July 11, 1940

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MISCELLANEOUS PRIVATE BILLS-FIRST AND SECOND REPORTS


Mr. ALPHONSE FOURNIER (Hull) presented the first and second reports of the standing committee on miscellaneous private bills, and moved that the second report be concurred in. Motion agreed to.


BANKING AND COMMERCE


First report of the standing committee on banking and commerce.-Mr. Moore.


THE MINISTRY

STATEMENTS OF OPPOSITION LEADERS AS TO PRIME MINISTER'S PROPOSALS CONCERNING WAR COMMITTEE AND WEEKLY CONFERENCES


On the order for motion:


NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

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

By leave of the house, Mr. Speaker, and under this heading, which I presume to be the appropriate place, I should like to make some observations with respect to the proposals made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) earlier this week.

On Monday last, in the course of his statement on the reorganization of his cabinet, the Prime Minister made a proposal which has

been given widespread publicity and has attracted a great deal of attention. He stated that realizing the importance of increasing public confidence-meaning, in my view, public confidence in himself and his government- through bringing to the aid of the ministry all points of view and opinions, in addition to other means to which he had alluded he had considered inviting leading members of the opposition to become associate members of the war committee of the cabinet, to share in its deliberations and to assist in the formation of its proposals to the cabinet. He then stated what of course is fundamental, that in the last analysis the government must take tne responsibility for whatever is done or left undone. That responsibility could not be escaped or evaded, and of course with that I am in complete agreement.

He then went on to enumerate what he considered would be the advantages of having members of the opposition join the war committee in an advisory and associate capacity. Those advantages, as I appreciate them, were two in number. In the first place the government's policy would be shaped and made effective under the open gaze of the opposition and with their assistance, experience and counsel. In the second place, in all major matters of defence, internal security and international cooperation, the leading members of the opposition would be fully informed. He then went on to state that as at present constituted, that is to say, a purely party government, one of the greatest difficulties confronting the government lies in the fact that many matters of which the government has knowledge, and many actions the government plans, in the very nature of things are highly confidential and must remain so indefinitely. That, of course, is a very significant statement, to which I shall allude later.

Then the right hon. gentleman observed that this obstacle would be overcome, at least in part, by the proposed associate membership of opposition leaders in the war committee of the cabinet, where our experience, advice and point of view would be of value, and added that in his belief such a step would be of real assistance to the government in the discharge of its responsibilities. He then invited my colleague the hon. member for Yale (Mr. Stirling) and myself to become associate members of the war committee of the cabinet. If the invitation were accepted we were to be invited to be present at all meetings of that war committee and to take part in its proceedings.

Right here I should like to interject that neither my colleague nor myself ever contemplated such a course until the Prime Minister mentioned it to me some days ago.

The Ministry

Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury)

Neither did we-and I desire to emphasize this point-at any time wish to enter the government. I say that because a dispatch-I think it was a Star Syndicate press release- appeared in a newspaper published in my own city, to the effect that I was anxious to join the government. Anyone who knows me knows that nothing has been further from my thought, and I think I can speak also for my colleague. Speaking for myself, at any rate, such a course was never contemplated.

In the next paragraph of his statement the Prime Minister took what to me was a rather inconsistent position which, in my view, needs clarification. If the proposal were accepted, he said, the country would have the benefit of our wisdom, advice and experience. The government would retain responsibility for the direction of Canada's war effort. Then he added:

It would also be understood that members of the various opposition groups in this house would continue to be free to criticize the administration as they think fit, and to vote and act with complete independence.

It will be observed, however, that he did not include myself and my colleague, or members of other opposition groups who might join the war committee of the cabinet, in this category. On this theory we would not be free to criticize the administration as we thought fit, or to vote and act with complete independence. No other logical inference can be drawn from that statement, and in my view that is the inherent weakness of the whole proposition. I shall refer to this matter later.

It has been suggested to me that a proper reaction to this proposal by the Prime Minister is contained in the words of Solomon as they appear in the book of proverbs, chapter 1, verse 17:

Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.

