we have to-day throughout the country a chorus, one might almost say, of the press expressing the hope that this administration will continue to carry on, is the best evidence that at least the press of the country, which have to do with the moulding of public opinion, and know something about current opinion, believe that this government has solidly behind it the support of the people.

However, that is not the only thing. Even that resolution might have been put to one side were it not for the evident purpose which lies back of it. That resolution was passed to start a political campaign while this parliament was in session, to have advantage taken of the fact that my colleagues and myself would be obliged to give our attention and our whole attention while parliament was

sitting to the work of parliament as well as to the problems of the war and the carrying on of Canada's war effort, while other gentlemen were to be free to criticize our effort, to misrepresent everything that was done, and everything that to them might seem to be left undone. In other words, we were to continue to carry the grave responsibility of doing our duty in the matter of Canada's war effort, and at the same time assume a very great responsibility-not as great as the other, but a very great responsibility-of meeting parliament day in and day out and to try so to conduct debates here as to have due regard for what is taking place in Europe and the care to be exercised with respect to whatever is said and whatever is done, and to have at the same time an electoral campaign carried on against us by those who are political opponents of the administration.

What is the cry already? Already, after this resolution is passed, the leader of the Conservative party of Ontario, at a political meeting, tells the meeting, and through the meeting the province, and through the province the country, that the election must start at once; and he gives them the slogan, "King must go." That is to be the slogan. I am quite prepared to accept that slogan if he will add the words, "to the country." But I ask hon. members: How can I be expected to do what is expected of me by this country in a time of war as leader of the government of Canada if all of my time and thought is to be surrounded by the animosities of political opponents who are seeking to undermine every effort that is being put forward in the leadership of the administration?

I should have thought that, at least until this house had met and expressed its views, those who have any sense of public duty would have been content to allow their political animosity not to be given too much expression. However, it is now evident that a political campaign has begun. That being so, I ask hon. members whether it is wise to try to carry on a political campaign in the country and a political campaign in this parliament-two campaigns at one and the same time-while war is going on at the front.

People the world over will understand, I believe, what may be said on the hustings, and they will be prepared to make some allowance for extreme statements made in the course of a political campaign. They can understand political opponents speaking differently on the hustings from the way in which they speak in this chamber where they have the responsibility which rests upon members in this house. It is a very different thing to have such, discussions introduced into the debates in this house as is inevitable once a campaign has started in the country.

Dissolution oj Parliament

Apart from that, however, may I say there are very strong reasons-and they are set forth in the speech from the throne-why it is in the public interest, in the interest of the country, and in the interest of the allied powers, if we are to have an election, as it is now perfectly evident that we must have, we should have it just as soon as possible, and have it over at the earliest moment.

In the first place, as indicated by the speech from the throne, this is the sixth session of the present parliament, one session having been a special one. This parliament was returned in 1935 and this is 1940. That in itself, in my opinion, is the strongest reason why there should be an election at this time. Some may say that this was not the case with Sir Robert Borden; that this was not the view that he took. Sir Robert Borden's government was returned to power in 1911 and war came on in 1914. Sir Robert had been in office for only three years, and there were the most cogent of reasons why he should carry on. He had still another two years before his term would be completed. Our situation, however, is quite different. As everyone knows, this is the last session of this parliament. When the time came for dissolution as fixed by the constitution, Sir Robert Borden found difficulties in the way, because of the stage to which the war had advanced, of giving to the people the right to which they are periodically entitled of declaring to whom they wish to entrust the management of their affairs, and this at a very critical time. There is, therefore, the strongest constitutional reason why we should meet the country just as soon as we possibly can.

But I would mention another circumstance. Had I thought that it would have been in the interests of the country so to do, I would have gone to the people immediately after the last special session in order that those charged with the great responsibility of government in war time might have a direct and unquestionable mandate from the electorate. I realized at that time, however, that it was necessary that Canada's war effort should be gotten under way as expeditiously as possible, that the country should be changed as speedily as possible from a peace-time to a war-time organization, that all necessary military and economic measures should be taken without delay. Once those measures were under way it was clear the situation would be entirely different. Fortunately, in the months that have elapsed since the special session, the government has been able to organize Canada's war effort and to do so very effectively. We have brought into the public service, irrespective of the parties to which they

belong, key men who, I believe, enjoy the confidence of the people generally. We have formed the necessary boards to deal with the different war activities. All the work of organization with respect to the army, the navy and the air force has been admirably initiated and developed. The first Canadian division is now in Great Britain and the British commonwealth air training scheme is under way. We have just carried through, in the course of a day or two, our Canadian war loan, so that provision is made from that source for the financial needs of the country for the next considerable period of time. In connection with economic, financial and military affairs the basic work has been successfully planned and accomplished and the officials of the permanent service are at this moment in the best position-a better position than they are ever likely to be in at any other time-to carry out further development while a political campaign is in progress.

May I again ask hon. members this question: If an election is to take place, is it not wise to have it just as soon as we possibly can?

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

In the winter?

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I will answer my hon. friend's question in that regard. What about the men who are fighting overseas? What about the military forces everywhere? They have to face the winter

Topic:   DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AS TO PROPOSED GENERAL ELECTION
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January 25, 1940