May 11, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)



Mr. Speaker,
the purpose of the amendment is to give to the government, by the deletion of section 3 of the National Resources Mobilization Act, the same freedom of decision and action with respect to the method of raising men for military services overseas which, in the recent plebiscite the government requested, and) which the people of Canada have said they desire the government to possess.
Section 3 ^contains the one remaining restriction on the'government's freedom of decision and action in all aspects of Canada's war effort.
This section was included in the National Resources Mobilization Act, at the time the bill was passed, because of a commitment arising out of promises and pledges from which the government and members of parliament have now been released.
In presenting the issue of the plebiscite to parliament and to the people, I repeatedly stressed the importance of removing any restriction, or even the appearance of any restriction, on the powers of the government to effect a total effort for total war. I pointed out that Canada's war effort was being placed in a false light because of the existence of what appears to be a restriction upon an all-out effort. If the amendment is adopted, Canada's war effort will appear thereafter in its true light; an effort in no way hampered by any moral or legal restrictions. By their vote in the plebiscite, the people have expressed their readiness to have the sole remaining restriction upon the government's freedom and decision of action removed.
The removal of section 3 of the National Resources Mobilization Act is, in other words, the logical consequence of the vote on the plebiscite. Since the people have indicated that they do not desire any restriction on the freedom of action of the government, there is
the strongest of reasons why parliament should be asked to remove any shadow of restriction which remains.
In the plebiscite, the people were asked to give full powers to the government, not to meet a then immediate situation, but to provide against a future emergency. The National Resources Mobilization Act is only enabling legislation. The extent of the use of such power as is conferred upon the government by its provisions is and has, from the outset, been a matter of government policy, to be decided in the light of all relevant circumstances. This will remain true of the unrestricted powers which the amendment, if enacted, would afford.
The government might have proceeded in this matter by order in council under the War Measures Act. Having regard, however, to its responsibility to parliament, the government has felt that such action as is necessary to bring existing legislation into conformity with the will of the people expressed in the vote on the plebiscite should be taken, not by order in council under the War Measures Act, but by act of parliament. In thus proceeding, the government is providing members of parliament, before any amendment to the National Resources Mobilization Act is made, with the fullest opportunity of considering the effect of every aspect of the amendment.

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