As an alternative the Prime Minister suggested that if we should feel unable to accept his invitation on the basis stated, which I think I have accurately and fairly described, be was prepared to make yet another proposal, the acceptance of which he thought would not occasion embarrassment. In brief this second proposal was that while parliament was in session there should be regular weekly conferences between the war committee and the members of the opposition, with similar conferences held at intervals while parliament was not in session. At such conferences the government would be prepared to disclose, but in confidence, full and detailed information both as to its actions and the considerations upon which those actions were based. He added that the effectiveness of the opposition, far from being impaired, would be greatly increased by the knowledge gained by their leaders in such conferences, and that members of the opposition, as regards their right of criticism, would have only the limits imposed by their personal sense of responsibility as citizens and members of parliament.

I shall refer to this proposal a little later on in my remarks.

Now, as I intimated to the house on Monday, the Prime Minister, in the course of a private conversation with me on June 28 last, to which allusion has been made by him, suggested to me that I and my colleague should sit in with the war committee of the cabinet in an advisory and consultative capacity. On Monday last, when making this statement, the Prime Minister interjected the words "associate members". I have no recollection of the word "associate" having been used, and I am very firm in my own memory that the word "associate" was not used but that the term "advisory and consultative" was used, and that it was in that capacity and in that capacity alone that we were to sit in at the meetings of the war committee. I am borne out in my recollection because, with the permission of the Prime Minister, I had a word with my colleague and these words "advisory and consultative" were the words I used to him in reference to the matter. In my view, sitting in in an advisory and consultative capacity is quite distinguishable from the idea of being an associate member of the war committee. The latter goes much farther than the former. However that may be, that was and is my interpretation of the Prime Minister's suggestion of June 28. His direct proposal of July 8 goes much farther than that.

Now, what is his proposal? It is that myself and my colleague-leaders, if you will, of the Conservative party in this house-are being asked to join the war committee of the cabinet as associate members. We are to assist the government in the formulation of war policy and assume all the important responsibilities which attach to such a position, and we are to be absolutely without power to carry out the policies agreed upon or arrived at, whether suggested by us or not; and if we suggest policies and they are not agreed upon and another course is adopted, we shall be expected to support such policies, although they do not meet with our approval, otherwise we must resign.

What is the essence of this new proposal? The very essence of it is responsibility without power; and because that is so, the acceptance of the proposal is impossible. I want to make it quite clear that at no time have I ever sought to become either a member of the

1516 COMMONS

The Ministry-Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury)

administration or to be charged with the responsibility of formulating its policies. I was elected to oppose this government, make no mistake about that. My fellow members of the National Conservative party honoured me by electing me their leader in this house.

Topic:   THE MINISTRY
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An hon. MEMBER:

National government

party.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

To do

what? To follow out the mandate which we as a party had received from those who elected us to oppose this government. One of the chief duties imposed upon us by force of events and patriotic duty from the beginning of this session down to this last minute has been to aid and assist to the very best of our ability and power in carrying on Canada's war effort. We have done this by cooperating with the government fully in advancing those war measures which have met with our approval. We have, I believe, materially assisted the ministry by constructive suggestions with respect to Canada's war effort and, at the same time, we have reserved to ourselves the right and operated on the theory that it was our duty to oppose certain measures offered by the ministry which did not meet with our approval, and generally to perform the constitutional functions of an opposition- not, however, what may be termed the partisan function of an opposition, which is to oppose.

The setting under which this proposal of the Prime Minister was made should not be lost sight of. What was the position? The Prime Minister, confronted with a demand from this party that his ministry should be reconstructed along national lines, confronted by that demand also from a very substantial portion of the public, and being under the necessity of reconstructing his government, took weeks in an endeavour to induce gentlemen of the Conservative faith to enter his ministry. He failed, and he failed dismally, for reasons which he has indicated, and, more important, for reasons which I have indicated and to which I alluded in the statement I made in this house on Monday last, which I shall not repeat now.

Frustrated in this attempt to give a national colour to his ministry, he was forced to fall back on the inevitable. He was obliged to repair his fences from within his own party, and, with one notable exception, from within the membership of this house. In other words, he resorted to what I shall describe as a multiple shuffling of portfolios. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and altering the position of the links does not strengthen the chain but renders it just as weak and ineffective as it was before the changing process began. This ministry to-day, large as it fMr. R. B. Hanson.]

is in numbers, has no more strength or capacity to meet the situation which confronts the government and Canada than it had before the Prime Minister spoke on Monday last. With the one exception to which I have alluded, the gentlemen who sit on the treasury benches to-day are no better and no worse than the gentlemen who sat on the treasury benches last week. They are the same men who were guiding the destinies of Canada at that time and their strength is neither increased nor diminished by the rearrange ment. I make no reference to the inclusion of the new Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Gibson) and the new Postmaster General (Mr. Muloclc. They have yet to prove their strength and their usefulness to the country, and it would not be fair to judge them in advance of their performance.

