BACKSTAGE

Can the Liberals muster enough snipers?

BLAIR FRASER May 24 1958

BACKSTAGE

Can the Liberals muster enough snipers?

BLAIR FRASER May 24 1958

BACKSTAGE

Can the Liberals muster enough snipers?

BLAIR FRASER

I CAN THINK of no explanation, except insufficient sleep on election night, for a strange error of fact in this column two issues ago—the statement that Hazen Argue, the CCFer of Assiniboia, Sask., was “the one opposition member from anywhere west of Ontario.” I knew perfectly well, though the knowledge unaccountably failed to register, that four of the eight survivors in the CCF parliamentary group come from British Columbia — Bert Herridge of Kootenay West. Frank Howard of Skeena, Harold Winch and Erhärt Regier from the Vancouver area.

Perhaps one reason for the blind spot was the sudden change in the CCF. Under the leadership of a moderate like M. J. Coldwell the CCF often seemed to be a left wing of the Liberals in Canada—there are no deep or violent differences of opinion between Coldwell and his good friend L. B. Pearson. The new CCF, in parliament at least, is quite different. Not only has it been cut to a third of its old strength, it has also been converted by the same fell stroke into a socialist labor party.

AT OTTAWA

Argue is the only farmer in the octet. Bert Herridge calls himself a “forest farmer,” but he has no special interest in agriculture or even lumbering—he is in fact a natural-born heretic, who for ten years was vice-president of the B. C. Liberal Association, and whose wit has won him the privileges and immunities of jester in the House of Commons. The other six are labor men: four members or organizers of labor unions, two schoolteachers whose background and political support are in the labor movement. In the main they are sterner and more doctrinaire socialists than the prairie farmers who dominated the CCF caucus in previous parliaments.

So far, it looks as if the prairie group is still running the party. The three Ontario members are all newcomers, and so is one of the quartet from B. C., Frank Howard. It was Hazen Argue and not Harold Winch who was chosen House leader of the CCF.

But in politics the men who were defeated seldom maintain for long any effective control over the men who were elected. There is evidence that the new complexion of the parliamentary group is no mere accident, but the reflection of a real shift in voting strength. The Gallup Poll’s breakdown of its own election survey showed that labor gave the CCF twice as much support as did any other occupational group. So the Liberals who welcomed Hazen Argue's election as House leader, on the ground that they could cooperate with him as they couldn’t with Winch or Regier, may find as the session progresses that their satisfaction is premature.

Even with maximum co-operation from the CCF the Liberals would face a serious manpower problem. If they let Hazen Argue function as agriculture critic for the whole opposition, they will still have trouble covering all the other departments. They only have five exministers and a couple who were parliamentary assistants; the rest were back benchers, and the back benches on the government side are a poor school for opposition.

.lean Lesage, for instance, is the only one of their five privy councilors with any experience in finance. He was parliamentary assistant to Finance Minister Doug Abbott for a few months in 1953, and he has always kept himself thoroughly informed on the complex questions of dominion-provincial relations. That, with his four years of service in the cabinet, makes him a favored candidate for the job of financial critic.

But Jean Lesage is also deemed the best if not the only man available to replace Georges Lapalme as Liberal leader in the Quebec provincial arena. Many of his colleagues argue that he can carry both jobs, at least for a session or two, and it’s true there is ample precedent for provincial leaders retaining seats in Ottawa. However, Premier Maurice Duplessis’s favorite campaign cry is that the Liberals are mere tools and stooges of Ottawa. Also, the most recent precedent on the Liberal side is the late Premier Mitchell Hepburn, who was also an MP when he took over the Ontario leadership. The example is not one to cheer the average Grit.

Except for the financial critic who opens the budget debate, it’s not expected that L. B. Pearson will designate any particular men as regular watchdogs of specific departments. A shadow cabinet is a dangerous thing for any party that expects to get into office in the foreseeable future—shadow ministers tend to expect that they will become real ministers. But the next Liberal cabinet, whenever it is formed, will certainly not be recruited from the present little band of survivors in parliament, and the fewer men who feel they have any proprietary claims, the better.

Aside from the manpower shortage, though, there is another good reason why the Liberals intend to play by ear at this session. They think this is no time to challenge the new government.

One of the Liberals got a piece of advice from his garageman that he thinks was sound:

“Look, mister, the people voted to give these Tories a chance. Now, you’d better give them a chance. Let them make mistakes, if they’re going to make any, and tell us about it afterward.”

That’s what the Liberals intend to do —let the Diefenbaker government get to grips with national problems as quickly as possible, taking good care not to obstruct or impede, and then wait to see what happens. They noted with interest that within three weeks of the election a Gallup Poll indicated that sixty percent of all Canadians expect unemployment to get worse instead of better, and that more than half think the government isn’t doing enough about it. They noted with even greater interest Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s belated denial that he ever proposed a switch of fifteen percent of Canada’s imports from the United States to Britain — a proposal he was reported as making on three separate occasions during a period of five months. They see no possibility that the September conference on commonwealth trade can succeed in doing anything useful, but they want no share of the blame for its failure.

