Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, to adjourn this house with a view to having it sit again to-day would under the rules require a formal notice of twenty-four hours. In the circumstances I propose to move that the house suspend its sitting until three o'clock. Before, however, that action is taken, I should like to avail myself of the earliest possible opportunity to extend to the hon. member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson) my warmest congratulations-and in so doing I fepeak also on behalf of all hon. members on this side of the house, and I think I may say on behalf of the house as a whole-upon the confidence which has been expressed in him by the members of his party and upon his assumption to-day of the office of leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition in this House of Commons.
May I say to my hon. friend that his choice as the one to become the leader of the opposition at this time did not come at all as a surprise to those of us who have been with him in previous parliaments. My hon. friend has had great experience in parliamentary life; indeed I imagine that only a few members of this house have served for a longer time in parliament. Though not a member in the last parliament, the present leader of the opposition has been in this house for a period of some fourteen or fifteen years. During that time he has taken a very active part in its proceedings. We know him to be a forceful debater; we know he has been
very active in the proceedings of the commons generally. He has occupied important positions, as chairman of different committees of the house, and as a minister of the crown. If I am not mistaken my hon. friend is one of the two members of his party in this house to-day who have held portfolios in previous administrations. I should, of course, say that three hon. members opposite have been members of a previous administration, but I think only two of them actually held portfolios. My hon. friend was Minister of Trade and Commerce for a year or more in Mr. Bennett's administration. His present desk-mate, the hon. member for Yale (Mr. Stirling) was Minister of National Defence in Mr. Bennett's administration for about the same time. The hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. Rowe) became a member of the same administration, but unfortunately for him there was a change in the administration before there was time to have him given a portfolio.
The parliamentary experience of my hon. friend the leader of the opposition will be of the greatest value, not only to him in the position which he now occupies but also to the House of Commons itself. I think I may say that no one in this house has a better knowledge of the responsibilities and anxieties which go with the position now occupied by my hon. friend than I have. For some seven years in all, I had the privilege of occupying the seat which he now occupies, so I know something of what is expected of a leader of the opposition and, as I have said, something as well of his responsibilities and anxieties.
Speaking of responsibilities and anxieties I think I may say that at this time of great peril in the affairs of the world, at this very solemn hour, all of us who are members of this parliament will be conscious alike of responsibilities and anxieties which I am equally sure it will be our desire to share. Just as the few free nations that still remain and those that until recently were free are looking for all the help they can get; just as England and France are sharing to the full the burdens of the struggle in which they are engaged; just as 'the British commonwealth of nations needs the effective cooperation of its every part, so we who are members of the government, with 'the great responsibilities we must bear at this time, are more conscious than we ever have been of the need for cooperation and help from hon. members in all parts of the house, and from none more than from the leader of the opposition and those Who sit around him,
A few moments ago the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) mentioned that he and others might require
Leader oj the Opposition
the assistance of the Speaker to protect the minorities against the government. May I say to him that I am inclined to feel that the government may need the protection of the Speaker against the minorities. Seriously, however, I greatly hope that in this parliament at least we may not be as conscious of minorities and majorities as perhaps it has been found necessary to be in some previous parliaments, but rather that all may feel a profound sense of collective responsibility.
In this connection may I point out that the position of leader of the opposition is a most important one in the system of government as we have it under our constitution and is so recognized by statute. As hon. members are aware, the leader of the opposition holds a position which in degree of responsibility is, I should say, second only to that of the Prime Minister in the management of the affairs of the House of Commons.
Responsibility for government does not mean monopoly of government. In parliament, particularly in most critical times like the present, everyone can make some contribution to the needs of the day, and indeed will be expected to do so fearlessly and to the best of his ability. To a great extent an opposition can help a government in shaping the policies which may be best for the administration of public affairs. We shall not expect from the leader of the opposition the kind or degree of support which naturally we will expect from our own party. We will not expect to be exempted from criticism. Indeed one of the great functions of an opposition is that it may help to safeguard the proceedings of a government and that by its constructive criticism may prevent what might otherwise be in the nature of hasty or ill-conceived action, or what some might feel to be a lack of sufficient action.
We shall not expect, I say, to escape criticism, but I believe I am speaking for all hon. members when I say that I hope the house will be spared anything in the nature of recriminations. In the light of the great problems with which we are faced at this time, it would be our hope that criticism will be constructive.
In conclusion may I say that the cooperation which we believe we will receive from members in all parts of the house will be reciprocated in the fullest measure possible by the government. It will be our effort to work together in this House of Commons as one body of citizens who have, first and foremost in their hearts, the interests of their country, the interests of the great empire to which we all belong, the interests of free nations, and the interests of freedom throughout the world.
Subtopic: REFERENCES TO THE SELECTION OF HON. R. B. HANSON, MEMBER FOR YORK-SUNBURY