That is the setting under which the Prime Minister made his offer to me, and I am bound to say that I believe his offer was induced by reason of his frustrated attempt to strengthen his ministry by the introduction of new blood from outside in a vain effort to bolster up the shattered fortunes of his party in the country. I am bound to say that that was my first reaction. As a matter of fact, the announcement of his repaired but not rebuilt cabinet on Monday last has confirmed that reaction.

Now it is quite plain that I have decided to reject the Prime Minister's proposal to join the war committee of the cabinet, and the primary reason is that already indicated, namely, that I believe it violates a cardinal and fundamental principle of government, that there should not be responsibility without power.

Just what would our position be if we entered this committee? My position, I believe, would be wholly inconsistent and incompatible with my present position. How could I, as the leader of this party, charged with the heavy responsibilities which that involves-and no one is more conscious of them than I-sit in on the war committee of the cabinet, take part in its deliberations, offer my advice and counsel and, in a given case, if I felt very strongly, urge upon the government the adoption of a certain course or courses, and then find myself, in case my advice were rejected, in the position of coming back to this seat in the house and either supporting proposals which I did not approve, or opposing them? Having sat in the council,

I would have to support the proposals of the government or I would have to oppose them. To support them against my better judgment would be dishonest, and to oppose them would render my position in a war committee impos-

The Ministry-Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury)

sible. In either event either I would have to resign from the war committee or I would have to resign from this position. Frankly I cannot for a moment imagine myself in such a position.

I believe with all my heart that I can do better service to Canada-and I put that first -I can do better service to the people whom I represent-and I put that second-by remaining in the position which I at present occupy, reserving to myself, with the advice of my colleagues, full liberty of action and judgment, and continuing to pursue the course which I adopted at the beginning of the session and which I have consistently followed, of supporting and cooperating with the government in those measures which I believe are essential and necessary for the aid of the mother country and for the defence of Canada, and offering such constructive criticism to the government as I am capable of from time to time, and, above all, urging speed and action in connection with our war effort.

I believe that I have made progress, not only in this house but in the country, in pursuing that course; and I believe it is a course which has commended itself to all the thoughtful elements of our population, at least to all those who believe that Canada's war effort is the one vital consideration. I care not for the opinions of those who think we should adopt a middle course, for the opinions of those who think we should have a temperate and moderate participation in this war. My whole heart is in the winning of this war, and any other course, for me at all events, is unthinkable. To those who have a different idea I desire to say that I accord to them their right to hold the views which they entertain, but I claim for myself the same liberty of judgment, to pursue such course as I consider is in the best interests of our country at this critical time. I have never been one of those who would seek to temporize or to compromise with a great principle, and I do not intend at my time of life to begin now, no matter what the fleeting advantage or the temptation of the moment may be. I can do no other.

I stated on Monday last, when I heard the Prime Minister's proposal made, that the suggestion was one which I could not lightly refuse at this critical time in Canada's history, nor was it one which I thought I ought to accept without the gravest reflection; and I want to tell the house and the country that, in arriving at the conclusion which I have arrived at, I have reflected and reflected gravely. I have sought the advice of those whose opinion I value; above all, I have

sought the advice of my colleagues in the House of Commons, and I have no hesitation in declaring to the house and to the country that we are unanimous in the conclusion I have announced.

Furthermore, it is my belief that public opinion will sustain me in the course that I intend to pursue. Of all the editorial opinion, as expressed in the public press, which has come to my attention since the Prime Minister's announcement, only one newspaper has expressed the view that the Prime Minister had made a fair offer, and that was the Toronto Star in its issue of July 9. It will be observed that the writer did not express the opinion that I ought to accept. All the other leading organs of public opinion in this country to which my attention has been directed and which have expressed any view at all, have taken the stand, in effect, that the Prime Minister's primary proposal should be rejected; some of them have even intimated that it should be rejected with scorn. I have not so treated it, although I perhaps would be justified in so doing. One editorial writer has suggested that if we accepted the proposal we would have about as much authority as an anti-nazi would have as an associate editor of one of Herr Goebbel's newspapers; that the sole effect of such an association would be at least partially to close our mouths, and it would certainly have the effect of lessening that good hard criticism of which parliament already has too little.

