Terence James (Terry) NUGENT

NUGENT, Terence James (Terry), B.A., LL.B.

Parliamentary Career

March 31, 1958 - April 19, 1962
PC
  Edmonton--Strathcona (Alberta)
June 18, 1962 - February 6, 1963
PC
  Edmonton--Strathcona (Alberta)
April 8, 1963 - September 8, 1965
PC
  Edmonton--Strathcona (Alberta)
November 8, 1965 - April 23, 1968
PC
  Edmonton--Strathcona (Alberta)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 179)


March 18, 1968

Mr. Terence Nugent (Edmonlon-Straih-cona):

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Justice. Now that the minister is aware of the statements made by the Minister of Finance in relation to the situation brought to his attention by the hon. member for Queens and the hon. member for Cape Breton South, would he take notice of the question and advise this house of the action he will take to make sure his department sees that justice is done in this regard?

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Subtopic:   FINANCE
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March 18, 1968

Mr. Nugent;

Mr. Chairman, it has been a while since I said anything about foreign affairs but I must say I am prompted to do so at this time after listening to the spiel I have just heard from the hon. member for Leeds,

who can speak more pompously, utter more words and mean less than any other member in the house. He is in my opinion very able in saying those things which do not help us a bit when discussing international affairs.

I can never understand why people who profess to be anxious to defeat communism get up in this house and use the fact that communism is bad as a defence for some of the very stupid actions that we in the western world have taken. I do not think anybody in this house has to be persuaded that communism has its faults. I do not think anyone in this house, no matter how they approach the problem, is not anxious to make sure that our democratic system is extended to all new emerging countries and to make sure that it is improved to the advantage of the people of other countries in the world. I do not think there is any real point in the sort of diatribe engaged in by the hon. member who tried to convince us how bad communism is and therefore how right we are. This is nonsense.

Communism has its faults and we have ours. We are not going to correct our faults by pointing up the faults of the communists and then saying that because they are so bad we must not be so bad. Frankly, the United States position in respect of Viet Nam is dreadful. I first said in this house on September 8, 1961, and I have not changed my view since then, that the best friends the communists have in the world are those who make speeches like that of the hon. member for Leeds. I refer to those who rant and rave about the faults of communism instead of suggesting how to correct our own mistakes and how we can best help those people about whom we profess to be concerned. We should adopt a policy that is pro-democracy rather than one that is anti-communism. Those who believe in a policy of anti-communism seem to think that this is the only thing wrong in the world and that anything goes as long as we are fighting communism. Quite frankly, I thought there were other enemies in the world during the last war-the Nazis.

A number of other systems which are not communism or democracy exist in the world today including dictatorships and some that are anti-democratic. Are we to believe from this hot-headed attack against communism that these systems are more acceptable and that all we have to do is drive out communism in order that one of these other systems may take over, thereby improving the lot of these people? This is the suggestion made by

March 18, 1968

those who are anti-communism, but I suggest it is not realistic.

Our objective should be the development of a policy in this country and in the United States, our great friend and ally, which is pro-democratic. This should be our aim and our hope, as well as the reason we spend money on foreign aid in an effort to do our best to assist other countries in obtaining those benefits that we enjoy. We should try to bring to these countries the best parts of our system in so far as they will fit the needs of these countries, in the hope that this will be of benefit to them.

Surely none of us in this house wants to ram anything down the throats of anyone. Surely that is what the hon. member for Leeds is attempting to do in respect of the United States policy in Viet Nam when he suggests that communism is so bad the actions of a democracy must be all right. I do not care whether you kill someone in the name of anti-communism, in the name of crime or in the name of passion, it is still murder. As law-abiding citizens the people who live under a democracy which is founded on idealism must take a very long and careful look at the violence that the United States is perpetrating on South Viet Nam in the pursuance of its policies or the lack thereof. No matter how blind we may be or how unwilling we are to criticize our friend and neighbour, I think a careful consideration of the situation will indicate that the United States is wrong.

