May 28, 1940

VACANCY

APPOINTMENT TO THE SENATE OF THE MEMBER FOR WATERLOO NORTH

LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I have the honour to inform the house that I have received a communication from several members, notifying me that the following vacancy has occurred in the representation, viz.:

Of Hon. William Daum Euler, member for the electoral district of Waterloo North, consequent upon his having been summoned to the senate.

I accordingly issued my warrant to the chief electoral officer to make out a new writ of election for the said electoral district.

Topic:   VACANCY
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT TO THE SENATE OF THE MEMBER FOR WATERLOO NORTH
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EUROPEAN WAR

STATEMENT AS TO RECENT DEVELOPMENTS ON THE WESTERN FRONT


On the orders of the day:


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, the house will

doubtless wish to have a statement with regard to the situation in Europe in view of what has appeared thus far in the press. I do not know that I could better express the situation as it exists than to read to the house the statement which was made by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the British House of Commons this morning. The text of the Prime Minister's statement was as follows:

The house will be aware that the king of the Belgians yesterday sent a plenipotentiary to the German command asking for suspension of arms on the Belgian front.

The British and French governments instructed their generals immediately to dissociate themselves from this procedure, and to persevere with the operations in which they are now engaged.

The German command agreed to the Belgian proposals and the Belgians ceased to resist the enemy's will at four o'clock this morning. I have no intention of suggesting to the house that we should attempt at this moment to pass judgment on the action of the king of the Belgians in his capacity as commander in chief of the Belgian army.

This army fought very bravely, and both suffered and inflicted heavy losses. The Belgian government has dissociated itself from the act and declared itself to be the only legal government of Belgium and formally announced its resolve to continue the war by the side of the Allies, who came to the aid of Belgium on her urgent appeal.

Whatever our feelings from facts so far known to us, we must remember that that sense of brotherhood betiveen the many peoples who have fallen into the power of the aggressor and those who still confront him will play its part in better days than those through which we are passing.

The situation of the British and French armies now engaged in a most severe struggle and beset on three sides and from the air is evidently extremely grave.

Surrender of the Belgian army in this manner adds appreciably to the grievous peril, but our troops are in good heart and fighting with the utmost discipline and tenacity. I shall, of course, abstain from comment on what, with the powerful assistance of the royal navy and the royal air force, they are doing or hope to do. I expect to make a statement to the house on the general position when the result of the intense struggle now going on can be known and measured.

This, perhaps, may not be until the beginning of next week.

Meanwhile, the house must prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that nothing which can happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have bound our-

War-Leader oj the House

selves, nor can it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and grief to ultimate defeat of our enemy.

Topic:   EUROPEAN WAR
Subtopic:   STATEMENT AS TO RECENT DEVELOPMENTS ON THE WESTERN FRONT
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THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE TO ACT AS LEADER OF THE HOUSE


On the orders of the day:


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, in view of the gravity of the situation at the moment I would ask the house if it would permit me to adopt a course which has been found necessary in Great Britain and which was found necessary in this country during the last war, namely, to delegate to one of my colleagues the responsibility of leading this House of Commons for the greater part of the time in order that in my position as Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs I may have the needed time and opportunity to give the concentrated attention, the study and thought to the many questions that are presenting themselves to the government as a whole, and to deal immediately with many situations that are becoming more pressing every moment.

My right hon. friend and colleague the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) has at different times, and for the greater part of the last session of the previous parliament, filled in my absence the position of leader of the government, and he has kindly consented to take on that task at the present session. My right hon. friend the Minister of Justice has, however, also very heavy duties at this time, as all of us have who are members of the war committee of the cabinet, and it may be that he also will be obliged to be absent from the house on occasions for a considerable period of time. In view of that possibility I have asked my colleague the Minister of Mines and Resources (Mr. Crerar) if he would take on the duty of second in command, to lead the house in the absence of the Minister of Justice and myself.

