BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

How Wide is the Split over NATO?

BLAIR FRASER April 15 1952
BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

How Wide is the Split over NATO?

BLAIR FRASER April 15 1952

How Wide is the Split over NATO?

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

BLAIR FRASER

Maclean's Ottawa Editor

SO FAR the cloud is no bigger than a man’s hand, but some people in External Affairs think they see an end to the sunny harmony, the all-party approval which has supported Canadian foreign policy ever since the war. Sharp differences of view are emerging about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

All parties support NATO in principle. The CCF led even the Progressive Conservatives in endorsing it when the treaty was signed in 1949. Social Credit, suspicious of all international organizations, made a rather grudging exception of the Western defensive alliance. Not until this spring have any strong notes of dissent been audible.

Then, just as Parliament opened, the CCF national council issued a resounding blast against the decisions taken at the Lisbon meeting of NATO in February. “Irresponsible . . . disastrous . . . military objectives incapable of being reached . . . the very attempt to reach them would wreck the economy of every European member of NATO”—after three paragraphs in that vein the statement, concluded: “A halt, must be

called, before it is too late, to the control of NATO by the military and by certain American influences which jeopardize the peaceful and defensive objectives which brought the organization into being.”

First reaction to this was orthodox enough. George Drew, opening the debate on the Address for the Progressive Conservatives, roundly denounced “the amazing declaration of policy by the Socialist party”—“Our sights must not be set lower, but much higher in terms of real hitting power,” he said.

But then M. J. Coldwell, the CCF leader, got up to reply. He’d been present when the statement was drafted, he said, and he approved it. ; His party still supported NATO, still supported all of Canada’s commit| ments made in 1951, but “we have watched with a great, deal of concern the recent developments in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” And he quoted Winston Churchill and The Times of London in support of his opinionThe Times had said, of the Lisbon communiqué, that it combined “the maximum amount of provocation with the minimum amount of deterrent effect.”

As Coldwell left the House that evening a leading Progressive Conservative came over to say “I couldn’t disagree with anything you said tonight.” Other Conservatives had the same reaction. As word of this Opposition solidarity got around it led reporters to take another look at George Drew’s speech.

Barring his explicit attack on the CCF statement Drew’s opinions bore a strong resemblance to Coldwell’s on several points. He too had denounced the Lisbon communiqué (which was merely the announcement of the Lisbon “decisions” attacked by the CCF). The CCF had called the objective of fifty divisions this year “irresponsible and disastrous,” because “incapable of being reached.” Drew said, “If we were to accept a statement of that kind we would simply be deluding ourselves; most, certainly it will not fool the Russians.”

Coldwell and the CCF had called for more “economic rebuilding” instead of “crippling and excessive military preparedness.” Drew urged

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Backstage at Ottawa

Continued from page 5

rationalization of military contribution to the common cause which will make the maximum use of the tremendous industrial potential on this continent and at the same time make effective i use of the vast pool of available manpower in Europe.” He appar! ently agreed with his colleague General George Pearkes, VC, that Canadian infantry should not have been sent to Europe.

Coldwell said, “We think the policies ! of the North Atlantic Treaty Organi! zation have fallen too completely under the military, to the exclusion of social j and economic considerations.” Drew ! said, “If the added commitments undertaken at NATO are approved, and we consider those expenses on top of what is already being spent for national j defense, we must ask ourselves what i would happen to our economy if we j became involved in any more extended commitments.”

However blandly they might reply in public, Government spokesmen admitted privately that the Opposition might well be taking the more popular j I line. Many a Liberal MP held the j ¡ same views in his heart: even cabinet I ¡ ministers, some of them, share the instinctive emotional distrust that Cold ¡ well and Drew were expressing. Indeed, ! if the secret records of NATO’s own j discussions were made public it might well be possible to find quotations from Brooke Claxton and Douglas Abbott which would be strikingly similar in their effect.

Nevertheless, the Government and its officials are somewhat perturbed by these attacks on the Lisbon decisions. They regard the Lisbon meeting as a great success—in fact an unexpected success, for they had gone there with the gloomiest forebodings. The new realism, the new co-operation, the new unanimity of aim at the Lisbon session was a surprise and an inspiration to them all. They say the Lisbon schedule ! represents no great increase over pre! vious estimates—it’s a redistribution of burdens rather than an augmentation of totals. NATO’s schedule of requirements is still an international judgment (unanimous, this time) of the minimum we need to deter or to meet a Soviet a ttack.

Discontent is now rising against the burdens of rearmament, they think, because the fear of a Soviet attack has diminished. Their own fear has diminished too; they agree with their critics that the risk is not as great as it was a year ago. But, they argue, the risk has decreased just because NATO has been doing so well.

As NATO does better the risk and the tension may be expected to decrease still further. The nearer we get to the minimum required the more people will argue that we don’t need even that minimum—and, of course, they may he right.

But meanwhile we have to go on the best appraisals that Western commanders, with access to secret Westj ern intelligence of Soviet strength, can j agree upon among themselves. For the moment, these are contained in the i decisions of Lisbon.

