Articles

The Forgotten Man of Parliament Hill

For ten years Ottawa has debated a minor mystery: why have both Toronto and its most successful Liberal MP been ignored in all cabinet appointments? Some say it’s because Dave Croll is too outspoken or independent; others say it’s simply because he’s a Jew

GEORGE BAIN November 1 1954
Articles

The Forgotten Man of Parliament Hill

For ten years Ottawa has debated a minor mystery: why have both Toronto and its most successful Liberal MP been ignored in all cabinet appointments? Some say it’s because Dave Croll is too outspoken or independent; others say it’s simply because he’s a Jew

GEORGE BAIN November 1 1954

The Forgotten Man of Parliament Hill

GEORGE BAIN

For ten years Ottawa has debated a minor mystery: why have both Toronto and its most successful Liberal MP been ignored in all cabinet appointments? Some say it’s because Dave Croll is too outspoken or independent; others say it’s simply because he’s a Jew

WHEN he overhauled his cabinet on July 1, 1954, to replace Douglas Abbott, Brooke Claxton and Lionel Chevrier, Prime Minister Louis S. St. Laurent left unoccupied the post of Associate Minister of National Defense and left sitting in the back benches a man who even to many non-Liberals looked like a natural for the job, David Arnold Croll, of Toronto Spadina.

To a large section of the electorate, Croll has looked like a natural for some cabinet post ever since he arrived in the House of Commons after the general election of 1945. But while the government has given him several important jobs to do, it has stopped short of giving him a promotion.

Only the Prime Minister himself could say why Croll has been passed up. But these are reasons which the record suggests might have figured in his having remained a backbencher: he belongs to the party’s left wing, which is currently out of fashion; he is too outspokenly independent for the tastes of strict party men; he is a Jew. No Jew has ever been a member of a Canadian cabinet.

Before July, it seemed that Croll’s appointment was certain. He seemed well qualified by military and parliamentary experience for the associate’s job that Ralph Campney would be leaving to succeed Brooke Claxton as Defense Minister. Additionally, the thriving, populous Toronto area, in which Croll is the senior Liberal member, was long overdue for cabinet representation at least according to the normal dictates of good party politics.

Its eighteen constituencies are more than those allotted to seven of the ten provinces. Yet Toronto has had no cabinet minister since the Liberals began their unbroken reign in Ocfober 1935. No Toronto Liberal MP has even become a parliamentary assistant in the eleven years since parliamentary assistants came info being. In the circumstances there were many Liberals who privately agreed when the Progressive Conservatives charged that a longstanding slight was being perpetrated against one of Canada’s two biggest cities.

The July cabinet changes again ignored Greater Toronto and Dave Croll. At one time the absence of Torontonians from a Liberal cabinet could have been put down to the fact the city was Tory Toronto. It hasn’t been since 1949. In the 1953 election, the Liberals took c ‘U|more seat than the

Conservatives and Croll easily retained his seat in Spadina.

In 1949, at a great Liberal election rally in Maple Leaf Gardens, the Prime Minister so phrased an appeal for more Toronto members that it was interpreted as a hint that if more were forthcoming Toronto would get cabinet representation. At the same time he particularly praised one Toronto member he already had—Croll. “It was a reasonable assumption,” The Globe and Mail said editorially four years later, “that Mr. Croll was headed for a post in the government, especially as he is easily the foremost man among Toronto Liberal MPs.”

The latest cabinet shuffle gave the Conservatives readymade material for use in the three fall by-elections in Ontario, two in Greater Toronto. Particular use of it was made by their national president, George Hees, a Toronto man himself. Was it because they were not good enough, Hees asked his audiences, that Toronto Liberal MPs were not chosen for cabinet or even parliamentary assistants’ posts? Or was it something else?”

In his own opinion it was something else. “Comparing Dave Croll to the present members of the cabinet,” he said recently, off the public platform, “I think that it would be the generally held opinion of all members of the House that he has more ability than two thirds of the ministers. He is infinitely more capable than some ...”

The possibility that it’s crocodile tears his Tory admirers keep) shedding over the neglected Liberal, Croll, cannot of course be discounted. But, although they seldom express themselves so outspokenly, many of his Liberal colleagues feel uneasy about him too. They’ve seen many men go much further on much lesser heads of steam.

Croll was rolling impressively by the time he was out of his twenties. At thirty he was mayor of Windsor. At thirtyfour he became a minister in the Ontario government of Mitchell F. Hepburn. At thirty-nine he joined the army as a private, and at forty-five left it a lieutenant-colonel.

