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