Backstage at Ottawa


November 1 1938

Backstage at Ottawa


November 1 1938

Backstage at Ottawa


AT THIS writing, Prime Minister King is getting ready to go down to Hyde Park, break bread with and sleep under the roof of his great and good friend, President Franklin Roosevelt. They will have plenty to talk about. There will be that new Canada-United States trade agreement (at the moment still struggling to be born) and, much nearer to I lost Roosevelt’s heart, the St. Lawrence Waterway. If Mr. Mitchell Hepburn’s ears should chance to burn just about that time, he should know the reason.

Because the gulf between leaders King and Hepburn is wider than ever. When Mr. King, taking a week to recover from a letter which Mr. Hepburn wrote him about the St. Lawrence Waterway (it sounded like Herr Hitler at poor Schuschnigg), tried one of those soft answers that are supposed to turn away wrath, Mr. Hepburn, in his best literary style, piled on more wrath. So acute became the crisis, somebody suggested that Mr. King, emulating Mr. Chamberlain, should “take a plane and fly to see 'Mitch’.’’ Mr. King, however, preferred Kingsmere. Which perhaps was just as well.

What the political consequences will be later on, nobody knows. The immediate consequence is that the St. I^awrence Seaway project is as dead as Queen Anne. Mr. King may like Mr. Roosevelt, may be anxious to oblige him. He doesn’t like him well enough and isn't anxious enough to oblige him to take on a pitched battle with Mr. Hepburn upon what might be doubtful grounds. Mr. King is a cautious general.

Cabinet Reorganization

DESIDES, Mr. King (as he ■*-* doubtless explained to Mr.

Roosevelt) has other things to do. There is his Cabinet. Shot through with casualties through illness, the Cabinet has to be reorganized, may have to Inmade over from top to bottom.

Finance Minister Dunning, absent from his ¡x>st since the close of last session, is said to be regaining his health, will resurn« his duties shortly. But should Mr. Dunning again find the going too heavy for him (the Finance Minister’s job is one of utter drudgery). Mr. King will lx; up against the task of finding his successor. Which would not be easy. In the meantime somebody must take the place of PostmasterGeneral Elliott, who has been ill for nearly a year; somebody else must take the place of Minister of Pensions Power, whose health is indifferent. North York’s Colonel Mulock will likely get the jx>st office job, and South Renfrew’s Dr. McCann the jxst of pensions. Whether the changes will strengthen the Ministry, or strengthen it as much as it needs to 1H* strengthened, remains to be* seen.

But Mr. King’s Cabinet will probably fie changed in more important ways. Minister of Justice Lapointe, who has had his armor on for a long time, wants to take it off. It is told he would welcome a senatorship. and Mr. King, in ordinary circumstances, would gladly give him what he wants. Aír. King’s difficulty is that talents like Air. Lapointe’s are extremely rare, and that with Air. Duplessis making things all too interesting for Liberalism in Quebec, the lack is a somewhat serious one. No other FrenchCanadian in the House, nor in the Cabinet for that matter, can take Lapointe’s place, command his authority. Air. Cardin is a good organizer, formidable on the stump, but

without Lapointe's parliamentary experience and debating power in English; while Air. Rinfret, possessed of talents of a sort, is a light skirmisher at best.

Next is F-uler. A veteran of more than twenty years service, the Minister of Commerce is said to seek repose, would probably take it contentedly on the red-cushioned seats of the Senate. He may not press his case to the point of a resignation at present (he might even be induced to move over to F inance in the event of Air. Dunning’s retirement), but it is to be doubted whether he goes into the next election. And so with Minister of Resources Crerar.

Indeed, looking over his Cabinet, Mr. King can count on not more than three or four Alinisters to go into the next election with him. Ilsley of Nova Scotia; Rogers and Howe of Ontario; Gardiner of Saskatchewan—these are the only ones certain to remain. Most of the others will go where Cabinet Alinisters usually go—if they go at the right time.

I here is Air. King himself. No one pretends any longer that his health is gxxl. He has been leader of his party continuously for twenty years; Prime Alinister for twelve years.

I hey have for the most part been strenuous years; have taken their toll. Signs of that toll came this year, when for

nearly four weeks on end Air. King was kept from his office by an attack of sciatica. There are those who say (with what authority, one cannot tell) that the next election will be the last Air. King will choose to fight, with just the possibility he may not choose to fight that one. Fie has talked often of retiring to write his memoirs; of spending his remaining years among his books in the Kingsmere mountains he loves well. Once (to a friend) he talked of the error of statesmen in lingering t(x> long on the stage.


X/TEANWHILE Ottawa remains (as some wag said during the European crisis) the quietest capital in Christendom. Talk of grappling with unemployment, with the railways, with other problems, is heard no more. Inertia, perhaps disillusionment, seems to be over everybody. During the weeks of the Czech-Hitler trouble, nobody did anything, or pretended to. By-election writs were delayed; appointments postponed; a legislative pro gram for the next session not thought of. For weeks on end the Cabinet met only on a Tuesday, dealt only with routine. It was an extraordinary situation.

All the more extraordinary, seeing that the unemployment situation remains, and the railway situation, and the taxation situation, to mention but the headliners. A balanced budget, once aimed at by Air. Dunning, seems to have been forgotten. Which perhaps is just as well. If chance ever existed for a balanced budget (with revenues declining), it got knocked into a cocked hat with a fixed price for wheat. Indeed, with the loss that will be taken on wheat this year, plus the railways, plus increased costs for defense, the deficit will be heavy. If there be those among us who are looking for lighter taxes next year, they had better forget about it.