Let me hasten to add that no nation in the history of the world has had more concern for its fellow man than the United States. The record of that country's contributions to international aid in an attempt to help underdeveloped countries and its contributions toward peace-keeping and in other directions cannot be criticized. The United States has opened its pocketbook in its endeavour to do the right thing. I am not questioning its motives. But no matter how great and wonderful its actions have been in this regard I must say that in my opinion it is wrong in respect of its policies in Viet Nam. No matter how well meaning or how good the intentions of that country are, its policies are dreadfully wrong. No matter how sincerely the United States may believe it is right in trying to contain communism and no matter how much that country believes in its own anti-communist policies, an action is not necessarily right because it is anti-communist. The idea that

Supply-External Affairs anything goes if it is anti-communism will defeat the ultimate purpose. As a result of that policy there is no reform possible for new or emerging countries and they will be forced to turn to communism as the only alternative. Communism is not the only alternative. Reform is the only alternative and I think it is an alternative these countries are entitled to and should have.

[DOT] (5:20 p.m.)

Certainly the Americans did not go into Viet Nam to save the South Vietnamese from an invasion by North Viet Nam. One has only to read the American explanation of their own actions to understand this. Reading in American newspapers what the American foreign office has said one finds that over the course of two years they sent military advisers to Viet Nam to help the neutralists make sure the situation would be stabilized so that elections could be held and the people could determine their own type of government. I think most members of the house would say this is a very laudable and worth-while objective. No one will argue with the idea of trying to bring about peace and stability so that people can choose the type of government they want.

I want to stress that the right to choose the type of government they want is the objective. We have subscribed to this objective in the United Nations charter. It is not a case of choosing the type of government we think they should have, that we want them to have, that is acceptable to us or even that we think is best for them. They have a perfect right to choose the type of government they want even if we think it is silly and even if it is so silly as communism. That is their right and we have subscribed to the idea that they have the right to choose the type of government they want, not that we want.

So here we have the Americans expressing this idea and providing military advisers to the neutralists to stabilize the situation so that elections could be held and the people could choose the type of government they wanted. We say that is a fine, great and wonderful idea. But did you happen to read the news a couple of years later when Buddhists and Catholics were rioting and people were burning themselves in protest that there had not been any elections because the Americans had prevented them? The situation was not stable enough and the American puppet, Premier Ky, said: We will not have elections

March 18, 1968

Supply-External Affairs now because the only result would be that the Viet Cong would win, or the neutralists would win and neither one is acceptable to us. The Americans backed him up.

I want to know what is the American policy. We have heard the puppet premier of South Viet Nam, backed by American power and kept in power by American arms, saying that the neutralists would not be acceptable. The Americans have said they went in to stabilize the situation, to advise the neutralists so that elections could be held and these people could choose the type of government they wanted. The actual fact is that those elections have not been held, that in fact the objective is to make sure they do not have freedom of choice. The objective is that they will have the anti-communist government that the Americans insist upon because apparently this is the only way we can stop the tide of communism from taking over all of the Far East. What nonsense.

I do not know where the silly idea started that communism is like a battlefront with the battle lines drawn and a line marking the danger area wherein communism must be contained. I always thought communism was a sort of insidious thing that creeps into a country and feeds on the false and the corrupt. I have always thought communism did not need any help from outside, that it fattens on the stupidity, arrogance, cruelty and incompetence of governments. It is the sort of thing that is fed and fattened by our failure to have faith in our democratic system, by our own failure to really use and practise those ideals on which our democratic system is based.

Communism can creep into any country where democracy is based on sham and hypocrisy, where we say we have respect for the people's right of self-determination but what we mean is that they will have self-determination as long as they do what we say. Communism can creep into any country where we say we have faith in a system of justice which eschews justice and where we resort to force to enforce our will. This is the stuff on which communism feeds.

I do not know where this so-called battle-front is and just why a neighbour of a communist country must of necessity be in greater danger of communism than any other country. Every country is in danger of communism; it does not matter whether its next door neighbour is communist or whether communism is three states away. What will

assist communism is the sort of stupidity that says that so long as we tell everybody that the horrible things we do are in the name of anti-communism it must be right and this is the way to stop communism. Then communism will grow.

