February 25, 1942

CON

John George Diefenbaker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

But this is the bill upon which we are asked to vote. If we pass this bill we allow the government to submit a plebiscite at its will, at any time and on any matter whatsoever, and against that I protest. Let me read section 3:

3. (1) The governor in council may by proclamation order the taking of a plebiscite under the provisions of this act.

(2) The proclamation shall state fully the question to be submitted to the voters at the plebiscite in the same words and form as it will appear on the ballot papers to be used at the plebiscite.

It becomes perfectly clear that unless the members of this house, representing as we do the people of Canada, demand that the question to be asked be embodied ini the bill, we are giving to the government, not a blank cheque but the right to submit any matter they choose to the people of Canada at any time. There is nowhere any limitation on so doing. Section 5 reads:

Any person who shall have voted at a plebiscite taken under the provisions of this act during the present war shall thereafter be ineligible-

"During the present war." Why the insertion of the provision that these people shall be ineligible when they have voted at a plebiscite during the present war if only one plebiscite is to be submitted? These significant words reveal the situation exactly. The statute will continue in effect beyond the termination of this war, but the only disqualification of exemption from military service of conscientious objectors would be in connection with anyone who had voted during the period of the war. This shows the danger of legislation such as this unless it is strictly limited within the ambit of the question that the Prime Minister says will be submitted to the people of Canada.

The leader of the opposition gave the government warning on Friday last of what our attitude would be in this regard and of

Plebiscite Act-Mr. Diejenbaker

our wish to have the question included in the bill, but it has persisted in placing this bill before parliament in this form. Therefore, we feel that we have the duty to move an amendment to ensure the inclusion of the question in clear and unmistakable language.

I move, seconded by the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth):

That the bill be not now read a. second time but that this house is of the opinion that the use of the powers conferred thereby be restricted to the submission thereunder of one plebiscite only.

I intend now to make a few suggestions with regard to the bill. I repeat that I think the government should have told the country what it is going to do after the vote has been taken. To-day it is Janus-faced; in one part of Canada it looks one way, in another part it looks another way. The Prime Minister says that he thinks the people will give an all-out vote. I hope they do, because there would be nothing more tragic if this plebiscite were defeated. We on this side of the house have asked the Prime Minister to tell the people of Canada just how serious he regards the situation, but without avail and the only conclusion that can be taken from the speech of the Prime Minister is that conditions are not serious, for he has stated clearly that he would not think of asking for more man-power under the selective system as conditions are at this time.

I should like to see a one hundred per cent vote on this matter. I do not believe in a compulsory system of getting out votes, but I do ask the Prime Minister and the government to shake themselves out of the lethargy they are in and tell the people of the gravity of the empire's position and of the imperative need of action. Many people are going to fail to vote because they believe that this is a vote of confidence in the government. The Prime Minister has said that he would not interpret a favourable vote as a vote of confidence. I do not care how it is interpreted. Time is running against us and he should act. "Wait and see" is apparently to be the policy of this government, even to-day as we listened to the casualties in Hong Kong.

I repeat that the people have a right to know at this time what the government intends to do. I am not one to advocate a sit-down strike as far as voting on this matter is concerned for such action would be reprehensible. The government asks us over here to be Willkies, but I ask the Prime Minister to be a Roosevelt from now on, and to refer to the war effort of this nation not as the governments' war effort but as the war effort of Canada.

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LIB
CON

John George Diefenbaker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

That was after he

had referred several times with exultation to the results of the campaign that recently took place. In the last paragraph of his address he did ask the Canadian people to regard this as a Canadian war effort. Why wait ten weeks for a vote on this matter? The ordinary routine peace-time election procedure should [DOT] not apply to-day. We should shorten up that period. Where shall we be in ten weeks? Only on Thursday last we read in the press that if Java falls and Australia be attacked., the next places on the Japanese time-table to be attacked are Hawaii and Alaska in April.

Voluntary workers should be asked for over the radio. Why were not great patriotic organizations in this country asked to take over this work? But they will not do it enthusiastically, Mr. Speaker, unless they know that in getting out and working to the end that this government may be empowered to do something, the government, when it gets the power is actually going to act and without delay.

I have had complaint after complaint over the suggestion that men are going to be sent overseas for the purpose of taking the vote. In my opinion such a course is unnecessary. Send the ballots over to Canadian general headquarters in Great Britain, have them distributed to the divisions and battalions, and set out in military orders the date of the voting, have the voting take place at battalion headquarters. What does the government intend to do in regard to the counting of the soldiers' votes?

I commend the government and am glad that it has stood firm against those who would have had all the votes in Canada thrown into one common container. That would have done away with initiative in every province and every constituency of this dominion. I commend the Prime Minister for the course he has adopted of letting each province and each constituency know just how it stands on this question.

But so far as the voting overseas is concerned I do think this, that the men who to-day are serving this country know what they want, and' I would not divide their votes among the constituencies. I suggest that their votes be counted without regard to constituency so that we can have the message of the men overseas in a united voice as to what they think the government should be doing at this time.

I have nothing more to say, Mr. Speaker, except again to point out the necessity of having the bill as it now stands amended at once as I have suggested, and with that in mind I have moved an amendment. To do otherwise would be for us to pass another milestone in this dominion beyond the point we have

Questions

reached to-day in the decline of responsible government. Parliament is being emasculated *as a result of the creation of administrative boards of all kinds and order in council government. This act unless amended may well be just another milestone towards the destruction of that which we are fighting to preserve in these days of war-our free parliamentary institutions characterized by the principle of responsible government*

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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:

May I raise a point of older, Mr. Speaker. I submit that the amendment is out of order, and I raise the point now in order that your honour may have an opportunity to consider the matter. The amendment tends to amend the bill, which I do not think is right, and the amendment does not Object to the principle of the bill.

On motion of Mr. Veniot the debate was adjourned.

On motion of Mr. Mackenzie King the house adjourned at 5.55 pm.

Thursday, February 26, 1942

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February 25, 1942