February 14, 1955

HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATES

OFFICIAL REPORT


Monday, February 14, 1955


HON. MEMBER FOR FORT' WILLIAM-BIRTHDAY CONGRATULATIONS

LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, may I have a special privilege, which I think would be very graciously granted to me by all hon. members, and that is to express in their name as well as my own our sincere congratulations and our best wishes to the hon. member for Fort William (Mr. Mclvor).

Topic:   HON. MEMBER FOR FORT' WILLIAM-BIRTHDAY CONGRATULATIONS
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LIB

Daniel (Dan) McIvor

Liberal

Mr. Daniel Mclvor (Fort William):

Mr. Speaker, coming from where it does, and with its feeling of sincerity, I feel somewhat flabbergasted in accepting the congratulations extended by the Prime Minister. I am happy to be living, and thankful that I have a real appetite for everything that is going to happen, even for big speeches from the opposition.

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COMMITTEE ON ESTIMATES

PERSONNEL OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE

LIB-PRO

William Gilbert Weir (Parliamentary Assistant to the Prime Minister; Chief Government Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal Progressive

Mr. W. G. Weir (Portage-Neepawa) moved:

That Messrs. Benidickson, Byrne, Cameron (Nanaimo), Cannon, Churchill, Decore, Des-chatelets, Dupuis, Fleming, Garland, Gauthier (Nickel Belt), Hellyer, Henry, Jutras, Lafontaine, Macdonnell, MacEachen, Macnaughton, McLeod, Michener, Monteith, Power (St. John's West), Stuart (Charlotte), Thatcher, Tucker and Yuill constitute the special committee appointed Tuesday, February 8th, to consider such of the estimates as may be referred to it and that the provisions of standing order 65 be suspended in relation thereto.

Topic:   COMMITTEE ON ESTIMATES
Subtopic:   PERSONNEL OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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Motion agreed to.


BRITISH COMMONWEALTH

CONFERENCE OF PRIME MINISTERS-STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER


On the orders of the day:


LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I undertook on Thursday to make a brief statement to the house about the meeting of the prime ministers of the commonwealth countries, from which the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Pearson) and I have just returned.

Perhaps I should begin by reminding hon. members of the statement made by Sir Winston Churchill on November 4 last when he announced that it was proposed to hold this meeting. He said:

Many events of great importance in the international field have taken place since our last meeting at the time of the coronation. These will be among the principal subjects for our consideration when, as we have now agreed, a meeting of commonwealth prime ministers is held in London, opening January 31.

These words, I think, indicate quite accurately both the scope and the limitations of such a meeting. The meeting was not called because there was some particular problem of concern to all the member countries of the commonwealth which we were attempting to settle. The meeting was not called to make decisions on any question. It was intended to be, and I suggest that that is all such a meeting could be, an opportunity for a full and frank exchange of views about the many events of great importance in the international field to which the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom referred, and of course any other matter of common concern which might be raised.

I am sure all hon. members will now have read the two communiques which were printed as an appendix to last Thursday's Hansard. They will have found in these communiques a summary indication of all the matters which were considered by both the plenary meetings and the additional meetings arranged to discuss regional defence problems. They will agree that all these matters were important and worthy of the careful consideration they received.

There is in reality very little to be said that is not already set out in the communiques. I notice that disappointment has been expressed in certain quarters at the lack of more positive results from the meeting of prime ministers. Such disappointment is obviously because of the mistaken conception of what the meetings were intended to accomplish and of how they do produce their beneficial results.

The commonwealth is not a political organization under centralized direction or control, and I believe we are all agreed that any attempt now to transform the commonwealth into that kind of union would be unsuccessful and might destroy the free association which has been maintained successfully,

Commonwealth Conference despite the many changes in the status of member nations which have taken place in recent years, of which the proposed change in the status of Pakistan, which was freely accepted by all the other commonwealth nations, is only the most recent example.

