General Articles

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

One More Ocean to Cross

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK September 1 1947
General Articles

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

One More Ocean to Cross

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK September 1 1947

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

One More Ocean to Cross

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

A YEAR AGO officials who are working to expand immigration rather welcomed the steady barrage on the subject from the opposition press. The Government was timid and slow and could do with some needling.

Today the same officials are a bit annoyed. Criticism goes on in the same old tone of voice, and they think it tends to obscure the past year’s record. Canadian immigration policy has moved a long way forward since May, 1946, and now it bears comparison with that of any country.

Great Britian, desperately short of manpower, is taking in 4,000 displaced persons a week as miners, textile workers and domestics. Belgium, her mines undermanned, wants 15,000 miners from the DP camps if she can find them. Canada is in third place, having agreed to accept 10,000 displaced persons—and that figure will be swelled by further 5,000 lots as fast as we can find jobs and transport for them.

In the United States plans were laid to bring in 100,000 DP’s a year for four years. But the plans depended on legislation that Congress never got around to passing. And the other New World countries are far behind—the whole of South America is down for only 15,000 of whom a scant 2,500 have actually been received.

But displaced persons make up less than a third of the immigrants already cleared for admission to Canada this year. Here are the rest:

Relatives of people already here, 15,000.

Dutch farmers, arrived and expected, 2,000. Polish ex-soldiers, now farmhands, 4,500.

Britons and Americans, as many as want to come —for the British it’s just a matter of finding transport. All healthy, willing-to-work individuals are welcome, and there is no legal barrier to their entry.

* * *

EVEN for non-British people the restrictions are I no longer formidable. By the letter of the law, only relatives of those already in Canada are admissible without “assured employment.” In practice this is often stretched to include friends. Almost any European for whom a Canadian individual is ready to accept some responsibility, welcome him here and help him to get started can get authorization to enter the country.

But authorization is one thing, actual entry another. Of the 15,000 relatives cleared for immigration, only 275 had arrived by midsummer. Several of the ships normally on the Canadian service had been requisitioned by (he British Ministry of Transport so that the flow of immigration across the Atlantic was a trickle of 200 to 300 a month. Now the Government has chartered an ex-German ship for the special purpose of carrying immigrants, but she won’t make her first trip until sometime this month.

For British immigrants this transport difficulty seems to be particularly severe. One reason may be that the British Government is very loath to see them go. So far Britain has not followed the example of France and simply forbidden emigration—but with the current labor shortage, there’s certainly no disposition to ease the path of the would-be migrant. There’s work for him at home.

That’s why Ottawa hasn’t put more steam into attempts to bring people from Britain. They think the British Government, with whom Canada main-

tains very friendly relations, would hardly consider an immigration campaign now as a friendly act.

Therefore, a good many people in Ottawa take a dark view of Premier Drew’s scheme to bring Britons over by air. The men most desired in Ontario are farm and construction workers, the very people Britain needs most at home. Queer as it sounds, the Liberals accuse ultra-Loyalist Premier Drew of being anti-British with his immigration project.

* * *

THE DREW aerial immigration plan was almost stymied by international flying regulations, but that was straightened out. Hon. C. D. Howe, acting Minister in charge of immigration, tried the same thing on a small scale, had no luck at all.

This was a private project to get some domestic help out of Scotland. Advertisements were run in Glasgow and Edinburgh papers, offering jobs in

Canada at what are still called “prevailing” wages, even though they don’t prevail very widely any more. About 50 people answered t he ads; 40 didn’t follow the matter up, but 10 accepted and said they would come.

Mr. Howe put his own name down for three of the 10— two for his own Ottawa home and one for his married son. Arrangements were all made, plane tickets bought and reservations ready. But not one of the 10 girls ever showed up.

IT’S BEEN rumored and denied before, but this time it looks as if Adelard Godbout really is through as Quebec provincial leader of the Liberal Pa» ty.

There’s been an anti-Godbout faction in Quebec Liberal ranks for two years hut up to now it has never been strong enough to carry its point. Mr. Godbout is popular, respected for a very high degree of honesty and sincerity; the great majority

of his party have been and still are his friends. But the Liberal defeat in the Huntingdon by-election last month was the fifth in a row since the general election of 1944. As one Grit remarked, their pitcher has given five hits in one inning. Even his best friends are ready to admit it’s time to send him to the showers.

Moreover, at least two of the five hits have been home runs for Premier Duplessis. The first was in Beauce County two years ago; overconfident Liberals declared that the voice of Beauce would be the voice of the whole province. That made them look pretty sick when traditionally Liberal Beauce said “Duplessis” in a very loud voice.

The second home run was Huntingdon at the end of July. Huntingdon is about half Englishspeaking and customarily returns an Englishspeaking member. The English in Quebec are supposed to hate Duplessis and most of them

probably do. But in Huntingdon the Duplessis Government acquired its second English-speaking supporter. This in spite of the fact that the riding is habitually Liberal; federally, it. has returned only three Conservatives since Confederation.

So what with one thing and another, Huntingdon was a terrific triumph for Premier Duplessis and lethal defeat for Mr. Godbout. In Liberal circles around Ottawa you no longer hear any argument about whether he should give up the provincial leadership; the discussion nowadays is all on when, how, and in favor of whom.

* * *

UP TO NOW, one great obstacle to any change in the Quebec leadership has been that most of the men likely to succeed Mr. Godbout are personally loyal to him and would be no party to any scheme for cutting his throat.

