Mr. L. P. LIZOTTE (Kamouraska) (Translation) :
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to add my congratulations to those already tendered to the mover of the address, the hon. member for Hull (Mr. Fournier) and the seconder, the hon. member for Brantford City (Mr. Macdonald) on the high standard of their speeches.
More particularly do I congratulate the hon. member for Hull, who is a native of Kamouraska county, on the form of his speech, without insisting on the substance thereof. Every time I meet him and see once again his calm, smiling and restful countenance-typical of familiar faces at home-I indulge in the illusion that he still is an elector of the fine county of Kamouraska which I have the honour to represent. Because of the warm feeling I have for him I regret all the more not being able to share all the views he has expressed in his speech.
I am fully aware, Mr. Speaker, that we are going through one of the most momentous periods which our generation has known. The problems facing the members of this house are difficult, embarrassing and fatally dangerous for the internal peace of the country and for the national unity which the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) has so far been able to maintain at the cost of the most praiseworthy efforts. .
Whatever action is taken by hon. members will have a profound effect on the present and future life of the nation.
We therefore realize at this time the gap left in our ranks by the death of Ernest Lapointe and the extent of the loss which the Canadian nation has sustained. In times of stress we of the province of Quebec used to turn to this great Canadian who is no longer here to strengthen our confidence and point out to us the road to follow.
Some days ago I heard the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot) correct the leader
of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) by stating that Ernest Lapointe was bom not in the county of Kamouraska but in that of Temiscouata. He was right. But it must be admitted that it is the electors of Kamouraska who were intelligent enough to adopt him as their own and give him to the country.
As the representative of the county which gave this great servant to the nation, may I pause for a moment in sorrow and in respect for his memory.
We now have to look to the Prime Minister, his companion in the battles of old, who, knowing through Lapointe the mentality of Quebec, has so far always been a friend to our province. I am confident that he will receive good advice from the present representative of French-Canadians in his cabinet, the hon. the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Cardin) and in the near future from the hon. the Minister of Justice. May Providence grant to the hon. the Minister of Public Works the health needed for carrying on his work.
Whether they come from Quebec or from other provinces, all the members of this house harbour the same feeling of loyalty towards their country, notwithstanding the fact that some may look to Canada and others to England. Our views may differ on thq means to be taken, but all of us here agree that the victory of our arms must be ensured, and that whatever sacrifices are necessary must be borne with fortitude, so that good may triumph over evil, and democratic freedom may prevail over totalitarian slavery. But while fighting for democracy we should cause no one to lose confidence in it, and the people, who are the fountainhead of all authority, should not lose confidence in the pledged word of their leaders, to whom they have entrusted their most cherished interests.
The problem which this house faces today must be dealt with in the light of these facts.
The question with which I intend to deal as briefly as possible in the course of my remarks may be put as follows: is it advisable, at this time, that the government should consult the people in order to know whether they are willing to release the government from their past commitments with regard to conscription for overseas service, and authorize them to adopt whatever recruiting policy they may deem necessary?
It must first be clearly stated that in principle the government in power may, without any other formality than the concurrence of parliament, enforce at any time compulsory military service for overseas. That is what would have happened, many months ago, if the Conservatives had unfortunately been
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returned to power in 1940. The speeches of their leaders have made us aware-for those people seem to have lost all sense of decency -that in spite of the oath they have taken before the electorate in March 1940, we would have had conscription in May of the same year.
If the Liberals were to act to-day in such an arbitrary and high-handed manner, after the promises they have made, I would say that their party is no longer worthy of its great name and that my leaders deserve to be ranked among those undesirable people who are called "Tories".
Fortunately that is not the stand that was taken by our leaders. The policy adopted by the government is unquestionably a wholly democratic measure, since its object is to consult again the people, from whom all authority and power is derived in this country.
But is that measure necessary? Is it not obviously fraught with danger? Those are points on which I am not in agreement with the government. In my humble opinion, the government should continue to direct their policies in accordance with the mandate they hold. I believe that I can remain associated with my party, which is the party of free speech and free opinions while respectfully submitting that such a measure is neither necessary nor timely, that it is fraught with serious danger, and this for reasons different from those advanced by the opposition.