Now these statements are based on the theory that Canada's war effort is being guided and directed on a party basis, and that is true. The Prime Minister made some attempt to alter that position, but it has not been altered. The position remains as it was. This is a party government, actuated by the party spirit, dictated and motivated by the party system and, may I say, subordinate to partisan consideration. Protest as the ministry may, this is a Liberal government.

Topic:   THE MINISTRY
Subtopic:   STATEMENTS OF OPPOSITION LEADERS AS TO PRIME MINISTER'S PROPOSALS CONCERNING WAR COMMITTEE AND WEEKLY CONFERENCES
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I have no objection to the applause; I am simply stating a fact which proves my thesis.

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Subtopic:   STATEMENTS OF OPPOSITION LEADERS AS TO PRIME MINISTER'S PROPOSALS CONCERNING WAR COMMITTEE AND WEEKLY CONFERENCES
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An hon. MEMBER:

Has the hon. member just discovered it?

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LIB

Olof Hanson

Liberal

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbuiy):

No, I have known it always. Protest as the ministry may, this is a Liberal government; the war effort of the government is necessarily a Liberal party war effort, and is quite oblivious to the fact that, while the other half of the population is being called upon to pay, to

1518 COMMONS

The Ministry-Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury)

fight and, it may be, to die, that half of the population will have absolutely no responsibility for the conduct of Canada's war effort.

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Subtopic:   STATEMENTS OF OPPOSITION LEADERS AS TO PRIME MINISTER'S PROPOSALS CONCERNING WAR COMMITTEE AND WEEKLY CONFERENCES
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No, no.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I now refer to the Prime Minister's second proposal, that of conferences with members of the opposition. The Prime Minister stated that at such conferences the government would be prepared to disclose, but in confidence, full and detailed information both as to the government's actions and the considerations on which those actions were based, and he added that the effectiveness of the opposition, far from being impaired, would be greatly increased by the knowledge gained at such conferences.

I may say to the Prime Minister at once that there is not the same objection to this proposal. There is not the underlying principle of responsibility without power, which is my main and principal objection to his first proposal, but the difficulty as it presents itself to me lies in his statement that all the information, both as to the government's actions and the considerations on which these actions are to be based, is to be given to us in confidence, and from that standpoint it is objectionable. The older I get, the more circumspect I am with regard to confidential communications made to me. Sometimes things are said to us in confidence which we wish we had never heard. They may prove a source of embarrassment later on; there is always a very grave danger of unwittingly violating a confidence. The government, of course, must determine what is confidential-that is the very essence of the Prime Minister's statement in that regard. The government may say to us, "we did thus and so, and we did it on the basis of certain conditions, facts and theories which are secret; so that it can not be discussed publicly, and you may not criticize it." The conditions, facts and theories discussed may not necessarily be confidential, but only in the opinion of the government confidential, and probably should not be so regarded. Nevertheless, we, unless we are prepared, to be faithless and to break an honourable understanding, would be tied, would be bound hand and foot, and on a given occasion our position might be wholly untenable. We could, of course, always retire, but that would end the arrangement. Moreover, an unscrupulous government could, if it so wished, use the plea of confidence to shield itself from criticism. I do not for a moment allege that this government would do that, but the possibility is there.

The Prime Minister, in the course of his remarks on Monday last, alluded to the difficulties of government at such a trying time

as that through which we are passing, and to the difficulties he had encountered in endeavouring to strengthen his cabinet from without. I do not intend to revert to the reasons for his frustration, but the situation remains that the Prime Minister has determined to carry on on a party basis. That means a continuation of our peace-time form of government in Canada; and what is the basis of the protection of the people under the two party system? In my view the basis of protection against things that ought not to happen is the system of wholesome parliamentary checks and balances. We have built that up over a long period of years, and experience has proved that on the whole it has worked well. Therefore, having regard to the duty of the opposition to the public, I am of the opinion, which is concurred in by all my colleagues, that we will show more practical allegiance to our public duty by avoiding acceptance of the Prime Minister's second offer.

