July 7, 1942

NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Then I

suggest that the right hon. gentleman-

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
?

An hon, MEMBER:

Sit down.

4010 COMMONS

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Who said "sit down?" I have the right to rise on this question, and no member of the government or anyone else has a right to tell me to sit down. The Prime Minister must accept the statement of the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) or produce the evidence upon which he bases his assertion. I do not recall anything of that sort from any hon. member on this or any side of the house.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

An hon. member is supposed to withdraw any language that is unparliamentary. When a statement is made in parliamentary language by an hon. member and it is denied by another hon. member, the matter is closed.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

A point of order has

been taken, and the Prime Minister has indicated that he would like to continue his speech. I suggest that the Prime Minister be allowed to complete his statement, and then the matter can be taken up.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

With grea' respect I suggest that that is not good enough. The Prime Minister made a statement and, when challenged to name the hon. member concerned, he indicated the hon. member for Lake Centre. The hon. member for Lake Centre denies specifically having made any statement such as that attributed to him. The Prime Minister must accept that statement and withdraw.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

That is not according to

the rules of the house.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

If the leader

of the opposition will allow me, I shall now read the statement to which I made reference. It will be found on page 3329 of the House of Commons debates of June 15, 1942, in the first paragraph of the hon. member's speech. He said:

Up to the present time the only two ministers who have spoken in this debate on behalf of the government have been the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner), both of whom have consistently opposed military service overseas, and from whom, having regard to the speech to which we have listened to-day, we cannot ever expect in my opinion to have military service overseas regardless of what the people may demand.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

William Earl Rowe

National Government

Mr. ROWE:

That is not at all what the Prime Minister said.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

May I say-

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
CON

John George Diefenbaker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

There is no such

inference in that at all.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

This statement that I have consistently opposed military

service overseas is made in the face of the fact that I have since the beginning of this war done all that lies within my power to see that the largest possible number of men were sent overseas in the navy, the air force and the army; and the numbers of men who have enlisted for service anywhere in the world to-day is the answer I make to the member who has just interrupted.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
CON

John George Diefenbaker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

Mr. Speaker

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

Apologize later.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
CON

John George Diefenbaker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

There is nothing to apologize for. On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, the context shows that the reference was entirely to compulsory service for overseas.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

But what is the result? False impressions are thereby also being given to other countries. This is most detrimental to Canada, and is most unfair to Canada's magnificent army overseas.

No one can object to the honest advocacy of conscription by those who believe sincerely that it will advance the country's war effort. But surely there are better ways to advocate conscription than by belittling the Canadian army, and seeking to create the impression that because the men who are steadily going forward have offered their services voluntarily, Canada is not sending troops overseas.

Both extremes, for opposite reasons, are helping to create the wholly false impression that Canada is not sending or is not willing to send her men to meet and defeat the enemy overseas. Both, for political ends, are prepared to discredit their own country in the eyes of the world.

These two extremes can never be reconciled. The debate must have made it wholly clear even to those who support either extreme, that the adoption of their views would only serve to weaken, and perhaps to destroy, the national unity which all should wish to see maintained. It would be equally destructive of an effective war effort.

Were this House of Commons, on grounds of national necessity, or for any other reason, obliged to yield to either extreme, many hon. members might well find their present position one of considerable embarrassment. Their embarrassment, however, both in the present and in the future, is more likely to arise, indeed, is, I believe, certain to arise, should they fail to lend their support to a policy which avoids extremes, and which, at this time of war, alone gives hope for the preserva-

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

tion of national unity. National unity, it seems to me, can best be preserved by hon. members giving to the government charged with carrying on Canada's war effort, the support which the government must receive from parliament, if its great responsibilities are to be discharged in a manner which will truly serve the national interest.

If, in reference to the very difficult question of service overseas, anyone can conceive of a policy which is better calculated to serve the national interest than the one the government has formulated, and which is clearly and concisely expressed in the words: "Not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary", I shall be first to advocate its acceptance. I can only say that nothing of the kind has been proposed by any hon. member in the course of the debate. Nor do I believe that anything better can be suggested. Indeed, the events of the war, as well as all that has been said in the course of the debate, should have made it wholly apparent that, all circumstances taken into account, it is the only sound policy.

