Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
It will be the wish, I am sure, of hon. members of all parties that I should give some expression to the loss which our country has sustained in the passing of the Hon. Robert J. Manion. His very sudden death at a late hour on Friday evening last must have come as a great shock, not only to his many personal friends and admirers, but to all who have followed his notable career.
Although not a member of this house during the present session, Doctor Manion's long association with parliament-he was a member for some twenty years-and the high and important positions which he held in the public life of Canada, would cause it to be the natural wish of many who sat with him in previous parliaments to pay, in this place, some slight tribute to his memory, and to the many services he rendered Canada, both in and out of parliament.
Doctor Manion, I am sure, would have been the last to wish, or to expect, that any attempt should be made at this time to estimate the place which history may accord his many contributions to our public life. I, myself, am the first to recognize that, at any time, it would be for some other, rather than for me, of whom he was so strong a
political opponent, to perform that task. At the same time, I should like to say that, while differences in political opinion occas-sioned changes in our political affiliations, and open opposition in our political relationships, I shared throughout the course of many years an association in public affairs with Doctor Manion much more intimate than most political opponents enjoy, and a personal friendship correspondingly close.
A mere enumeration of the national services voluntarily performed by Doctor Manion, and of the positions of confidence and trust which he held, are in themselves sufficient to ensure that his name will hold a high place in the honour roll of Canadian statesmen who, throughout their lives, have sought to give to the service of their fellow-men and to their country the best that is in them, at home and abroad, in times of war, and in times of peace.
Doctor Manion began his career as a physician and surgeon, and to the end of his days he kept the touch of the physician in his desire to be of service to his fellow-men. The great war saw him ministering to the needs of soldiers on the field of battle. The present war saw him discharging, with his characteristic enthusiasm and vigour, the duties of national director of civilian air raid defence.
He entered the House of Commons in 1917 as a supporter of the Union government, and quickly made his mark as a parliamentarian. In the period of Mr. Meighen's brief administrations he held respectively for a few months the portfolios of Minister of Soldiers' Civil Reestablishment and of Postmaster General. Throughout Mr. Bennett's tenure of office, from 1930 to 1935, he was Minister of Railways and Canals. In these positions he was regarded as an able administrator.
Doctor Manion, in parliament and on the platform, was at all times, fearless and outspoken. His thoughts came with great rapidity to his mind and were as rapidly expressed. I am sure he wished sometimes that some of his utterances might have a little more caution. However, all of us in the heat of controversy are apt to go further than we would at other times. He had many of the qualities of the pioneer: a resolute courage, complete self-reliance, and a sturdy independence of character. He possessed a great love for Canada, and her interests and future were ever closest to his heart.
Although defeated at the general elections of 1935, such was the confidence he had won among the membership of his party that he
The late Hon. R. J. Manion
was chosen its leader at the national Conservative Convention in 1938. He then became for the ensuing two years its leader in this house and also the leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
The failure of his party to gain office at the general elections of 1940, and his defeat in his own constituency, must have been, for Doctor Manion, a bitter disappointment. Without recrimination he accepted the verdict of the country, and sought to continue his service to it in other directions. Shortly after his resignation as leader of his party, he offered his services to the government and, as is known, they were promptly availed of. The house is fully aware of the devoted manner in which Doctor Manion's time and talents were subsequently given to the country's service up to, and including, the day of his death.
It was evidence of the energy Doctor Manion possessed and of his desire to impart something of his own spirit to others, that he should have found time in the course of his active life to have written one or two books, and thus to have added to his record of surgeon and soldier, parliamentarian and patriot, the distinction also of being an author. His autobiography published under the title: "Life is an Adventure," contains in its pages many of the thoughts he would have wished most to bequeath to his fellow-men. Its pages disclose his genial nature, his sense of humour, his fearless attitude, and above all, the spirit of service which was the underlying purpose of his life.
It was on the 5th of July, 1938, that Doctor Manion was chosen leader of his party. Today is the fifth anniversary of that memorable day in his career. The period of his leadership was brief. Brief indeed was the course of his life on earth, brought as it was to its close at the age of 61, when from him, had he been spared, so much more might have been expected. This morning, members of all parties accompanied his mortal remains to their last resting place. As we meet this afternoon, we pay common tribute to his memory.
Life, truly, is an adventure; an adventure far beyond our ken. In these halls of parliament, in which, in bygone years some of our political battles were fought, I take my leave of him, with the thought, that surely all is not over here, that-
Somewhere, surely, afar,
In the sounding labour-house vast Of being, is practised that strength, Zealous, beneficent, firm!