But the nations of the commonwealth are closely and confidently associated in the pursuit of common objectives which are good objectives for them and good objectives for a wider community than the peoples within their own borders, and they are representative of all parts of the world. Each prime minister naturally looks at the world situation from the point of view of his own country and his responsibilities to the people whose government he heads.

Frequently, however, it can be helpful, and it has been helpful, to see how the world situation looks from an entirely different part of the world. For me that was the most rewarding part of the tour around the world which I made a year ago. For me and I believe for all other prime ministers, that is one of the most valuable aspects of these meetings. It is not merely that we gain new and useful information, though we do that, but it is that we have an opportunity of seeing through the eyes of trusted and like-minded associates how the world situation looks from other parts of the world. It was of immense value to the representatives of western governments to get the point of view of the Asian prime ministers on the questions before us-all the questions before us.

Though this was not an economic conference, we did have a useful and encouraging exchange of information and views about the development of commonwealth trade and of world trade. This is summed up in a paragraph of the communique: We all reaffirmed our adherence to a principle-which is the very foundation of Canadian economic policy-that is to say:

The progressive approach to the widest practicable system of trade and payments.

-as the best way of serving our individual and the general interest. We also had very serious discussions of the problems of nuclear energy, and listened to a most impressive, indeed an unforgettable, statement of Sir Winston Churchill as he painted for us, in majestic and memorable words, the significance of man's discoveries in this field which could mean his total destruction or the unfolding of a future for him beyond our present dreams.

While the superiority of the western world in nuclear weapons is now probably our most important single deterrent against war, nevertheless, we recognize that this is a wasting

asset and that peace must ultimately rest on a better and more lasting foundation. But one thing is sure and we had impressive evidence before us to prove it: a nuclear war would mean global ruin. Against this grim conclusion, we contemplated the happier possibility of hope for peace arising out of the very destructive power of the weapons now available. This may, as Sir Winston put it, result in the destruction of war, rather than the destruction of humanity. It is then for us all, as the communique puts it, "a choice and a challenge".

Defence questions generally were discussed in plenary sessions, during which the various prime ministers spoke of their own countries' problems in this field and how they were being met. There were also limited meetings on area defence problems, attended by those members of the conference which had accepted special peacetime commitments in those areas. International tensions, however, and the search for peace and security, dominated our discussions. It was accidental, but I think useful, that we met while developments were taking place in the Far East, which caused general anxiety. As these developments occurred, we exchanged views about them in a way which I am sure was very helpful in relation to our individual policies.

We did not try to draw up a blueprint for collective action which would be made public, but we all have our individual obligations in these matters, and we all have a common concern to avoid conflict; and also, may I add, to avoid disunity and division among the nations that are earnestly seeking peace; and I am convinced we are all doing our utmost toward those ends.

At the close of our meetings, it was my privilege to express the thanks of all the prime ministers to our host, Sir Winston Churchill. He replied with a few moving words about what he called our "fraternal association", in which he pointed out that this association meant to him, among other things, that each of our governments should always think of the others every time we had to say or do anything which would affect the others. I do not propose to disregard that wise advice, but as the principal communique indicates that the developments in the area of Formosa were necessarily of special concern to all the prime ministers present, I want to say a special word about our own position on this Formosan question. This position cannot, of course, be either final or inflexible, because the situation itself is changing and the changes that take place are bound to affect our judgment of how our policy should develop.

ini

But the principles upon which our policy is based and our approach to this problem have already been made known to the house by the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Pearson) and I want to emphasize that again, in spite of some reports to the contrary, those were not altered during the meeting in London.

The first objective, on which we are all agreed, is that everything possible should be done to prevent fighting and stop it if it occurs, and then to seek a political settlement by negotiation. But no one thinks this is going to be easy. It will require time and patience and the chances for success are not likely to be improved by hasty or ill-considered declarations, or by conferences for which there has been no proper diplomatic preparation.

No one in the free world wants war, with all its unimaginable horrors, to develop over this Formosan situation. I am confident that those who are directing policy in Washington and London and other commonwealth capitals are just as anxious that such a war should be avoided as we are. I think we can all take encouragement from the fact that the President of the United States has recognized that the situation is one which requires great care, great patience, and understanding, and that these are the qualities which are governing his policy in this matter.

