Backstage at Ottawa


Backstage at Ottawa


Backstage at Ottawa


NO ONE can say whether or not the Government will be able to survive the rising tide of extremist opinion which is the crux of the second crisis the King administration has had to face since the plebiscite vote. The first crisis was a Cabinet affair. Mr. King rode through it with a “formula” which seemed for the time to be satisfactory even though it cost the retirement of Mr. Cardin. It was hoped that the “formula” would tide the Government over while tempers cooled and means were found to meet the eventual imposition of conscription at some future date. The reverse happened. The situation grew rapidly worse, not better. Thus the second crisis has sprung from underneath, fomented in Quebec by extremist and pro-Cardin factions; in Ontario by anti-Government forces calling for strong measures and national government.

It is an explosive and perhaps inevitable manifestation of Mr. King’s long-time policy of appeasement and procrastination.

This capital, of course, has no illusions about the false calm and lack of outward perturbation which Prime Minister King has tried desperately to create and prolong. The Prime Minister has undoubtedly manoeuvred to treat the Cardin resignation from the Cabinet as a matter of little consequence and avoid a commitment by himself as to the next step to be taken after Clause 3 has been removed from the National Resources Mobilization Act (the clause in this Act preventing conscription of men for service outside Canada).

If he has made such a commitment by the time you read this, you may be almost certain that the fat is in the conscription fire. If he has avoided it, the “crisis” still lies ahead.

Furthermore it should be made clear that the disappearance of Clause 3 of itself will not bring about conscription. This is a point on which there has been considerable misunderstanding. While the clause was in effect, no person called to train under NRMA could be drafted for overseas service. But even after it is removed, the proclamation under which men are called and the regulations under which they serve still bar overseas service unless and until the Government (or Parliament) takes further steps to amend the conditions of service.

The “regulations” under which trainees serve are known as the Reserve Army (Special) Regulations, 1941, and were published in the Canada Gazette of March 29, 1941. They contain a requirement that liability for duty shall be limited to “Canada and the territorial waters thereof as the Minister of Defense may from time to time require.”

Apart from the legal aspects of the matter, the situation at Ottawa is such that the most explosive piece of dynamite in the entire United Nations storehouse is liable to blow off at any moment. Few people have patience

with dillydallying at a time of supreme world crisis but the plebiscite vote has served to warn even the most rabid Imperialists that the threat of a great nation divided against itself, possibly even in hostile division, is much more than a mirage conjured up by the Sage of Kingsmere. There is much to be said for cautious, patient dealing where the alternative might involve not only a few thousand men in the armed forces but the industrial and agricultural effort of hundreds of thousands of Canada’s finest workers and producers.

There is much to be said also for honest piain speaking to those who still believe that conscription of man power for overseas service is unwise or unnecessary. Some of Mr. King’s most competent associates have long been urging this. Belatedly Mr. King now seems to realize how tragic and unfortunate has been the lack of it.

For example, one trained and competent bilingual observer who travelled through Quebec province prior to the plebiscite reports that he found an almost complete ignorance and misunderstanding of the issues. He found that invariably a simple statement of what was involved turned a potential “no” vote into a willing “yes.”

Granted Mr. King is an astute politician (his record of officeholding seems to confirm this), but he lacks understanding of what is commonly called “public relations.” Blame his shyness, his bachelorhood or what you will, that fact seems very clear.

And it is a fact that is doing incalculable damage both in Canada and abroad. For example: the highly distressing incident during his recent visit to Washington when he refused to meet United States press representatives and spoke only to the meagre corps of writers who comprise the Canadian representation there. The taunting doggerel which White House correspondents are said to have composed as a result of this rebuff is a bitter but realistic commentary on the shocking state of Canada-U.S. relations on the “public relations” front.

There is one further side to this conscription issue which has been generally overlooked—


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that is the increasing dilemma of Canada’s so-called “divided” army. Col. Ralston himself is responsible for the information that at least 30,000 troops now training in Canada are “stay-at-homes.” The Minister of Defense admitted that it was impossible to segregate these men and that as they emerged from basic training centres they were drafted into units which were partly overseas men and partly home defense personnel. The difficulty of training an integrated fighting force and maintaining the sort of esprit de corps which has always characterized Canada’s fighting men, under such conditions, is obvious

“Appalling State”

ÏT HAS been said frequently that Parliament has no work to do in these days of wartime Orders in Council. The work of parliamentary committees in recent weeks seems to belie that. As this is written the work and wordage of half a dozen of these bodies is pouring off the presses at the rate of three or four volumes a day. The twenty-four volumes of evidence printed already on canteen funds, radio, agriculture, railways, land settlement, rehabilitation and vocational training already tip the scales at over the three and one-half pound mark. Is it all “sound and fury signifying nothing”? The writer thinks not.

Take, for instance, the appalling state of affairs which Messrs. Graydon and Caldwell have already uncovered in the affairs of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. With the committee barely started, they have gained an admission from the chairman of the CBC that there is virtually noeffective centralized management of the corporation, such control as there is having been cleft into half a dozen pieces.

Apparently, when General Manager Murray was “demoted” there was to be an executive committee set up to administer the corporation’s affairs. That was over a year ago but the committee was never named. Why? The evidence is that when Chairman Rene Morin had to choose between blaming the governors or the Government he laid the blame on the latter authority.

Apparently Mr. King and his Cabinetcouldn’t decideon a suitablenominee for governor to represent Ottawa following the death of crusader Alan B. Plaunt. So the vacancy was never filled; the executive committee was never appointed and the controls were never exercised.

Already there is talk “backstage” that the entire board and existing management may be forced to resign before the enquiry is over.

Across the hall from the CBC committee room you will find almost any morning of the week another potent body of parliamentarians trying their best to conjure up the picture of what Canada will be like when the war ends and making plans to ease the shock of postwar adjustment. Before this committee

there came recently brilliant, youthful Cyril F. James, principal of McGill University, chairman of the government’s Committee on Reconstruction. Most potent document produced was the fourth draft of a so-called Basic Memorandum which is in effect the working blueprint (not yet completed) of the Canada that the professors and economists think we are to be. No hardheaded individualist should think of reading it unless he has first fortified himself with a strong draught of his favorite stimulant. It conjures up an era of governmental postwar control and