I suggest that the greatest ally communism has-and it is a system with so many faults that I do not know why we fear it so much- is our failure to criticize ourselves. Indeed, people should realize that the essence of our democratic system, the very fibre and strength of our system, is self-criticism. The only reason democracy can afford the luxury of freedom of speech, which allows anyone to tear it apart as much as they can, is that this is its greatest strength. Because we do tear it apart and thereby reveal our weaknesses we make it stronger as it is supposed to be. Yet what do we get from tearing ourselves apart and trying to improve? We get this nonsense about how bad the communists are instead of realizing how we are failing to practise what we preach, how little we really are doing to bring to others the benefits of this great system we enjoy, under which we live and to which we pay only lip service.

I suggest that the situation in South Viet Nam is such that there is now no hope that in that country there will be anything but a communist government, no matter what happens. If the Americans had never gone in there I think the odds are that the revolutionary government would probably have been dominated by the communists, if not a completely communist government. But after all these years of fighting there is no doubt in the world that there will be no hope of anything but a communist government there because of American intervention.

As I say, Mr. Chairman, the longer the war goes on the more will faith in democracy be destroyed in those struggling nations around the world which we would like to help and the greater will become the chance that communism will spread because those countries will have no faith in democracy. The American action in South Viet Nam is a denial of everything in which we believe in a democracy. It is a denial of everything we have subscribed to in the United Nations charter. It is going to be a complete failure in South Viet Nam. I say "we" because our friends and allies are murdering many people every day, causing untold suffering every day by following a policy which can have no military success, a

March 18, 1968 COMMONS

policy which could not have been more mishandled.

[DOT] (5:30 p.m.)

Never mind about drawing battle lines around an area and saying "we must stop them here", because they will seep through. What we are doing is to weaken the hand of every would-be reformer in every country whose only chance for survival in a democratic way is through reform. We are pointing out that the democratic western world will not support reform and therefore these countries must resort to communist violence in order to bring about any change. How can anyone stand up here and tell me that this is the only way in which communism can be contained when for years the very seed of communism has been nurtured by our refusal to recognize that communism can best feed on the faults and weaknesses in our system? We do not need any special armour against the communists. Our best armour is built into our democratic system which allows self-criticism and encourages a critical analysis of what we are doing with relation to the needs of our people. We must practise it.

I must apologize to the committee for repeating myself but I do wish to say again, and I get a little more annoyed about it every day, that the greatest friends the communists have are people like the hon. member for Leeds. What helps them most is the kind of nonsense he was spouting in this chamber a little while ago when he pointed out the faults of the communists and then said, "here is your alternative: the stupidity we are practising or the worse stupidity of the communists". Why in heaven's name is there no other alternative? Have we never heard of reform under a system which is neither communist nor democratic? Where do we get the stupid idea that our choice is only between communism or democracy? Where did this idiocy arise? It could only be propagated by people who find any consistency between the United States position in Viet Nam now and the democratic process. The position is: you can only be red or dead, as though there were no other choice. Either the Americans are right or the communists are right, as though there were no other option.

Arguments such as these will destroy us unless we are willing to look critically at what we are doing and speak frankly to our friends and neighbours. Otherwise we will lose the struggle when the cards are all on our side. Why spend our time talking about

DEBATES 7753

Supply-External Affairs what terrible fellows the communists are? We do not need to be convinced. We just need to be protected now and then and our allies need a little help, which we are not giving them by telling them how bad the communists are and then adopting communist methods ourselves. What we need is a more critical analysis of what we are doing and a greater realization of the need for some essential reforms to protect our friends from communism.

