October 28, 1957

PRIVILEGE

MR. ST. LAURENT (QUEBEC EAST) REFERENCE TO ASSURANCE REPORTED GIVEN TO GOVERNOR GENERAL

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Gilbert Parent

Right Hon. L. S. Laurent (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to raise a question of privilege which I believe affects every member of this house as well as the relationship between the government and the crown under our constitutional system. The question arises because of the appearance in this morning's Montreal Gazette of a letter from Mr. Leslie Roberts, the opening passage of which reads as follows:

Sir,-The Right Hon. James Gardiner's statement in the House of Commons, to the effect that the opposition has refrained from bringing down a motion of "no confidence" in the Diefenbaker government, because the Governor General exacted a promise from the outgoing prime minister that a new administration must be given an opportunity to place its program before parliament, again raises the question of impropriety on the part of the representative of the crown. It was equally improper on the part of Mr. St. Laurent, as the leader of a government, to accept such a ''deal''.

As all hon. members will realize, Mr. Speaker, this is not a correct statement of what the right hon. member for Melville (Mr. Gardiner) actually said in the house. The relevant statement will be found at the top of page 264 of Hansard of October 22, and reads as follows:

When the government of the day found it necessary to give assurance to the Governor General those assurances, of course, were given to the effect that we would carry on in such manner as to make it possible for the new government to have sufficient support in the house to be able to place their policies before the people of this country and carry on from there.

I should like to make it clear that no assurance whatever was asked of me by His Excellency and that no assurance was given to His Excellency by me apart, of course, from the assurance given in the public statement I made at the time I tendered the resignation of the government.

In order to avoid future misunderstanding perhaps I might be permitted to put the text of the statement on the record. It is as follows:

Although no party will have a clear majority in the new parliament the Progressive Conservative party appears to have the largest number of elected

members. In the circumstances I have reached the conclusion that the proper course for me to take was to submit the resignation of the Liberal administration to His Excellency the Governor General, which I have done today. Before doing so I advised the leader of the Progressive Conservative party of my intention, adding that of course we would carry on if he was not prepared to accept the responsibility of forming a government, but that if he does, my colleagues and I will extend full co-operation to him and his party in their arrangements for taking office so that the Queen's government can go on without interruption. I have also told Mr. Diefenbaker that I feel the Liberal members of parliament will not attempt by obstruction to prevent the new government from carrying through parliament the program it has placed before the people, though we shall, of course, exercise our right to express our views freely on the measures introduced in parliament. We feel that the growth and prosperity of the country should not be endangered by instability of government which would come from irresponsible obstruction.

What assurance I gave was, as the statement shows, given directly to the present Prime Minister and announced to the public, and I am sure that is what the right hon. member for Melville had in mind.

I referred to the same matter in my own speech on October 16 when I said, as will be found on page 46 of Hansard:

Having the reasonable assurance that the fulfilment of its promises will not be obstructed at the present session of parliament, at least by the official opposition, the government will have no excuse for any failure to carry out that program.

What I want to make abundantly clear is that there never was any question of any bargain being made between the Governor General and the outgoing administration. It is true, of course, that His Excellency was aware, as were the public, of the attitude which the members of the outgoing administration proposed to take, but there was nothing more than that.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. ST. LAURENT (QUEBEC EAST) REFERENCE TO ASSURANCE REPORTED GIVEN TO GOVERNOR GENERAL
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PC

John George Diefenbaker (Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I am sure we welcome the explanation of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. St. Laurent), but it is not sufficient.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. ST. LAURENT (QUEBEC EAST) REFERENCE TO ASSURANCE REPORTED GIVEN TO GOVERNOR GENERAL
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Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. ST. LAURENT (QUEBEC EAST) REFERENCE TO ASSURANCE REPORTED GIVEN TO GOVERNOR GENERAL
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PC

John George Diefenbaker (Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

I hope I never arrive at the point where I begin to separate myself from the average member in this house and adopt the attitude of being something that I am not. I just want to say that the explanation is not sufficient to meet the situation. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned one

Motions for Papers

quotation, but I would point out also that on page 264, in the first paragraph of the second column, it says:

Before there was any thought of choosing a new Liberal leader in this country the Prime Minister of the day made the announcement, when he tendered his resignation, that he had given those assurances to the Governor General.

There should not have been any mention of the Governor General in this house; that is the first principle of parliamentary government. I refrained from saying anything at the time because-well, I was shocked by the statement that was made. There could be no misunderstanding; it was made so clearly and so definitely that the explanation of the Leader of the Opposition does not meet the situation.

However, I am pleased to have his assurances in this regard which are entirely accepted, because there was no representation made to me of any such thing either by him or anyone else. I formed the government, and we asked for no such assurances. But to use the Governor General's name as an explanation for a course of action difficult to explain will also be equally inexplicable.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. ST. LAURENT (QUEBEC EAST) REFERENCE TO ASSURANCE REPORTED GIVEN TO GOVERNOR GENERAL
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CRIMINAL CODE

AMENDMENT TO BRING FRENCH AND ENGLISH TEXTS INTO CONFORMITY

PC

Edmund Davie Fulton (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. E. D. Fulton (Minister of Justice) moved

for leave to introduce Bill No. 15, to amend the Criminal Code.

Topic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO BRING FRENCH AND ENGLISH TEXTS INTO CONFORMITY
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Some hon. Members:

Explain.

Topic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO BRING FRENCH AND ENGLISH TEXTS INTO CONFORMITY
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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to provide a minor amendment in the text of the French version of the Criminal Code to bring the definition sections of the English and French versions into conformity.

Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.

Topic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO BRING FRENCH AND ENGLISH TEXTS INTO CONFORMITY
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MOTIONS FOR PAPERS

P.F.A.A. APPOINTMENTS, MACKENZIE CONSTITUENCY


Motion No. 3-Mr. Nicholson: For a copy of all letters and telegrams exchanged to date, during the year 1957, between persons residing in the Mackenzie federal constituency and the Minister of Agriculture regarding the appointment of persons under the Prairie Farm Assistance Act. Motion agreed to.


POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT

TRANSPORTATION


Motion No. 6-Mr. Mcllrailh: For a copy of transportation order No. 107 of the district director of postal services, dated August 7, 1957, and sent by the Post Office Department to mail contractors throughout Canada. [Mr. Diefenbaker.l He said: Mr. Speaker, I understand the minister would like this notice of motion to stand.


PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Stand.

Motion stands.

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION
Sub-subtopic:   ORDER 107
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UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT

PARTICIPATION BY ONTARIO

October 28, 1957