I should also like once more to emphasize this: Canada has no commitments regarding collective security in the Far East, and indeed no commitments of any kind in respect of the Formosa area except those which arise out of our membership in the United Nations. I do not think that there is anything else I could properly say about our discussions at the prime ministers' meeting beyond what is set out in the communique. These communiques do represent in substance what all the prime ministers were agreed it was desirable to publish about these meetings.

We expect to move at an early date to refer the estimates of the Department of External Affairs to the committee on external affairs and there will then be an opportunity to discuss any matters arising out of reports on this recent conference as well as any other aspect of our international relations.

Topic:   BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
Subtopic:   CONFERENCE OF PRIME MINISTERS-STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER
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PC

William Earl Rowe

Progressive Conservative

Hon. W. Earl Rowe (Acting Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, while it has been agreed that any debate on the statement given by the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) to the house take place at a later date, I do wish just to comment that we did expect a much fuller statement on the conference than we have received today. It is rather a surprise to me that the Prime Mini-50433- 714

Commonwealth Conference ster has made his report on such an important conference so brief. It is very difficult for us in the opposition to realize just why so many of the things that we thought might have been brought out in the open were not mentioned in the statement.

The tragic possibilities that are implied in hydrogen development make us all more or less stand aghast as to how far mankind has gone in planning its own destruction. As the right hon. Prime Minister has well said in the words of the Right Hon. Sir Winston Churchill, it may be-we all pray that it will be so-that the powerful destructive forces may destroy war rather than mankind itself.

As the Prime Minister stated, the Formosa situation developed at the same time as the conference and it is difficult to see how any such conference could deal very effectively with a situation like that with the seventh fleet of the United States moving alone to stand between Formosa and the mainland of China.

I rather regret that something more was not said and more details given as to how far the conference got on economic problems. I do feel that despite these international tensions we should not be overlooking entirely the problems of our own people in our own daily lives. These rather terrifying tensions are likely to be with us for some time but I do think that our common economic progress is vital to the strength and livelihood of our whole scheme of defence and influence in the world.

I am not going to enlarge on this but I just want to say that speaking for myself, and I think for the party which I lead temporarily, I am disappointed that the Prime Minister's statement was so very brief.

Topic:   BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
Subtopic:   CONFERENCE OF PRIME MINISTERS-STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER
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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Coldwell:

When does the Prime Minister expect that we shall be able to discuss international matters? When is it the intention to refer the estimates of the Department of External Affairs to the committee?

Topic:   BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
Subtopic:   CONFERENCE OF PRIME MINISTERS-STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER
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?

Jean-Paul Stephen St-Laurent

Mr. Si. Laurent:

I have been discussing this with the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Pearson) and I understand that he has important engagements that will take him out of town for Wednesday and Thursday.

Topic:   BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
Subtopic:   CONFERENCE OF PRIME MINISTERS-STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER
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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Coldwell:

Early next week.

Topic:   BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
Subtopic:   CONFERENCE OF PRIME MINISTERS-STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER
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?

Mr. Si. Laureni@

I would hope that if it cannot be on Friday it would be early next week.

lLater:l

Topic:   BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
Subtopic:   CONFERENCE OF PRIME MINISTERS-STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prince Albert):

Mr. Speaker, in view of the statement which the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) has made.

1112 HOUSE OF

Commonwealth Conference and which in many details does not go even as far as the press went, I should like to ask a question. Among the questions referred to by the press was that there was to be a discussion as to a more equitable distribution in defence efforts. The Prime Minister stated that Canada's emphasis was going to be on continental defence. Would the Prime Minister say something with regard to that?- because there would appear to be a complete change of attitude from that indicated in the House of Commons.

Topic:   BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
Subtopic:   CONFERENCE OF PRIME MINISTERS-STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER
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February 14, 1955