Mr. W. M. BENIDICKSON (Kenora-Rainy River):
M.r. Speaker, I have the honour to move, seconded by the hon. member for Gaspe-(Mr. Langlois), the following resolution:
That the following address be presented to-His Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To His Excellency Major General the _ Right Honourable the Earl of Athlone. Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a: member of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Knight Grand Gross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Grand Master of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, one of His Majesty's Personal Aides-de-Camp, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Dominion of Canada..
The Address-Mr. Benidickson
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, His Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the House of Commons of Canada, in parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both houses of parliament.
I understand it is the privilege of the mover of this resolution to make a few remarks to the house. First it is my
pleasure to express to you, Mr. Speaker, my sincere congratulations upon your election to the high office of first commoner, which took place yesterday. I believe my sympathy should also be extended to you, sir, because you have before you a great number of members of parliament, I think something in the nature of one hundred, who are making their first appearance in this chamber. I feel, however, that the new members may expect from you consideration and courtesy, in that despite this high honour you yourself have not long been a member of this House of Commons, though we all realize that you have had much more experience in parliamentary procedure than we have had, by reason of your service in the legislature of your province, and also because of the family school in which you have been brought up, which has given so many distinguished members to the public life of the Dominion of Canada.
I am well aware, sir, that a signal honour has indeed been conferred upon me in the invitation to move the address to His Excellency in reply to the speech from the throne. It is, of course, the custom in this house to select for this high privilege one from among those who are taking their first faltering steps in national politics. In my own case, however, I recognize that another and far from personal reason is responsible for my selection and possibly that of my good friend the seconder of the motion. I believe we have been selected for this high honour particularly because we have been associated with the armed services during the war. It is true that in previous sessions during war time this honour has been conferred upon members of the services, but I understand that hitherto it has been performed by members of the major Canadian service, the army. Therefore I deeply appreciate the tactful courtesy that has been shown to-day in asking that the address be moved and seconded by members who have been associated with the other branches of the services bf this country. It will be pleasing to them that in this great hour of final victory this additional accolade has been bestowed upon these two services whose achievements have been sometimes overlooked in recent days, when the course
of the war focused public attention so completely upon the work, the distinguished work, of the Canadian Army.
Mr. Speaker, if I may be forgiven I should like to interject a purely personal note of satisfaction. I had heard the name and rank of the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Langlois) as one elected to membership in the house; but until yesterday, when we met again, I had not realized that he was a former Halifax messmate who had been most helpful to a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force who, rather nervously, was feeling his way in his first contacts with the Royal Canadian Navy as their first air-liaison officer.
In expressing appreciation for the compliment that has been given to the service to which I was once attached, I decline to believe that there was not intended some measure of recognition of the constituency to the representation of which I have been elected. I wish to thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and his colleagues on behalf of all the electors and all the citizens of my riding for this honour.
The constituency of Kenora-Rainy River is a very large one. In fact, it is one of the few which can be said actually to span the country, for in the south the constituency of Kenora-Rainy River skirts the boundary of the United States, and moving northward through the rapidly developing mining district of Red Lake, encompasses the shore line of Hudson bay.
Therefore, I say that in the minds of Canadians it might very well occupy an equally strategic position, for it is the constituency in which it can be truly said that east and west meet and mingle.
Many of us, when we think of the city, have in mind the western city of Winnipeg. But always-and of late, unhappily-when we have referred to the fountain-head of our provincial government we have of course referred to the city of Toronto.
Since the creation of our riding some twenty years ago we have sent to the, house, consistently, followers of the present Prime Minister. During that time we have sent two distinguished members who have placed upon a neophite the very heavy burden of upholding a high reputation. Our first member, the Hon. Peter Heenan, was a privy councillor. He had the great honour, one which the constituency still appreciates, of moving the introduction of a bill which made the old age pensions scheme part of the law of our country. All hon. members will appreciate those observations in the speech from the throne which indicates a very necessary extension-
The Address-Mr. Benidickson
the dominion-provincial conference permitting -of the benefits flowing from that splendid piece of legislation.
The second hon. member to represent our constituency was Hugh McKinnon. I am sure a great number of members in this chamber, with me, regret his untimely passing during the last parliament. I have already had evidence of the great affection in which he was held by former members of the house, through the number of courtesies already extended to me by members of this house as his political heir, by reason of it being known that he and I were great personal friends.
Traditionally both these hon. members were Liberals who regarded the title as being as well spelled with a small as with a capital "L". It was they who pioneered the very natural association between Liberals and Labour which was so decisive a factor in the last election.
