July 23, 1942

LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Why did I look up the reference, if it was not to make perfectly sure?

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

The right hon. gentleman was wrong in his first reference, and I think he is wrong in the second. I will leave it at that.

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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 find I

was right in my first reference, because he said:

What the Prime Minister said on July 7 was that the action of his government in imposing conscription would be submitted again to debate in the House of Commons-

I did not say anything of the kind.

-but that closure w-ould be applied in the debate, and the motion or resolution put through under closure.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

"Resolution put through under closure."

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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:

It was closure in reference to the question of conscription.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

No; the resolution of confidence would be put through under closure.

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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:

Now my hon. friend is taking exception to the resolution of confidence being put through under closure. And yet he says he is so sure of his ground he is prepared to vote want of confidence immediately. I ask my hon. friend if there could be any more absurd attitude for a leader to take than this, to say that he has not confidence in the ministry, but will require weeks of debate if necessary to prove that there is anything in it. That is what it comes to.

I want to make perfectly sure at the present time that, so far as I am concerned, coming

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

Now that it has been trumpeted all around the world to our disparagement, and every nation, friend and foe, is waiting to see what is the true resolve and conviction of the House of Commons, it must go forward to the end.

The most effective statement made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the course of that speech was when he reminded the house that they had two alternatives; they could dismiss the present government or support it, but they had no right to impair its efficiency and reduce its prestige abroad by a process of "sniping." That is exactly where we are at the present time, and I am saying to members of this House of Commons tonight that none of them have a right to continue to undermine confidence in the government that is carrying on the war unless they are prepared to put some other government in to take its place; and they have no right to do what they can to seek to destroy the Prime Minister of the country in his own eyes, in the eyes of his fellow-citizens and in the eyes of the world, unless they have someone whom they can put in his place and who is prepared to take the responsibility that is mine at this time.

On a previous occasion, after he had been in Washington before, Mr. Churcill found that the same thing had happened. His back had hardly been turned before a small, vociferous group began to make charges against the Prime Minister for having done this, for not having done that, and the like. He came back and found his strength impaired, his prestige lessened, and what did he say? He addressed the House of Commons on January 27 and asked for a vote of confidence in himself. He said:

From time to time in the life of any government there come occasions which must be clarified .... Since my return to this country I have come to the conclusion that I must ask to be sustained by 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.

After two days of debate a division, was taken, and Mr. Churchill was supported by 464 votes to 1. Well, Mr. Speaker, I do not expect any such support.

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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

You would hardly

make a comparison between yourself and Prime Minister Churchill, would you?

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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:

What is my

gallant and wise friend saying?

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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

It is on Hansard.

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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 want to make one thing perfectly clear-

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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

The Prime Minister

asked what I said. I asked if he was making a comparison as between himself and Prime Minister Churchill.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Why not?

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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

Read the history of

the last war, 1914-18.

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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:

The last thing in this world I wish to do is to make comparisons between myself and anyone else, let alone Mr. Churchill. No one knows better than I do the burden that Mr. Churchill is carrying and the magnificent manner in which he is carrying it. He is a noble example to all of us, and I am seeking to follow his example; not to compare myself with him but to follow his example: to do the best I possibly can in the position which I hold, for the time that I may hold it, but also realizing that I cannot pretend to carry on the duties of leadership of a government in time of war efficiently or effectively unless I enjoy the confidence of the members of the House of Commons. That is all I am asking for.

Now let me make one thing perfectly clear, so that there will be no mistake about it. I notice that some sections of the press have interpreted my remarks to mean that I was coming back to parliament to get approval of the decision of the government. I cannot make it too plain that when this bill passes both houses, as I believe it will pass, and is assented to, the government will have been given by parliament power to conscript men for service overseas. That power will rest in the government. It will be there. The policy of the government is to exercise that power when it believes it necessary to do so, when it is necessary to resort to conscription to make Canada's war effort more effective. When the decision is made by the government -if and when it is made-that settles the matter as far as conscription is concerned. Conscription will have been enacted; the government will have declared that it is necessary for the carrying on of the war. There will be no question of referring that matter to parliament at all. And may I add this, that if that should happen between now

Mobilizaium Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

view, if it is the view of the cabinet, I wish to be able to come to this House of Commons and say: The cabinet has reached this decision; the next step will foe to enforce it. Before that next step is taken I want this House of Commons to declare whether it has confidence in me as the head of the administration that is to carry out this policy of conscription or whether hon. members prefer to have another government in the place of the administration now in office. That is my conception of carrying out my responsibility to parliament.

