February 18, 1937 (18th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Maurice Lalonde



We have before us a motion of non-confidence; we must first discuss this motion on its merits before considering the estimates intrinsically. The motion reads as follows:

National Defence-Mr. Lalonde
That all the words after the word "that" in the motion be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
This house views with grave concern the startling increases of expenditure proposed by the government for purposes of national armament in contrast with the inadequate provision for the social security of all sections of the Canadian people.
Tthe hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil) therefore suggests a comparison, but his resolution is so worded that it inevitably leads to a contradiction. How could we vote against this motion of want of confidence, and later vote against the appropriations that are being asked for? The answer to that, Mr. Speaker, is that we should have first considered the present motion upon its merits, suggesting as it does a comparison between the amount of the defence estimates and the activities of the government as regards social welfare. There you have two major points calling for a conclusion which may exclude either an affirmative or a negative vote on the estimates.
In order to know whether these estimates are too large or not, let us see, in the terms of the motion, what, the government has done in connection with social welfare. I always understood that the social welfare of a nation proceeded from a system of legislation giving the individual a feeling of mental and physical security wherefrom he derived full happiness. It means that if the social welfare policy of the present government answered 'the needs of our people, these estimates, always according to the terms of the resolution, would not be unreasonable.
You will admit that in discussing this question we must revolve within a limited circle, which I might even call a vicious circle. But I do venture to state that the social policy of this government should meet with the approval of all those who place the interest of their country above party contingencies.
The Liberal government, through its policies, its treaties, its agreements, the ever increasing volume of our trade and commerce, and conventions based on moderate free trade principles, gave rise to an evident feeling of sympathy towards Canada among other nations of the world: Agreements with the United
States, Germany and France; the renewal of the Ottawa agreements on a more equitable basis; the statements of Right Hon. Mackenzie King at Geneva; the positive statements of our leaders concerning our absolute independence in case of a European war, all this ought to set our minds at rest.
As regards our domestic policy, both in the economic and the social spheres, we have had 31111-634
relief works, the Dominion Textile trust was brought to reason, prices improved, money is circulating more freely, loans were granted to the western provinces, a bonus was paid on wheat, there was a decrease in our federal deficits, and a satisfactory improvement in business as a whole. All these things, Mr. Speaker, make for a greater sense of security among our Canadian people than under the tory administration of 1930. And we should condemn it all through a vote of want of confidence in the government just because, this year, there is some fear that the increase in the defence estimates may reflect excessive imperialism? That is a conclusion which I cannot share.
The comparison is evidently defective, but we must take it such as it was presented to us by the hon. member for Vancouver North. Therefore, I shall vote against this motion. My mandate as a member of this house does not leave me any other alternative, for I was elected on the express understanding that I would support the government in its fair measures. But is this request for an increase of $14,000,000 in the defence estimates a fair measure? That is altogether a different question. Any man is loath to spend money to buy anything for purposes of destruction. It is with some hesitation that I find it unfortunately necessary to vote for these estimates. I have carefully listened to the speech of the hon. the Minister of National Defence, and I shall support certain appropriations which I consider reasonable, but I am reserving the right to appreciate later some other items the necessity of which I do not quite grasp at present. I shall discharge my duties and my responsibilities as a Canadian to the full, without the least egoist thought as to my personal political aggrandizement. While objecting most strenuously to Canada's participation in foreign wars, I am in favour of taking any steps that might be necessary for the preservation of our internal peace. I want the constituted authorities to be strengthened in such a way that they may be able to hold in check the revolutionary mob whose existence is not recognized in certain quarters but which is planning, under cover, to destroy our secular institutions, in order to raise upon their smoking remains, the haughty structure of their pagan universities and Godless schools.
I am also sceptical as regards the possibility of attacks from the outside, but I may ask those who refuse to believe in such a contingency to prove its impossibility. International events are such that no man can foretell what complications they may lead

