I want to raise on this supply motion what I do consider to be a genuine grievance, a grievance shared not only by myself but by this parliament and I think the people of Canada. I refer, of course, to the recent incident in which the Prime Minister has admitted he wrote a letter or letters to Mr. Dunton protesting the use by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of a certain gentleman as commentator on the C.B.C. The Prime Minister says he had taken this action as a private citizen and he claimed that that was his right. I have just received a copy of yesterday's Hansard which shows the Prime Minister's remarks
and I find where the Prime Minister said that he did have correspondence with Mr. Dunton in October. I omit a line or two at page 2769 and then read where he says:
. . . but as a Canadian citizen, about the tone of a broadcast I had heard.
Then the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra (Mr. Green) asked:
Would the Prime Minister be willing to table that letter?
The Prime Minister replied:
No, I would not, sir. I would have no objection to showing my hon. friend the correspondence but I would not like to set a precedent that correspondence between a member of the government and someone who happens to be in any one of these crown agencies should be tabled.
I take it, sir, that the leopard has changed his spots and the Prime Minister is now a member of the government writing to one of these crown agencies and has ceased to be the private citizen in which capacity he had protested to the chairman of the board of governors of the C.B.C.
When I attempted to move the motion for the adjournment of the house this morning I did it with a knowledge that at least I was being consistent. During my years in this house and in the C.B.C. committee I think my colleagues can bear witness to the fact that I have always maintained there should be the greatest amount of freedom in the expression of opinion. That freedom of expression should not be denied to the system of communication which is controlled under the jurisdiction of this parliament, and that it is so controlled is the greater reason in fact why that expression should be free provided all sides of the opinion be given an opportunity of presentation.
My holding these opinions in regard to intellectual freedom has sometimes earned the ire of some hon. members in this house and I think perhaps particularly of some of my friends to my left, the members of the Social Credit party, who have attempted by every perfectly legitimate means at their disposal both in the house and in the committee to keep certain people off the air. Their actions in that regard have always been violently opposed by myself for reasons which I have stated from time to time when the occasion arose.
The fact that the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister is one of the reasons and the greatest reason why he should not have made that attempt. He claims as his right as a private citizen to be critical of the C.B.C. and I admit he is in a very difficult position, but I suggest there are other means he could have taken than to sign a letter. After all, he cannot avoid the fact and
he would not want to that he is the Prime Minister of Canada, but surely he is not sufficiently naive to believe that he can write a letter to the chairman of a crown agency and not add to the opinion that he expresses in such a letter the weight, prestige and influence of the first minister of Canada.
I do not even know the name of this person whom the Prime Minister does not like to hear on the air and thinks it is a waste of public money to have on the air, and I am glad I do not because then I cannot be accused of any ulterior motive in stating this grievance. I do not know the opinion this gentleman put forward nor do I know for what reason the Prime Minister objected to it and I submit that my knowledge of those things would not be relevant to the motion which I attempted to move this morning; but that I do not know these things is the responsibility of the Prime Minister, and the fact that hon. members of this house do not know them is his responsibility since he has refused to table the letters.
As I said a moment ago his reason for that refusal was that he would be creating a precedent. I would say that if the Prime Minister were to go unchallenged for his recent action it would create a precedent which the present Prime Minister and no future prime minister can be allowed to follow. I have asserted vehemently and I assert again that speech must be free and by the same token listening must be free. If we are to restrict freedom of listening we are indulging in the very same practices which we criticize as totalitarian as practised in certain other lands by other peoples.
Certainly there are the rules defined by decency, there are rules in regard to sedition and there is also the protection of the Criminal Code; but the ultimate responsibility for the choice of programs lies with the board of governors of the C.B.C. set up by and responsible to this parliament. To come to an end of the matter quite briefly, sir, because I think I have made my point, it is for parliament to see to it that that body under its jurisdiction must be free to make its own decisions.
Topic: INTERIM SUPPLY