We must have more respect for the right to self-determination of even small countries, regardless of whether or not we like the way in which they choose their government and the way in which they run their country. I hope we will speak frankly to our neighbour, friend and ally, the United States, and ask them in the name of democracy to take another look at the situation and to withdraw from Viet Nam.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
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March 8, 1968

Mr. Nugent:

Mr. Chairman, just before lunch I had outlined the position of the government with respect to the matter now before the committee and the fact that their present situation is that they can perpetuate themselves in office as long as they like. I believe that inherent in the resolution before us is a question of confidence, just as there was in the bill that we defeated. However, playing by their rules the Minister of Finance 27053-468J

Income Tax Act

has now said that there is a question of confidence. I think it is incumbent upon hon. members to make sure they understand what they are voting for, that they are voting confidence in the government when they support this resolution. No matter what party one belongs to, in voting confidence in this government one is voting in favour of the theory that there is no such thing as responsible government.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice have told us the official stand of the Liberal party, that it is up to the government to say when something is a vote of confidence and it can do so either before or after the vote. Therefore there is no way in which they can be defeated in this house against their will. They have made a point of saying this proposal is a confidence matter. I submit that having explained that position to the country they are being as fair and as honest as they know how in making sure that members understand that in voting confidence now they are voting for that kind of democracy which the Liberal party is asking the country to swallow whereby we are going to wipe out the age-old traditions of responsible government and start a new deal under which there will no longer be such a thing as responsible? government as we have always known and understood it.

The Liberals tell us in effect that this is a motion of confidence in a party that says it can never be made responsible to the house unless its members so choose and that if they elect to call a matter a vote of confidence they can do so after they are sure they have won the vote. That is the official position of the Liberal party on responsible government. My party rejects it. My party insists that a question of confidence is inherent in every major issue and every major piece of business brought before this house. I suggest that what is involved is not just a case of members of the Liberal party supporting their party. When they vote on this resolution they will be telling the country that they no longer believe in responsible government, that their party comes first before our concept of responsible government, that their party comes before their duty to support the concept of responsible government.

I would not want this opportunity to pass without putting that plainly on the record and making sure it is understood, because I am sure that the Liberal opponent who ran against me in the last election is gong to deny vehemently that his party stands for any such

March 8, 1968

Income Tax Act

thing. I am not quoting the suggestions of other people with respect to what the government stands for. I am quoting its official spokesmen. I am quoting the Prime Minister who said the only way confidence arose at all was because of a defeat. I am quoting the Minister of Justice, one of the front-runners in the Liberal leadership race, who says it is entirely up to the government to determine what is a matter of confidence and that they have the right to make the choice after a vote. I am quoting the Minister of Finance who in this case says, "We will make it a vote of confidence," but in this case the resolution does not involve as much money as the last measure which we defeated. In effect he too is saying it is the government's choice which dictates and not the importance of the item under consideration.

I am sure that the Liberal opponents who ran against me, and the ones who will be running against me again if they can find one to run under these circumstances, will be screaming that this is not Liberal party policy and that the Liberals believe in responsible government. How could anyone say that? Not one member from the government benches has risen to deny the position they have taken.

In the face of the official stand taken by the Liberal party on the question of responsibility, I ask anyone to tell me how a future government that does not want to be forced out can be forced out by a vote of parliament if the government has the right to say whenever it likes that a vote is not a vote of confidence or to call it a vote of confidence only after it has won the vote in the house? If this house cannot exercise control in that regard, where do we have responsible government? If we in this chamber surrender the power to get rid of a government that is bad, as our duty demands, then how or where do we have responsible government? I know that the Governor General can act only on the advice of the Prime Minister. Through those very customs and traditions which his party is now trying to tear down the Prime Minister gained the right to be the only adviser to the Governor General, and that on the basis that he has the confidence of parliament. But now the government tells us that parliament can never test that right unless they, the members of the government, feel like it.

I ask hon. members opposite supporting the government to search their consciences and ask themselves if that is how little responsibility they have for democracy, because

democracy cannot survive without responsible government. If this house cannot control the government, who will? The answer is no one. What action can we take if we cannot vote them out of office? Hon. members opposite who support the government on this resolution when it comes to a vote will be attesting to their faith in their party, in their need, desire and determination to hold on to power. All of that means ten times as much to them as responsible government, the cornerstone of democracy.

