General Articles

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

Quebec—Drew's Problem

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK November 1 1948
General Articles

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

Quebec—Drew's Problem

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK November 1 1948

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

Quebec—Drew's Problem

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

BIGGEST political question today is “Can George Drew swing Quebec in 1949?” If he can, the Conservatives are almost sure to win the

next election; if not, they’re equally likely to lose.

Drew assets which appeal particularly to his Quebec supporters are:

1. A most charming wife who speaks beautiful French. After the ballot at the convention, her speech drew an even louder cheer than her husband’s.

2. Fame as a champion of provincial autonomy.

3. Victory in six French-Canadian ridings of Ontario. All over that province he appears to have had the support of the Catholic vote in the election of last June.

4. The record of a winner. French Canadians, like all minority groups, bave a special preference for t he winning side.

5. Personal friendship of Premier Maurice Duplessis.

(CONSERVATIVES admit Mr. Duplessis has given no promise to help them in the election nor do they expect him to do so. The Union Nationale is maintaining the appearance of detachment.

One Quebec Government employee, a delegate to the Conservative convention, said, “I’m on my holidays and I wasn’t supposed to say where I was going. They told me, ‘Don’t ask the Minister if you can go, he’d have to say no. Just go and keep quiet.’ ”

However, Conservatives do believe they’ll have (he use of the Union Nationale machine, which

is impressive. They also expect open support from Duplessis M.L.A.’s and some Cabinet Ministers. Only the Premier himself will be conspicuously

neutral.

This adds up to considerable strength. Quebec Conservatives exude a confidence these days that they haven’t shown since 1930. They have a joyous conviction that the Liberals are through, even under Mr. St. Laurent’s leadership. And if Quebec does turn away from the Liberals, it has only one place to go.

On the other hand, Drew’s leadership creates some problems for the party in French Canada.

He’s a strong British Empire man and in Quebec the word “imperialist” is a term of abuse. His followers aren’t worried about this, though—they say he’s really no more imperialist than Mackenzie King and “we’d rather have a man who is frank about it.” The same goes for his strong stand in favor of conscription. They admit he’ll have some trouble explaining bis remarks about Quebec when he was attacking family allowances. But they arc sure he’ll manage it all right and win.

/VNE THING was plainly evident at the v_J Conservative convention: The Conservatives have a bandwagon in Quebec for the first time in 20 years. Already, some very queer characters have climbed aboard. Real Conservatives were acutely embarrassed to discover, among the invited guests who were attending Quebec party caucuses, none other t han Joe Menard, who used to be one of Adrien Arcand’s right-hand men in the Canadian Fascist Party. Continued on page 63

Continued on page 63

Backstage at Ottawa

Continued from page 14

The Conservatives certainly know how to run a national convention much better than the Liberals. The contrast, between the two. meeting in the same hall within eight weeks of each other, was vivid.

Conservative sessions started on time and kept moving. All the draft resolutions were ready in time to be mimeographed and distributed before discussion, so the delegates knew what arguments were about. Debate on the floor was open, vigorous and effective —one resolution, on the gold-mining industry, was amended in very important. respects by the convention as a whole, overriding the resolutions committee. The Liberal show had begun with two dreary hours of routine business all inaudible; the Conservatives started with the best speech of the whole convention, from Grattan O’Leary of Ottawa, the temporary

chairman. They postponed their routine until afternoon.

Twitted about their inferiority, local Grits could think of only one comeback: “After all, the Tories have had more practice with conventions.”

Don’t be surprised if the St . Laurent Government, tries a new approach to the Dominion-provincial problem, some time next session.

The present deadlock is recognized as intolerable. Ottawa is collect ing two thirds of its income and corporation tax revenue from Quebec and Ontario and giving none of it back. That can’t go on forever. Meanwhile, Premiers Drew and Duplessis have got themselves tied hand and foot to their refusal of Ottawa’s present terms and each has demonstrated in a provincial elect ion that his people are behind him.

Somebody must act to break the impasse, even if it. means a loss of face. Indications are that Ottawa will be first to move.

No concrete plan has been drafted, but a few suggest ions are being kicked around. One of them: that Ottawa

should act on its own, carve the taxmelon into nine shares without waiting for any agreement on the part of Ontario and Quebec.

According to this scheme, Ottawa would simply pass a federal act. declaring t hat certain amounts would be paid to provincial governments. Some conditions might he stipulated e.g. a province levying its own income tax might be ineligible but the money would he issued as a straight handout with no strings attached and no commitments from the recipients. If Mr. Duplessis should carry his “autonomy” to the point of sending hack Ot tawa’s cheque, t hat would be his responsibility.

AH this is still in the smoke-ring stage. Officials have done no work on any such plan; ministers haven’t even discussed it with their advisers. 11 may come to nothing. Hut it’s a safe bet that between now and next fall, something will be done in an attempt to k(x*p the Dominion-provincial issue out of a federal elec tion campaign.

Federal Liberals have been trying for years to coax Premier Stuart Carson of Manitoba into the Ottawa Cabinet.. Now they’re wit hin one step of success. Only one obstacle remains to be surmounted the freight-rates issue.