In peace time I am aware that there is not much consultation between the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition. There are, or should be, consultations from time to time to expedite the public business, and then there are those amenities which should be shown at all times, but which I regret have on occasion, in former days, been lacking and which must necessarily involve consultation from time to time. They are part of the unwritten law of parliamentary procedure; but the sharing of confidential information, which is the basis of government action, is an entirely different matter in peace time as well as in war time, and I do think that a different practice must prevail in war time from that prevailing in peace time.

In war time, when we are all concerned with the safety of the state, I lay it down as an axiomatic principle that as leader of the opposition I am entitled to information with respect to the war situation and with respect to the government's proposals, and that I am entitled to it as a matter of course. If my right hon. friend disagrees with this, let me point out to him that in Great Britain, both before and after the declaration of war, Mr. Chamberlain consulted with Mr. Attlee and other members of the labour party forming the official opposition; he must of necessity have given them confidential information, and I believe, of necessity, they were entitled to demand confidential information. I may say to the house and to the country that I have not heretofore taken that position, but I do so now and I believe I am on safe ground. We, as representing a great body of public opinion in this country, have a right to know

The Ministry-Mr. Stirling

what is going on. The use which we make of that information is an entirely different matter; we must be guided by tihe wisest possible judgment which we can bring to bear with respect to its use.

It is well known that from time to time the Prime Minister has asked myself and my colleague to meet with him, sometimes alone and sometimes in the presence of the war committee of the cabinet, including at times certain Conservative privy councillors from the other place. On those occasions there has been no consultation. What has happened is that the Prime Minister 'has given us, in confidence, information as to the trend of events in the theatre of war on the other side. No pledges have been asked and none has been given. No advice has been sought and none has been offered. Personally I have been grateful for the opportunity of having such information, from time to time, as the Prime Minister has seen fit to give me. On occasion I have asked him privately with respect to certain situations, and such information as he has given me I have received in the strictest confidence. I think that course was the proper one for both of us. But I do go further to-day and say that I think as a matter of right he ought to tell me from time to time what is going on, not only for my personal information, but for my guidance in the responsible position which I occupy. I shall have to be the final judge as to the use I make of such information, but I think the experience of the past will be the best evidence to the Prime Minister that I am to be trusted, and certainly no one can say that at any time during the past eight weeks I have used for party advantage any information which he has given me. Any such thing has been most remote from my thoughts; it has not been given any consideration at all.

In conclusion, let me say this, as I have said from the very beginning in this house: We in this party hold very definite views as to our obligations to the country at this time. We believe in a united war effort on the part of the people of Canada. That united effort cannot be given by a party government. The Prime Minister has rejected the theory of a national government, although he has declared on more than one occasion that his government was a national government. That statement was negatived by his efforts to bring in gentlemen from outside the limits of his own party, efforts that have failed. But notwithstanding all this, his decision is to continue the party system and to play the party game and to carry on a national war effort under party auspices. Much as we regret it, it will not alter the course of cooperation with the

government, backed by constructive criticism, which I marked out for this party from the beginning of the session, and which I have endeavoured to carry out consistently from that moment to this. In addition, we shall never lose the opportunity to urge upon the Prime Minister and the ministry the absolute necessity of speeding up all the war activities of Canada.

I am now again renewing the pledge of willingness to cooperate for the national good.

Finally, let me repeat what I have said, that this country needs leadership, leadership which has not been given since war was declared, leadership of the highest character, leadership which cannot be given under the party system.

The Prime Minister has rejected my suggestion. The responsibility is his. We shall help him as opportunity offers, but we, in common with the people of Canada, will hold him and his ministry ^strictly accountable for the measures which he will advance for the safety of the state, and, in particular, for the manner in which he will utilize the extraordinary powers conferred upon him by the parliament of Canada in connection with the mobilization and utilization of the man-power and the natural resources of the nation.

Topic:   THE MINISTRY
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NAT

Grote Stirling

National Government

Hon. GROTE STIRLING (Yale):

Mr. Speaker, with the indulgence of the house I crave permission to add a very few words to what my leader has said.

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LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

There is nothing before the house. On a former occasion a statement was made by the Prime Minister and replied to by the Leader of the Opposition. If there is an endeavour to make this a general debate I must call the attention of hon. members to the fact that there is nothing before the house. Otherwise the Prime Minister will reply, I presume, and a general debate might follow.

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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 have no objection, Mr. Speaker, to my hon. friend speaking.

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July 11, 1940