Since Huntingdon, Ottawa gossips have been suggesting a way out of

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this difficulty. Right Hon. Louis St. Laurent will soon be retiring from the Cabinet, leaving Quebec representation woefully weak. If Mr. Godbout were brought here for a Cabinet job no one need have any qualms about stepping into his shoes in Quebec. It would be a perfectly sound appointment, too; whatever Mr. Godbout’s shortcomings in dealing with a political infighter like Premier Duplessis, he is an able administrator who could do very well in a Federal portfolio.

This move might not be popular with the young Quebec M.P.’s, some of whom are already impatient for preferment. But a complete shake-up in Quebec’s Cabinet representation is imminent enough that they could probably be pacified with promises and wait their turn.

In any case there is always the Senate. One way or another, Ottawa could provide a haven for Mr. Godbout and leave his successor a clear field and an intact party. That brings up the question: Who will this suc-

cessor be?

Some people favor sending down one of the young hopefuls from the Federal field. There are a number of Quebec M.P.’s who have more ability than a backbencher gets much chance to use. Of these one whose name is often mentioned as a pot mtial Quebec leader is Gleason Belzile of Rimouski.

To send in a Federal man, though, would require another by-election, and there are men right in Mr. Godbout’s Legislature group who could take his place. One such is Fernand Choquette, a Quebec City lawyer.

Mr. Choquette comes of a distinguished French - Canadian family. He is a grandson of Sir Etienne Taché, remembered for his statement that “the last shot fired in defense of the

British Empire on this continent would be fired by a French Canadian.” He himself is highly regarded personally and professionally; he is the author of two books on law and a professor in the law faculty at Laval University.

In his two terms in public life (he was first elected in 1939) he has displayed a considerable gift for politics. Twice at the last session he made Premier Duplessis lose his temper to such a degree that the Premier had the Speaker expel Choquette from the Legislature-—each time Liberals hailed this feat as a political triumph for their side.

Choquette is soundly Canadian in his views but unlike Mr. Godbout he retains the trust of nationalists as well. When Rene Chaloult, a firebrand nationalist, was accused of sedition during the war, Choquette defended him and won an acquittal. Not that he agrees with Chaloult’s politics, either then or now, but they had that kind of personal relationship. It would be difficult for the Union Nationale to label Choquette, as they have labelled Godbout, a “tool of Ottawa.”

Whether he has the kind of pugnacity needed to tackle the Duplessis machine is another matter. Choquette is a small, slender, quiet man, rather scholarly in appearance. You can imagine him fighting with a rapier, but not with the brass knuckles and cleated boots that are standard equipment with the Duplessis machine. However, ever since David beat Goliath there have been precedents in his favor.

* * *

Liberals are not alone in their byelection troubles and repercussions. Since the Halifax by-election in midJuly, when the CCF ran the PC’s cut of second place, the Progressive Conservative pot has been bubbling vigorously too.

Nobody, least of all themselves, expected the Conservatives to win Halifax; the Liberals had it in the bag

and everyone knew it. But the CCF gain was another and far more serious matter. In the 1945 general election both the Progressive Conservatives in this two-seat riding got mere than double the votes of their CCF rivals. The last two years have evidently cost them a lot of ground in Halifax.

When it was all over and the cohorts had returned, the Progressive Conservatives had a sizzling caucus cn it here in Ottawa. Actually, in spite of the sound and fury, nothing is expected to happen as a result of the caucus, at least in the near future. But it did bring into sharp relief an internal dispute on basic policy which has been dividing the party for some time.

According to critics, the bad showing in Halifax was due to the total lack of any provincial organization. And this in turn, they say, was at least partly due tc John Bracken’s aversion to provincial activity by his party.

Mr. Bracken still seems to have in the back of his mind the idea of a coalition with the Liberals. This strategy is based on the supposition that in another election the Liberal Party might fall short of a majority and be able to hold power only by a united front of the Right.

At any rate, whether this be his motive or not, he seems unwilling to do anything that will prejudice or embarrass the provincial coalitions now existing. In Manitoba, where Hon. Stuart Carson heads a coalition Government, the Progressive Conservative Party maintains an office but does nothing in particular. In Nova Scotia there are no Conservatives in

the Legislature to coalesce with Premier Angus Macdonald but the PC organization there is just as dead as Manitoba’s.

Many a prominent backer of the party is inclined to agree w>th Mr. Bracken. They note with apprehension that in by-elections held since 1945 the anti-Government vote has been rising but the Progressive Conservative vote has been falling. The gain has been going to the Socialists, and this causes great concern among the supporters of Mr. Bracken’s party. Seme of them are inclined to say, “Let’s play safe and back the Liberals.”

But a powerful faction among Progressive Conservatives, led by Premier Drew of Ontario but including many a Federal PC too, is just as strongly against all talk of coalition. Line up with the Liberals, they say, and you promote the CCF to official Opposition. That’s tantamount, in their view, to giving Socialism a guarantee of power in five or ten years. No Government can last forever, they argue; if you leave no alternative but the CCF, sooner or later you’ll have a CCF Government.

That was the fundamental dispute, beneath the storm in caucus over the Halifax defeat.

It has other angles, too. Bracken House, the Progressive Conservative headquarters in Ottawa, is costing the Party thousands cf dollars a month. The critics say, “If we’re net going to work in the provinces, what’s Bracken House got to do?” And even some who arc not critical are wondering how long the Party’s treasury can stand the strain.