BACKSTAGE IN OTTAWA

New Tory election game: baiting Liberal comsymps

Peter C. Newman May 5 1962
BACKSTAGE IN OTTAWA

New Tory election game: baiting Liberal comsymps

Peter C. Newman May 5 1962

New Tory election game: baiting Liberal comsymps

BACKSTAGE IN OTTAWA

Peter C. Newman

Ever since Red-baiting was revived last year as the favorite sport of the American far-right lunatic fringe, Canadians have been righteously assuring themselves that such a smear-and-sneer campaign could never happen in the more temperate political climate of this country. Unfortunately a number of incidents have come to light which prove that we've been dead wrong.

A concentrated attempt is being made by some of the l iberal Party's political opponents to show that Lester Pearson is “soft on communism.” It's an undercover campaign that generally takes the form of snide insinuations which, because they’re not open accusations, can't be effectively contradicted.

It should lie emphasized that these tactics have not been planned or condoned either by the Prime Minister or by A Mister Grosart. his chief political tactician. In fact, John Diefenbaker has. on at least one occasion, moved to suppress some of his more reactionary followers’ enthusiasm.

But a smear campaign is being waged against the Liberal Party. Its main objectives are: (1) to portray the l iberals in f rench-speaking Canada as advocates of a socialism so extreme that it might become communism, and (2) to damage Pearson’s image among the ethnic groups, thus building up Prime Minister Diefenbaker as the only Canadian political leader with the courage and ideological stamina to stand up against Khrushchov.

The special tactics being used in Quebec are typified by statements made recently during a speech given by Associate Defense Minister Pierre Sevigny at the Montreal-St. L)enis Conservative nomination meeting. “The Liberals are more leftist than the NDP,“ Sevigny declared. “The choice at the next election will be between free enterprise and the slavery of socialism which has destroyed every country it entered.”

This technique has also taken less subtle forms, such as the wide distribution in Quebec of an editorial —reprinted from the Brandon Sun—which condemned Pearson for saying on television that rather than die in a nuclear war, he would prefer to live under Khrushchov and do what he could to throw' him out of power. The English version of the editorial was first reproduced in the Conservative Canadian (the PCs’ official party organ) under the heading, "Mr. Pearson's incredible choice.” But the French version is being distributed under a far more damning title: "Pearson rend service à Moscou." emphasized by an accompanying cartoon which shows the Liberal leader. dressed as a flunky, bowing to the Soviet^dictator.

'this line of attack was also used outside Quebec recently in statements made by two Conservative backbenchers. Harry White told the annual meeting of his riding at London. Ontario, that Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize “because he sided w-ith the communist world against Britain and f iance.” 1 hree days later. Bow River MP Eldon Woolliams told a political gathering in Calgary that the federal Liberal Party is "a cesspool of civil servants with Red friends.”

How Diefenbaker courts the anti-communists

While John Diefenbaker has shied away from such tactics, he has been building up an image of himself —particularly among the ethnic groups—as the only Canadian political leader capable of combating communism. In talks to immigrant organizations he has repeatedly promised to move a resolution at the next session of the United Nations, condemning the Soviet Union for its subjugation of formerly free nations, and has generally raised the hopes of rabidly anticommunist ethnic groups in Canada.

The emotional impact of the Prime Minister’s appeal to some of the ethnic groups would be difficult to exaggerate. Last summer, Diefenbaker officiated at ceremonies in Winnipeg marking the hundredth anniversary of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko's death. His presence prompted Petro Wolyniak, editor of New Days, a Ukrainian monthly published in Toronto. to write: “The Prime Minister stood as if cast in bronze. I wondered if he would shed a tear. 1 saw

that he was moved no less than 1. that he felt as each of us that this was no ordinary singing, that this was a people’s prayer to the great martyr of the Ukrainian earth . . . Well, I thought to myself, praise be to God that we have as a leader of Canada a human being not only of great political wisdom, able to foresee many things, but a person of great heart and soul as well.”

The Liberals have made belated attempts to counter the considerable gains made by the Conservatives among immigrant voters. They've set up in I oronto an ethnic political office under Andy Thompson, a provincial Liberal MPP, who before going into politics was senior liaison officer for Ontario of the federal immigration department. Pearson is also sending out a letter of congratulation to every new Canadian who receives his citizenship, and plans an extensive speaking tour among immigrant groups.

