March 3, 1942

SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

Last evening when the Prime Minister was speaking on this question he stated, as appears on page 969 of Hansard:

This question has been before the house since the house opened, and until to-night the language of it has not been questioned. . . .

I take exception to that statement, because the wording of the plebiscite was questioned when the resolution was before the house; in fact I questioned the wording of the plebiscite as well as the general ambiguity of the whole thing. I went so far as to offer an amendment which will be found at page 797 ' of Hansard, the last part of which read:

-provide that definite direction be sought from the people on all national issues submitted to them under the terms and provisions of this proposed Plebiscite Act.

Plebiscite Act

The intention was to remove the ambiguity of the wording of the question to be submitted to the people. There can be no doubt as to the ambiguity; I think even the Prime Minister himself will admit that now.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Not at all.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

Let me read the wording:

Are you in favour of releasing the government from any obligation arising out of any past commitments restricting the methods of raising men for military service?

In the first place, as I pointed out the other day, the government are not asking to be released from anything; they are asking the people if they, the people, are willing to release the government. The government are not committing themselves to anything whatsoever. It was pointed out as well that the wording of this question refers definitely, as the Prime Minister pointed out last night, to the commitments or obligations restricting the methods of raising men for military service. Both the leader of the opposition and the Prime Minister stated yesterday, I believe, that they were agreed that under the National Resources Mobilization Act legal authority is given the government to raise men in any manner they wish.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Pardon

me; under the War Measures Act they could raise them by any method.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

I thank the hon. member for the correction, but I think they can under the National Resources Mobilization Act also. But the method is not the thing we are worrying about. The method might be that which the government now use, asking men to appear before a medical board for examination. On the other hand they might say they are going to send the mounted police out to take them by the collar and bring them in. That is a method; whether or not it is a right method is not the point. The wording of the plebiscite deals with the method of raising men. Nobody is criticizing the present method.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It deals with commitments as to the method of raising men for military service. There was no commitment with respect to the use of the mounted1 police.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

That is the point. There is tremendous ambiguity in the wording of the question proposed to be used in the plebiscite. If hon. members themselves are not clear as to the meaning, how can the public be expected to be clear on it? I suggest to the Prime Minister that

in all fairness this question should be put to the people in such manner that there will be no shadow of doubt or possibility of misunderstanding. If the Prime Minister wants to be fair with the people of Canada he should put the question to them in such form that they will know what they are doing. They should know definitely whether they are voting on the commitment or on the methods. A large number of hon. members are satisfied that the wording of this plebiscite deals with the methods.

The Prime Minister has said there are sufficient men offering for the air force and the navy, and1 that they are going along quite well in regard to men for the army. Therefore there should be no objection as to the method they use. Whether or not the method is a proper one is not the point.

When I was speaking on the resolution I pointed out that the Prime Minister had never in his speech at the beginning of this session made reference so far as the plebiscite is concerned to the conscription of men for overseas service. I went through his speech very carefully in an attempt to find whether there was any connection between this plebiscite and conscription for overseas service. I combed the speech pretty thoroughly, but I failed to find any reference to conscription of men for overseas service. In fact the Prime Minister said1 that the question which was to be put before the people had nothing to do with conscription. He made that quite definite. Let me read his words as reported on page 826 of Hansard:

Hon. members have been talking about conscription, about no conscription and the like. That is not the issue in this plebiscite.

There can be no misunderstanding about that. I think the Prime Minister was quite right there. If I can interpret his thoughts I would say he had no desire whatever to bring up the question of conscription for overseas service so. far as this plebiscite is concerned. That is what I tried to point out the other day. But now, apparently, the Prime Minister has changed his mind. Let me read what he said on February 2. He was speaking about the commitments made in the election of 1940. There is no question, as he pointed out, that the pledge given to the people was that there would be no conscription for overseas service. I think we are all agreed on that. Certainly in my constituency I was the one who was accused of advocating conscription for overseas service, which was quite untrue. Nevertheless, that was the issue there; that was the commitment that tied the hands of the govern-

Plebiscite Act

ment. This is what the Prime Minister said in this regard, at page 970 of Hansard:

The commitment was a commitment restricting the methods of raising men for military service. The restriction was as to raising men by conscription for military service overseas.

