BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

Crowding on the Left

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK December 15 1946
BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

Crowding on the Left

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK December 15 1946

Crowding on the Left

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

DON’T EXPECT much in the way of fireworks for the first few months of the new year’s parliamentary session. People who expect it to blow up in their faces are likely to be disappointed.

For one thing, there’s redistribution. The new 255-seat Parliament has been authorized, but that’s all. Still to come is the intricate, contentious job of carving out the new seats. And with nine of them in Quebec, now the sweetheart of all political dreams, it’s a safe bet that agreement on the locations of the new ridings will not be easy to get.

For another thing, no party wants an election so soon, not even the Progressive Conservatives. Brackenites feel their leader needs another session, or most of it, to make himself better known to the electorate at large. Non-Brackenites, of whom the party has a good supply, are in no hurry for a showdown with anybody.

The PC’s would probably go for an election in the fall of 1947, if it could be arranged. As they figure it, they’d be just about hitting their peak of strength by that time, while the Liberals (as their enemies see them) would be in the trough. Nobody can predict at this date, with no notion of what the 1947 legislation will cover, just what line parliamentary strategy will follow, but generally speaking, Progressive Conservatives might be expected to close the session with steadily increasing pressure on the Government, watching every opportunity for snap votes and odd challenges.

Whether these tactics will work is another question.

* * *

HEORETICALLY, Progressive Conservatives could get a combined opposition vote any time they really want one, by working out a deal with Social Credit. If these two parties were suddenly to fall in line behind a CCF resolution or amendment, they might force the CCF to defeat the Government in spite of itself. In practice, though, this will be difficult, if not impossible.

The CCF is even less anxious for an election than the most lugubrious Liberal.

They haven’t enough money for a campaign, for one thing. They can’t count on the sort of protest vote they might get in harder times. The protests of 1947 are likely to be focused on controls, to which the CCF is more deeply committed than the Government itself. They’re continuing to get nowhere in Quebec. All in all, 1947 would be a bad year for them to face the electorate.

Therefore, since the CCF parliamentary group is pretty alert, they’re not likely to be caught with an amendment that Progressive Conservatives and/or Social Créditer« could possibly support. They will try to be as oppositionist as possible, and to fight clear of that fatal Liberal embrace, but they’ll take very good care to forge far enough to the Left that no Progressive Conservative, for whatever motive, could follow.

From what can be gathered of Liberal tactics, the Government will make this easy for them by bearing pretty strongly Left itself.

Prime Minister King told reporters in November that the country needed stability more than anything else; that you couldn’t have stability with “half a dozen parties” in the field; that he could see only two main divisions in political thought, the split between conservative minds and liberal or progressive minds. Three by-elections had shown, he said, that the liberal-progressive forces could win if they stuck together, but not otherwise. It was the frankest invitation he has ever made to the CCF electorate to come into the Liberal fold.

Later, rooting around among the disciples and minor prophets, reporters heard the Liberal line spelled out a little more explicitly:

Mr. King will lose no opportunity,, they say, to draw a hard and fast line between his party and the Progressive Conservatives. He will give the least possible excuse for lumping them together as “parties of the Right.” Rather, he will do his best to steer naturally conservative support behind the Progressive Conservatives, and let his own party go no farther Right than Centre.

Thus threatening the Progressive Conservatives frontally, he will really be aiming a much more lethal stroke at the CCF—in the Liberal view, at least. The strategy against the CCF is to destroy it not by frontal attack but by eating it alive.

* * *

IN THE Liberal Leadership Stakes all this tends to lower the odds for the younger, small-1 Liberals like Brooke Claxton and Stuart Garson. By the same token, it heightens them against Hon. James G. Gardiner, the only man among the elder Liberals who appears to be definitely and candidly in the field.

Mr. Gardiner, they say, has been busy among the backbenchers and smalltime professionals who are the mass voting strength in any political convention. Until lately his strength was rated pretty high. Defeat of the Liberals in Portage did him serious damage, as, of course, the collapse of his own machine in Saskatchewan had done already. But even yet you can find plenty of Liberals who think the Hon. Jimmy will put up quite a fight.

Whether Mr. King has any positive ideas about a Crown Prince, nobody knows—he seems to favor now one younger man, now another. But on one negative point there’s no doubt at all. No matter whom the Prime Minister might want for his successor, he certainly wouldn’t want J. Gardiner. Currently, the safest bet in this particular field is that Mr. King will hang onto the leadership until there isn’t the slightest chance of Mr. Gardiner getting it.

* * * V:

IN LONDON last winter, in Paris all summer, in New York all fall Canadians have been dealing with the Russians—have had more contact with the Soviet Union, all told, in 1946 than ever before. So far as their reaction can be gathered from casual chats, it’s not as pessimistic as you might think—or rather, it’s pessimistic in a different way.

