CAN THE YOUNG TURKS SEIZE PARLIAMENT HILL?
As Ottawa's frustrated young MPs see it, there's nothing wrong with parliament that couldn't be fixed by throwing out the Old Guard. But their patience is running thin
THERE IS TODAY a general crisis of leadership in Canadian politics. It is not confined to one party, or even to the two major parties. Most emphatically it is not confined to the personal hostility between two elderly men. It is a revolt in all parties of the young against the old, the newcomers against the Establishment — and the Establishment is as firmly established in Opposition as it is behind the treasury benches.
Listen to Reid Scott, the thirty-nine-year-old lawyer who has won three elections for the New Democrats in Toronto-Danforth: “I don't think there's any hope for parliament as long as the present older generation is running the political parties. I don't care what party you're in, when you run up against your senior colleagues you run into a wall against change. Their attitude is, ‘We’ll tinker with the system. but we won't really change it.' They may not like each other but they don't dislike the system. They know it. they're comfortable with it, and they're not going to let any young upstarts turn it into something different.”
Listen to Pat Nowlan, thirty-four, the son of one of the Conservative Party’s most admired and respected elders, but himself a freshman MP: “The trouble with parliament
is that the men who dominate it are representatives of a minority generation,” he told a student group not long ago. “Parliament is still shackled by the disputes of thirty years ago.” He adds: “The provincial premiers are mostly younger men. Maybe that's why they’re so much more dynamic.”
Listen to John Turner, at thirty-six the youngest minister in the Pearson cabinet and therefore a man who has far less to complain about than most young MPs in the way of frustration and neglect: “Parliament doesn't seem to be able to digest the new, contemporary ideas that should be converted into legislation. Right now we’ve got a backlog of housekeeping legislation that’ll take us two years to get through, even without introducing a single new idea.”
Hugh Faulkner, thirty-three, who recaptured Peterborough for the Liberals for the first time since 1935, said in a recent article in the Peterborough Examiner: “In the back benches of all parties, members are questioning whether our present parliamentary system is capable of the initiative and decision necessary to meet the national problems . . . But there appears to be a lack of awareness among senior members that there is a crisis at all. They give the impression that men and issues come and go but parliament remains intact. It's probably difficult for them to distinguish between today’s situation and those halcyon days of short sessions and few issues when talk, impassioned or inconsequential, was the order of the day. This is no longer the situation.”
Gordon Fairweather, the Conservative from Royal, New Brunswick, at forty-three is one of the elders in this younger generation, but the young men count him as one of themselves because he's a certified anti-establishmentarian. Fairweather himself admits, though, that he has lost some of the bloom of political youth: “I no longer enjoy that lovely freedom of the first^termer, because I’m already labeled as a bit of a renegade. My objections lose force wdthin my own party, just because my position is known.”
But this is ceasing to be a disadvantage as the young men in parliament grow more numerous, and more incredulous of what they find there. ( Forty-six members of the present parliament are under forty years; forty-seven of them were elected for the first time last November.) Bud Sherman, the thirty-nine-year-old TV newscaster who recaptured Winnipeg South for the Conservatives
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Continued from page 16
“Nobody wants us to do anything,” the young MPs complain
last November, said of his own party's parliamentary group: "We seem to he ninety-seven members in search of a party.” John Munro. thirty-five, who became a parliamentary secretary soon after the Liberal government was formed in 1963. can't believe parliament’s ineptitude is accidental: "1
thirk it’s been deliberately set up to be as cumbersome as possible. Unless it was deliberately planned that way by older parliaments. 1 don't see how it could be so archaic."
Ironically, one of the few young newcomers not disillusioned by Ottawa is Ed Schreyer, thirty, who won for the New Democrats in Springfield. Manitoba. His reason: "Before running as a federal candidate I spent eight years in the provincial legislature." Schreyer finds that in Ottawa "the calibre of debate is higher." though he also thinks "there's less capability for getting things done — partly because of the larger size of the House, partly the combination of personalities and the history of the last two or three parliaments."
