GENERAL ARTICLES

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK November 1 1943
GENERAL ARTICLES

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK November 1 1943

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

NAMING of Nova Scotia’s Senator Wishart Robertson as president of the reborn National Liberal Federation recalls events which caused that once-flourishing organization to close its shutters in September, 1939.

When war broke out the Federation’s guiding genius was Senator Norman Lambert. He had been named president in 1935 when the Federation’s founder (Vincent Massey) was appointed Canadian High Commissioner at London. Then on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 8, 1939, Prime Minister King rose in the House of Commons and made his “no patronage” pronunciamento. Said Mr. King with heat and conviction:

“If any of you desire to have person^ given positions in connection with this war simply because they are favorites of yours; if primarily for such a reason you want to have anyone given some special post, keep away from me, for I will never listen to you.

“I say the same to every honorable member of this house and I say it not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of the Government. We want no favoritism in this war. We want the name of this Government and this country honorably sustained and the man who seeks to profit indirectly by having his relatives or friends gain this contract or get that commission simply because they are among his favorites is no true friend of this administration.”

So that there would be no possibility of the Federation being used for patronage purposes the doors were closed and the organization itself put in cold storage for the duration.

Now it will be up to president-elect Robertson to rebuild the party organization within the limits of the Prime Minister’s no-patronage dictum. And no one in Ottawa questions the 52-year-old Senator from Barrington Passage, N.S., will earnestly seek so to do.

However, it’s funny how things happen around Ottawa. For months Senator Robertson has been

trying to get the room which he shares with Senator Peter Campbell on Parliament Hill redecorated. All summer nothing happened. Then lo and behold the very day after Senator Robertson had been named president of the National Liberal Federation, what should happen but the Department of Public Works suddenly arrived on the scene with a small army of workmen and started to redecorate.

Clearly evident in the resolutions and discussion, both at the Liberal caucus and the Federation conclave, was solid support for anti-inflation control and equally bitter criticism of the petty and annoying restrictions with which these controls were encompassed.

Underneath this criticism is a fundamental problem which WPTB and other Government control agencies have taken few pains to solve. The problem is simply that in many parts of Canada, (the Maritimes in particular, where politics are taken pretty seriously) there has been little or no attempt to use parliamentary representatives as a channel through which local administrative problems could move. If anything, Donald Gordon and his men have kept as faraway from local M.P.’s as possible.

It was obvious from the debate at the Liberal conclave that in a democratic country such treatment doesn’t pay; that wartime bosses would find their work less difficult if they were less disdainful of parliamentary processes and personnel.

Incidentally, the famous two-pant, cuff-ontrousers order which came out from Ottawa a day or two after Liberal members had been in full hue and cry against petty annoyances and restrictions was actually signed by Donald Gordon 10 days before the Liberals met. It was not put through as a sop to Liberal ire.

Board officials have pointed out privately, but have not yet made clear in public, that as material and other shortages disappear it is the WPTB which fights the consumers’ battle in getting more goods and supplies made available for civilian use. The cuff-pant order came directly out of discussions with military authorities who had been hoarding considerable amounts of inventory now released for civilian use under pressure from WPTB and similar “civilian” agencies.

Family Allowance

THE excitement over family allowances hit no one in Ottawa so directly as Canada’s September Mystery Man and Number One Income Tax Authority, C. Fraser Elliott, K.C. One day Ottawa newspapers announced that Mr. Elliott had arrived in England with his Minister, Hon. Colin Gibson. Mr. Elliott poked fun at the report; pointed out that he was still very much in Canada. (He omitted, however, to tell the newspapers that he was due to go across a few days later.)

But when he arrived in London he found a cable from the Prime Minister and War Committee of Cabinet urgently requesting his presence back in Canada. He took the next plane home—presumably to help worried Cabinet and fiscal experts estimate how present income tax allowances would be affected by payment of a cash bonus to all dependent children. But, actually he was recalled to speed up the distribution of tax refunds.

What many observers see in this hurried return Continued on page 57

Continued from page 14

of Mr. Elliott is that this vitally important, department (now raised in status with the promotion of Mr. Elliott from Commissioner of Income Tax to Deputy Minister) needs strengthening by appointment, of more senior understudies to Mr. Elliott. With a clientele of nearly 2.000,000 taxpayers this depart ment is one of the most important business operations in Canada; yet still operates in many respects as it. did in the old days when Mr. Elliott was the One-Man arbitrator of the nation’s federal tax problems and policies.

* * *

Typical of the problems which Canada faces as a Big League diplomatic 1 power was a flare-up which occurred during the visit to Ottawa of Chilean Foreign Minister, Dr. J. Fernandezi Fernandez.

The Minister wanted to confer a high governmental honor on Mr. King and Hon. James MacKinnon, to commemorate the signing of a trade pact between Canada and Chile. But Mr. King said as politely as he could: “No, thank you, we don't have these things in our country and I think we’d better not accept.”

However, the story had already been filed in Toronto by Canadian Press; had gone across the hall to Associated Press which shares news with CP. From Ottawa, in great, excitement, came a request from External Affairs that all references to the honors plan be “not mentioned.” There was delay, more confusion and in t he end the story j leaked out—much to the embarrass! ment of Mr. King and the Chilean Legation.

The news that the U. S. State Department had forbidden the marriage of members of its diplomatic corps without consent came as no surprise to Ottawa.

The “consent” rule has been in force in the Canadian diplomatic service for many years. Actually it is youthful Norman Robertson who must look over the prospective bride (or bridegroom) although legally the authority rests frith the Dominion’s Secretary of State—69-year-old bachelor W. L. M. King.

It isn’t a matter of good looks, the size of the girl’s dowry or whether or not she has a college education that counts, we are told. About all that happens is a few cautious enquiries into “family history.” As one official explained it: “If we found, for example, that the girl’s father was an elder in the Presbyterian kirk, we’d ask no more questions.”