We are not dealing with theories, either of government or of war, upon which, without grave risks to themselves and others, men can afford to continue to differ. We are faced with conditions which actually exist, and which have to be met. They must be met with as large a measure of general consent as may be possible, if both Canada and our allies are not to suffer. It is from this point of view that, regardless of any position thus far taken with respect to the present bill, I now ask all hon. members to view their obligations alike to their constituencies and to Canada.

I said that objection to the bill had been raised on four grounds. I have dealt with the first two. Those who oppose on other grounds do not differ fundamentally with the policy of the government with respect to service overseas: "Not necessarily conscription but conscription if necessary". But they assert that, if the bill is to receive their support, something more is required. The assurance demanded, in the one case, is that if provision is to be made for the conscription of men for service overseas, then provision must equally be made for what is generally termed "the conscription of wealth"; that the two must go together. That, as I understand it, was the purport of the amendment proposed by the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation group.

First of all, may I say to my hon. friend the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation group, and to those who share views similar to his own, that the power to

conscript wealth at whatever time, and to whatever extent may be deemed advisable and necessary, is already in the act which the government is asking parliament to amend, not by further limiting its provisions, but by extending their application.

The power to conscript wealth will remain unrestricted. There are no limitations upon this power other than such as may result from the judgment of the government in exercising its discretion. The legislation itself as I have pointed out is enabling legislation, and as respects both the conscription of wealth and conscription of man-power will, if the bill is adopted, remain enabling legislation. The government in both particulars will be free to exercise its discretion as the needs of the war may demand.

I need not, I know, remind hon. members that the ground on which, on its second reading, a bill merits support or rejection, is one of principle. It is not a question of additions to or subtractions from its provisions. These are matters to be dealt with when the bill is in committee. What, so far as principle goes, the government is seeking by the bill is exactly what the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation implies the government should have, namely, complete freedom, subject to its responsibility to parliament, as respects the application of conscription in any direction. To impose conditions of any kind upon the exercise of the government's discretion, other than such as attach to its responsibility to parliament, is to destroy altogether the all-out freedom of action by the administration which it is the principle of the bill to secure.

If this year's budget does not serve to convince hon. members and the people of Canada generally of the government's readiness to conscript whatever wealth is necessary to distribute the burden of Canada's war effort as equitably as possible, it is difficult to imagine what more in the way of assurances to this end would be regarded as adequate.

I come now to the last of the reasons which have been urged by some for not supporting the bill, and by others for hesitating to give their support until the government's exact intentions are more fully known.

From both sides of the house, objection has been raised to the possibility of resort to conscription for overseas service at some future date without a further reference to parliament. When, however, hon. members speak of coming again to parliament, some appear to have one thing in mind; and others quite another.

All are agreed that the present bill, if enacted, will give to the government the

4012 COMMONS

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

power to make conscription applicable to service outside Canada, whenever and to whatever extent in the judgment of the government it is necessary and advisable. Some contend that should the government decide that conscription for overseas service has become necessary and advisable, the government should before any action is taken, announce its decision to parliament, and, at that time, by further legislation, define the terms and conditions of such service, or at least permit a second debate on the question of its immediate application. There are others who do not advocate a second debate on conscription, much less further legislation, but who maintain that a due recognition of the ministry's responsibility to parliament demands that, as soon as possible after the government's decision has been reached, it should be communicated to parliament, and before effect is given thereto, that opportunity should be given hon. members for an expression of their views.

May I say, as emphatically as I can, that in no case would I wish to countenance a second debate on conscription.

In setting forth the reasons why the government had not proceeded by stages, in removing the limitation in the mobilization act with respect to service outside Canada, I made the statement that such a course would not have met the purposes of the plebiscite as outlined in the speech from the throne, one of which was to ensure to the government complete freedom of action, subject only to its constitutional responsibility to parliament.

I gave, however, another and very important reason. I said that to amend the act in any particular would necessitate a debate in both houses of parliament-a debate moreover which would inevitably be a debate on the question of conscription; that this would mean going all over the same ground again. Speaking on this aspect of the matter on June 10, I said:

Unnecessary discussion and prolonged debate in parliament at a time when our country is hourly being drawn into greater danger would not serve to place Canada's war effort in its true light, either before our own people, or before the people of other countries, nor would it gain respect for parliament.

