May 28, 1940 (19th Parliament, 1st Session)


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


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, in view of the gravity of the situation at the moment I would ask the house if it would permit me to adopt a course which has been found necessary in Great Britain and which was found necessary in this country during the last war, namely, to delegate to one of my colleagues the responsibility of leading this House of Commons for the greater part of the time in order that in my position as Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs I may have the needed time and opportunity to give the concentrated attention, the study and thought to the many questions that are presenting themselves to the government as a whole, and to deal immediately with many situations that are becoming more pressing every moment.
My right hon. friend and colleague the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) has at different times, and for the greater part of the last session of the previous parliament, filled in my absence the position of leader of the government, and he has kindly consented to take on that task at the present session. My right hon. friend the Minister of Justice has, however, also very heavy duties at this time, as all of us have who are members of the war committee of the cabinet, and it may be that he also will be obliged to be absent from the house on occasions for a considerable period of time. In view of that possibility I have asked my colleague the Minister of Mines and Resources (Mr. Crerar) if he would take on the duty of second in command, to lead the house in the absence of the Minister of Justice and myself.
Perhaps I need not say to hon. members that no members of the government are more taxed at this present time, and likely to be more taxed in their duties during the session, (than the ministers of national defence. They are and will continue to be obliged to give considerable of their time to conferring with members of their own departments in dealing with the many critical situations with which they and all of us are faced. I hope, therefore, that it will be possible so to arrange the business of the house that measures which relate immediately to war effort can be brought on and discussed at times when it may be convenient for my colleagues the ministers of national defence or myself to be present in the house; and if by any chance their presence will be required elsewhere on short notice, that the house will understand the reasons why they also may have to absent themselves for a considerable portion of the time.
Those, I think, are the only matters upon which I wished to speak immediately. I might add that this afternoon I would like to have the opportunity of conferring almost immediately with certain of my colleagues; and in the arrangement of the business this afternoon it might be understood that some of the bills other than the one which was yesterday before the house, and which are on the order paper, would be taken up first. We could return a little later in the afternoon to the bill with respect to the appropriation for war purposes.

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