BY then he was known as a good speaker, sometimes an eloquent one. As he moved into federal politics he proved himself a skilful chairman of committees and a good political organizer. This was recognized by Liberal tacticians when they used him in seventeen ridings outside his own during the 1953 campaign.

Ringmaster and the ravening lions

At the last parliamentary session he was chairman of the committee with the biggest job and the most danger of becoming embroiled in controversy the Banking and Commerce Committee. Its primary task was to make the decennial revision of the Bank Act, an exercise in exploratory surgery on the body of Canadian monetary policy and banking practice, public and private. In 1944, when the last previous revision was made, the challenges to financial orthodoxy were many and varied, and occupied the committee through seventy meetings and 1,540 pages of testimony and argument. Under Croll it got through its work efficiently and quietly— so much so, in fact, that its sessions attracted little attention.

Not so his previous committee, an even more challenging assignment. The 1952-53 session was hardly a month old when the report by Accountant George S. Currie on investigations at the army’s Petawawa camp burst on Parliament and the country. Currie told of wholesale thefts and a breakdown in accountancy, and, what was worse for the government, he blamed laxity higher up. The Conservatives, bolstered in their conviction that there was waste and inefficiency throughout the Defense Department, cried that the trouble was at the top. The committee’s sessions were a continuous struggle between opposition groups seeking evidence of widespread mismanagement, and Liberals trying to make out that the faults were purely local—and not very bad at that.

Croll’s position as chairman of the Defense Expenditures Committee was unen viably similar to that of ringmaster to a troop of hungry lions. When he presented his report in t he House late in the session, he was able to say (not, of course, with the concurrence of the opposition groups) that, “What they were looking for was not there. It never was. Nobody hid it. Nobody took it away.” The voting on August 10 indicated that whether the nation took his finding literally or not, Croll had steered his party through the enquiry virtually without damage.

Committee chairmanships frequently are a stepping stone, sometimes the stepping stone, to cabinet appointment. Croll has had several—he was for three years chairman of the Defense Expenditures Committee. Excepting only Agriculture Minister James G. Gardiner and Continued on page 51

CrolPs crossroads lead only to still more crossroads

The Forgotten Man of Parliament Hill

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21

Justice Minister Stuart S. Carson, who were premiers of Saskatchewan and Man.toba respectively, no present member of the cabinet came to the House of Commons with a background equal to Croll’s in provincial and municipal affairs.

Perhaps it’s little wonder, then, that a favorite guessing game in Ottawa concerns the reason for Croll’s persistent failure to break away from the back benches.

One reason might be his declared position as a reform Liberal, a party left-winger. Twenty-one years ago, Croll minted a slogan which Prime Minister St. Laurent was to repeat to good effect in 1949—that the CCF (Croll in 1933 included the now-defunct United Farmers of Ontario and the Labor Party) were only Liberals in a hurry. To some present-day Liberals Croll himself has looked at times to be in an indecent, un-Liberal hurry. He has pressed the government on old-age pension reform, and on immigration policy, which he has said should be more liberal; on unemployment insurance lenefits which, in 1946, he called grossly inadequate, and on labor legislation. In 1948, with prices rocketing, he proposed that price controls be reimpostd on essential foods, that the sales tax be abolished or at least reduced, and that an excess profits tax be reintroduced. None of this the government was disposed to do. It was already resisting, a little uncomfortably, considerable pressure from the CCF for just such actions.

No Help for Health Plan

In 1951, with the government still rosy from its exertions in bringing in a bill to provide pensions for all at seventy—it was to become effective Jan. 1, 1952—Croll went skipping

ahead to what he conceived to be the next step in a well-rounded social security scheme, pensions for the permanently disabled. The step was taken this year. In December, 1952, he nudged the government about health insurance, a subject on which it always has been able to hear more than it wants from the CCF. Croll conceded that there were objections, particularly an objection that there were not sufficient doctors and nurses, hospitals and equipment, to permit a full health plan to operate.

“Of course we have not enough medical and health facilities; no country has,” Croll declared. “Hut if we are going to sit back and wait until we do, then you know when we are going to get health insurance—just about never. I am convinced that greater health facilities will come with a health insurance plan.” He finished on a properly loyal party note: “The Liberal party

is the only party that can bring health insurance to the Canadian people because the Tories won’t and the CCF can’t.” It is questionable whether this was sufficient to soothe the pain he had caused with the party—especially since the objection which he had sought to demolish had been advanced by the Prime Minister himself, among others.