When the question first came up Carson’s answer was a flat, “no.” He didn’t want to leave Winnipeg still doesn't, for that matter. Hut he also felt he could do a more effective job there for Canada. Carson believes the most important Canadian problem is that of Dominion-provincial relations, a question on which he is an authority. As Premier of Manitoba, he could and did do a great deal toward settlement of this ancient constitutional quarrel; he thought that by leaving Winnipeg for Ottawa, he might actually diminish his effectiveness in this particular field.

Now the situation has changed. Manitoba has signed an agreement with Ottawa; there’s nothing more he can do, from Winnipeg, to help settle the remainder of the problem. The same logic that kept Carson in Winnipeg two years ago would impel him to come to Ottawa now. Federal Liberals have found out that he is definitely willing to come and they want him badly.

However, Carson has been a leader in Ibis year's fight against the 21 % inc rease in freight rates and against the Transport Board’s judgment in awarding it. He regards the Board's reasoning as hopelessly fallacious and the judgment as an intolerable precedent on which t he West and the Maritimes could he crucified repeatedly.

Carson could hardly sit in a Federal Cabinet which accepted the Transport. Board’s ruling; his opposition has been too vehement and too vocal. It’s taken for granted in Ottawa that if the Liberals still want Carson—and they do—they’ll have to allow at least some j part of the appeal of the seven province's against the freight-rate judgment. This is one reason why the betting on Parliament Hill is against the railways and the Transport Commissioners.

If all the Liberals’ dreams come true, the next election issue would be something like the great campaign of 1911. They don’t expect to go as far as reciprocity, but they do hope against hope for a real, effective trade agreement with the United States.

Officials on both sides of the border have been talking about this, off and on, for five years. Canadian officials think that with the present American i Administration a good deal could be made. Their trouble is that they don’t know who will compose the next Administration, nor who will dominate the Congress with which it will have to work. If men like Vandenberg are j typical of the new Congress, Canada’s chances for a good trade agreement would be excellent. If Congress comprises ii majority of isolationist penny pinchers like John Ta ber, chances are poor.

Messrs. Dewey and Warren themselves are believed to be fairly liberal in their views on trade. Some people in Ottawa think that during the “honeymoon period” of the first sesÍ sion, when a Republican Congress and a Republican President should be bursting with connubial felicity, President Dewey will be able to get anything j within reason that he wants from Congress. That is the time, they say, for Canada to press for an immediate trade agreement.

Others say there’s no hope of such quick action. The first concern of Republican Liberals, they argue, will he to win the fight to renew the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, which expires in June. They'll have no time to go to bat for just one little country, Canada.

Either way, though, it looks as if a trade deal with the United States will be a major plank in the Liberals’ campaign platform. If their wildest hopes are realized, they’d present the Canadian electors with an accomplished fact, an actual treaty. If not, they’ll do the best they can with a j program of good intentions, j

Biggest news about Sir Stafford Cripps’ visit to Ottawa was that it produced no news at all.

A year ago. when a British mission arrived to renegotiate the food contracts. it came with what sounded very like an ultimatum: “We’ll buy your

wheat (at the usual cut price) but we j can’t afford the other things you’re selling us.” Canada, prodded by the Rt. Hon. James C. Cardiner, came back with an ultimatum of her own: “Keep on buying all the food you've contracted for, or the wheat agreement is off you’ll have to buy your wheat in t he open market and lose more than ! you'll save.”

This year, in the weeks before (he I Cripps visit. Canadian officials wore

busy digging in for another fight. They expected to be asked to unfreeze the Canadian loan and they were armed with all kinds of arguments why (a) we couldn’t do it; and (b) we d need all kinds of special stipulations and concessions if we did do it.

To their astonishment, the loan was hardly ment ioned. Sir Stafford and his advisers were here for precisely the reason they had announced: To ex-

plain to Canada the British position and the plans for the next four years.

At the moment, Britain has a deficit of $1.200 millions a year with the entire dollar area. Sir Stafford outlined the plans whereby Britain hopes to close that gap by 1952. About half of it is to be removed by increasing exports to dollar countries; the other half will have to be made up by cutting imports from those countries.

Canada probably won’t suffer the full impact of the cut—the things we sell to Britain are largely the basic necessities of life, like wheat, or equally essential raw materials for British industry. However, it was made plain that Canada need cherish no hope of expanding her market in the United Kingdom for nonessentials or indeed for anything the British are able to make for themselves. That will have to wait for the restoration of real multilateral tradein other words, for the free convertibility of the pound into dollars. And that can’t, possibly come for several years after 1952.

When they did get around to talking about the Canadian loan, it was agreed without much wrangling that Canada would he able to release some of the remaining credits if, but only if, the United States continued on an adequate scale to make “off-shore purchases” of Canadian goods for the Marshall Plan. Whether or not that would be done was a matter for Washington.

As one official put it, “We were both going to Washington to find out what the score is. Cripps came here to let us know where the British stand and to find out where we stand. That’s all there was to it.”

Personally, Sir Stafford made a great impression in Ottawa. One of the Canadian Government’s senior men, and a very bright fellow, said, “It gives you a sense of inferiority to deal with Cripps, because he has so much brain. That always puts my back up. But after a week of working with him, I decided he couldn’t help being so much smarter than the rest of us he’s a good guy in spite of it.” -k