Whatever may have been said or thought of the truth of this statement at the time it was made, after all that has since been said in the course of the present debate, for and against conscription for service overseas, it will, I think, be agreed that on this question little more, if anything of value, could possibly be added. It must now be wholly apparent that this House of Commons itself,

TMr. Mackenzie King.]

not to speak of the country, would be impatient of any attempt to traverse the same ground anew; and that public opinion would strongly resent any such procedure.

It is well, therefore, that it should once again be clearly stated that while this bill does not, regardless of circumstances, commit the government to conscription for overseas service, parliament, by enacting this bill, is placing it within the discretion of the government to impose conscription for service overseas, if, in its judgment, the needs of the situation as they may arise should so demand.

This is one of the reasons why the government has been ready to allow to hon. members on the second reading of the bill, the fullest latitude to discuss from all possible angles, and on all possible grounds, the question of the application of conscription to service overseas, and has not sought, in any way, to curtail the debate. It would be unreasonable to suppose that a like opportunity could be afforded at any other time.

If, at some future time, it became necessary in the judgment of the administration to apply conscription for service overseas, that step, it is to be presumed, would be to meet a situation which would permit of little, if anything, in the way of debate. Debate would involve delays at a moment when time had become a vital factor. Knowing that this is likely to be the case, had the government sought to postpone debate on overseas conscription until the hour of an emergency, hon. members might well have complained that on so controversial a question they were not being treated with the consideration to which the representatives of the people were entitled. It might have been said that their hands were being forced.

There is an additional reason why the debate on conscription for service overseas should take place upon the present bill rather than at a time-should the situation so demand -that the government may have reached the decision that the application of the compulsory method to military service overseas has become necessary. That reason is that the need would almost certainly arise in circumstances in which military considerations would prevent the disclosure in open debate of the factors on which the decision of the government was based. The government's judgment in the matter will necessarily depend, in very large part, on military information of the highest degree of secrecy. There is nothing more important in the movement of troops at a time of war than that all matters pertaining thereto should be surrounded with the utmost secrecy. Moreover it is not only Canada's position, and considerations of

M obilization

Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

special interest to Canada, that have to be taken into account. Very careful account has to be taken of the hostile use the enemy may make of information disclosed, and of how far any disclosures on military matters may affect the position of every one of the united nations.

It has, I think, been made abundantly clear that, so far, at least, as the present administration is concerned, any decision respecting conscription for overseas service will not rest solely with the military authorities, but that any action taken under the present bill must and will be authorized by the Governor in Council. In other words, the decision will be the decision of the cabinet, subject always to its responsibility to parliament.

I have also already given to hon. members an assurance that all relevant factors would be taken into account by the cabinet in reaching a decision.

In speaking in this house on the purpose of the plebiscite, I said as reported in Hansard of February 25, 1942, at page 830:

What we shall do at any particular time will depend upon the course which we think at the time is necessary and advisable, and most effective in Canada's war effort. That decision is not going to be made in the light of any one factor. It is going to be made in the light of all conditions as they exist, and as they are known to the government at the time.

And later:

The government is going to do the thing that it believes is going to further to the uttermost Canada's war effort, all circumstances considered.

I added:

May I say that when I say "all circumstances considered", I have in mind the conditions as they exist in respect to the war in different theatres, and the conditions as they may exist in Canada itself.

It is perhaps well that I should remind hon. members that these statements were made as early in the present year as February 25. They were repeatedly referred to in the course of the campaign on the plebiscite in explanation of its objectives, and of how the government proposed to exercise its power, if given a free hand. It cannot therefore be said that the government's policy, as it finds expression in the present bill, was not fully known both to parliament and the public, before and during the time the plebiscite was held.

As to the right thing being done by the government at the right time, and in the right way, that, it seems to me, as I said in opening this debate, necessarily comes to be a matter of the degree of confidence which parliament and the people have in the administration charged with the responsibilities of carrying

on the war. This does not constitute a reason for a second debate on the conscription issue.

It is, however, the strongest of reasons why a government, once it has reached a decision that the needs of a situation demand a certain course of action on which opinion may be divided, should take the earliest possible opportunity of making perfectly sure that it enjoys the confidence of parliament, and that it may rely with certainty upon the support of parliament in giving effect to the decision reached. Especially is this the case where widely divergent views have previously been expressed in the country, and also in parliament, on the wisdom of any discretionary power being given the administration; and where it is to be expected that differences will still exist concerning the wisdom of the decision. .