I think he is right there, but on the other hand, as I just pointed out, on February 25 the Prime Minister said that conscription was not the issue in this plebiscite. Surely one or the other must be so. On February 25 the Prime Minister said conscription was not the issue; on March 2 he says quite definitely that it is the issue, though he calls it a commitment. Then he goes on to say:

It is that commitment that the government is asking to be freed from.

That is the commitment in regard to the conscription of men for overseas service. That is what I want to point out to you, Mr. Chairman, as I pointed out to the Secretary of State a moment ago. Then, a little further on in the Prime Minister's speech of yesterday, he said:

The commitment was not made with respect to the protection of our own shores; it was made with respect to sending men overseas; everyone so understood iit, and it was to that extent that the law and the fact was limited [DOT]and that the government at the present time is limited.

Definitely the government are asking the people to release them from the commitment given in 1940, for political purposes, so that they can and presumably will put in conscription for overseas service. If that is so, then for the life of me I cannot see why the Prime Minister should object to putting in the words, definitely and clearly, so that every voter will understand what he is voting on. The thing about which I am concerned is that the people should know exactly what they are voting on, and I can tell you, sir, and the members of this committee quite plainly that if the question comes up for conscription for overseas service as such, and only such, I shall vote against it. I am definitely of the opinion that we can never prosecute this war with a maximum war effort until we have the conscription of our financial institutions so that we can issue currency and credit in terms of public need. Every minister of the crown who has spoken has laid the blame for the situation on the production end, and as I said the other day I think they are perfectly right. The thing I am concerned about is the manufacturing end of it. What is [DOT]done with the guns and tanks after they are manufactured I am quite ready to leave to the discretion of the Minister of National Defence, because I think he is better able to direct their use than I could. But the thing

we have been discussing and the thing on which we cannot get any information is this all important question of production, which is tied up definitely with finance. I do not want any misunderstanding on the question as far as I am concerned. I am certainly not in favour of the further conscription of manpower until we have a complete mobilization of war industry and finance, and certainly that has not been done yet.

Surely if the Prime Minister wants to be fair on this question, not only to members of this house but to the people of Canada whom he is asking to vote on it, he should not object to the amendment as worded by the hon. member for Macleod, since the Prime Minister himself now says the main issue is for conscription overseas. The amendment proposed by the hon. member for Macleod would have the question read:

Are you in favour of releasing the government from any obligation arising out of any past commitments restricting the methods of raising men for military service in any theatre of war.

There the Prime Minister has what he wants; there is no question about it. The only words to be added are "in any theatre of war." Surely there could be no objection to that. The Prime Minister says the main question is with regard to the commitments. All right; it is there. Surely he cannot object to that; surely he cannot object to putting it into the wording of the plebiscite, upon which the people are going to vote. I cannot possibly see why the Prime Minister or anyone else should object to this amendment, so that everyone may know what he is voting on. I feel sure that since the Prime Minister has reviewed the situation, he has come to the same conclusion.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

Mr. Chairman, I have tried to keep out of this discussion, because I thought the sooner we got this bill through the better for all concerned. But I cannot understand why the government could not accept the inescapable logic of the position which was placed before them last night by the hon. member for Macleod and others.

I am one of those who have taken the position that the Prime Minister, along with most other hon. members of this house, did give a definite commitment to the Canadian people; and that they, and the Prime Minister and his government in particular, have a right to use whatever method they think fit and proper to be released from that commitment. But I ask the Prime Minister to look at the question again. What was the commitment? Was it with reference to the method of raising men, which is what the plebiscite says? The question as framed says:

Plebiscite Act

-arising out of any past commitments restricting the methods of raising men for military service.

If the commitment was given with respect to the method of raising men, then the government should have taken a plebiscite in June, 1940, because at that time the government embarked upon the policy of compulsion, so that now we have the two methods.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Not for overseas.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

That is the

point I am coming to. The method of compulsion was adopted, and this house voted for it almost unanimously. But the Prime Minister himself has just said that the commitment was not with respect to that question. The commitment was with respect to the disposition of the men who might be raised. No commitment was ever given by the Prime Minister or any other member of this house, so far as I know, that conscription would not be introduced in this country for home defence.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

That is true.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

The commitment was that any men conscripted in this country would not be sent outside Canada or the terrtiorial waters thereof. Therefore the commitment which the government is asking to be relieved of is not concerned with the men but with the disposition of the men raised by a particular method. To me the logic of the position is very simple. The government would make the thing perfectly clear by accepting the amendment and adding the words "in any theatre of war." This would make it plain that the commitment was with respect to conscripting men for overseas service, and that the commitment the government ask to be released from is a particular commitment, namely, the commitment not to raise men for service outside of Canada.

