GENERAL ARTICLES

BACKSTAGE at OTTAWA

A POLITICIAN WITH A NOTEBOOK August 1 1934
GENERAL ARTICLES

BACKSTAGE at OTTAWA

A POLITICIAN WITH A NOTEBOOK August 1 1934

BACKSTAGE at OTTAWA

GENERAL ARTICLES

A POLITICIAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

ALTHOUGH the session's tumult has died down, with most of the captains and kings vanquished, that "morning after" feeling persists on Parliament Hill. The day or night before, of course, was

that eventful one of June 19, known now to all good Tories as "Black Tuesday.” Not even Mr. Bennett’s copious vocabulary contains enough adjectives adequately to describe the emotions brought by that day. To have the whole of Mr. Anderson’s Saskatchewan army left lying on the field—that was bad enough. But that the supposedly invincible walls of Ontario should have crumbled so completely before the trumpetings of Mr. Hepburn—that was calamity, cataclysm and catastrophe all rolled into one.

The whole tempo and temper of

Ottawa have been changed accordingly.

Professional political strategists, though they pretend to be hard-boiled, are notoriously timid and superstitious, and the chief occupation of Ministerial captains these days is wonderment over whether the fate of Messrs. Anderson and Henry was that well-known handwriting on the wall. A few, of course, are less timid. Stauncher hearts and better realists, they have commenced looking for the silver lining, searching too for the things which brought them such calamity.

Some of their discoveries, seemingly dependable, are certainly remarkable,

and apparently, they are not lacking in significance either.

The traditional political belief has been that a third party of the Left necessarily cut in on Liberalism. It had worked that way in England, so it was reasonable to expect it would work similarly in Canada. Accordingly, in both Saskatchewan and Ontario, Conservative strategists welcomed and encouraged the C. C. F. Mr. Woodsworth's candidates, they argued, would lie anti-Govemment candidates, would split and weaken the anti-Govemment vote.

Third Party Influence

V\7HAT IS discovered now, or alleged to be discovered, is ^* that Mr. Woodsworth’s candidates actually weakened the Government, or Conservative vote. The strength of the Conservative party has always been in the towns and cities; the strength of Liberals in the country. In the Ontario and Saskatchewan elections, the C. C. F. made no headway in the rural areas but polled impressively in the cities. Mr. W oodsworth's candidates took a substantial percentage of the vote in Saskatchewan cities like Regina, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon, which had been held by the Con-

servatives, or where Conservatives were strongest.

They made practically no impression among the prairie wheat growers, where the Liberals were strongest. 'Hie vote they cut into, therefore, was the Conservative vote. Or so it would seem.

And so in Ontario. In Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa, normally Conservative strongholds, the C. C. F. made an imposing showing. In Western, Eastern and Northern Ontario, and notably outside the towns and cities, they made no showing at all.

The most impressive demonstration by the C. C. F. was in Toronto itself. But while Mr. Woodsworth’s candidates were polling an astonishing vote in that erstwhile Conservative citadel,

Mr. Hepburn’s candidates were getting an equally astonishing vote in the same centres. Clearly, therefore, it was the Conservative vote—not the Liberal—which went over to the C. C. F.

In Toronto’s Parkdale division, former AttorneyGeneral Price’s Conservative majority wras normally 4,000. On June 19 Mr. Price had a majority over his Liberal opponent of barely 300. The logical conclusion would seem to be that the 2,000 or more votes which

Parkdale gave to a C. C. F. and third candidate came more from Conservatives than from Liberals.

The riding of South Ottawa is normally Conservative by between 4,000 or 5,000 majority. On June 19 Mr. Henry’s candidate defeated his Liberal opponent by less than 300. In a non-industrial, middle-class, white-collar centre, a C. C. F. candidate polled more than 2,000 votes. As the Liberal vote increased and the Conservative vote declined, the only possible conclusion is that the bulk of the C. C. F. vote came from former Conservatives.

Fall Election Unlikely

WHAT

does this mean?

