BIG LIBERAL guns already are barking in anticipation of an election in 1944. They join the chorus of heavy artillery which both
Progressive-Conservative and CCF leaders have been firing. Skilled Ottawa observers see, at present, only one result from a ’44 contest: stalemate. Though none will admit it publicly, the private fear, as reported to this writer from many sources, is that no single party is confident of carrying enough votes to permit forming a government without outside aid or alliance.
Reasons for anticipating an election during 1944 are fairly obvious. It is expected, with some confidence, that the combination of air and second front attack will have brought Germany to her knees by spring or midsummer. Thereupon, to quote Senator Wishart Robertson, president of the National Liberal Federation: “It is not unlikely
that the cessation of hostilities, as far as Europe is concerned at least, will coincide fairly closely with the end of the life of this Parliament.”
It is argued that Mr. King is unlikely to attend the Peace Conference (if there is one) without a mandate from the Canadian people. Therefore an election would be probable immediately after conclusion of the war with Germany.
Ottawa was surprised and pleased at John Bracken’s decision (or rather, the gossips say, the decision of his backers) to have him enter Parliament at the next session from an Ontario seat. It is not expected that Mr. Bracken, even if he wins a seat, will take much part in the rough-and-tumble of Commons debate. That, apparently, is not his dish. The expectation is that he will make a few speeches in important issues, then leave the rest of the argument to his capable henchman, Gordon Graydon.
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Behind all the preparation for political battle, Ottawa is not overlooking the grim prospect that the most ghastly battle in the history of mankind may take place between now and any general election. A second front conflict might conceivably cost the United Nation armies in western Europe upward of a million lives.
Conceivably air attack and internal collapse in
Germany might avert such a terrible loss. But battle experience so far has shown the Germans to be far from a defeated Army. One weapon alone, which was used in Sicily, was so effective that, instead of our capturing large numbers of men and equipment, the Germans were able to withdraw with practically no losses.
There is no confidence as yet among United Nation strategists that the land mine threat in Europe can be readily overcome. A great defensive nonmetallic mine belt, some three miles wide and 90 miles inland, is thought to challenge Allied ingenuity and resource across most of the area which we may have to cross to achieve unconditional surrender. Other known and unknown defenses which must be overcome make the prospect of a bloodless finish to the European war (so far as our armies are concerned) look remote.
Ottawa, like London, has had its wave of optimism about a quick, painless ending to this war. The other side of the coin is a holocaust for which every Canadian must be prepared.
Involved in these second front preparations is, of course, the High Command and the ultimate future and disposition of the Canadian Army.
Once the Canadian Army overseas was split by the sending of troops to Sicily, the ultimate fate of our top-heavy organization in Britain hung in the balance. With the dispatch of new troops to Italy, it became obvious that a separate Canadian Army to fight in Europe with its own supply lines and ancillary troops was difficult if not impossible to justify.
The anticipated retirement of General McNaughton and the merging of remaining Canadian troops into the Allied Command for the western offensive has therefore been under review by top-ranking Army and Cabinet officials for several months.
Had the war turned out differently the elaborate organization which Canada was determined to establish in England might have justified itself. Instead the plan collapsed without the ace Canadian personality of this war (General McNaughton) having had an opportunity to prove his worth on the field of battle. The McNaughton story, when it can be told, may prove one of the most dramatic and perhaps one of the most sensational of the entire war.
On our own home front a noteworthy flareup has been the flagrant breach of CBC independence in the celebrated “Of things to Come” case.
The story as Ottawa understands it is that in some way the panel of proposed debaters came to the attention of a high-ranking Liberal politician. He is said to have objected violently to the list of speakers as being much too far to the “left.” It is stated Dr. Frignon, acting general manager of CBC, discussed the matter with Minister of War Services LaFleche without prior consultation with his Board of Governors. Mr. LaFleche thereupon issued a public statement that the whole program had been laid aside pending study by competent authorities.
For an administrative matter, such as the detail of speakers on a particular program, to have been submitted to a Minister of the Crown even before the Board of Governors heard about it, is said to be the most direct and flagrant violation of CBC independence which has as yet occurred. Parliament will certainly hear about this when it meets later in January.
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