Some hon. gentlemen opposite keep saying over and over again, as the leader of the opposition said to-night, "I have no confidence in the Prime Minister; a lot of us have no confidence in the Prime Minister; we reserve our right to vote as we think best on the motion of confidence," but can you think of anything more ridiculous than when they are offered that opportunity the tenor of their words is, "Oh, for goodness sake, do not give us that opportunity; we don't want it; we don't want to have to vote on an expression of confidence or otherwise." I say the people of this country will want to know two things: first, whether the head of the government that is carrying on this war has the confidence of the majority in this House of Commons, and second, where the members of this House of Commons stand, each one of them, not by their words but by their vote, on the question of the course that may be thought necessary by the administration in the winning of the war. And I intend, if it lies in my power, to see that this House of Commons gets that opportunity, so that the people will know exactly where each and every one of us stands.

Let me say this in conclusion. If I propose a course in this parliament, immediately some hon. gentlemen opposite find fault with it. If the Prime Minister of Britain, Mr. Churchill, who is all-powerful in the support he has, proposes a course, of course he is applauded for it by the same hon. gentlemen. They say that was the right thing for him to do.

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NAT

Harry Rutherford Jackman

National Government

Mr. JACKMAN:

National 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:

Yes, that is where we come pretty much to the crux of the whole situation. My hon. friend belongs to that little group of Tories who feel that nobody else is able to carry on a government unless they are members of it. May I ask my hon. friend this question, because he was elected on the basis of national government. Who was it raised the question of national government in this country at the last general election? It was his leader and the members of his party. So keen were they on national

government; so strongly did they believe that national government was the cry that was going to sweep Canada, that they actually struck out their old time-honoured name of Conservatives and called themselves national government candidates.

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NAT

Harry Rutherford Jackman

National Government

Mr. JACKMAN:

I ran as a Conservative candidate, supporting the policy of national 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:

My hon. friend ran under a leader who ran as national government leader and who said that national government was the policy of his party, and all hon. gentlemen opposite know it. I simply mention the matter because if national government has been anathema ever since, hon. gentlemen opposite are responsible, because they are the ones who put the issue to the people and got the answer from the people themselves.

Now I 'come back to the example of Mr. Churchill. I ask this house to listen to these words and to ask themselves whether they might not have been spoken by myself tonight after this long debate as giving expression to much that has been said in the course of it. Less than three weeks ago Mr. Churchill returned to Great Britain from the United States. While he had been away a handful of his opponents had been directing different charges against his administration, doing what they could to undermine the confidence of the people in his administration. This is what Mr. Churchill said in his first great speech in the house after his return:

This long debate has now reached its final stage. What a remarkable example it has been of the unbridled freedom of our parliamentary institutions in time of war.

Everything that can be thought of or raked up has been used to weaken confidence in the government; has been used to prove that the ministers are incompetent and to weaken their confidence in themselves; to make the army distrust the backing it is getting from the civil power; to make workmen lose confidence in the weapons they are striving so hard to make; to represent the government as a set of nonentities over whom the Prime Minister tow'ers and then to undermine him in his own heart and, if possible, before the eyes of the nation- all this has poured out by cables and radio to all parts of the world, to the distress of all our friends and the delight of all our foes. I am in favour of this freedom which no other country would use or dare to use in times of mortal peril such as those through which we are passing, but the story must not end there, and I make now my appeal to the House of Commons to make sure that it does not end there.

And later.

Do not let the house underrate the gravity of what has been done.

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

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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:

That does not answer my question with respect to conscription for service overseas.

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July 23, 1942