What veteran Ottawa observers think it means is that collectivist and socialistic policies make little appeal to Canadian farmers. In other words, while Mr. Woodsworth seems to have caught the imagination of some younger voters, of intellectuals, of radical labor and of a percentage of the middle-classes, chiefly in the cities, the conclusion of Ottawa is that outside of the towns and cities he has made no worth-while impression. The farmer, it is argued, has shown himself to be a staunch individualist at bottom.

Mr. Weir, Mr. Bennett’s Minister of Agriculture, will probably agree. Mr. Weir went to the Saskatchewan battlefront, took his Natural Products Marketing Act with him. If that act—collectivism with a vengeance— was not one of the chief issues of the election, it was not the fault of Mr. Weir; yet Saskatchewan, and particularly rural Saskatchewan, rejected it completely. It was as unmindful of it as it was of improvements to the Farm Board Loan Act, or of Mr. Bennett’s farm debt relief legislation.

So what? Well, for one thing, Mr. Bennett and his captains have begun to wonder whether it pays—politically to ‘move toward the Left.” They have been moving that way. Mr. Bennett, toward the close of the session, defending his Natural Products Marketing Act, said that if it was socialism, then he «was proud to be a socialist, had been a socialist "all my life.” Later on, at a private dinner, he spoke jocularly of the Government “moving to the Left, taking the Right with it.” But Mr. Bennett, if those close to him may be believed, is not talking that way now. Instead, he has been wondering whether in "moving to the

Left” he has not been landing his party between two stools, helping Mr. Woodsworth on the one hand, Mr. King on the other.

The reasoning is not illogical. People who want socialism or collectivism will hardly seek it from a Conservative party, no matter what that party does. They will prefer a party which preaches such things openly, without qualification. On the other hand, those who fear socialism or who hate collectivism will withdraw from a party which as much as trifles with such things. Mr. Bennett's obvious danger, therefore, must be that in moving Leftward he is but popularizing the Left for Mr. Woodsworth’s benefit, losing the Right for Mr. King’s benefit. While his city vote —white-collar workers and radical labor—goes over to Mr. Woodsworth, conservative business and conservative labor seek refuge with Mr. King. Meanwhile the farmers —or the bulk of them—individualists, remain Liberal.

So the coming months may bring a change in Mr. Bennett’s reforming zeal, with a substitute policy of cautious, watchful waiting Mr. King still believes in a general election this fall, exhorts his party to sleep in its armor. The Liberal chieftain, it would seem, is unnecessarily vigilant. A general election this fall is not impossible, but it is extremely improbable. With the confidence and morale of his party badly shattered, lacking a party organizer and without a war chest, Mr. Bennett’s almost obvious course is to delay battle as long as possible, trusting that in the meantime something may turn up.

Ontario’s New Premier

VW'HAT CAN turn up? Mr. Bennett knows that "* one possibility is that Messrs. Hepburn, Gardiner and Pattullo will be much less formidable in office than they were upon the hustings. Governments as soon as they are bom, begin to die —and to make enemies. So Mr. Bennett reasons that to have Liberal Governments in all of our provinces but one is not necessarily a handicap in these days for a Dominion Conservative party. Just as Mr. Henry’s sins were visited upon Mr. Bennett and vice versa, so Mr. Hepburn’s sins will be visited upon Mr. King, also Mr. Gardiner’s and Mr. Pattullo’s. And it is by no means certain that Messrs. Hepburn, Gardiner and Pattullo will be able to build Jerusalems in their respective provinces.

At this writing, and judging from the reactions of

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the inner circles, Mr. Hepburn’s honeymoon in office has thus far not seemed impressive to his party’s hierarchy in Ottawa. They do not like his propensity to “think out loud” in the presence of reporters. They shake their heads dubiously over his talk about abolishing the LieutenantGovernor. They fear that his general behavior lacks something in dignity.

