February 5, 1942

GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH

CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY

LIB

Louis Philippe Lizotte

Liberal

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

The Address-Mr. Lizotte

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-

The Address-Mr. Lizotte

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.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

Louis Philippe Lizotte

Liberal

Mr. LIZOTTE:

If they are called upon to vote on a plebiscite I know their answer will be "no". However, I intend leaving them perfectly free to express their views according to their conscience and I will ask them to avoid any useless agitation.

A Quebec newspaper, L'Action Catholique, in an editorial dated January 30, 1942, recommends calmness and peacefulness. I quote:

There is, therefore-without the least thought of partisanship-nothing to gain by involving and jeopardizing King's position in the country, in parliament and in the allied councils. There is no need for agitation in Quebec province to fan public sentiment against conscription. In agitation lies the road to conscription.

Such reasoning, Mr. Speaker, is common sense itself, in my humble opinion.

Let us remain calm, but let us be fearless however, in a clear expression of our views.

In conclusion, I would remind the house, as a citizen from the province of Quebec, that there is one thing not to be overlooked in the heat of discussion. And that is that Mr. King is our only safeguard, that in no one else can we rest our hope, and that the greatest calamity that coxdd befall the Canadian people and particularly the province of Quebec in this tragic hour, would be that power be taken from Mr. King to be handed over to our worst enemies, Messrs. Meighen and company.

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LIB

James Wright McGibbon

Liberal

Mr. J. W. McGIBBON (Argenteuil):

Mr. Speaker, like practically all those who have taken part in this debate before me, I feel my first words must be those of congratulation to the mover and the seconder of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. I thought both the hon. member for Hull (Mr. Fournier) and the hon. member for Brantford City (Mr. Macdonald) did exceptionally well, and I feel it is freely admitted in the lobbies that these were the best speeches of this kind for a long time.

I wish also to congratulate the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) upon his fine effort. There was a sense of restraint and moderation running through his discourse which I thought sounded just the right note for a leader of the opposition in war time. I wonder whether the man who so earnestly seeks his position would not have done a whole lot of harm to our war effort, had he been in his position.

As one who has not been active in the debates of the last two sessions, it occurs to me that many hon. members, and especially the newer ones, would not know anything about the historic old riding of Argenteuil which I have the honour to represent. Argenteuil is a happy combination of English and French-speaking Canadians, all working together, all working harmoniously. I think we set a model for many other electoral districts in Canada to follow. But no one can think of the constituency I have the honour to represent without thinking of one of my famous predecessors, the late Sir George Perley. Sir George represented Argenteuil for many years, and his sound judgment, sagacity and ability to deal with things directly, and, above all, the fine representation he gave to our constituency in parliament year after year, constituted an outstanding contribution to this parliament. I am personally as proud as a Liberal to pay tribute to the late Sir George Perley as any member of this house. When

. The Address-Mr. McGibbon

the people of our riding sent Sir George to Ottawa, they did not do so because he was eternally speaking, but rather because he was not. Sir George saw no need to be eternally speaking; he felt that there were many times when thinking rather than talking made a sounder contribution to the situation. Therefore I would hope in some respects to follow in his footsteps.

First of all, we do not believe in recriminations. It seems to me that there has been far too much talk of how Quebec feels about Toronto, and how Toronto feels about Quebec. In Argenteuil riding, where French-speaking and English-speaking people live in amity and spend their lives working with and cooperating with each other, all this controversy seems so needless, so useless. I am sure the people of Toronto want to win this war just as earnestly, just as sincerely, as we do. I am sure the province of Quebec and Toronto have the same aim in mind-the destruction of Hitler. I think no man can guarantee that we in this country could stand independently against the enemy, but on the other hand, we all agree that with united effort of this country along with that of our formidable allies we shall be successful. We all wish to travel to the same goal, but are arguing over the different routes.

It seems, too, that this debate has narrowed itself down to partisan limits. I do not think the war can be fought in that way. Nor do I believe that what we say will in itself settle the war. I think we are looking at too small a corner of the picture. This war has got beyond the narrowing frames into which some of the debaters would like to confine it.