Although they're inclined to regard the accusations that their leader is “soft on communism” as rot which shouldn't be dignified by official reply, the Liberals have published a pamphlet summing up Pearson's record of anticommunism. It includes Pravda, calling him “a running dog of American imperialism,” and a history of the two occasions on which Russia vetoed his appointment as UN secretary-general, in 1946 and 1953.

While being out of office has denied Pearson the advantage of legislating for the benefit of ethnic groups, he lias been saved the official embarrassment which courting the immigrant vote can sometimes produce. In March of last year, for example, Diefenbaker received a delegation of anti-Titoist Serbs from Toronto who came protesting the invitation to Ottawa of Yugoslav foreign minister Koea Popovic. The dele-

gates returned home certain that they had secured the Prime Minister’s pledge that he wouldn't receive the Red diplomat.

Popovic arrived in Ottawa on March 27 and met officially with External Affairs Secretary Howard Green. After he had left the country, three days later, the Toronto group was told that—as had been promised—Popovic was refused an audience with the PM. But External Affairs sources in Ottawa insist that Diefenbaker did see the Yugoslav. According to these officials, a dinner given for the foreign minister by the Yugoslav Embassy had to be interrupted when Popovic received a request to see Diefenbaker privately (if briefly) at the Prime Minister’s official residence. Popovic has told similar stories abroad, complaining of the treatment he received in Canada.

A curious letter

Diefenbaker's wooing of the ethnic minorities has a long history but so have Conservative attempts to brand Pearson as being soft on communism. Such propaganda was first used during the 1958 election campaign. One rather curious example was a letter written by Conservative Senator Joseph A. Sullivan to Father William Muckle. pastor of Our l ady of Lourdes Church in the Toronto constituency of Rosedale. where David Walker (later named Minister of Public Works) was running as the Conservative candidate. Dated February 24. 1958, it read:

“Dear Father Muckle,

“I am writing you on behalf of the Conservative candidate in the coming election on March 31. 1958.

I have no hesitancy in endorsing Mr. David Walker.

“It is my considered and firm belief that as a result of that distinguished statesman and Christian gentleman, the Rt. Hon. Louis St. Laurent, that the enclosed clipping reveals my own thinking, (sie)

“I can assure you that with the Catholic minister of justice we have in the Hon. E7 David Fulton (sic) and the other members of the party, to which I heartily subscribe, that you can rest assured that there will be no possibility of any left-wing tendencies in this present government.

“I trust that you will accept these remarks in sincerity and a true Christian belief. Yours sincerely. Senator Sir Joseph A. Sullivan. M.D., FRCS Eng., QHS, KCSG.” (The “Sir” is a papal knighthood.)

With the letter, written on official Senate stationery, but mailed from the Senator’s St. George Street office in Toronto, was enclosed a transcript of an editorial in the Rightist American publication, National Review, which claimed that Pearson had been running "the Soviet Union’s errands” and that only the restraints of Mr. St. Laurent had kept him in line. Father Muckle (who has since died) was so disturbed by the letter’s contents that he protested to Tom O’Neil, the Liberal candidate running against Walker.

Joseph Sullivan, author of the letter, was appointed to the Senate early in the Diefenbaker regime. He has long been a personal friend of the Prime Minister, and was among the very few people invited to his wedding in 1953. A prominent ear surgeon. Sullivan is a dedicated crusader against socialized medicine. In one of his rare Senate speeches he branded state medicine “a Leninist invention,” and declared that "in democracies, the w'elfare state is the beginning and the police state is the end. The two merge sooner or later, in all experience and for obvious reasons.”

That the Liberal Party is attempting to foster a socialized state in Canada is also being implied in many of the more recent attacks on Pearson. One comfort the Liberal leader can derive from all this is that he’s joining a distinguished circle of American victims to a similar type of attack. He’s earned a place of honor among such supposed comsymps (communist sympathizers) as ex-Prcsident Dwight Eisenhower, C hief Justice Earl Warren and Dean Acheson, former U. S. Secretary of State. Certainly his experience should prove to Canadians that we have no cause for smugness about political ethics as practised here.