Yet it is by no means certain that Ottawa will be able to control Mr. Hepburn. Ottawa, to begin with, helped little in his victory. While Mr. Henry was able to cajole Mr. Bennett into an eleventh-hour appail for him on the radio, Mr. Hepburn couldn’t get Mr. King within a mile of either a platform or a microphone. Indeed, it is no secret that the majority of Federal Liberal leaders had little faith in Mr. Hepburn, that many of them wanted Mr. Euler in his place, that some of them even longed for the deposed Mr. Sinclair. Mr. King, it is true, presided at a dinner to Mr. Hepburn following his resignation from the Commons, but Mr. King’s language on that occasion was a notable exercise in restraint, something extraordinary in a statesman whose talent for exuberant praise is among his principal characteristics.

Consequently, if Mr. Hepburn is to become one of Ottawa’s trained seals, compelled to become more orthodox and to forget some of his threats on the hustings, the reform would appear to be up to somebody like Senator Hardy or the impeccable Vincent Massey. Their right to advise is probably much greater than Mr. King’s. Mr. Hepbum, the claims of the Conservative propaganda bureau notwithstanding, could not have got all of his campaign fund from the movie magnates of Hollywood.

What of the C. C. F.?

MEANWHILE, what of the c. c. F.?

Mr. Woodsworth, doubtful about Ontario, expected much from Saskatchewan. But Mr. Woodsworth returned from Saskatchewan sadly disillusioned. An idealist, I untutored in the rude methods of party I warfare, he had believed that the careful

weighing of issues was the only process of democracy. Therefore, when Mr. Woodsworth found his Saskatchewan leader, Mr. Cold well, being referred to on platforms as “Mr. Goldberg,” his sense of fairness was outraged. The hard-bitten campaigners of the older parties would think that all a part of the day’s work and a pretty jolly part, just as they thought hints about the “nationalizing of women” an even better joke; but these more or less subtle con jurings of possible Soviet horrors were no joke for Mr. Woodsworth.

Actually, one of the things militating against the success of the C. C. F., apart altogether from its policies, is that the C. C. F. captains have not yet learned the game of politics as it is played by the old parties. The technique of the game, its tricks and tactics, are so much Greek to the C. C. F. men, most of them unskilled in organization, and some of them still believing elections are won with prayers—or platforms. Perhaps two or three more campaigns will teach them that to break down the solid conservatism of Canadian farmers with their ingrained individualism, and to beat out Grits and Tories in the cities, they need more than pamphlets and professions.

A Historic Session

A WORD about the session already all but forgotten. What history will say of Mr. Bennett’s Government, no one can tell. It will never say of him that he lacked energy’ or courage, that he was afraid of change. In the session just concluded Mr. Bennett produced more legislation, and

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more révolutionary legislation, than has ever been produced in any other single peacetime session since Confederation. The Natural Products Marketing Act, whatever may be thought of it, was a drastic step toward collectivism. The creation of a Central Bank, with its attendant gold policy, altered fundamentally our financial set-up. The decision to finance a public works programme by a currency issue with a decreased gold coverage was, whether we like it or not, an experiment in inflation. The Bank Act was revised, with increased restrictions upon the chartered commercial banks. The Farm Board Loan measure, with its allied policy of cheaper loans for farmers, was a distinct step toward attempted solution of the debt problem. The new Franchise Act constituted a clear advance toward electoral improvement.

All of these measures, with others, whatever else they denoted, did not denote a policy of drift. They certainly did not denote an unwillingness to try. And to them must : be added, of course, the crusade by Mr. Stevens. The enquiry into prices and price spreads may not have got anywhere in particular, but it at least revealed courage and vigor, and it is not yet finished. At the present writing the intention is to have the investigation proceed as a Royal Commission, with the possibility that it will resolve itself into a permanent body of enquiry along the lines of the United States Federal ! Trade Commission.

Taken all in all, the past six months have been as remarkable legislatively as they were momentous politically. Let those who enjoy horoscoping the future have the job of predicting the consequences.