In reviewing the war, I am bound to notice a few milestones. The first one I would mention is the Ogdensburg pact. Here surely was a strong contribution to our defence, and to our ultimate safety. The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), because of his long and valued friendship with President Roosevelt, was able to arrange a mutual defence programme of immense value. Out of that came the joint defence board of Canada and the United States. Thanks to the efforts of this board, in cooperation with the two governments, we have made some notable achievements, not only in defence but as a means of offence also. But our government did not let it rest at that. The Ogdensburg pact was followed by the Hyde Park agreement, and the defence of the continent was further strengthened. I have no doubt, however, that the conversations of President Roosevelt and the Prime Minister ranged far beyond that, and I have no doubt, in view of what has happened since, that considerable thought was given to a war of offence as well as a war of defence.

Another milestone, perhaps the most important of all, was the visit of Mr. Churchill to this continent, during which visit at almost the same time that he described ourselves as the lynch-pin between Britain and United States came that outstanding document which was evidently in part the result of the labours of our Prime Minister and one which I regret to say has been little emphasized in this house. I refer to the Washington pact, of which Canada was a signatory power. This is a new magna charta of freedom, agreed to by -twenty-six free nations of the earth.

The reason why I mention the Washington pact is this: out of that document has sprung a supreme war council in Washington. This council is planning the destrucfion of the axis, not on any small scale but with a panoramic perspective that takes in the whole world. If I ma3r then jump from this broad conception of the war to our own House of Commons, does it not seem absurd that we should be trying to settle allied war strategy right here? Yet that is what some people are trying to do. I myself feel that it is no longer entirely up to us what we are going to do, it is up to this war council. With our relatively small number of soldiers, even by extending our present legislation far beyond its present limits, we may not have nearly enough soldiers to turn the scale. Mark you, I have not the information to argue this point at all, one way or another.

But I ask the house this: how do we know that it is troops the supreme powers want from Canada? Might it not be food, or munitions? Might it not be ships? Are our airmen a paramount consideration? Could it be that our contribution in tanks, guns, merchant ships, corvettes, or something else vital to the war is needed from Canada more than anything else? Again I say, I do not know, and I doubt if some of those who have debated so vehemently know either. I am told it would not be the first time that members of this house were not certain of what they are talking about. But there must be a few people who know better than others. In the light of the general success of our war effort so far, I consider that my chief, the Prime Minister, knows. He has been Prime Minister of this country for a long time. He has been Prime Minister of Canada for the past seven years. During that time, as a result of his position and his personal friendships with people in high places, he has gained an insight into the situation that ordinary members of parliament cannot possibly hope to have. He has been through many important historical moments, and these experiences have all been valuable to him and to the country. Then, too, from day to day, the Prime Minister is

The Address-Mr. McGibbon

receiving the very latest reports on the situation all over the world, as it has developed up to the present. Surely no one has clearer vision and is better versed in the war situation than he.

In the light of all this background, having regard to the long experience the head of the government has had, remembering the personal contacts this administration has had with the great nations and great personalities of this war, it seems to me that the present government is in a better position to know what is best for Canada. Under those circumstances, and hoping to be able to face any future emergency, the government now asks to be relieved of its commitments of the 1940 election period, and I personally believe the government should be relieved of them. To ask the people, to whom the promises were made to relieve this government of those promises is the democratic way. To do it any other way is to emulate the dictators, whom to-day we are fighting with all we have, to destroy.

I have personally sufficient faith in the government to believe that if it wants to be relieved of its commitments, then that is the best thing for Canada. I have sufficient faith in them, too, to know that when the time comes to choose any new or different course, that, too, will be the right course. Again I have sufficient faith in the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) to feel that he is the man to guide us through to victory. Talk of supplanting him with somebody else is idle and foolish. The farmers of our constituency have been taught from infancy the danger, yes, the folly, of changing horses in midstream. That applies in Ottawa just as much as it does back in Argenteuil and the rural constituencies.

Let us approach this question, then, without political bias. Here is a man who has been elected with an overwhelming mandate from the people, and elected not in the unthinking days of peace but when the war had been in progress for more than half a year. The Prime Minister asked at that time for a mandate to carry on the war, and the people of Canada gave him that mandate; indeed, it was the greatest mandate ever given to any prime minister in this country. This is not the time for petty politics. I think we should be put in a position to give our best, realizing our duty as a united nation in the allied cause to defeat the common enemy.

On motion of Mr. Bertrand (Prescott) the debate was adjourned.

On motion of Mr. Mackenzie (Vancouver Centre) the house adjourned at 10.55 p.m.

Friday, February 6, 1942

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February 5, 1942