As far as I am concerned, I was satisfied in 1940 and I still am today with the opinion that was clearly and freely expressed by the electorate less than two years ago.
The Prime Minister himself had stated, on the floor of this house, in November 1941, that he was satisfied with the verdict rendered by the Canadian people at the last election.
In my estimation, it is not necessary to go back to the polls every season. On the other hand, do the people wish to be consulted? I have never heard anything to that effect.
When the elections of March 1940 took place, this terrible war was already in progress and the electors then gave the government direct authority to wage war, on condition, however, that, as long as they remained in power, compulsory service for overseas would not be resorted to.
Neither the shrieks of a few Toronto newspaper editors, royally paid to criticize through Mr. Meighen and his gang, neither the threats of a handful of financial barons, boosting Mr. Meighen's candidature in an attempt to realize scandalous war profits, as they did in 1917, will convince me that our people,
courageously doing their share, silently accepting all sacrifices, voluntarily offering their sons to their country, request that they be consulted anew.
Would then that the government, fearlessly carrying on with the authority granted them, continue, as heretofore, to follow the lead given by our population.
I stated that, in my opinion, the plebiscite announced by the government is not necessary. I shall go further and say that it is ill-timed. Mr. Speaker, you may be sure that this expression of public opinion will create all the excitement of a general election, which the government is desirous of avoiding so as to concentrate on the war effort. I fear that this popular vote may, on account of the various and contradictory opinions expressed in different provinces, revive racial and religious controversies which we had been fortunate enough to quench. The next six months will show whether I am right or wrong.
I claim further that this plebiscite is dangerous. Anyone may foresee that, in the event the government is released from its past commitments-which personally I hope it will not-it then would be forced to adopt this useless compulsory method, in order to silence the criticisms, to block the intrigues and stop the blackmailing of the Tories. If the Canadian people do release the government from past commitments, this verdict will be interpreted as a request by the public for the immediate adoption of conscription for overseas service irrespective of its reactions on the effort made to protect our own shores; then you *will witness all the astuteness of the Tories in exerting pressure on the present administration.
In certain financial quarters, if it be found necessary, subscriptions to the victory loan will be refused, in order to blackmail the the government: threats to that effect have already been made. Unfortunately, in this country, there are people who would risk even defeat at the hands of the enemy, to hoist themselves into power and slake their thirst for vengeance against our present leader and his friends. They camouflage under the cry for conscription their hunger for power and vengeance.
Personally, since the last war, and consequently for the past 25 years, I have been opposed to any form of compulsory service for overseas. This way of thinking has been inculcated in me by the leaders of my party, who have persuaded me that Canada should be my first and foremost consideration. Laurier, King and Lapointe have always refused to entertain the idea of conscription for over-
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seas service. As the hon. member for Beau-harnois (Mr. Raymond) said a few minutes ago, there was a compromise on that subject between the different racial groups which make up the Liberal party. That compromise was the foundation of national unity. Is the destruction of that solid basis of internal peace now desired?
In 1940, along with the majority of the members of this house, I spoke against conscription for overseas service. I am still the same man and I hold the same view in 1942. I was, I still am and I shall remain opposed to conscription for overseas service.
With the prime minister of the province of Quebec, the hon. Adelard Godbout, whose courage is to be admired, I declare that our first loyalty must be to our country, Canada, the defence of which must be provided for right here. Now is the time to barricade ourselves within our coasts, just as England has barricaded herself in her island. Let us continue the building of airplanes and ships for the protection of our coasts, but let us also keep here the defenders of the country. I do not want to be pessimistic, but I fear that before very long we shall need here all our resources, all our munitions and all our brave soldiers. The countries we have equipped and armed, to whom we make contributions without regard to our means, may be slow in answering our desperate S.O.S. calls. Let us prepare for the worst, hoping that God will protect us.
The sentiments which I express with all the calmness and moderation at my command are shared by the vast majority of the electors in my constituency and I shall never have the audacity to ask them to modify their views when I have not yet altered mine.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY