Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KIXG (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, I should like to refer to a statement which Premier Drew is reported to have made in the Ontario legislature yesterday, and which has been given general circulation in the press of Canada by the Canadian Press. The dispatch is dated Toronto, March 13, C.P., and reads in part as follows:
After studying the text of Prime Minister King's anouncement, however, Premier Drew issued the following statement:
"Mr. King does some truly remarkable juggling with figures in his attempt to distort the effect of the notices put up by the liquor control board of Ontario.
"All the beer available for sale in Ontario under the restrictions imposed by the dominion government has been sold. The notices simply conveyed the information that the alcoholic beverages available at the sales outlet were restricted by the dominion order. That statement was correct.
"Mr. King has not furthered the cause of dominion-provincial cooperation by misrepresenting the facts to the whole of Canada regarding the action of the Ontario government.
Elsewhere the report states that Premier Drew had said:
Press reports quoted Mr. King as saying the wartime order called for a 10 per cent beer cut and Ontario had made it 25 per cent.
In order that there may be no misrepresentation of the facts or misunderstanding concerning them, may I read what I did say yesterday on this subject, as reported in Hansard, page 1392, with reference to the posting of the alcoholic beverages notices:
In Ontario, on the authority of the liquor control board, notices have been posted in establishments where alcoholic beverages are sold, which read as follows:
"Notice: The quantity of alcoholic beverages saleable at this sales outlet is restricted by reason of order in council No. 11374 passed by the federal government Dee. 16, 1942,-This notice is posted on authority of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario."
There is no indication in these notices that the action of the federal government was a war measure, enacted to increase the country's total war effort. No account is taken or mention made of the fact that the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages in 1942 had reached the highest level in Canada's history. Instead, the poster is designed to have it appear that, in the opinion of the government of Ontario, the action of the federal government is arbitrary, unfair and unnecessary.
the.; enactment of the dominion wartime alcoholic beverages order, there has during the yea* been released for sale in each province of Canada, ninety per cent of the beer which was released fprfesale in the twelve months ended ^October iS-l. *942. Over the whole country, this JWVttHPt JBs some sixty per cent in excess of w it Which had been released for sale in the rear rfrifer to the outbreak of war. To-day the Leverage rooms of Ontario, where the notices of lha Ontario Liquor Control Board are posted, ere not being allocated 90 per cent by the board, instead, they are being allotted only 75 per cent. It is true that the quantity saleable in the province has been restricted by the dominion order in council, but it was not restricted by 25 per cent. That restriction on the beverage rooms was imposed by the liquor control board of Ontario.
The board's action has the approval of the government of Ontario. It was defended by the Attorney General of Ontario in the Ontario legislature on the 8th of this month. The posting of the notices certainly misrepresents the action of the federal government. It is clearly an attempt to have the federal government held responsible for the whole twenty-five per cent reduction.
That is the entire statement I made in regard to the notices, and it will be seen that I expressly said that it is true that the quantity saleable in the provinces has been restricted by the dominion order in council. That is what Mr. Drew says is true. But what has been omitted altogether from the notices which were posted is any reference to the fact that this is part of a war measure, that the restriction was only 90 per cent, whereas 75 per cent was all that was being given out in the beverage rooms.
Mr. Drew goes on to say, in the report which I have just read:
It is typical of Mr. King that he failed to inform the people of Canada at the same time that I had written to him last Friday asking for an appointment so that the attorney-general, the commissioner of the Liquor Control Board and I could meet him in Ottawa in an effort to find some solution to the unsatisfactory situation which had developed.
I presume I am to accept to-day's announcement as his idea of an appropriate reply designed to encourage cooperation. In dealing with the matter in the legislature, Premier Drew read the letter he had sent to the Prime Minister asking for an early conference on the beer situation.