Perhaps I need not say to hon. members that no members of the government are more taxed at this present time, and likely to be more taxed in their duties during the session, (than the ministers of national defence. They are and will continue to be obliged to give considerable of their time to conferring with members of their own departments in dealing with the many critical situations with which they and all of us are faced. I hope, therefore, that it will be possible so to arrange the business of the house that measures which relate immediately to war effort can be brought on and discussed at times when it may be convenient for my colleagues the ministers of national defence or myself to be present in the house; and if by any chance their presence will be required elsewhere on short notice, that the house will understand the reasons why they also may have to absent themselves for a considerable portion of the time.

Those, I think, are the only matters upon which I wished to speak immediately. I might add that this afternoon I would like to have the opportunity of conferring almost immediately with certain of my colleagues; and in the arrangement of the business this afternoon it might be understood that some of the bills other than the one which was yesterday before the house, and which are on the order paper, would be taken up first. We could return a little later in the afternoon to the bill with respect to the appropriation for war purposes.

Topic:   THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE TO ACT AS LEADER OF THE HOUSE
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Hon. R. B. HANSON (Leader of the Opposition) :

I was not unprepared for the announcement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) has just made. A day or two ago he intimated to me that owing to the seriousness of the situation and the consequent tax upon his time it would be almost impossible for him to give to the affairs of the House of Commons the attention which he has given in previous sessions. I can appreciate that, and I believe that all members of this house will be prepared to excuse him from attendance, except perhaps upon the most important occasions. As I have intimated more than once, we shall try to facilitate in every way the business of the house. I am sure that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) who will be taking the place of the Prime Minister as leader of the House of Commons, is quite capable of carrying on the business of the country.

With respect to the suggestion that the two ministers of national defence may find it necessary to be absent, I can quite understand that, but I should like to say that we would not care to excuse them entirely from attendance when measures which they are promoting and in which they are vitally interested are before the house. I do not think that I can add anything further on this occasion.

Topic:   THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE TO ACT AS LEADER OF THE HOUSE
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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 thank my hon. friend.

War Appropriation Bill

Topic:   THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE TO ACT AS LEADER OF THE HOUSE
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NATIONAL DEFENCE

QUESTION OF KEFERENCE OF WAR APPROPRIATION BILL TO COMMITTEE-FURNISHING INFORMATION TO MEMBERS


On the orders of the day:


CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) intimated last week that a committee might be appointed to which the government might communicate certain information. I believe *that everyone who is in the house this afternoon feels a sense of grave responsibility, and I am urging upon the government that this parliament be taken fully into its confidence and that this committee be appointed immediately so that we may be apprised of the situation, because after all the security of Canada may be involved. The Prime Minister might see fit even to arrange for a secret session of the house. There are many questions running through our minds at the present time, and we are alarmed, and we want to get certain questions answered. I was wondering whether the Prime Minister would speed up the appointment of a committee or make some other arrangement so that we may get the information which some of us would like to hear from the government.

Topic:   NATIONAL DEFENCE
Subtopic:   QUESTION OF KEFERENCE OF WAR APPROPRIATION BILL TO COMMITTEE-FURNISHING INFORMATION TO MEMBERS
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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):

May I say to my hon.

friend that, when I suggested that the house might think it advisable when we came to the second reading of the bill to have its provisions referred to a committee or to a group of committees to permit of certain information being given by the different defence departments which it is obviously not wise to make public, the present situation had not developed as it has since that announcement was made. I rather gathered from what was subsequently said from the other side of the house that there was some doubt in the minds of hon. members whether that procedure would be the best to follow, that hon. members might feel that, if information was given to them secretly before one of these committees, their tongues, if not their hands, would be tied when it came to asking in public certain questions of the government. Many of the things which the government thought, at the time this parliament met, it would be inadvisable to speak of publicly at the time, have already been spoken of quite freely in the house since parliament met. I am sure that in the course of the discussion on this measure respecting war appropriation, hon. members have gained a knowledge of many situations of which formerly they were

wholly ignorant, and have obtained explanations which I hope have helped to account for what may have seemed to some of them an absence of the degree of activity which many of them, very rightly, would expect at a time like this.

One matter which has been impressed upon the government more and more is the necessity of using great care in divulging matters in advance of the time when it would be wise to make mention of them. For example, I might give this house information at the moment with respect to our expeditionary force, the Canadian active service force overseas, but if I were to give that information to-day it would be giving it to the enemy. I might answer questions with respect to the disposition of our naval forces, which answers, if given at the moment, would equally be given to the enemy. Obviously it is not desirable that matters of this kind should be disclosed, and for that reason I had thought that some such method as I have suggested, of giving to hon. members information that could not otherwise be made public, might be made in the manner I have indicated. But, as I have said, on the resolution itself, questions have been asked and answered quite freely and much information has been disclosed which the government, I thought, would not have considered disclosing at this time if matters had not developed as they have. We are now free to say some things which at an earlier stage we did not deem it wise to make known.

There is however one other reason which I regard as having at the moment an urgency which it did not have at the time I made the proposal to which I have referred. It is this, that the time of the officials of the defence forces at this moment, and probably for some little time to come, would be very seriously encroached upon if those officials were taken away from the duties in which they are engaged to come and discuss matters before a committee of the house, whether a secret committee or not. The government has therefore thought it advisable, and still considers it the right course to pursue at the moment, to allow the discussion to go on in the way it has. If ministers find that they are asked questions which it is not in the public interest for them to answer they will say so frankly and take the responsibility of refusing to give such information, just as they must take the responsibility for giving any information which they impart.

I along with my colleagues shall endeavour to see that information that is sought, if answers cannot be publicly given, is given

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confidentially in so far as may be possible to those who have the responsibility of leading parties or groups in this house. I should like this afternoon to have a talk with my hon. friend who has just spoken (Mr. Coldwell) with regard to the present situation and some matters which I should like him to know, leaving to him the responsibility of imparting their significance to those about him in a manner he thinks would be justifiable. Equally I should like to have a talk with my hon. friend the leader of the Social Credit group (Mr. Blackmore). Yesterday I had a talk with the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) and with one or two of his colleagues who are members of His Majesty's Privy Council for Canada. I had not time later in the afternoon or in the evening to see my hon. friends of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and Social Credit groups but I intend to do so to-day. I purpose this afternoon-in fact, that is the reason I am asking that the house should allow some of my colleagues to withdraw with me at present- to have a conference with the leader of the opposition in the senate, together with my colleague the leader of the government in that chamber, and to ask him to bring with him one or two of his colleagues who were members of the war administration of Sir Robert Borden in order that we may discuss with them the situation as it appears at the present time. If we proceed to attain the desired end in that way, in the light of information with respect to conditions as we know them, we shall be taking the course that I believe will be the wisest one to adopt in the interest of 'he country.

Topic:   NATIONAL DEFENCE
Subtopic:   QUESTION OF KEFERENCE OF WAR APPROPRIATION BILL TO COMMITTEE-FURNISHING INFORMATION TO MEMBERS
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Hon. R. B. HANSON (Leader of the Opposition):

If I may be pardoned, I should .ike to say a word with respect to the subject natter to which the right hon. gentleman aas just alluded, namely, consideration of she question of setting up a secret committee or committees to deal with the appropriation bill. We have given a very great deal of consideration to the matter and we still have an open mind on it. I take it from the Prime Minister's remarks now that the government have come to the conclusion that no useful purpose will be served by referring the bill to such committees and that the matter will be dropped. Our view was that the Prime Minister's first proposal seemed to be just a bit inconsistent, and until the position was clarified we did not care to enter into an undertaking of that kind. Members rather took the view that they did not like to be tongue-tied or hamstrung and they would rather not serve if they could not use the information. At the moment I rather concur

in the view expressed by the Prime Minister, that perhaps the matter should not be brought up again. I should like to make our position clear. We have not actually refused to act on any such committee, but we wanted tc have certain points clarified before we agreed to do so. I do not question the Prime Minister's decision at all at the moment.

Topic:   NATIONAL DEFENCE
Subtopic:   QUESTION OF KEFERENCE OF WAR APPROPRIATION BILL TO COMMITTEE-FURNISHING INFORMATION TO MEMBERS
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CONSCRIPTION

PBESS REPORT AS TO ASSURANCE GIVEN AT LIBERAL CAUCUS-QUESTION OP NATIONAL GOVERNMENT

May 28, 1940