January 28, 1943 (19th Parliament, 4th Session)


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


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, yesterday,

The Official Opposition
before concluding the business of the late session, in accordance with parliamentary procedure I announced to the house certain changes which had taken place in the ministry since this house had adjourned some six months earlier. To-day I take it as a part of my duty as leader of the house to draw attention, not to changes in the ministry, but to changes which have taken place in the opposition, in particular in the position of leader of the opposition.
May I say that had my hon. friend the former leader of the opposition, the member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson), not told me personally on Tuesday evening last that 'he had definitely made up his mind that he would insist upon asking his followers in this house to relieve him immediately of the duty of leadership of the opposition and that his followers were meeting the day following to consider the situation, I certainly would have been very greatly surprised at the announcement which came over the radio last night and which also must have surprised all hon. members of this house. However, as we now know, the members of the official opposition met yesterday and, very reluctantly I am sure, accepted the resignation of the then leader of the opposition and later on selected for appointment as leader of the official opposition in this house my hon. friend the member for Peel (Mr. Graydon). I should like, therefore, immediately to extend to the new leader of the opposition my warmest personal congratulations and to extend to him in equal measure the heartiest congratulations not only of all members on this side of the house but, may 1 say, of all hon. members of this House of Commons. My hon. friend is to be greatly congratulated on the expression of confidence which the members of his party have given him in the choice which they have made. May I say I think the choice is one which members of the House of Commons of all parties will greatly welcome.
The hon. member for Peel has been in parliament now for some seven years, if I am not mistaken. He came into the house in 1935 and has been here continuously ever since. He has been a whip of his party. He has also been the chairman of the national committee of his party. He has a wide experience not only in political life generally but particularly in this house, and he brings to his position as leader of the opposition exceptional qualifications. He has-perhaps he will allow me to say it-great charm of manner, a pleasing disposition, also fine intellectual attainments. He has participated in the debates freely and always in a manner
which I think has met with the general approval of the house. I can say to him with very great confidence that I am sure he will do honour to himself in the position which he is now holding.
I must say to him that I wonder now that,, when the convention of his party was held! at Winnipeg recently, he was not made the choice of his party at once, instead of the party taking two or three bites of the cherry -in this case it might perhaps be called a plum. For its own reasons the party thought best to make other arrangements.
My hon. friend has this also certainly ter his credit, that he is neither too young nor too old for the position. May I say to him that I can speak with some degree of authority as to the position of leader of the opposition, because I held the post which he now occupies, for a period of some seven years and the experience which I had at that time gave me a very full understanding not only of the great responsibilities of the position but of its anxieties as well. I say to him immediately that I shall welcome opportunities of conference with him concerning matters which pertain to the business of the house. I hope in that connection he will not hesitate to make any demands upon me which at any time he may find advisable.
While I am speaking of the change of position in the leadership of the opposition of this house I think it might not be inappropriate for me also to make reference to the change in the leadership of the party of which my hon. friend is a member. When we met in this house at the beginning of a new session a little over a year ago the party of which my hon. friend is so distinguished a member, had just chosen a leader who, however, never made an appearance in the House of Commons, and for a year my hon. friend the member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson) was in the position of having to lead the opposition and his party in the House of Commons but of not being the leader of the party in the larger sense of the word. I notice that at the convention of the party in Winnipeg that same procedure has been repeated. As a result we have to-day my hon. friend the member for Peel leading the opposition in this house while the chosen leader of the party is without a seat in the house. I mention this because in connection with our parliamentary institutions I hope that such a practice is not going to be permitted to grow into a custom. I take no exception to the compliment which the party of my hon. friend pays us on this side of
The Official Opposition

the house, in having two or three leaders.
I do believe that the British parliamentary system more or less demands that a political head of a party which occupies the position of an official opposition, should be occupying a seat in parliament. Although I do not wish to have my hon. friend believe that we are anxious to see him leave the position he now occupies, I hope that in the interests of parliamentary practice the chosen leader of the opposition will seek a seat in the house at an early date.
In speaking of changes, I should1 perhaps mention also the change that has been made in the name of the party opposite. However, I have been long enough in this parliament to see six changes in the name of the party, so evidently change of name so far as it is concerned has grown into a custom. I shall not say more on that at the present moment.
Now, Mr. Speaker, may I say a word in reference to my friend the hon. member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson), who 'has held the position of Leader of the Opposition in this house since the early spring of 1940. When Mr. Hanson undertook to accept the position of Leader of the Opposition in this house he did so, I know, only because of the ^highest sense of public duty. At that time, Sie told me personally, and I know as well :from>
his intimate friends, that he was not feeling any too strong physically and had -reason to know that he must take particular [DOT]care of his health if he were to be able to [DOT]carry on for any length of time in public life. I know too that, after having been in the position of leader for a year or more, my hon. friend was anxious then to give up the leadership of the opposition because of the strain which that position involves; and now, in the third year, he has found it imperative to ask that he should be relieved of its duties.
As I have said, I know something of the anxieties and the responsibilities of a leader of the opposition as well as of a leader of the government. I must say frankly to my hon. friend that I have been amazed at the successful manner in which he has carried on his duties in this House of Commons over a period of three years, for I know something of the strain that he was undergoing all the time. However much any of us may have difEered in our political views, I believe the entire membership of this House of Commons has had the greatest admiration for my hon. friend in the sense of duty he has shown. He has been an example to us all in the manner of his fulfilment of the duties of his high office and for the way in which he has carried on from day to day, month to month, and now .as it has become from year to year. I think
his performance all circumstances considered has been simply wonderful, and I am glad to have this opportunity to tell him so. Many times from this side of the house my colleagues and myself have marvelled how he found it possible to be in his seat the moment the house opened and to be there throughout the sessions, afternoons and evenings, almost without exception. I think it is true that no other member of this House of Commons has been as continuously in his seat during the past three years as the former leader of the opposition.
May I also say to him that I think this house and the country are alike indebted to him for what he has contributed in that time to the discussions and to the carrying on of the business of parliament. He came into the leadership of the opposition with an experience almost second to none of the members on his side of the house. He brought not only his wide business and legal experience but also a knowledge of parliamentary affairs gained over a long period as a member of parliament. For some fourteen years my hon. friend had been a member of this house before he became leader of the opposition; since that time there have been added three more years. He had served as a minister of the crown; as we all know, he is one who is widely read in matters of government and well informed on the questions of the day; and he has greatly contributed to the work of .this house. May I say that I thank him warmly for the manner in which he has cooperated with myself and my colleagues in the business of the house during this period of war. There has been no period of histoiy comparable to the present; there has been no time in the affairs of the world when there have been so many problems of the gravest nature, and the business of this house could not be carried on at all at a time such as the present if there were not a spirit of real cooperation between the government, the opposition and other members in parliament. Now I want to say quite frankly, while not taking exception to much in the way of criticism, that the criticism which the government has met with from outside of parliament, where persons are not as well informed on the public questions of the day as are most hon. members of the house, has been much more severe than the criticism in relation to the management of affairs in these years of war which has come from the members of this house, regardless of the party to which they belong. I put that down to the sense of real responsibility which my hon. friend himself has had, and which has been shared by other members in the house.

The Official Opposition
I do hope that, in giving up the position which he has held with such distinction, my hon. friend will find in the relief from the heavy burdens of that office an opportunity to gain full restoration of his health and that he will be spared many years to enjoy some of the rewards of the service which he has given to this parliament and our country.
In the name of parliament and of the country I take great pleasure in saying to my hon. friend that I think he has merited the thanks of both.

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