Something’s wrong — cure it
Ehe fact that the disenchantment is shared by such young men as John Turner and John Munro. whose own advancement has been rapid, is the best proof that there is more in their feelings than mere personal disappointment. or the frustration of personal ambitions. Most of these young men are not ambitious, or at least no more so than a young man should be. and some have an engaging humility. Bud Sherman says, with a wry grin. "I'm not sure how much of my surface disenchantment with the pettiness and the bickering in the House of Commons is genuine, and how much is due to my own naïveté and ignorance." But naïve or not. they're sure that something is wrong and they're increasingly resolved to cure it.
What exasperates them most is not the lack of promotion but the lack, even among those who have been promoted. of useful and meaningful employment. “There's a great reservoir of people here who have rare combinations of aptitude and experience.” says Gordon Fairweather. "yet it's not being put to any use.” This is the thought most frequently echoed by the young on all sides of the House: "We have capacities, we have ideas, we have energy to burn, and we came here expecting to do a job. Nobody seems to want us to do anything. Sometimes we think that if we'd just sit quiet, do nothing and say nothing, the old men would like us better for it."
Talking to some of the old men tends to confirm this impression. One of the Conservative elders said to me indignantly. "These young fellows get frustrated too soon. Why. I had a party for our new members when we'd been here only about a month — and already they were bitching about having nothing to do." The idea that a young man should complain about sitting around doing nothing for no more than a mere month, struck him as self-evidently preposterous.
What exactly is it. about parliament in its present form, that the young men want to change? What sort of parliament would they construct instead?
Answers to these questions are necessarily vague. Most young MPs would like to see more work turned over to the committees of parliament.
where discussion can go on with relatively little publicity (not because the meetings are secret, but because the press pays less attention to them) and the atmosphere is not so venomously partisan. They would also like to see these committees adequately staffed by trained people — economists, statisticians. experts of one kind or another
-— who would provide the factual background of controversial topics without themselves taking either side of the controversy.
Mainly, though, their complaint about parliament is related more to its habits, traditions and conditioned reflexes, than to the fine print of its rules. The most frequent criticism is that too much time is spent raking over old grudges. As Pat Now Ian has said, in a burst of alliteration. ” Pol it -continued on pape 37
Who cares who insulted whom in ’62?
ical passions of the past pollute the problems of the present — and there's no solution in pollution."
"Three crazy elections in four years." groaned a Conservative freshman. "and they still don't seem to realize that people don't care who insulted whom back in 1962."
Of the two hundred and sixty-five members of parliament, only forty were there during the pipeline debate of 1956. which started the decay of parliamentary behavior. Twenty-two of these veterans are Liberals, nine of them ministers; twelve are Conservatives. including eight front-benchers; five are NDP and one Social Credit. Most though not all of the forty have been members of parliament ever since, and so have taken part in all the quarrels of a quarrelsome decade.
Equally if not more important, from the point of view of keeping old grudges alive, are the sixty-six MPs elected for the first time in 1957 or 1958. All hut ten of them are Conservatives. With the dozen still older hands from previous parliaments, they make up more than two thirds of the Conservative caucus.
They include all the so - called "Diefenbaker Cowboys." the forty-odd men from the prairies who in two elections changed the Progressive Conservative Party from a splinter group to a solid bloc in the west, and from a Conservative Party in the dictionary sense to a band of confused and resentful agrarian radicals. These represent the solid bedrock of John Diefenbaker's support and his chief hope of maintaining control of the Conservative caucus. Ten are in their sixties, ten in their fifties, but some others in their forties and even thirties
are proud to be known as men of Diefenbaker's old guard.
Nevertheless, outnumbered though they are. the young Conservatives in parliament are a formidable force. Their strength cannot be determined by chronological age alone. Men such as Gerald Baldwin, of Peace River, who is both a westerner and a fiftynine-year-old. or Heber Smith, of Simcoe North, fifty years old and representing a hard-shell Tors riding, may still he counted among the young in the sense that they are anti-Establishment. So in a different wav are Dick Bell, of Carleton. filtv-two: Gordon Aiken, of Parry Sound-Muskoka. forty-seven; Chester MacRac. of York-Sunhury. NB. fifty-three; Heath Macquarrie. of Queen's. PEL fortysix; and many others. Some of the dissidents calculate that the Establishment is supported by no more than half the Conservative caucus, if that. Ehe rest are said to be ripe for change.