A second debate on conscription is one thing. A vote of confidence in a government before it undertakes to enforce a' particular course of action is quite another and wholly different thing.

If an administration is to begin to carry out its duties in the prosecution of a war, it cannot afford to be left in any doubt, at any time, as to the adequacy of its support by parliament, and least of all in a time of peril. The assurance of the confidence of parliament is particularly necessary to the leader of a government where there is the slightest reason for him to doubt the extent to which he may be able to rely upon the support he will receive in the House of Commons.

In the speech from the throne, it was stated that the government was of the opinion that, at this time of gravest crisis in the world's history, the administration, subject only to its responsibility to parliament, should possess complete freedom to act in accordance with its judgment of the needs of the situation as they may arise.

As to the importance to be attached to the words "subject only to its responsibility to parliament" as they appear in the speech from the throne, there may well be differences of view. The responsibility of the ministry to parliament would be the same whether these words were there or not. Their presence in the speech would seem, however, to endow them with special significance.

How important may be the significance to be attached to them, each hon. member will necessarily decide for himself. For myself, and in this I speak only for myself, holding the views I do, and the views I have always held concerning the responsibility of the executive to parliament, I do not believe that this House of Commons would feel it had been shown the degree of confidence it had

4014 COMMONS

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

a right to expect from the ministry, if, in a matter of so great concern to the whole of Canada, the government were to act before so important a decision had been made known to the house.

While it is true that if the present bill becomes law, the administration will possess complete freedom to act in accordance with its judgment, I can imagine what would be said by some hon. members opposite, and indeed by many hon. members on this side of the house as well, if, with parliament in session, and before acquainting hon. members with the decision of the government, I were to sign an order in council putting into effect conscription for service overseas, and immediately thereafter were to come to this house and inform hon. members of the action the government had already taken.

If the need should arise for sending overseas as reinforcements men called up under the National Resources Mobilization Act, the procedure should be as open and above board as it can possibly be made. Unless it is understood that parliament will be informed in advance, all kinds of suspicion will be aroused and all sorts of rumours will be in circulation from day to day.

The right of the public to be informed of the decision of the government before it is enforced was set forth clearly in the address I made in opening the plebiscite campaign on April 7. Speaking on this very matter in a nation-wide broadcast, I said:

The people of Canada are not going to hesitate to take any steps which thev believe to be necessary for the preservation of their freedom. They are certainly not going to hesitate to adopt any measure needed to preserve their national existence, but they will wish to know and they have a right to know, that before any step is taken, that step is necessary. This is particularly true in the case of a measure which has been the subject of bitter controversy and the source of disunity in the past.

I intend, therefore, if the time should come when the government decides that it has become necessary to send overseas men who have not volunteered for general service, and I should be in office at the time, to ask my colleagues to join me in seeing that parliament is immediately informed of the government's decision. If parliament is not in session, I would do whatever lies within my power, to see that parliament is informed as soon as possible after the decision has been reached.

I intend, at the same time, to see that, before the administration assumes the additional responsibility of enforcing its decision, hon. members are given an opportunity, not for any second debate on the question of

[Mr. Mackenzie King.}

conscription, but of showing their confidence or want of confidence in the administration.

In following this course, I hope it will be agreed that I am fulfilling the spirit of an earlier undertaking given to parliament on February 25, that "when we find that we cannot raise the required numbers of men for enlistment overseas by the voluntary method, and it is absolutely necessary to raise more men by other methods, then we will make our decision, present it to parliament, and have it discussed on its merits". The debate on the merits of conscription has, of necessity, come on the present bill. What really is important hereafter is that the government's decision should immediately be presented to parliament, and that the government should be prepared to stand or fall on its decision.

It may be said that such a course will involve a delay; and that what is needed is action. It will quite rightly be said that if action had not become imperative, the government would not have reached a decision. Such an objection might justifiably be raised if a second debate were to be permitted on the question of conscription. It is not, however, an objection to the course proposed. If the government decides that it is necessary to apply conscription for overseas service, there need be no delay in enforcing that decision. And unless it became apparent that the ministry had ceased to enjoy the confidence of this House of Commons, there would be no delay.