Speaking of defense, the country might as well be told that had Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia, bringing Britain and France against him, Mr. King was prepared to

call Parliament within two weeks and submit to it a policy of Canadian participation. This may be challenged, but there is really no question about it. The Cabinet was unanimous. Incidentally, very little pressure was brought to bear upon the Government to take any sort of stand. A few telegrams were received, demanding that the Cabinet “come out behind the Empire,” but they came from only two provinces, mostly from three cities in those provinces.

Dr. Alanion

TNR. MANION, his honeymoon of leadership over, is discovering—what Borden, Meighen and Bennett discovered before him—that shepherding the Conservative Party in Canada is no job for an angel. Making the first pronouncement of his chieftainship at Barry’s Bay, Manion said that the alternative to reform was “revolution.” whereupon the venerable Montreal Gazelle, in its best midVictorian ni(x)d, lamented as though the leadership of the Party had been turned over to Tim Buck. Viewing with alarm to the extent of two or three of its most pontifical editorials, the Gazette wanted to know where the Party was being taken to, seemed to feel that it was being taken to Moscow.

Less fearful than the Gazette but more malicious, the Montreal Star, as Tory under Air. J. W. AIcConnell as under the late Lord Atholstan, resorted to sarcasm. Taking Dr. Manion’s “revolution” bogyman and knocking him about in Editor Albert Carman’s best style, it ended by telling the doctor to “wake up,” that he must be “sleeping on his back.”

A few days later, at Saint John, Manion flourished his shillelagh, brought it down on the heads of his critics. Substituting the word "barbarism” for "revolution,” he told the Gazette and Star they were reactionaries who had been put into their proper place by the Ottawa convention; that if they wanted to know where he was going, he would tell them he was “going straight ahead;” that the only “ism” he was preaching was “Canadianism,” and that, finally, he didn’t give a tinker’s curse what a lot of Bourbons thought about him, anyway.

That ended the firing—for the time being. Everybody in Ottawa knows that it will break out again; that A1ontreal and St. James Street don’t like Dr. Alanion, and that Dr. Manion reciprocates heartily. Indeed, if A1r. Roosevelt hadn’t demonstrated that “purges” are a bit dangerous, Dr. Manion might by this time be engaged in one of his own. He knows that Montreal didn’t want him to be leader; that if it had the power, it would throw him from the battlements with the first favorable opportunity. If the knowing of it doesn’t make Manion more radical than he otherwise would be, then we don’t know the man.

Actually, of course, Manion is less radical than Bennett was. Less radical by instinct. An old-fashioned political realist, he has no use for Mr. Herridge’s philosophies; still less use for Mr. Stevens’ moral platitudes. That he is sincerely desirous of bettering things, no one need doubt, but he isn’t thinking of revolution, isn’t fearing one, and will certainly never lead one. When Manion uses words like “revolution” and “barbarism,” he is just a victim of his propensity to use language a bit loosely, to pick up the first term that’s most handy. It is a fault more embarrassing than dangerous.

And Manion’s most immediate troubles won’t come from Montreal reactionaries (the mood of the country being what it is, the antagonism of the Gazette and the Star is an asset). They are more likely to come from Mr. Bennett. Long a law unto himself, with no talent for “followership,” Bennett, in the House, it is predicted, will be a thorn in the side of Manion. Already, if report be true, the relations of the two men are less than what they should be. Bennett did nothing to make it easier for Manion to establish quarters in the Parliament Buildings. He himself, at this writing, still occupies the room of the Leader of the Opposition. In the more humble quarters of the Chief Conservative Whip sits Manion—there at the suggestion of Prime Minister King. (Mr. King, incidentally, has shown Manion every courtesy and consideration, intervened personally to see to it that he was not opposed in London). As a consequence. Conservatives don’t look forward to the next session of the House without misgivings; Mr. Bennett will feel, they fear, that where he sits must be the head of the table.

If their fears be right, watch for trouble. Manion. whatever else he turns out to be. will be no puppet. Will not be bossed.

When, during the Czechoslovakia crisis, some of his more effervescent followers were deluging him with telegrams demanding that he “make a statement,” he kept his head, refused either to rush into print or to attack the Government. When the Government finally did make a statement of its own, Manion, at the right time, said the right thing. And said it well.

Other Parties Silent

THE other parties? Mr. Woodsworth has been strangely silent. Mr. Coldwell. his chief captain, is almost equally taciturn. Mr. Harry Stevens, his Reconstruction Party dead and buried, has gone into oblivion. And so with the others. The political unrest of a few years ago seems to have subsided; either that or it is leaderless, or the new leaders have not made themselves known. Mr. Herridge, reported in Nova Scotia some time ago, and said to be quietly organizing a new movement, has for the time being stopped making speeches.

Perhaps it’s the lull before the storm; though we doubt it. It looks more like political weariness.

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Rainbow Smoke

PEOPLE may soon be smoking cigar" ettes giving off blood-red smoke, or any color of the rainbow for that matter. Otto L. Miller, of Tennessee, has been granted a patent on a process for treating cigarettes to give off colored smoke.

There are many applications in the use of the invention. For example, a type of cigarette made in accordance with the present invention can be employed to produce a smoke which matches the color of ladies’ gowns or any other article of wear, jewellery, or other surroundings, depending on the will or whim of the smoker.

Chief basis of the invention, however, its inventor states, is the belief that half the enjoyment of a cigarette comes from watching its smoke. As support of this theory the inventor cites the fact that a cigarette in the dark has a different taste from one smoked in a lighted room. Science Digest.