National Defence-Mr. Lalonde
to. We even see our southern neighbours, protected as they are by their geographical position between two oceans, building up a great air fleet at an annual cost of several million dollars. On this subject, I believe we will simply have to adhere to the principle of the most elementary local protection, because it is materially impossible to think of militarizing Canada. I would indeed be relentlessly opposed to such a policy.
I am equally sceptical as to the true meaning of this armament policy. Are we moving towards a contributory imperialism? If we permit these estimates to be voted without any protest to-day, shall we, to-morrow be [DOT]bound by a dangerous precedent? Should we also believe the statement made by the Right Hon. Neville Chamberlain and reported in the morning papers in connection with the military estimates of 7 billion 500 million dollars voted in England, "that it is not the intention to invite the dominions to share in a common scheme of defence."
Here again, we must admit that accurate foresight is difficult. God only knows what the future has in store and we are powerless before His divine intents.
To sum up, Mr. Speaker, upon what basis are we going to build up our knowledge and our conclusions? Whom are we going to believe? Whom are we going to trust? Shall we give credence to the demagogical outbursts of the Conservatives and their newspapers? Or to the sententious warnings of the nationalist press? Or again to the vain threats of certain associations financed by the tories and which, under the chaste cloak of patriotism, are carrying on an active propaganda against the federal Liberal party? Or lastly, to the whispers of a mob treacherously deceived by the false prophets of extreme nationalism, whose 'adherents will perhaps be the first to call upon our militia to save them from the anger of that mob, roused by them to a frenzy of demagogy?
Of course, Mr. Speaker, as one lone protest has reached me from my constituency, the . only alternative left me is to give my full confidence to those who are responsible for the government of our country. To my mind, it would be an insult to question the true Canadianism of the Right Honourable Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King). His past behaviour bespeaks his future actions. And when he said these words which I find in Hansard, February 15, 1937, page 890:
I must deny categorically and immediately what my hon. friend has said.
The hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar {Mr. Coldwell) had just made a statement.
(Mr. Lalonde.]
There are no commitments and no understandings in the nature of commitments between this government and the government of Great Britain or any other government.
I fail to understand how anyone can doubt his word and conclude that our country is moving towards military imperialism. I cannot understand how certain newspapers, especially Le Droit in its issue of February 17, 1937, can make such statements as this one:
Can the Minister of National Defence give us the unconditional assurance that, notwithstanding his own intentions the new armaments he asks for will not be used in a war waged by England in Europe or elsewhere? Is he in a position to give us a concrete guarantee-
Let me emphasize that word concrete so as to show its sheer stupidity.
-that if, to-morrow, England were to be involved in a war, these new armaments will not serve any other purpose than the protection of Canada's neutrality in case of any attack against her own territory? In a word, can he tell us how these new armaments would be used in the event of war? Whatever the Minister of National Defence intends to do for the moment, he cannot give us any real assurance that these armaments will not be used in such a conflict.
The man who made that statement speaks ex-cathedra and he imputes to the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie) motives that he never had. I may say that the writer of this article, if he is not blind or deaf and if he is not determined to oppose to the end everything that is reddish and to extol everything that is bluish, should read, read over again, consider and reconsider the speech in which the Minister of National Defence states more than once that our armaments will only be used for the protection of our territory.
Let me quote what he says at page 904 of Hansard:
-to give us a small force to cooperate with our air force and our naval force for the protection of Canada, within Canada only.
And at page 906:
These are the actual details of the estimates. They are all for the purpose of coastal defence, and for increased equipment and for cooperation of militia services of Canada with the air force and naval forces for the protection of Canada, within our borders. I cannot make that sufficiently clear to hon. members of the house.
Then at page 907, he says again:

this defence policy is a Canadian defence policy for the direct defence of our Canadian shores and our Canadian homes.
At page 903:
In the first place, our enlarged defence estimates are submitted only for the defence of Canada. In the second place, they are not arranged between Canada and any other nation.

National Defence-Mr. Maclnnis
In the third place, there has not been in connection with a single item of the estimates so submitted any request from any government in any other place whatsoever. In the fourth place, parliament itself must be the final judge as to Canada's participation in any future war-
Moreover let me say to the scribbler who signed the foregoing article that there are many more newspapermen of his calibre who take for gospel anything that smacks of criticism against the Liberal regime and who print on the 67th page news of the good deeds performed by a Liberal government. Would anything convince those gentlemen? Would they require the Prime Minister and his colleagues to execute a notarial document in the presence of 150 witnesses to the effect that they will reject all future commitments? As far as I am concerned, I have no reason to question the statements of the Hon. Mr. King and Mr. Lapointe, and I do not believe that our money will be used for a definite militaristic scheme. That question of the defence estimates amounts to a question of quantum. I have heard the speech delivered by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie). Before taking a stand on the advisability of certain items, I reserve the right to ask questions about them, and I hope his answers will sufficiently enlighten me, when the estimates are considered by the committee. And I will give the government, as our English speaking friends would say, a fair trial.
If unfortunately they were to deceive me, an occurrence that I fail to conceive, I would be the first to-morrow to denounce them as forcibly as I am defending them to-day. For, the only reward I can expect from politics is the conviction of having done my duty. I will always continue to work without flinching and without any animosity to preserve the freedom of my race and country; so that our people may live in order and peace; so that the dominion Liberal party may maintain his great traditions, based on a truly Canadian policy.
I am a Liberal, it is true, sir; but above all I am a Roman Catholic and a French Canadian. When I say that I am a Canadian, I mean that I want a truly self-governing Canada freely associated to the British commonwealth of nations. I am a Canadian to the core, I will never give up my sons, when they are old enough to be soldiers, for the sake of defending England or any foreign nation.
My Canadianism might be summed up in these words: nothing on earth will ever induce me to send out of the country these two little French Canadians whom I love more than
anything else in the world so that they may fight for England or France; but I would consider them as cowards if they were not first in the front line of trenches to fight for Canada, for the land they are taught to love as true French Canadians.

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