One Monday morning last month there was an odd and rather moving little ceremony on the slope of Parliament Hill below the East Block. W. B. Melneczuk of Nelson, B.C., laid a wreath on the monument of Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Melneczuk represented nobody hut

himself—a retired CPR section foreman, small and spare of build. He came to Canada in 1902, but he still speaks English with a strong Ukrainian accent. He isn’t a Liberal, either. At the moment he is a CCF voter because he likes H. W. Herridge, the somewhat unorthodox CCFer who is Nelson’s MP, hut Melneczuk isn’t a member of any political party. His admiration for Sir Wilfrid, as for Herridge, is purely personal.

It began during World War I when Sir Wilfrid was Leader of the Opposition. Melneczuk is a Ukrainian, but his birthplace was Austrian territory before 1918. When he took his wife and children home to see his parents in 1908, though he was already a Canadian citizen by Canadian law, he was seized and drafted into the Austrian Army; it was six months before he managed to escape and make his way back to Canada on a forged passport.

So, when the war came, Melneczuk fell under suspicion—a former Austrian subject, a man who had served in the Austrian army, and who moreover had been so indiscreet as to say he thought it was a mistake to hang the Irish rebel Roger Casement. Melneczuk wasn’t interned (partly, he thinks, because he had a family to support) but he was disfranchized in the 1917 election and he suffered, all through the war, from suspicion and ostracism as a “foreigner.”

In that time of trouble it seemed to Melneczuk that Sir Wilfrid Laurier stood and spoke for all the minorities in Canada, for all the Canadians who ! didn’t agree with the majority for one : reason or other. After all he’d been through—especially after he’d risked a long term in prison by fleeing Austria on a false passport, just to get back to the adopted country he loved— Melneczuk burned with resentment at being treated as a suspect, as one whose loyalty was doubtful. Sir Wilfrid, he felt, would understand.

This year is his golden jubilee in Canada, the fiftieth anniversary of his arrival from the Austrian Ukraine. He thought a good way to celebrate it would be to come to Ottawa and hang a wreath on Sir Wilfrid’s statue.

* * *

Hon. Charles G. Power, the dean of the House of Commons, says the 1952 epidemic is not the first crisis we’ve had over foot-and-mouth disease in Canada. Everyone else seems to have j forgotten it, but he remembers the first one:

Sir Lomer Gouin, retired premier of Quebec, had been honored by the gift of a beautiful Limoges vase from the government of France. It came over by ship, carefully packed in straw. France is a country where foot-andmouth disease is endemic. Straw is one of the many things capable of [ carrying the virus. Normally, of I course, the ban is merely against straw used for cattle bedding or fodder.

But to Hon. W. R. Motherwell, then : minister of agriculture, straw was straw. Sir Lomer’s susceptibilities meant nothing to him and the susceptibilities of the P’rench government meant even less. Quebec Liberals j stormed and pleaded, Sir Lomer was

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furious, the French government was offended, Canadian customs authorities were embarrassed. Only Mr. Motherwell was unmoved. Straw was straw. If the Limoges vase was packed in straw (and it was) it would have to go back to France.

It went back.

Progressive Conservatives didn’t advertise the fact, but one reason why they let the debate on the Address fold up so quickly was their fear that somebody would raise the issue of a Canadian governor - general. (Solon Low did raise it, but apparently not enough people listen to Social Credit speeches.) Conservative strategists were terrified lest some of their backbenchers might be provoked into strong language on the subject, and that the Government might thereupon seize this issue as the excuse for an election.

On the other hand, thé Liberals themselves seem to be a little uneasy about the whole subject of “Dominion status.”

Bona Arsenault, MP for Bonaventure, had a private bill on the order paper to change “Dominion Day” to “Confederation Day.” At one of the early PC caucuses of this session George Drew offered to bet dollars to doughnuts that the Arsenault bill would he dropped in a very short time. He was right: Arsenault withdrew the hill next day and Prime Minister St. Laurent made a point of congratulating him for it. This is taken as evidence that the Liberals now think their campaign against the word “Dominion” has gone far enough.

For understandable reasons t he Government has not been able to put the real case for eliminating the unnecessary use of this somewhat ambiguous word. The Prime Minister has spoken vaguely of “some Canadians” who have the erroneous impression that it connotes a subordination, a lack of equality within the Commonwealth. In his position he could hardly speak any more bluntly than that.

A private citizen, though, could put it this way:

Canada has now achieved a unity in foreign policy, a unity in the face of international crisis, that we have never had before. Last year it proved to be possible, for the first time, to speak calmly of the possibility of military conscription, to predict that we’d have it if war should come again, and yet to provoke no storm of protest in Quebec.

One reason, perhaps the major reason, for this new unity is that FrenchCanadians are beginning to believe that English-Canadians too are loyal primarily to Canada. They are beginning for the first time to believe that if English-Canadians advocate going to war, or taking a risk in some far country, it is because they think the action is in Canada’s interest, not just in Britain’s.

But although some are beginning to believe it, many French - Canadians don’t believe it yet. Many still think that Canada, with the full consent of its own English-speaking citizens, is a mere appendage of Britain. And these people tend to find their prejudice confirmed whenever they see or hear that word “dominion.”

Canadian unity, therefore, tends to be damaged whenever the word is used —in French. Unfortunately Canadian unity has been damaged on the Englishspeaking side by the overt attempts to restrict the use of “dominion.” Some people quite sincerely regard them as an attack on the crown and the Commonwealth.

In fact, of course, both inferences are about equally wrong. However, they provide an excellent reason for letting the whole matter drop for a while, if