February 5, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)


James Wright McGibbon


Mr. J. W. McGIBBON (Argenteuil):

Mr. Speaker, like practically all those who have taken part in this debate before me, I feel my first words must be those of congratulation to the mover and the seconder of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. I thought both the hon. member for Hull (Mr. Fournier) and the hon. member for Brantford City (Mr. Macdonald) did exceptionally well, and I feel it is freely admitted in the lobbies that these were the best speeches of this kind for a long time.
I wish also to congratulate the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) upon his fine effort. There was a sense of restraint and moderation running through his discourse which I thought sounded just the right note for a leader of the opposition in war time. I wonder whether the man who so earnestly seeks his position would not have done a whole lot of harm to our war effort, had he been in his position.
As one who has not been active in the debates of the last two sessions, it occurs to me that many hon. members, and especially the newer ones, would not know anything about the historic old riding of Argenteuil which I have the honour to represent. Argenteuil is a happy combination of English and French-speaking Canadians, all working together, all working harmoniously. I think we set a model for many other electoral districts in Canada to follow. But no one can think of the constituency I have the honour to represent without thinking of one of my famous predecessors, the late Sir George Perley. Sir George represented Argenteuil for many years, and his sound judgment, sagacity and ability to deal with things directly, and, above all, the fine representation he gave to our constituency in parliament year after year, constituted an outstanding contribution to this parliament. I am personally as proud as a Liberal to pay tribute to the late Sir George Perley as any member of this house. When

. The Address-Mr. McGibbon
the people of our riding sent Sir George to Ottawa, they did not do so because he was eternally speaking, but rather because he was not. Sir George saw no need to be eternally speaking; he felt that there were many times when thinking rather than talking made a sounder contribution to the situation. Therefore I would hope in some respects to follow in his footsteps.
First of all, we do not believe in recriminations. It seems to me that there has been far too much talk of how Quebec feels about Toronto, and how Toronto feels about Quebec. In Argenteuil riding, where French-speaking and English-speaking people live in amity and spend their lives working with and cooperating with each other, all this controversy seems so needless, so useless. I am sure the people of Toronto want to win this war just as earnestly, just as sincerely, as we do. I am sure the province of Quebec and Toronto have the same aim in mind-the destruction of Hitler. I think no man can guarantee that we in this country could stand independently against the enemy, but on the other hand, we all agree that with united effort of this country along with that of our formidable allies we shall be successful. We all wish to travel to the same goal, but are arguing over the different routes.
It seems, too, that this debate has narrowed itself down to partisan limits. I do not think the war can be fought in that way. Nor do I believe that what we say will in itself settle the war. I think we are looking at too small a corner of the picture. This war has got beyond the narrowing frames into which some of the debaters would like to confine it.
In reviewing the war, I am bound to notice a few milestones. The first one I would mention is the Ogdensburg pact. Here surely was a strong contribution to our defence, and to our ultimate safety. The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), because of his long and valued friendship with President Roosevelt, was able to arrange a mutual defence programme of immense value. Out of that came the joint defence board of Canada and the United States. Thanks to the efforts of this board, in cooperation with the two governments, we have made some notable achievements, not only in defence but as a means of offence also. But our government did not let it rest at that. The Ogdensburg pact was followed by the Hyde Park agreement, and the defence of the continent was further strengthened. I have no doubt, however, that the conversations of President Roosevelt and the Prime Minister ranged far beyond that, and I have no doubt, in view of what has happened since, that considerable thought was given to a war of offence as well as a war of defence.
Another milestone, perhaps the most important of all, was the visit of Mr. Churchill to this continent, during which visit at almost the same time that he described ourselves as the lynch-pin between Britain and United States came that outstanding document which was evidently in part the result of the labours of our Prime Minister and one which I regret to say has been little emphasized in this house. I refer to the Washington pact, of which Canada was a signatory power. This is a new magna charta of freedom, agreed to by -twenty-six free nations of the earth.
The reason why I mention the Washington pact is this: out of that document has sprung a supreme war council in Washington. This council is planning the destrucfion of the axis, not on any small scale but with a panoramic perspective that takes in the whole world. If I ma3r then jump from this broad conception of the war to our own House of Commons, does it not seem absurd that we should be trying to settle allied war strategy right here? Yet that is what some people are trying to do. I myself feel that it is no longer entirely up to us what we are going to do, it is up to this war council. With our relatively small number of soldiers, even by extending our present legislation far beyond its present limits, we may not have nearly enough soldiers to turn the scale. Mark you, I have not the information to argue this point at all, one way or another.
But I ask the house this: how do we know that it is troops the supreme powers want from Canada? Might it not be food, or munitions? Might it not be ships? Are our airmen a paramount consideration? Could it be that our contribution in tanks, guns, merchant ships, corvettes, or something else vital to the war is needed from Canada more than anything else? Again I say, I do not know, and I doubt if some of those who have debated so vehemently know either. I am told it would not be the first time that members of this house were not certain of what they are talking about. But there must be a few people who know better than others. In the light of the general success of our war effort so far, I consider that my chief, the Prime Minister, knows. He has been Prime Minister of this country for a long time. He has been Prime Minister of Canada for the past seven years. During that time, as a result of his position and his personal friendships with people in high places, he has gained an insight into the situation that ordinary members of parliament cannot possibly hope to have. He has been through many important historical moments, and these experiences have all been valuable to him and to the country. Then, too, from day to day, the Prime Minister is
The Address-Mr. McGibbon

receiving the very latest reports on the situation all over the world, as it has developed up to the present. Surely no one has clearer vision and is better versed in the war situation than he.
In the light of all this background, having regard to the long experience the head of the government has had, remembering the personal contacts this administration has had with the great nations and great personalities of this war, it seems to me that the present government is in a better position to know what is best for Canada. Under those circumstances, and hoping to be able to face any future emergency, the government now asks to be relieved of its commitments of the 1940 election period, and I personally believe the government should be relieved of them. To ask the people, to whom the promises were made to relieve this government of those promises is the democratic way. To do it any other way is to emulate the dictators, whom to-day we are fighting with all we have, to destroy.
I have personally sufficient faith in the government to believe that if it wants to be relieved of its commitments, then that is the best thing for Canada. I have sufficient faith in them, too, to know that when the time comes to choose any new or different course, that, too, will be the right course. Again I have sufficient faith in the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) to feel that he is the man to guide us through to victory. Talk of supplanting him with somebody else is idle and foolish. The farmers of our constituency have been taught from infancy the danger, yes, the folly, of changing horses in midstream. That applies in Ottawa just as much as it does back in Argenteuil and the rural constituencies.
Let us approach this question, then, without political bias. Here is a man who has been elected with an overwhelming mandate from the people, and elected not in the unthinking days of peace but when the war had been in progress for more than half a year. The Prime Minister asked at that time for a mandate to carry on the war, and the people of Canada gave him that mandate; indeed, it was the greatest mandate ever given to any prime minister in this country. This is not the time for petty politics. I think we should be put in a position to give our best, realizing our duty as a united nation in the allied cause to defeat the common enemy.
On motion of Mr. Bertrand (Prescott) the debate was adjourned.
On motion of Mr. Mackenzie (Vancouver Centre) the house adjourned at 10.55 p.m.

Friday, February 6, 1942

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