So the indications, before parliament opened, pointed to a short business-like session that would run through July but then prorogue, rather than adjourn until autumn.

Finance Minister Donald Fleming had his budget ready, except for final polishing, before parliament assembled. He and George Nowlan, his colleague at national revenue, have been grinding away at that colossal job ever since the morrow of the election, and they can bring it into the house any time after the formal debate on the speech from the throne. Those two debates alone will keep the house busy for more than four weeks, not counting the actual bills that may be required for tax or tariff changes.

Then there will he estimates, a double helping this year—the scrutiny of governor-general’s warrants that financed the Government of Canada in the last fiscal year, and then the same job over again for the fiscal year that opened April 1. How long this will take is anybody’s guess. The usual pattern in the past has been a great deal of talk on those estimates that are brought in while the weather is still cool, but much shorter debates when the heat of July comes along.

This doesn’t leave much time for new legislation. What about the northern development program to implement the Diefenbaker “vision”? What about the CBC, its reorganization and its financing? What about the new Pension Act for which a university economist was hired to make a study, and all the other plans of which we heard so much in February and March?

These things are not being forgotten or neglected, but cabinet ministers doubt that they’ll be tackled at this first session. The government has hardly had time to catch its breath after a year as strenuous as any politician can remember. The urgent business of voting money and checking expenditures must be done in a hurry, but the other matters can wait.

By autumn many things will be clear that still puzzle today. The greatest of these is the economic situation, and particularly employment.

Conservatives are more worried about unemployment than they admit in public. It’s true that the seasonal change has taken place as usual, and that April figures look as if they were back to February levels, but the February levels were very high. Some observers think the number of Canadians without jobs and seeking work will remain above three hundred thousand throughout the summer.

During the campaign, both major parties were astonished to find that unemployment was not a serious issue. Either the people were not worried by the “seasonal” slump or they didn’t hold the new government to blame for it. But if the recession continues through the months when improvement is normal this attitude may change. Conservatives are keenly aware that from now on they will be held responsible for whatever happens—whether it’s within their control or not.

BACKSTAGE

WITH A SET of symbols as hot and unwelcome as a cattle branding iron, Quebec’s churches are waging unrelenting war on some 30 scandal sheets that flood the province weekly with a lurid potpourri of sex, crime and bedroom gossip. The papers are fighting back with vociferous claims of innocence, endorsed by some of French Canada's best-known personalities.

Who’s winning? The churches— according to their count and also the admission of the harassed weeklies. They have cut the circulation of the papers from an aggregate 600,000 to 300.000 and driven three out of business.

Their best weapon has been a label affixed to each paper by the

IN THE CHURCHES’ WAR ON SCANDAL

“Branded” weeklies fight back, but hated (S)ex-(Qrime labels cut circulation in half militant Sacred Heart League, which initiated the campaign. The League, w'ith 200,000 members, took up arms six months ago by starting an investigation of dozens of publications, acknowledged scandal sheets and others. Then it issued a list of those it considered morally dangerous. Papers were carefully indexed: (P) for malicious gossip (potinage), (C) for excessive emphasis on crime, (S) for pictures and stories displaying sex. Thus Flash and Hush, published in Toronto, were branded SPC. as were Montreal’s Midnight and the French-language Canard and Révélations. The last two have since perished under the brand.

The “black list” goes to League members in 1,260 parishes in Canada and the U. S., accompanied by statements from leading churchmen. (Cardinal Léger declared: "The editors and distributors of obscene journals are public sinners and must be treated as such.") Families are exhorted to persuade neighborhood shopkeepers not to sell the weeklies. Marshaled by Cardinal Léger, all Quebec churches, Protestant as well as Catholic, support the campaign.

With the League getting ready to publish another list in June, some papers, notably Nouvelles et Potins (PC) and Allo Police (C). have been cleaning up their contents, hoping to be exempted. Nouvelles et Potins has been shouting its redemption in every issue, in the words of such eminent Québécois as Rocket Richard, Gratiën Gélinas, the Plouffes and even a judge: Richard: “I have not always been your admirer, but now I read Nouvelles regularly and find nothing wrong with it.”

Gélinas: “I am pleased to underline the constant interest Nouvelles et Potins has given to the theatre. Comédie Canadienne has nothing but praise.”

Mama Ploutfe (Amanda Alarie): “Obscene? Not on your life. You print things that arc true.”

Judge Didier Leroux: "I judge it an excellent publication which should stay on the market.”

Editor Serge Brousseau adds a convincing footnote to his paper's transformation. It's now losing $2,000 a week, he says.

Even with success so evident, the churches are far from finished. The campaign won't end as long as scandal sheets survive, they're resolved. But they'll apparently have to win without Union Nationale. Not one of the papers has been banned by the government’s censor, although similar U. S. papers and scores of books are banned.

—KEN .JOHNSTONE

Backstage WITH TEEN-AGERS /They’re not joining elders’ A-bomb panic

1,200 Canadian students answered the following questions:

ALTHOUGH MANY of the

world’s leading thinkers, statesmen and scientists are full of fear about the chances of atomic war and human survival in a radioactive world, the generation growing up to face these problems in Canada is not nearly so alarmed by them. Most Canadian high-school students. according to a survey by Canadian High News, don't think there will be an atomic war. Most —but by no means all—think the fear of nuclear war will end war.

