Hon. D. S. Harkness (Calgary North):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. Yesterday I sent to the Prime Minister my resignation as minister of national defence.
I believe it is the duty of a minister of national defence to ensure the security of Canada to the greatest extent that he believes to be possible, on the basis of the information and advice he receives. I have always believed, in pursuit of this duty as minister, that we should have nuclear weapons.
In all defence negotiations concerning nuclear weapons in which I have had a part, the sovereignty of Canada has been protected fully. We have never lost sight of the dignity or independence of this country.
I believed when I spoke here last Thursday that the position I outlined in a press release issued on Monday, January 28, was the same as that stated by the Prime Minister in his speech of January 25, as found on page 3136 of Hansard. Subsequently it became apparent to me that the Prime Minister's views on nuclear arms and my own are irreconcilable. On reflection, I believe now I made a mistake in agreeing to what would amount to a four month delay in obtaining nuclear warheads for our forces in Europe. I did so agree in the hope of getting the nuclear arms question definitely settled.
I differ from the Prime Minister in this way, that I believe we should have obtained nuclear warheads for our weapons carriers as soon as the latter were ready. I thought throughout that by remaining in the cabinet I could better achieve this purpose than by taking the easier course of resigning.
I resigned on a matter of principle. The point was finally reached when I considered that my honour and integrity required that I take this step. I shall, of course, remain in the Conservative party, and I hope to run in my constituency of Calgary North at the next election. That will be in the hands of my supporters in Calgary North to whom I hope to report shortly.
I should like to make it clear that I absolutely reject the position on nuclear weapons set forth by the Liberal leader. That anomalous position is that Canada should evade her responsibility by accepting nuclear weapons now and then immediately negotiating out of them.
I bade farewell to my fellow ministers in the cabinet on terms of warm friendship. I thank the house for its kindness in allowing me to make this statement.
Subtopic: MR. HARKNESS-STATEMENT ON RESIGNATION AS MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE