Mr. GORDON GRAYDON (Leader of the Opposition):
Mr. Speaker, my first word as
leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House of Commons perhaps should be a word of appreciation of the help and guidance
that my predecessor, whom you have just honoured by expressions of appreciation, has given me from time to time. I share fully the sentiments which have been voiced in that regard this afternoon. I am perhaps not able to express them as well as some who have spoken before me; but from the bottom of my heart I say to the hon. member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson) who retired yesterday from the onerous duties of the office of leader of the opposition, that I join in the hope that he may be spared to enjoy a long and happy life as a private member of this house -at least until such time, if I may say so to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) without discouraging him-until such time in the very near future as we on this side of the house shall form the government.
At this time of course I did not intend to enter into any matters of controversy. But the Prime Minister was of a somewhat different mind, and for that reason I want to express one or two opinions before I proceed to what in the first instance I had intended to say.
The Prime Minister has a great and natural charm in dealing with young men like myself. I fancy that I should be careful and beware of the blandishments of the Prime Minister, lest I fall into some trap, which I know he would not purposely lay for me. But let me say this to the Prime Minister, with the courtesy that I learn from him-because of that he is a master. He spoke about the absence from the house of leaders of the opposition who are really leaders, as compared to acting leaders such as I-temporary leaders, if you like. Well, even those of us who are rather young can remember the days when the present Prime Minister was himself in similar situations. I remember very well, when I was younger and perhaps more impressionable than I am now, feeling that on two occasions at least the position in which the present Prime Minister found himself was a veiy difficult one. Sir, I take heart from what the Prime Minister has said this afternoon with respect to our outside leadership and inside leadership more perhaps than from anything else he could have said; because if we have the same success with ours that he had with his, I warn him to beware in the years to come.
The Prime Minister made some complaint about the custom or practice that had grown up. I take it he saw the growth of that practice beginning in the South York election. There are those in the country-certainly I would not want to subscribe to this view myself-who then felt that at that time the
The Official Opposition
Prime Minister himself contributed in no small measure to the growth of that custom and practice. In calling that to his attention may I assure him at once that it never was my view.
However, I wish also to say this-and with it I shall have finished with these perhaps facetious observations. We have had such a rush of progressive legislation since December 11 last that many persons across Canada are calling for an annual convention of the Progressive Conservative party. They feel that that is the way to cause progressive legislation to be brought forward by the present government. The Prime Minister may perhaps say that we have been having almost annual conventions. Let me say, Mr. Speaker, that if I thought another convention would help to prod the government into greater action, such as was so greatly needed, we would always be glad indeed to assist and cooperate in any way we could.
Seriously, sir, I do deeply appreciate and have been greatly moved by the kind words of the Prime Minister. Sitting in this House for seven years I think I have learned to sift the wheat from the chaff, and I believe there was a good deal of the wheat of sincerity in what the Prime Minister said this afternoon with respect to myself. I want him to know how very deeply I appreciate it, and what a great comfort and help his words are to me as I assume this exacting office.
To the leaders of the other groups I wish to say a similar word of appreciation. One of the things that I think a man treasures and prizes most highly in public life is the friendship he succeeds in building up not only among those of his own party but among hon. members all over the chamber. One of the things I value most highly is that I believe I have as many friends throughout this chamber as perhaps any other hon. member in the house -at least I like to think I have. For this reason I particularly like the tone of the utterances of those who spoke this afternoon. I did note in the remarks of one of the speakers an expression of the hope that I should have a long tenure of office as leader of the opposition. Perhaps it was a veiled but pointed hint that someone in any event was hoping Mr. Bracken would not find a seat in this house too soon. I always remember a close personal friend who sat -where the Minister of Mines and Resources (Mr. Crerar) now sits, the late Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe. For him I had an exceedingly high regard. When I was appointed national chairman of the then Conservative party, he came over to my seat and, calling me by my first name, as he did on all occasions outside of the house,
said: "I have been thinking what I should say to you. It has taken me some time to make up my mind. But, Gordon, I have this to say to you now: in your new job as national chairman I wish you success, but not too much!" I think perhaps that sums up pretty well what many hon. members in the house might like to say to me.
While in times of peace one might regard elevation to the high office of leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition as a great personal honour, and even to-day one cannot overlook that aspect of it, I regard my appointment at this time not as a personal honour but rather as a widened and extended opportunity for service at a critical time in Canada's history. It seems to me that transcends all matters of personal honour. May I go further and say that when one talks of service, and the opportunities for service, I think one is saddened and sobered by the realization of how little we actually do in this chamber as compared with the members of our armed forces who, in zones much more dangerous than this, are rendering service of a kind that we cannot approach here. Therefore this afternoon, when I think of the honours that may come to any civilian and the opportunities for service which may present themselves to any of us from time to time, my thoughts go back to those other services being rendered.
This afternoon I feel very humble as I undertake this responsibility. You, Mr. Speaker, will understand the reasons underlying that humility, because this position carries with it no small responsibility. Particularly is that so for one who has been in the House of Commons for only seven years and who has never occupied a position in the cabinet or government of this country. I am, however, at least fortified by my resolve to give to the extent of my capacity, my ability and my energy, limited though they may be, in the interests of our dominion and of the war effort generally. May I add that I hope I may have the health and strength to lead this party, temporary though that leadership may be, in such a way that we as a party may be able, without taking anything away from any other classes in this country, to do something worth while for the armed forces, for labour and for agriculture. For them, I hope I may be a spokesman.
With those objectives clearly in mind, I am now dedicating this Progressive Conservative party to these and such other aims as we may feel would make for a greater contribution by this country in perhaps the greatest time of stress through which this nation has had to pass.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your indulgence this afternoon. It has not been easy for me to make my maiden speech as leader of the opposition, but my task has been made much easier by my feeling that this house has given me an indication of a confidence which I shall not lightly forget in the days that lie ahead.
Subtopic: RESIGNATION OP MR. HANSON AS LEADER OP THE OPPOSITION AND APPOINTMENT OP MR. GRAYDON CHANGES IN PARTY LEADERSHIP