I have a copy of the letter, and as it has been tabled in the Ontario legislature, I would ask permission to table it here. The previous correspondence was tabled some days ago. What I wish to call to the attention of hon. members is this statement of Mr. Drew:
It is typical of Mr. King that he failed to inform the people of Canada at the same time that I had written to him last Friday-
Et cetera, et cetera. And then:
I presume I am to accept to-day's announcement as his idea of an appropriate reply designed to encourage cooperation.
What are the facts with regard to the receipt of Mr. Drew's letter and the statement I made yesterday? To begin with, it was on Saturday, March 4, that the press of this city and of other parts of the country reported that a notice had been posted in all liquor and beer sale outlets in Ontario. That was on Saturday, March 4, and on Wednesday, March 8, the morning papers reported a statement the provincial treasurer of Alberta, the Hon. Solon Low, made in the legislature; the statement to which I referred yesterday. On the afternoon of that day, having seen the notices, and having observed what Mr. Low was saying in Alberta, I communicated with my colleague, the Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Gibson), and indicated to him that I thought immediate action would have to be taken to prevent further misrepresentation of the position as between the dominion and the provinces and that in my opinion, it would be necessary, to leave the control of restriction on beer wholly within the purview of the provinces so as to give them complete control -in other words, to have single rather than dual control, particularly as the provinces have complete jurisdiction with regard to distribution and sale.
It was on Wednesday, March 8, that I so communicated with my colleague the Minister of National Revenue. On Thursday, March 9, the morning papers reported a statement of the attorney general of Ontario defending the notices posted by authority of the liquor board.
I had hoped it might be possible for me to take up the matter on Friday the 9th, and to make a statement in the house immediately, along the lines of the one which I made yesterday, but I was too pressed with other matters to be able to get a statement prepared in that time. I therefore gave the statement yesterday, having taken part of Saturday to prepare it at some length in order that it might set out all the essential facts. As a matter of fact, therefore, the decision with respect to the action to be taken in regard to restrictions was made two days before Mr. Drew's letter was written. Mr. Drew's letter was written on March 10.
May I say a further word with regard to the time at which I received Mr. Drew's letter.
I did not receive the letter until last night at half past eight o'clock. I think the house will understand very clearly how that came to be
when I give to them the particulars which appear from the envelope, and also from what they know of the proceedings in the house yesterday. The letter is dated March 10, 1944. It bears the postmark, "Toronto, March 10, 11.30 p.m., 1944, Ontario"-11.30 p.m. on March 10, which was Friday. It could not possibly have reached Ottawa until late on Saturday at the earliest. The probability is it came on the following day but the Ottawa date stamp is not on to so indicate. The letter would not be sent to my office until Monday morning. But on the envelope it is also marked " personal." My secretaries follow the custom of putting by themselves letters marked "personal," so that when I have had a chance to get through with public communications I may personally look at the letters so marked.
I had no chance yesterday even to look at communications that came in dealing with public business generally until late in the afternoon. I had important matters to take up in the cabinet and I had the statements that were given yesterday, one regarding the wages control order as well as the other on beer restrictions which I had to look over and further revise. I also received from the leader of the opposition (Mr. Graydon) a communication intimating that he wished to ask a question respecting the communication from Mr. de Valera. The result was that I did not get an opportunity even to have any luncheon before I came into the house. I made the statement I did without any knowledge whatever that there was a communication from Mr. Drew. At about half past four or five I went to my private office here and had a cup of tea and a sandwich-not a glass of beer and a sandwich, but a cup of tea and a sandwich. I was kept in the office until after seven at night. When I got back to my residence I found some personal letters. I took advantage of the opportunity to have a bit of a meal first, and afterwards I opened and read the letters marked " personal." The first letter I noticed on the top was one from the Premier of Ontario, which I have in my hand and which is marked "personal."
With all due respect, I say that this particular statement:
It is typical of Mr. King that he failed to inform the people of Canada at the same time that I had written to him last Friday. . . .
-is hardly the kind of comment that one would expect in the circumstances.