For one thing, there seems to be very little personal animosity after the year’s tussling. No warmth, perhaps, but no rancor. The Russians are regarded quite frankly as opponents, but as worthy and competent ones. Everybody who dealt with them either at the Peace Conference or at UN pays tribute to their skill as a diplomatic team—an admiration not always extended to the rest of the Big Four.

But though you can hear plenty of criticism of the way the Anglo-American spokesmen played their cards, opinion seems to be pretty unanimous against the Henry Wallace approach.

“The Russians simply wouldn’t understand it,” said one official who’s seen as much of the year’s work as anyone. “They just don’t deal that way. They look on us, if not as the enemy, at least as the opposing team; if we started giving things away to them, they’d call it either hypocrisy or lunacy.”

What a good many of the Canadians do feel is that in the varied debates of the 1946 sessions the democracies failed to hold their end up as well as they might have done.

In part this was a deliberate policy decision. Especially at Paris, the British and the Americans elected to save time by not arguing with the Slav bloc. A Russian or Ukrainian or Yugoslav would speak for 65 minutes, droning through arguments which had been heard 20 times before at different stages. After the two translations had been gone through in another 130 minutes, the British representative would say, “His Majesty’s Government, for its part, does not agree with the representative of the Soviet Union on this matter,” and sit down. The American would do likewise, and the usual 15-to-6 vote would be recorded. Continued on page 71

Continued on page 71

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For this relief the Canadians, at the time, were as grateful as anybody else. But looking back now, some of them are inclined to think it was a mistake. “After all, this is a contest, and we shouldn’t let it go by default,” is a common opinion.

“We’re under a handicap, of course,” one delegate added. “The Slavs are proof against boredom. They can wait a couple of days for a train. Why should they mind hearing the same speech for the 33rd time?”

Still, they say, for the sake of the record, it would have been better to answer every time—let no sophistry go unchallenged, no half-truth uncorrected. If these international debates mean anything to anyone, they must be factors in the political conflict now going on all over the world. Nobody seems to think the democracies are doing as well as they should in that conflict.

“And if they lose,” said one who isn’t normally a pessimist, “if the other side keeps on winning, I think the danger of a real World War III will be much greater. The Soviet Union will make the same mistake Hitler made— they’ll think, they can’t help but think, that countries so clumsy and inept in peace will be equally silly in war. They’ll be wrong—but we may have to blow up most of the world to prove it.”

All planners of the More Abundant Life, from industrialists to trade-union leaders, agree it calls for a higher export trade than we had before the war. The Government, in its White Paper last year, said prosperity would require 60% more exports than the 1939 total, and official planning has more or less assumed this could be done, though everybody had a different plan.

Lately the odd Gloomy Gus has cropped up in Ottawa who thinks we can’t do it at all, without a complete revolution in the Canadian export business. Why? Because, although we’re among the many great foreign trading nations of the world, many of our important export goods are controlled outside Canada. We can’t increase these exports, the pessimists say, because we don’t do the selling ourselves—it’s done for us in New York or Detroit or London.

Of the three or four commodities at the top of our export list, only wheat is entirely in Canadian hands.

Automobiles and parts are the biggest single item—$450 millions in

1943. All Canadian motor companies are corporate children of American motor companies. Of them all, only one has its own export staff abroad. For the rest, orders from abroad would be sent to Detroit; Windsor or Oshawa would get whatever share is protected by imperial preference, but they have no machinery of their own for expanding these foreign markets.

Take newsprint and pulp, $244 millions. During the war trade and commerce used to get periodic visits from Latin-American publishers, all clamoring for newsprint—if we could have met those demands even in part, it would have meant a good deal in future business and in good will. Invariably the Latin American would come in brandishing a Sunday edition of the New York Times.

“Give us for a whole year, just the newsprint that goes into this one day’s edition, and we’ll be content,” they would say. But we couldn’t cut into the U. S. allotment. The whole issue was controlled in New York.

So it goes in all our big export products. We produce for sale abroad, but somebody else does the selling.

What’s the cure? In some lines maybe there isn’t any. But officials here feel pretty strongly that something will have to be done to waken Canadian businessmen to their vulnerable position. If we must have 60% more exports than we had before, it’s time we started selling them.

* * *

A million dollars is needed this year for a war that’s been going on for decades—-the Canadian war against tuberculosis.

When this century began, the national death rate from t.b. was 200 per 100,000. Last year it was 45, the lowest in history. A big factor in this decline was the steady, increasing effort of the Canadian Tuberculosis Association, whose provincial and local organizations get practically all their funds from the annual Christmas seal campaign.

What do they do with the money?

Last year nearly a million people were X-rayed—perhaps the most important single measure against t.b., for 90% of cases can be cured if they’re caught early enough.

Seal money also pays for clinics and nursing service, follow-up care of patients discharged from sanitaria, ail kinds of work for prevention and cure of the disease.

Great headway has been made against it,' but t.b. is still no trivial threat to public health. It still kills 5,500 Canadians every year. ★