May I say just a word with regard to the second point included in the amendment moved by the hon. member for Macleod. Like many others who have spoken, I am greatly concerned about this plebiscite. I am greatly concerned as to what will be the effect if it is defeated, not only the effect on the morale of the Canadian people but the effect on the other members of the united nations. I think it would be one of the most appalling things that has happened during this war. Personally I will certainly do all in my power to see that it is not defeated in any place where I have any influence.

The government itself can do more than any group of individuals to determine whether or not this plebiscite will pass. It seems to me that there is one very effective step the government can take. The Prime

Minister at some time prior to the taking of the plebiscite can say to the people of Canada that he is prepared to give a solemn pledge that if any contingency arises which makes it necessary for the government to bring down to the house legislation to conscript men for service overseas, no such step will be taken unless it is accompanied by a much more drastic policy of conscription of accumulated wealth and the mobilization of the country's industries and financial institutions than has so far been taken by the government. This solemn undertaking on the part of the Prime Minister would do more to get a large affirmative vote than any effort by any group of individuals, no matter how enthusiastic or aggressive they might be.

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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

I should like to say a few words on the wording of the question which is to be put by plebiscite to the people of Canada. The Prime Minister last night in the course of discussion of the amendment of the hon. member for Macleod admitted that we have in fact as well as in law all the methods for the recruiting and mobilization of men, but the reason for the plebiscite is to release the government from its commitments in connection with conscription for overseas. He has strongly emphasized this point, and it would seem that now it is a matter of where the men are to serve rather than how we are to proceed with mobilization. Therefore the question on the ballot would surely be more adequate for the purpose and more frankly put to the people if it were in the manner suggested in the amendment. However, as I am opposed to the principle of the bill itself I regret to say that I shall vote against the amendment as well as against the main motion.

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IND

Liguori Lacombe

Independent Liberal

Mr. LACOMBE:

Mr. Chairman, it would be an easy matter for the government to place on this ballot the following question:

Are you in favour of conscription for service overseas ?

The answer could be given yes or no. I shall vote against the principle of this bill and I shall vote also against the amendment moved by the hon. member for Macleod. I have always been opposed to conscription for overseas service, and this measure is a step toward conscription. The hon. member's amendment does not improve the situation. It does not summarize the ballot shown in the bill. In spite of the hon. member's good faith, the amended ballot would still be longer than the one now included in the bill. Once more I object to the government measure and to the amendment. I have always been opposed to conscription, and I remain so with all my might.

Plebiscite Act

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I understand that there is an amendment before the committee. Would you read it, Mr. Chairman?

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Mr. Hansell has moved that the following words be added to the question appearing on the ballot: "in any theatre of war."

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

First of all, a word as to the question itself. The wording of the question was given the most careful study by the government in order that there might be no possibility of its having any meaning other than the one which appears upon its face. May I say, speaking of questions generally, that if hon. members are anxious to read into a question something other than what really is there, nothing in this world can prevent them from so doing. I venture to say that however differently worded the question might be, some hon. members would find equal objection to the new wording as proposed.

It has been suggested that we add the words "in any theatre of war." I have an objection to this, which I think hon. members will see immediately I express it. It would raise at once in the minds of a number of the people of this country a suspicion with regard to what the government has in mind, a suspicion which so far has not entered their minds. Some of them would begin to say "Oh, yes, we see what the government have in mind; they want to send our people, not merely to Great Britain, but to India, to Asia; they want to send them to other far distant quarters of the globe." No thought of the kind was in the mind of the government at the time the question was framed.

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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. FAIR:

What is in the government's mind now?

Mr.'MACKENZIE KING: It will decide what it will do with respect to the disposition of troops when it has full authority to act in the light of all the circumstances.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

It is admitted that the government has authority.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Full authority; moral authority as well as legal. My hon. friend the leader of the oposition throws back his head when I make mention of the word "moral," as though parliament had no moral obligation, as though the government had no moral obligation of any kind. I am afraid those who take that particular point of view are being unduly influenced by the nazi mentality and by the mentality of other nations that have thrown to the wind every obligation that may have existed between the people and their governments. I speak expressly of the

nazi position because the whole nazi policy is one that is based on broken pledges, one that is based on no faith in the pledged or promised word.

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March 3, 1942