On the Liberal side the lines are not so clearly drawn. Prime Minister Pearson's statement in Quebec City that he would "carry on as long as I have strength and vigor, and the party wants me,” settled the question of a leadership convention in 1966. but it is still taken for granted that he will not want to lead another generalelection campaign. This presumably means a convention in late 1967 or early 1968. when the prime minister will be nearing seventy-one.
To some extent the Conservative leadership problem takes the pressure off the Liberals. Says a young FrenchCanadian MP. "We are safe with Pearson as long as the Tories are stuck with Diefenbaker." Others think this attitude dangerously complacent. Says
They warned Hellyer it was political suicide. He went ahead
one young rebel, “The first major party to get itself a young leader will win.” Even this still leaves open the question: how young?
Paul Martin, who will be sixty-three in June, is the dean of the House of Commons, where he has sat continuously since 1935. He was one of the first parliamentary secretaries ever appointed, and has been a Privy Councillor since 1945. He was a candidate for the l iberal leadership in 1958, and will almost certainly be one again at the next Liberal leadership convention. If, meanwhile, the prime minister were suddenly to abdicate for any reason, Paul Martin would become leader of the government, at least on a temporary — perhaps on a permanent basis. But if only for reasons of
age, his chances of winning an open convention arc not high.
“If you want to rejuvenate the party,” says one MP, “you don’t pick the dean of the House as your leader.” (Martin has another, rather ironical disadvantage — his half-Irish, halfFrench parentage. English-speaking voters tend to think of him as French Canadian, while to French Canadians he’s an Anglais. He speaks French fluently but not well. )
Mitchell Sharp and Robert Winters, two other prominent contenders, are almost exactly contemporary — Sharp was born in May 1911, Winters in August 1910. Both are still physically in the prime of life — slim, erect, capable of carrying tremendous work
loads without showing fatigue. If both
are classed among the older generation, as they are, it's less because of their years than because of their experience — which is too extensive.
Winters tends to be regarded as a newcomer in this parliament (even by some cabinet colleagues, to his considerable irritation), but in fact he ranks third in cabinet seniority. He and Prime Minister Pearson were sworn into the Privy Council in the same autumn, 1948. He was a protege and devoted admirer of the late C. D. Llowc, the man whose decision in 1956 set off the pipeline debate. Moreover, he has been, ever since his defeat and retirement from politics in 1957, a high-salaried executive in various large corporations and a member of the Bay Street Establishment.
Sharp belongs to a different Establishment, but in Ottawa it's an even more powerful one. Formerly a senior civil servant, he is one of what Peter Newman calls The Mandarins, the small circle of highly intelligent, highly industrious, highly devoted men who have been designing Canadian government policy for the past twenty - five years. They are the seniors in the Bank of Canada, the Departments of Finance and Trade and Commerce, the Privy Council office and certain divisions of External Affairs, men who know each other intimately, respect each other’s judgment, and understand each other’s modes of thought. Twentyfive years ago they were economic radicals, the authors in Canada of the Keynesian revolution. Today, most of them would be classed as small-c conservatives — though most of them would still resent this classification.
Obviously, these are not men who can be relied upon for radical change. The prevailing urge for change is the biggest factor against them, and the biggest factor for another Torontonian, Paul Hellyer.
Hellyer is the youngest of them, forty-two, but that is only part of his advantage. The larger part is his antiEstablishment record. Hellyer has spent his life bucking The System in various ways, times and places, and always with remarkable success.
When he got out of the army in 1946, a still-resentful gunner, he had to buy a small clothing shop in Toronto in order to get a place to live (there was an apartment over the store). He and his wife operated the clothing business while Hellyer, a rather elderly undergraduate of twenty-three, worked for his Arts degree at the University of Toronto. He went straight into politics after his graduation in 1949. but continued at the same time in small business. He sold the clothing shop to enter the booming construction trade, and over the next few years made himself a comfortable fortune, but always against the competition of the large established firms. Hellyer does not, as the modern jargon has it. “identify” with large established firms, or indeed with establishments of any sort.