In 1947, and again the next year, Croll sharply rebuked the government for maintaining portions of a wartime order in council restraining the movements of Japanese Cañad ians. 11 finally was rescinded in 1949. “On the grounds of principle I protest,” Croll said on the first occasion, “because this puts an abnormal restraint on a Canadian citi-

zen. It is tinged with racial discrimination and must outrage the conscience of all Canadians. What is more, this is a precedent, a precedent which will plague us for years to come. So far as government policy is concerned today it is the Japs; tomorrow, well, who knows?”

In the last several years, many Japanese have moved into Croll’s downtown Toronto riding, which contains probably more different national groups than any other. During the 1953 election campaign, a group of young Japanese who recalled his speeches presented themselves at his committee rooms and volunteered to help get out the Japanese vote. They did, in numbers.

Events like this underlie the charge that Croll has played the social reformer for the benefit of the home audience and championed certain causes and measures, heedless of any embarrassment which may be caused the government, with an eye to votes in Spadina. Croll denies this and claims he stood for social reform long before he represented Spadina. An immigrant who once sold newspapers and carried a shoeshine box on Windsor streets, he entered politics almost twenty-five years ago as a declared labor Liberal. He still considers himself one.

Croll’s most spectacular break with party discipline came in a labor dispute in 1937. In that year, he and Arthur Roebuck, then Ontario Attorney-General and now a senator, were fired from the cabinet by the province’s rambunctious, colorful Premier Mitch Hepburn. The break occurred over the strike of thirty-seven hundred workers at the Oshawa plant of General Motors of Canada. Croll took the position that the workers had the right to choose whatever lawful union they wished — including the United Automobile Workers of America, a CIO union—as their bargaining agency; Hepburn declared that the Canadian automobile industry was not going to be dominated by labor forces in the United States. The issue brewed quietly within the cabinet for some time until Hepburn himself brought it into the open. If any member of his government was out of sympathy with his policy, said Hepburn, that member could only resign. The next day he called for the resignations of Croll and Roebuck. Croll’s letter of resignation was ready. After three years in office as minister of welfare and municipal affairs, and two years as minister of labor as well, Croll reverted to plain MPP.

Again in 1950 in the federal House, Croll went his own way on a labor question. This time it was in connection with another strike, that of the unions of non-operating railway workers. He objected to the compulsory aspects of the government’s Maintenance of Railway Operation Act, the instrument by which the nine-day strike was to be brought to an end. The hill required the workers to return, assured ihem they would get at least as much as the last offer of the railways, and placed the remaining differences in the hands of an arbitrator. Croll argued that it set a precedent from which the right of labor to strike might be further curtailed on other occasions. On the vote, he stood against the government’s measure. In 1951, on a matter of another sort, he risked the government's disfavor when he introduced for discussion—he did not ask for a vote— a resolution proposing consideration of wider grounds for divorce. It is a subject which the government, mindful of the strong feelings of its Quebec members, prefers to leave alone.

Has the fact that he is a Jew kept Croll out of the cabinet, or contributed to keeping him out? Persons in and

close to the government flatly deny it.

A highly placed Liberal outside Parliament pointed to the fact that the government has appointed Jews to the bench. Would it have done that, he j j asked, if there were prejudice? Croll I himself does not believe he has been ! j in any way affected by discrimination ¡ I but there are those who do. The Globe ! I and Mail in an editorial of June 20,

I 1953, in which it commented on the j then recent appointment of John W.

I Pickersgill, said: “In his latest choice I of a colleague, Mr. St. Laurent has J again passed over Mr. Croll in favor of a civil servant who lias never been elected to any office anywhere. The reason for this overlooking of Mr. I Croll, as many people think, is that he is of the Jewish faith.”

Among a representative group of parliamentary correspondents questioned recently, only one thought that Croll's being Jewish was no factor in i his having remained a backbencher; some thought it. was the dominant j factor; most believed it was part of the reason. Others believe that Croll has ¡ been the victim of what might be called j discrimination by procrastination: that j he has been the subject of no decision ¡ rather than of an adverse decision. The j theory follows these lines: no Jew has j ever been a member of a federal cab; ¡net; there remains here and there, notably in rural Quebec, considerable anti-Semitism which would be, or could be, aroused at such an appointment; the necessity of making one is not pressing; hence it remains unmade.

Towns Going Bankrupt

When he was appointed by Hepburn ! in 1934, Croll was the first Jew ever I to take office in any government in j Canada. Hepburn made the appoint| ment against the advice of two of the biggest Liberal big wheels in Ontario.