Here's how

Do you think atomic energy is good or bad for mankind?

BOYS GIRLS TOTAL GOOD 66% 54% 60%

BAD 10 18 14

UNDECIDED 24 28 26

Do you think there will be an atomic war?

BOYS GIRLS TOTAL YES 26% 28% 27%

NO 61 46 54

NO ANSWER 13 26 19

Do you fear that mankind may be destroyed?

BOYS GIRLS TOTAL YES 20% 27% 24%

NO 75 66 70

NO ANSWER 5 7 6

Do you think fear of atom bombs will end war?

BOYS GIRLS TOTAL YES 57% 44% 51%

NO 34 45 40

NO ANSWER 9 11 9

Backstage

IN TORONTO

The million-dollar contest for a modern city hall

IN A VAULT in Toronto’s old red-stone city hall is a box of 520 numbered envelopes containing clues to one of history's richest mysteries: the winner in an international competition to give Toronto a new $20-million city hall. Neither the architect’s name nor city hall's new look will be known until Sept. 26. although eight preliminary winners have been selected and each given $7,500 and the chance to polish their designs.

In fact, so great has been the secrecy that only one thing can be stated for fact: the winner will pick up $1,200.000 (6% of the city hall’s cost). Are the eight contending designs futuristic, or controversial? Perhaps. Only a dozen sets of plans in the contest were “conventional" and insiders say they didn't qualify. But Or. Francisco Villagran of Mexico, after one look at Toronto, wagered a Mexican architect wouldn't win: “Too advanced for the city!”

The competition has been surrounded by other doubts too. It has been labeled both “Nathan's monument" and. by a diehard few, “Phillips’ folly,” after Mayor Nathan Phillips, whose idea it was; but there’s no doubt it has attracted world attention.

Almost every nation sent designs—except Russia, and the Russians simply were too late. Ten days after an already extended deadline set for Dec. 30, they asked permission to register. In a crowded office in the old city hall Prof. Arthur squirmed for weeks between 40-pound packing cases from Peru and assorted packages from Israel, South Africa. Damascus. New Zealand and Japan. In addition to designs and details, they contained scale models.

In the last week in April all were set up in the CNE’s horticultural building. Three miles of plans were tacked to special board. Scale models—costing perhaps $2 million—covered 1.000 square feet. Doors were locked and five judges from four nations began work. They included Sir William Holford, who helped rebuild blitzed London. One judge asked for a wheelchair to cover the exhausting beat but aisles were too narrow for it. They each got $1,500 for their labors. Often the scene resembled a cake-judging contest. Judges, shunning civic fetes, munched from box lunches on their rounds.

There were rules—a whole book of them—but some foreign architects were merely confused. "What goes in a washroom?” one wrote director Arthur.

When it's finally settled the city hall will stand in an 1 1-acre square smack in the centre of downtown Toronto. Rules for the architects suggest it will serve a prosperous city. Smallest area of all—190 * square feet for one clerk—is the unemployment relief DEPARTMENT.-ERIC HUTTON

B ackgromnd

ONE MORE FESTIVAL: YUKON

Not to be outdone by neighboring B. C.’s all-year Centennial, the Yukon Territory is holding one of its own this August. Otlicially it s planned to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Klondike gold rush. More likely it’s designed to cash in on the overflow of B. C. tourists. Like the B. C. festival, the Yukon's date is purely arbitrary. Gold was discovered in August, all right, but in August 1896.

A CAMERA THAT THINKS

You don't have to be an expert to take movies. With newest equipment you can even be a dolt and get by. One firm (Keystone) has produced a movie camera that not only makes allowances for changing light conditions but won't work at all if there’s not enough light.

HOW RCA F HIT THE COMICS

If you read the comic strip Terry and the Pirates you’ll know we've been fighting a vest-pocket war up north with a sputnik crew that tried to take pictures of our radar setup. Well, they didn’t get away with it; furthermore, although the plot was fiction, everything else was true.

RCA F brass vetted the CF-100. uniforms and terminology used by artist George Wunder. The strip excited so much interest in Ottawa military circles that when the Journal skipped an episode a U. S. military attaché phoned to ask why.

IS SACK WINNING THE WAR?

How are sack-dress sales standing up to the barrage of mostly male criticism? Not badly, say Canada’s shopkeepers. Women bought 25% more clothes in January than the previous January; the sack did it, say retailers. Easter trade was 10% better than last year.

A discouraging note for sack critics; "Retailers are re-ordering heavily.” says Ike Fram of Toronto’s Dress Guild. And the editors of Maclean's, having recently expelled (April 12) all females wearing the sack from the human race, discovered a week later that nearly all the females in this office are wearing the sack. Campaign suspended: you can't win ’em all.

OUR STAMPS IN TWO COLORS

More two-color stamps are being issued in Canada starting this summer with a 5-cent stamp commemorating Quebec City’s 350th anniversary. Champlain’s head is brown on a green background. It’s not Canada’s first, however, a stamp for the Red Cross holds that honor.