When I suggest that this is the height of irresponsibility I think I am putting the case very mildly. I can remember how responsible they were in opposition when they said they had only one duty, to get the government out of office no matter what. That was at a time when I thought we had a pretty good government. As a matter of fact, when I study the present government and compare it with the one they were voting against then I know we had a wonderful government. But their only consideration was to get into power. Certainly people today could be excused for taking the attitude that no matter what we do in this country we must get rid of this government first. But I point out that first we must protect our institutions. The steps we try to take to get rid of this government must not harm our institutions. I believe that the first duty of most Canadians today would be to instruct their members of parliament to get rid of this government.

[DOT] (2:40 p.m.)

We have financial problems in the country today. One might say we are facing a financial crisis. Some suggest that to hold an election at this time is irresponsible and that we should keep the government in office. In view of the way the government has mishandled the financial problems of the country, coupled with its record of fumbling incompetence and stumbling from one error to another, surely one cannot say as a responsible member of parliament that we should leave this government in power. We have had a series of crises in the house, most of them brought on by the inept handling of normal problems by this government. Whenever the government has tried to do something it has done it wrong.

I should like to know what there is about hon. members opposite which weds them to the idea that the Liberal party has the divine right to rule. Why is it so important that this government should be maintained in office when it will not accept responsibility and is willing to sacrifice the bulwark of democracy

March 8. 1968

in this country for the right to remain in power?

It is my intention to ask every supporter of the Liberal party how he can belong to a party which supports this measure. I intend to ask every supporter of the Liberal party how he can believe that his party is an effective instrument to perform those things that need to be done in the best interests of the country. Every Liberal in this country is going to have to ask himself whether he wants to belong to a party which obviously intends to destroy the responsibility of government. Liberal members must ask themselves whether they want to continue to belong to a party which does not believe in democracy but believes only in retaining power. There are some who believe that benevolent despotism is the finest thing for the country. It has not been good for this country. I have never heard any Liberal who espouses the policy of the present government say anything up to this time that would convince me that the government has acted in the interests of this country. It is very nice to have power, but a party should not adopt the position that it will do anything to retain power at the expense of the country. One must support his own party on the basis that it will serve the best interests of the country and will put that purpose before power.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
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March 8, 1968

Mr. Nugent:

It is my contention, and I speak for our party, that the question of confidence is inherent in every major piece of government legislation, certainly in money bills. There can be no question of defeat on a major piece of legislation without the government being obliged to resign because parliament has voted non-confidence. The situation before us today is simply this: All the other parties in this house have denied that responsible government needs to exist. They have denied their duty as members to uphold a responsible system of government.

I do not believe I am called upon to trace the logical extension and show what this policy means to parliament and to Canada. But perhaps for the sake of some government supporters who are looking a little dismayed or disapproving I should point out that we have enjoyed responsible government for a long time because the government is bound to act in such a way as to please parliament or else parliament can throw it out. This is the essence of responsible government.

It is true a government cannot last longer than five years, but we do not have fixed elections in Canada as they do in the United States where it is not possible to throw out an administration between terms. The essence of our responsible democratic system is that unless a government enjoys the confidence of parliament it can at any time be kicked out of office. This is the control which parliament exercises. The government is now telling us: We deny that principle and we intend to stay in office. The only circumstances in which the Prime Minister would be obliged to advise the Governor General he had lost the confidence of parliament would be after the government had been defeated in parliament on a vote of confidence. There might not necessarily be a vote of confidence after a government has been defeated. There is a choice. The government would always have the best

March 8. 1968

of both worlds. It could go on for five years but it could also decide, if it felt the climate of opinion was right, to go to the country and call an election whenever it wished to do so. This is not democratic. This is not responsible government.

At one o'clock the committee took recess.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
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March 8, 1968

Mr. Nugent:

Not only does this party deny that the Liberal party and the government have the right to say that but we reject it as a policy of this party. It is the policy of this party that a government must accept the responsibility of the inherent question of confidence that exists in every major item of legislation which will have a substantial effect on the country. This is not a case of opting out but of accepting responsibility. The Liberal party is trying to say: We have the right to deny our responsibilities in order to ensure that we stay here forever to enjoy power.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
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