And, speaking of that election, may I say that I became convinced and tried to convince other people that the retention of the present government in power after the war was necessary in the best interests of the country. This opinion was based largely upon the government's splendid direction of the Canadian war effort, and naturally upon the conviction that a government with so much behind it in the way of war-time accomplishments could not fail to show equal wisdom and equal imagination in the handling of the equally difficult problems of peace. They, I felt, could not fail to understand that the world of 1938 had, in fact, dissolved before our eyes, and that a new world had stirred toward its birth six years ago this week.
From its programme it was evident that the government neither clasped the past too firmly, nor reached too eagerly toward the distant future. The record of the government and the outline of its programme during the election campaign were such, I believe, as immediately to satisfy the great majority of the people of Canada. According to the people's verdict, the government's programme approached most closely their requirements. I am pleased to note from what I read in the speech from the throne that performance is following closely upon the heels of promise.
The governor general's speech which we heard yesterday embodied at least the spirit of those reforms which the times demand. And if as members of the house we cannot ensure that the letter and the detail of those reforms are made effective, then I suggest, with all deference and respect, that we shall have failed in our task.
The raw material has been dropped into our laps by a government which, I believe, has appreciated what must go into the warp and woof of the new fabric. As I understand the matter, our task is to suggest into precisely what patterns it shall be woven. The materials given to us as outlined in the speech from the throne, are good materials. They conform with what we had been led to expect from past performance and practice.
For those materials, the spinning of which we gained some intimation during the 1944 session of parliament, and during the election campaign which followed, I should like personally to acknowledge the definite hand of the Prime Minister. We younger men who think we feel within ourselves and are led by the precepts of Liberalism-even left wing Liberalism-are told that this is a phase in our philosophy which young men rightly ex- , perience, but which they will forget as they grow older. I think the thirties are the time when we are supposed to abandon and to break away from some of those ideals.
Sometimes when, through private business success, we attain a degree of prosperity, we are inclined to abandon what I should like to call real liberalism. However, in the face of this allegedly natural transmutation, and in contradiction of all that we have been told is an inevitable and natural process, I would make so bold as to draw to the philosophers' attention the Right Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King. The years have not changed his relative position to the right or to the left. He remains one of those fortunate ones, regarded by one party as radical and by the other as conservative. To-day, as always, he fulfils the ideals of those who are most eager to do what they can for social reform and for the advancement of their country, without entirely scrapping the whole system under which so much progress in Canada has already been made.
We may disagree on details, but I claim that in the speech from the throne which we heard yesterday were included the indications of all the major policies which we can count [DOT]upon to carry Canada through the difficult years which lie ahead.
May I be forgiven if for a few minutes I give expression to what is possibly obvious to all hon. members. First, Canada has fought a great war. The magnitude of our achievement is, I think, not readily discernible as yet to Canadians as a whole. For example, we say that we had an army in the field, but I wonder if any one has yet been able to explain properly to Canadians what is meant by that very technical word "army"? We have had a
The Address-Mr. Benidickson
navy. Possibly my hon. friend who is to second this motion may wish to have something to say as to what is involved in the way of men and ships when we say "navy".
We have had an air force, and in this connection I am on more familiar ground. The Royal Canadian Air Force has meant that there have been Canadian airmen from Iceland southeastward to Burma. For example, when we say that Canada had a bomber group in action I wonder how many Canadians were able to translate that innocent word "group" into the immense formation, among many other formations, made up of ten thousand men and millions of dollars worth of aircraft which was dispersed over hundreds of square miles of England and which was carrying as much as fifty per cent of the British bombs launched against the enemy.
These illustrations of the contributions of Canada to victory were obvious to the men overseas, but how well were they understood at home? On the other hand, how well was the achievement of Canada's home war effort appreciated by the men in the field? How well could those men, satisfied by what they saw of the deliveries of men and equipment, yet concentrated upon the evidence before them, appreciate and evaluate the excellence of the home war effort, the handling of the financial aspects of the war and the equally excellent handling of the defeat of inflation? How well could they evaluate what had been done in fulfilling the appalling demands for supply and equipment which must have staggered those responsible for meeting them as truly as did the instructions to wipe out Brest and Lorient which were given to our troops in the earty days of the air war or which were given, I imagine, later on to the army at the time of Dieppe?