A man who was an official of the Conservative party at Queen’s Park at the time said recently that displeasure at the precedent was not confined to the Liberals. In his opinion, had Croll not proved himself an extremely capable administrator, he would soon have been driven out of office. Croll proved himself in two of the most exacting departments of the day, welfare and municipal affairs, the second of which he formed. The first bore the problem of distributi ing unemployment relief—four hundred thousand persons were receiving direct relief in Ontario when he took office— and the second was concerned with the ! dozens of municipalities which were j going bankrupt. After a year he was j given a third portfolio, labor. The opI position to his appointment had almost no public expression. An official of the j United Church who wrote to a newsj paper a letter containing a statement i “derogatory to the faith and race of i j Hon. David Croll,” was instantly rej j pudiated by the moderator of the genj J eral council of the church, who made a

I public apology.

Hillel Croil, Dave ('roll’s father, j I emigrated to Windsor from Russia in !

I 1904 and had got started in a small ! way as a cattle dealer when he sent for his family two years later. There were ! then his wife, Minnie, and three sons,

[ of whom six-year-old Dave was the oldest. In Windsor the mother soon j j was keeping a grocery store, behind I which the family lived. Hillel and Min;

' nie Crol!, both now in their eighties, j ! still live in Windsor. Across the river I in Detroit, sons Leo and Maurice, who,

: like Dave were born in Russia, are in j practice together as ear, nose and ! throat specialists. Roth served in the ! U. S. forces during the Second World ! War. The fourth son, Sam, is a dentist.

I He also lives in Detroit as does the one I daughter, Evelyn, now married. The

youngest son, Cecil, practices law in Windsor.

In the beginning it didn’t look as though the Croll kids would do nearly so well. Dave became a newsboy not long after the family reached Windsor, occasionally augmented his earnings from papers with a shoeshine box. Though he sold papers mornings and evenings, he still managed to play football, baseball and basketball at high school, and to graduate in the prescribed number of years. In 1917 he and a friend, Jacob Geller, made an unsuccessful attempt to join the Royal ; Flying Corps—they were seventeen and I looked every day of it -and in 1919 together opened the newsstand that was to put (’roll through law school. It was also Geller’s start; today he has a successful magazine, periodical and book distribution business in Western Ontario. On his share of the earnings Croll went to Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

I In 1925 he graduated, married Sarah i Levin, and joined a Windsor law firm, j Two years later he formed his own i firm, Croll, Snider and Kelly.

His introduction to municipal poli| tics came through W. F. Herman, the ! publisher of the Windsor Star, whom ! he had come to know shortly after he j began to practice law. Herman had no sons of his own and took an interest in bright and hard-working young men. It was at his suggestion that Croll took : part in the 1926 and 1928 campaigns of j Cecil Jackson for mayor. When Croll decided to try for the mayoralty himself in 1930, Herman did not think he : could make it and told him so. But Croll won after a campaign which the Star described as “the most colorful in years.”

He Helped the Hungry

No city was hit harder by the depresI sion than Windsor; none was hit sooner, j It was on Croll’s doorstep when he took i office. In 1928, motor vehicles produced in Canada had numbered 242,000; in 1932 the number was down to 60,700. The main weight of the blow fell on Windsor. But what made the j impact of the depression heavier on j Windsor than other cities was the decision of the United States to stop ad! mitting commuting workers. It was j estimated that in 1927, 15,573 residents of the Border Cities worked in Detroit, j By 1933 the number was down to j 2,200. Croll had a special appreciation for the plight of the commuters; he ! knew them personally. These people ; had been his newsstand customers, for j his stand had been located at the corner of Ouellette Avenue and Sandwich Street, on the way to the ferry.

As the depression tightened its grip, j tax collections sagged and relief costs I soared. Eventually it became a choice ! between the city’s going broke and the ; people’s going hungry and at that j point, Croll said recently, the city went j broke. It stopped paying on its bonded j indebtedness. At the same time Croll reorganized municipal relief on lines that attracted the overflow jobless from other places. He saw in his office, by a newspaper estimate, a thousand deputations in a year.

Croll had always had aspirations in the federal field. But when Hepburn j asked him to contest a Windsor seat in ■ the provincial election of June 1934, he . agreed. He was elected in Windsor! Walkerville with a majority of more ; than five thousand. He continued to I serve as mayor of Windsor after Hepburn made him provincial welfare minister.

