Mr. GORDON GRAYDON (Leader of the Opposition):
Mr. Speaker, I shall not speak
at great length in discussing the subject now before the house, but there are some pertinent observations I desire to make in connection with certain general matters relating to the war appropriation resolution, and the situation generally.
The task of governing a nation at war is a heavy and exacting responsibility. The governing of a nation at war by a one-party administration cannot fail in the very nature of things to bring added difficulties to those in power. Nor can it fail to bring as well corresponding difficulties to those in opposition. I have always contended that His Majesty's Loyal Opposition, in a war-time period, has a serious and difficult role to play. In discharging our responsibility, in accordance with practice in democratic institutions, I have never conceived it to be the function of an opposition to criticize the government only for criticism's sake, a procedure which does justice neither to the opposition nor to the government. Our job is to cooperate with the administration, where to do so is clearly in the national interest. Our job, too, is to meet the government in head-on collision when we feel that their policies are no longer consonant with the best interests of the people of Canada.
Our duty never lies in surrendering to the government, although at times there seems to be a feeling across the house that any course other than complete surrender indicates a lack of cooperative spirit on the part of the opposition. Following that policy this party can properly claim that not a single vote for war purposes has been opposed by us since war broke out. True, we have criticized, and that is not only our privilege, it is our bounden duty to the public. But we have never obstructed, and this policy we shall pursue with respect to the war appropriations on this occasion as well.
Cooperation, however, cannot be a one-way street. We do not receive at all times from
the present government the measure of cooperation to which we feel we are justly entitled. In between sessions of parliament we are largely ignored, but in that respect we are no worse off than the public generally. The circumstances with respect to the calling of parliament for the present session indicate clearly the fashion in which this government, on occasion, treats the opposition, this parliament and the people of Canada. Let me make the position clear.
At the close of the session on December 7 last, the Prime Minister adjourned parliament until January 31. When I inquired as to whether a new session would be convened at that time, the Prime Minister was rigidly noncommittal. Nobody-' heard anything more till the Prime Minister began to have a lengthy correspondence with the citizens of Greyi North in January. While he intimated he needed his Minister of National Defence in the Commons to take part in the parliamentary debates, he failed even then to make clear to those electors whether or not he intended to call parliament. On January 31 we met and prorogued until February 28. Nobody heard anything more until February 28, when the silence of the east block was broken long enough to say that prorogation had been extended to March 31. Two days later the Prime Minister went on the air and indicated that parliament would meet for a new session on March 19. The whole procedure seemed to lend some support to the view that the government was pushing parliament and the people around, and, what made it look worse, at a time when everything indicated, including the Grey North byelection, that the government had lost the confidence of the people, had lost confidence in itself, and held only the artificial confidence of a parliament elected five years ago.
Either this parliament should have been convened in the middle of January or a general election should have been called. The failure of the government to call a general election and its failure to do more than have a token session of parliament leaves the government open to the suspicion that it was reluctant not only to face the people but to face a full session of parliament.
The government knew that parliament's tenure expired on April 117. They knew because time after time the Prime Minister pledged himself against an extension of parliament's term. Still they allowed two solid months to go by without calling parliament and attempted to squeeze three months' national business into a little more than three weeks. That is the answer to the following questions which are being universally asked
to-day: first, why was there no debate on the address? Second, why there is so little time to discuss the war and civil estimates? Third, why are business and the taxpayers generally denied a budget until next September or October?
Parliament now finds itself with only about ten sitting days to discuss, criticize and pass over $500 million of civil estimates and $2,000 million of war appropriations as well. This strait-jacket session gives the opposition an opportunity to do no more than lightly touch upon some of the more outstanding subjects of criticism. The public will have to understand that because of the time element we are unable to do the job that we normally would be expected to do.
We shall not hold up the appropriations for either peace or war. So far as it lies within the power of the opposition so to do, we shall see that this supply is granted the government before parliament expires. But, in following this course, this party does so on the clear and definite condition that we are not necessarily committed either to the polciy or to the amounts involved when the Progressive Conservative government comes into power and compiles both the war and civil appropriations for submission to the next parliament. As in the case of interim appropriations and supply in other sessions, all our rights are hereby reserved and none surrendered by1 virtue of the passing of these interim appropriations. In saying that I am only making the reservations that have been normally and customarily made on previous occasions when interim appropriations have been before the house.
As a party we have given careful consideration as to how the remaining few days of this session can best be utilized in the public interest in connection with the war appropriations. In view of the fact that the present proposed appropriations are of an interim character, I believe the minister will agree that it may not be possible to follow rigidly in every respect the procedure adopted when the war appropriation resolution was before the house in previous sessions. Some hon. members may desire to speak to the resolution while the Speaker is still in the chair, in order that some special point in which they may be interested shall not be excluded from debate in committee by the possibility of there not being sufficient time to cover all departments before the parliamentary term expires. I suggest to the minister that the proceedings when we go into committee be so adjusted and arranged that this possibility shall be removed, so far as possible. I think the minister will understand the point I am trying to
make clear-that such provision be made as will ensure that important departments of government may not find that they have not been dealt with before the session finally ends.
Such a situation, of course,' could not and never did arise in an ordinary session, for the very simple reason that the committee took the necessary time to examine all the war departments of the government. I should like to emphasize that it is important that the most be made of the limited time we have, and that the public may not have occasion to feel that any department is being neglected. The public will understand that within such a short period of time only the highlights of the expenditures can be touched at all, but on the other hand they will expect that as few of the highlights as possible be omitted. With this in mind our party will facilitate the passing of the appropriations, as well as the civil supply. At the same time we shall require the fullest possible information during the discussion.
Before I conclude I desire to make one further observation. A substantial part of the war expenditures of this government is raised by way of loans sought from the people. In the coming month Canada's eighth victory loan will be launched. The campaign will be ushered in amid circumstances which will require a clear understanding on the part of the public that this above all other times is no time to let up. The European straggle is not yet over, as the minister pointed out this afternoon. I was glad he did not take too optimistic a view in that regard. The Pacific war still has to be won. A let-up to-day means a let-down to-morrow for those who on the war fronts of the world have never let us down. We cannot, we must not, we will not let them down.
Canada, up to the end of December last, had lost in this war more than 30,974 dead and 41,540 wounded. Let us therefore not forget the part which every dollar lent will play in hospitalization of the wounded and reestablishment of our armed forces generally. They did the job for us; now we must do the job for them. Let Canada's eighth be Canada's most outstanding and successful victory loan achievement. In that achievement this party, as in previous loans, offers its wholehearted and unstinted support.
Subtopic: PROVISION FOR GRANTING TO HIS MAJESTY AID FOR NATIONAL DEFENCE AND SECURITY