Hellyer’s most dramatic confrontation with an establishment was, of course, his integration of the Canadian armed forces over the apoplectic bodies of various admirals, generals and air marshals. Every minister of defense since Brooke Claxton took over in 1946 intended some measure of integration, or at least some reduction of the triplication that used to be called unavoidable. None had ever succeeded before. The quiet closing of ranks against change, the lip-service acquiescence and the silent defiance in practice, kept trifurcation flourishing year after year. Hellyer was warned that to merge the three services along functional lines and, still more, to lay a hand on that sacred cow, the militia, would be political suicide. He ignored the warnings and went ahead, scoring one of the few unmistakable political triumphs of the Pearson government’s first term in office.
To young men yearning for radical reforms in parliament, for the continued on page 40
“Trial by combat: it’s all Diet knows”
abandonment of fusty traditions and a return to the pragmatic test of eftectiveness, this record is extremely attractive. Hellyer has shown not only that he is willing to buck a seemingly powerful establishment, but also that he can win against it.
But what about the much-vaunted Liberal "tradition” of alternate Frenchspeaking and English-speaking leaders? Why is the party of Laurier. Mackenzie King. St. Laurent and Pearson now playing tic-tac-toe among three wellto-do English Canadians from, of all places. Toronto?
In the first place, the so-called tradition has always included a considerable element of myth. Laurier was chosen leader not because but in spite of his Frcnch-Canadian origin, and many Ontario Grits thought it a terrible mistake. St. Laurent was the choice of his colleagues in the Mackenzie King cabinet because they thought him the best man among them, not because he came from Quebec and spoke French as well as English. If other things were equal, a French-speaking candidate would have the edge on the Liberal leadership now. but other things are not equal and there is, in fact, no such candidate.
What about Lesage?
Some French-speaking MPs still talk wistfully about the return of Quebec’s Premier Jean Lesage to the federal field, but most Liberals—even the French-speaking — call this a mere daydream. Even if Lesage were willing to come back, which is by no means certain, he is conceded small chance of winning a national convention and still less of winning a general election. For too many Canadian voters he has become a symbol of "Quebec’s demands,” and of the loosening of Confederation's ties.
As for the French Canadians already in parliament, the leading figure among them is newcomer Jean Marchand. and Marchand's own answer to the suggestion that he might lead the party is just one word: “unthinkable." He is too new. too inexperienced, and anyway insufficiently ambitious. Besides. he doesn't take the “alternation tradition” very seriously, and would cheerfully support an English-speaking leader — though he hasn't yet decided which one he would prefer.
It's still a fact, though, that any future party leader will have a hard time campaigning in Quebec in any other language than French. This is one reason why John Turner’s name keeps cropping up in the leadership gossip. Not only is Turner young, energetic and able, but he speaks fluent French (despite the fact that he was born in England and brought up in Ottawa and Vancouver).
If an election campaign had to begin tomorrow. Turner is the only English-speaking Liberal who can make a good speech in the other language. Two years from now things may be different. Hellyer is working hard at his French, and Quebec MPs say he is already capable of fairly easy conversation in their language —
I though he has wisely refrained from
premature attempts to speak it in the House or on public platforms. ( Mitchell Sharp's backers, on the other hand, are beginning to despair of his ever achieving fluency.) Another English Canadian whose French is improving rapidly is Joe Greene, the forty-fiveyear-old lawyer from the Ottawa valley who recently became minister of agriculture and who is often mentioned as a dark horse in the Liberal leadership race.
But even more important than a bilingual capability, in the present mood of all parties, is the candidate's commitment to the reform and redesign of parliament.
"It's really rather sad." says a rebel Conservative, "but the only thing our leader knows is trial by combat. He's been conditioned to it all his life, in law and in politics. Today this is out of date —look at the European Common Market, where they've established a modus quite apart from the politicians, a superb group of highly qualified technical people who can deal with real problems. Yet here in our parliament we go on day after day in the old style, never getting anywhere because we insist on treating everything as a contest instead of a problem.”
Liberals feel the same about the well-seasoned parliamentary skills of their own veterans, the Jack Pickersgills and the Paul Martins. "This is an old-man's game.” one of the junior ministers has remarked, “and they really enjoy it. They can spend all day arguing about a point of procedure, and take pleasure in it. Personally. I have no such interest."
Whether all this discontent can translate itself into action, and the parliament of Canada into a more efficient and less boring place, remains to be seen. But it's a safe bet that if this cannot be done, and fairly soon, a lot of rising young politicians will be looking for some other type of work. ★