Because the Ontario Infants’ Act was under the jurisdiction of his department, Croll soon had an extra responsibility. He became guardian of the Dionne Quints. Over severe opposition

which said it was ignoring the natural rights of the parents, the government in 1935 took over the administration of the Quints’ affairs. A board of guardians was set up, responsible to Croll. Contracts for endorsements of baby foods and the like were handled through the Attorney-General’s Department, on approval from the board. In February 1937, Croll was able to report to the legislature that there was in the Quints’ fund $543,999 in government and government-guaranteed bonds; that contracts had been approved guaranteeing an additional $200,000 in each of the next two years. Papa Dionne himself, who had once bitterly opposed the provincial guardianship, told an interviewer at the time: “We appreciate the protection of the government. We couldn’t get along without it.”

While Croll was still in the Ontario government the differences between Hepburn and Prime Minister Mackenzie King, which eventually were to grow into an open, bitter feud, already had begun to appear. Croll remained on friendly terms with the King administration, and counseled against the feud, but there was no clash between him and Hepburn over it. Their sympathies in the General Motors strike, however, were directly opposed. Hepburn declared that his government was determined to fight “these professional labor profiteers” and “foreign agitators.” and said that, if necessary, he would “raise an army to do so.”

His Worship Private Croll

Croll meanwhile had said that, as minister of welfare, he would not deprive the strikers of relief if they needed it; to do so would be to so undermine their position as to constitute strike breaking. There was no union strike fund; the union was too young. He also supported the right of the Oshawa workers to join the UAWA or any other legal union and to have it recognized by the company as their agent for bargaining purposes. Croll’s resignation came in April, 1937. He left with the exit line: “In my official capacity I have traveled the middle of the road, but now that you have put the extreme alternative to me, my place is marching with the workers rather than riding with General Motors.”

In 1938 he won another term as mayor of Windsor. He also continued to sit in the legislature, now as a private member. On Oct. 8, 1939, with the war a month old, he joined the Essex Scottish Regiment as a private. He was thirty-nine; most of the recruits with whom he drilled, did guard duty and messed, were in their earlv twenties. Ry the summer of 1940 he was in England, still a private, and it was as

a private that His Worship Mayor David A. Croll of Windsor, Ont., was entertained by His Worship and the Council of the Royal Borough of Windsor, England. The private, wrote a newspaperman, was received like a visiting general.

Croll had not been long in England when he was tabbed for an officers’ course which he took at Sandhurst. After Japan had entered the war Croll was returned to Canada for duties as a training officer on the Pacific Coast. Subsequently he was posted to a senior officers’ course at Royal Military Col-

lege, Kingston, and from there went overseas again, this time in military government.

He was at München-Gladbach in Germany when he received a letter from the Spadina Liberal Association, augmented by a message from Mackenzie King, asking him to be a candidate in Spadina. Samuel Factor, who had held the riding since 1930, had gone to the bench. Tim Buck, the Communist leader, proposed to run in Spadina, and seemed likely to win it. Would Croll come back and hold it for the Jewish people who made up, then

more than now, a large part of the population? Croll had thought himself through with politics. He had been defeated in absentia in the provincial election of 1943 and now held no office for the first time in fifteen years. When the invitation was renewed, he accepted and on May 10 flew home. He had already been nominated and Buck already had decided to run in an adjoining riding where lie was defeated.

For a month Croll lived in a small hotel in the south end of the riding and began to get to know it. Spadina runs north and south through west central

Toronto. Its main stem is the avenue from which it gets its name the home of the garment industry. It, is mixed not only in race and religion hut also in levels of income. At the north end of the riding Croll has constituents whose closets hold mink coats stitched as likely as not by other constituents in the south end. Among its hundred and fifteen thousand residents Spadina numbers Jews and Negroes, Italians, Anglo-Saxons and Hungarians, Japanese, Ukrainians and other races. There are near-mansions and near-tenements and most types of dwelling between.

There are railway yards, loft buildings, shops, an infinite variety of restaurants, an airport and a summer resort —the last two on 7’oronto’s islands.

7’he riding each time has given Croll staggering majorities his smallest was his first, 7,130 and he has had majorities not only in the south end which is predominantly a workers’ district, but also in the well-to-do north end. Croll himself is a resident not of Spadina but of North Toronto where he and his wife share an apartment in a district of fashionable apartments with twin daughters Constance and Sandra.

Another daughter, Eunice, is married.

At Ottawa, Croll speaks as more than the representative of Spadina. He is the senior of two Jewish members of the House, and, as such, is virtually the official parliamentary spokesman of the Jewish people of Canada.

Last year, when Croll introduced the Fair Employment Practices Bill, an anti - discrimination measure, Labor Minister Milton F. Gregg, VC, did honor to “one voice from this side of the House that has been forceful, consistent and eloquent in its demands for action against discrimination ...” if