Even if parliament is not actually sitting, it can be brought together in a few days. Under our war-time practice of adjourning rather than proroguing the session, there would be no opening formalities. There would be no need of further legislation, merely an expression of confidence in some form. It is virtually impossible to conceive of a situation in which the lapse of a week will affect sending reinforcements overseas, since arrangements to that end could proceed concurrently with the reassembling of parliament. As the former Minister of Public Works himself suggested on June 11, as reported in Hansard at page 3277:

In seven days, conscripts -are not going to be sent overseas. . . . Nothing would prevent the government from preparing the machinery the moment they decide to have recourse to conscription.

Debate of course would have to be curtailed. Following precedents established at Westminster, I would feel that, if any, at most a very short time should be allotted for discussion.

No matter how drastically discussion might have to be restricted, every member by his

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

vote would have the opportunity to express his confidence or lack of confidence in the government. There need, in fact, be no debate.

Within the past week, a resolution of nonconfidence in the government was debated in the British House of Commons. It arose as a result of criticism directed against Mr. Churchill on account of his continuing to hold the office of Minister of Defence in addition to that of Prime Minister. The debate was definitely limited in time. In less than two days, hon. members found ample opportunity for an expression of their views.

As to the means by which this house, with respect to the government's decision, could be given the opportunity to express its confidence or lack of confidence in the administration, hon. members are well aware that it is possible at any time for any hon. member to move a vote of want of confidence on a motion to go into committee of supply. Should the government deem it advisable to proceed by that method to ascertain the opinion of the house, the government would so arrange. If, at the time, there were no estimates before the house, the government could bring in a special supplementary estimate, and immediately move to have the house go into committee of supply. Any hon. member who wished to do so, could then move a vote of want of confidence.

There is another, and a more direct method of procedure. That is the method which was followed in the parliament at Westminster in January last, after Mr. Churchill's return from his earlier visit to the United States and Canada. On January 27, Mr. Churchill expressed to the House of Commons his desire to be sustained by a vote of confidence.

The following day, Mr. Attlee moved:

That the proceedings on the motion relating to confidence in His Majesty's government be exempted, at this day's sitting from the provisions of the standing order (sittings of the house).

This was agreed to.

Mr. Attlee then moved:

That this house has confidence in His Majesty's government and will aid it to the utmost in the vigorous prosecution of the war.

Debate took place on January 28 and 29. At the end of the latter sitting, the house divided: ayes, 464, and noes, 1.

Hon. members will, I believe, be interested in Mr. Churchill's own appreciation of the importance and significance of the vote he was asking from the House of Commons. On January 27 he said:

From time to time in the life of any government, there come occasions which must he clarified. . . .

44561-254J

Since my return to this country, I have come to the conclusion that I must ask to be sustained bv a vote of confidence from the House of Commons. This is a thoroughly normal, constitutional, democratic procedure. A debate on the war has been asked for. I have arranged it in the fullest and freest manner for three whole days. Any member will be free to say anything he thinks fit about or against the administration or against the composition or personalities of the government, to his heart's content, subject only to the reservation which the house is always so careful to observe about military secrets. Could you have anything freer than that? Could you have any higher expression of democracy than that? Very few other countries have institutions strong enough to sustain such a thing while they are fighting for their lives.

I am unable to indicate, at present, which procedure will be followed in the event of the government reaching the decision that it should have recourse to conscription for service overseas. That must depend upon the circumstances at the time. In a matter which relates to a future decision of the cabinet, and so immediately to the confidence which others may have in my judgment and my fidelity, I obviously can speak only for myself. No one can say what the course of the war will be, or what, at any time, conditions may be in our own or other countries. In seeking to free the government from one commitment, I do not wish to be drawn into making another. I wish, however, to leave no doubt in the mind of any hon. member that, if I am at the head of the administration when such a decision is reached, I shall ask to be assured of the confidence of the House of Commons before the government proceeds to enforce the decision.

This is not a new attitude on my part. It is one that I have repeatedly expressed, and to which I intend at all times to adhere. I so expressed my attitude in this very matter to the Canadian people, on April 24. In my final broadcast in the plebiscite campaign, I said:

This is not an ordinary time; it is a time of war. The whole world is in a state of rapid change. At any time the responsibilities of government are heavy enough. They are greater to-day than they have ever been. For my part, if I did not believe that as head of the government, I continued to enjoy the confidence of the people, who, time and again, have returned me to office, I would not wish to remain in office an hour longer.