In passing, I suggest that we have within the government departments adequate facilities for writing what might be called the statistics of this war, the brave ones of the number of free enlistments and the tragic ones of those who have not returned. There will be the statistics of the food and munitions we produced and the hours of work that were put in in this country to assure victory. But there are no statistics, nor can there be, of the intangible things which went into the winning of the war. By "intangible things" I mean the sacrifices made by men and women who were parted in the doubtful early days of the war; and the sacrifice that was made by a man when he gave up a good job to enlist. At that time, in the eagerness with which men threw overboard their present happiness in order to serve a cause in which they believed, there appeared an example of the Canadian spirit
which is all too readily overlooked to-day when men say, as if ambition instead of idealism had motivated that action, "Oh, he did well enough in the army or the war plant, but he will have to work for much less now that the war is over."
For a moment I have strayed from my theme. I had meant to argue that no one of us can yet grasp the extent of Canada's effort and I hope that none of us will deny the fact that as a result of this great conflict this country has become a great nation. I have heard expressed in private conversations our peculiar Canadian brand of isolationism, and I have no doubt that we shall hear of it hereafter in this house. It follows naturally upon the fact that we in Canada have not what might be called the normal ambitions of a nation. We do not want anyone's territory; we are content to keep the peace and leave other people alone. So far so good, but I think there is more to be said.
Whether we like it or not, as a result of our achievements through the war years, the achievements of our armed forces, of our economic administrators, of our diplomatic representatives, of our scientific forces, we have been lifted up far above the stature of a northern adjunct to the United States or a western dependency of Great Britain. Whether or not we like it we have been forced into the position of being respected as a great power in the world; we are the spokesman for a great deal of the best in the world that we hope will emerge from the holocaust. This fact has already been recognized by much more of the world at large than some of us at home are prepared to realize. I believe wre confuse ourselves by thinking that the major figures in the world of to-day stop off in Ottawa only for reasons of courtesy or convenience.
As a great nation we have ever increasing obligations. With our immense resources of food, minerals, forest products and manufactures we must ensure that the rest of the world is supplied with its share of what it needs. Morally, we must exert every influence to ensure that whatever settlements or agreements are made to-day, twenty years from now they will not disturb the peace that Canada loves. Socially, we must use to the full, as w7e have always done before, the progressive spirit of our own people to introduce reforms which may in turn be a pattern for other parts of the world. Economically, we must prove that our existing freedom will work and seek to enlarge it rather than narkening to those who say that either it must be scrapped or so changed in one direction or the other that it is no longer freedom.
The Address-Mr. Langlois
I believe that these suggestions of mine are implicit in the speech from the throne. Asking your patience, sir, and that of the house I should like to touch upon two points, one of which was not mentioned in the speech but both of which I regard as being of special importance. They both concern the man who has served in this latest war. On all sides of the house we are obviously determined that the best possible deal shall be given to him.
I think that some confidence will be given to these men in the knowledge that in this house _ there are over thirty veterans of this war in addition to possibly many more who saw service in the great war that went before.
In the first, and lesser place, there are numbers of young men who after long service in our forces during this war have decided that their special aptitudes and special interests lie in continued membership in the armed forces. They were volunteers at the outset of the war. To-day they would like to be members of that relatively large permanent force which we expect Canada to maintain as a nation, if not to contribute to an international police force. To the best of my knowledge two at least of these services so far are not making it possible for the men so minded to remain in the service. I suspect that in consequence the cream of the crop, from the military point of view, is being lost.
In the second, and much greater place, I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the government give the utmost priority to provision for the housing of veterans. I am glad to see that subject mentioned in the speech from the throne. We know' that constructive action is under way in cities, and we are hopeful that when the occasion comes a still broader programme will be announced. We are also hopeful that control over housing, the major emergency which Canada faces to-day, may be vested in one central agency. We would welcome an assurance that the benefits of the wartime housing policy will not be concentrated in the cities but will be dispersed among the smaller towns as well, where the problem of overcrowding is relatively equally severe.
In the meantime may I respectfully ask my colleagues in this house, including older and wiser members, to remember that the final victory is not much more than a week or so behind us and that while the transition from the old to the new is ahead of us, it cannot be accomplished overnight. At the same time we as members of this house must as legislators and public servants keep ever fresh in our minds a vision of our worthy calling. In this connection I should like to plagiarize a story that appeared recently in a popular magazine.
There were three stonemasons at work, and a passerby asked each of them what he was doing. The first replied, "I am cutting a stone." The second one said, "I am making a wall." The third replied, "I am helping to build a cathedral." And so I say, Mr. Speaker, that even those of us who are new here and back-benchers must keep in our minds the fact that we have the great privilege of being stonemasons in the building of a better social order.
Topic: GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
Subtopic: ADDRESS IN REPLY, MOVED BY MR. W. M. BENIDICKSON AND SECONDED BY MR. J. G. L. LAN GLOIS