I might point out, that in January last, when Mr. Churchill sought a vote of confidence in his administration, none of his critics had even suggested that he should resign, and that someone else should take his place. He felt, however, that criticism of himself and of certain aspects of his administration had reached the point where he required the assurance that he was sustained by the

4016 COMMONS

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

support of those from whom in parliament his power was derived. I believe that the leader of a government charged with great responsibilities in a democratic country feels, at all times, the need of such an assurance, and at no time more than on the eve of embarking upon added responsibilities.

Mr. Churchill, I think, had this very much in mind when, answering his critics in the House of Commons at Westminster on Thursday last he said:

Everything that can be thought of or raked up has been used to weaken confidence in the government. . . .

And later, referring to himself as the prime minister, he added:

. . . and then to undermine him in his own heart, and, if possible, before the eyes of the nation.

But there is another reason why Mr. Churchill has felt from time to time the need of being sustained by a vote of confidence of fellow members in the House of Commons. Parliamentary responsibility is twofold. Members as well as ministers have their responsibilities. Mr. Churchill felt that the people of the United Kingdom had a right to know where their representatives stood, and what support they were prepared to give to the administration in its grave task of carrying on the war. He felt the people of the United Kingdom were equally entitled to know what support was being withheld from the administration, and why it was being withheld. The same I believe to be true at this time of war of the parliament and people of Canada.

As I conclude, may I repeat what I said to the people of Canada in appealing, on April 7, for an affirmative vote on the plebiscite:

To those who, beyond the events of to-day, are able to look into the future, it is no longer the unity, it is the very existence of our country as a free nation which they see is in danger to-day. We are no longer in a world where even the most powerful nation is able, by itself, to save itself from the ambition and greed of the aggressor nations. For the preservation of its very existence, each free country is going to need all the help that other free countries can give. It will require the utmost cooperation on the part of all free countries to save them from becoming victims, one by one, of the gangster nations whose undoubted aim is world conquest. With our immense territory, great resources and small population, no country may come to need the help of the other countries more than our own. Unless we continue to do all we can to help others, we shall have no right to expect them to do all they can to help us. Until the present tide of conquest is turned into overwhelming defeat for the enemy, no country -and assuredly not Canada-can consider itself secure.

I did not use those words lightly. I appeal to every hon. member to ponder their significance

in the light of what has since occurred and' of the situation as we know it to-day. Who can doubt that our security, that the security of this hemisphere depends upon holding the German and Japanese forces in check in the old world until, from the new, sufficient strength can be gathered to overcome their terrific power.

The machines and wecpons of modern war have annihilated space; they have all but destroyed time. Remoteness and distance provide no protection. In this war "overseas" has in reality lost its meaning. The conflict is one, single and indivisible, whether it is fought on the sands of Egypt, on the steppes of Russia, in the depths of China, on the islands of the Pacific, in the arctic wastes, or in the skies over Britain and Germany and the conquered countries of Europe. There can be no security for us, for our homes, and families, until the forces of the enemy are defeated and crushed.

The government and people of Canada have a heavy responsibility to the half million young Canadians who have offered their all for our safety. We owe them all that we can give. Wherever they are fighting, they are fighting for Canada, for their own country, for its safety and for its future as well as for freedom for other lands. That future is in our keeping; and we, in this parliament, owe it to our gallant young men, when the war is won, to hand on to them, so far as it lies within our power, a free and united Canada.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

Alphonse Fournier

Liberal

Mr. FOURNIER (Hull):

I am authorized by the hon. member for Matapedia-Matane (Mr. Lapointe) to say that he was paired with the Minister of National Defence for Air (Mr. Power). Had he voted, he would have voted against the motion.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
CON

Louis Côté

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COTE:

I am authorized by the hon. member for Belleehasse (Mr. Picard) to say that he was paired with the hon. member for Rosthern (Mr. Tucker). Had he voted, he would have voted against the motion.

I am authorized by the hon. member for Brome-Missisquoi (Mr. Halle) to say that he was paired with the hon. member for Winnipeg South (Mr. Mutch). Had he voted, he would have voted against the motion.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink

July 7, 1942