General Articles

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

By-Election Blues

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK December 1 1947
General Articles

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

By-Election Blues

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK December 1 1947

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

By-Election Blues

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

SOME labor people in the Province of Quebec are seriously worried about the growth of Communism in French Canada. They say Premier Maurice Duplessis’ “anti - Communist” campaign is making converts to Communism in the labor movement.

Duplessis will call anyone a Communist whom he doesn’t like. Any aggressive labor union leader, not only in the international unions but in the Catholic Syndicates, too, is likely to be branded publicly as a Red. Privately, the “Communist” smear has even been swabbed upon some members of the Catholic clergy.

This indiscriminate name calling has had an unexpected result. It has bracketed with the Communists, to their undeserved credit, practically everybody in the Quebec labor movement who is active enough to attract attention. More and more French-Canadian workers are saying “If that’s what Communism is, then I’m for it.”

Among the younger leaders, many of whom have been individually branded as Reds, the effect is even stronger. In fighting Duplessis’ labor legislation they have often found themselves side by side with people generally regarded as Communist Party leaders. But the label has been used so freely in Quebec that they don’t believe it even when it’s true.

One young French Canadian, a devout Catholic, recently said:

“Sure, I work with Joe (naming a well-known Labor Progressive organizer); why not? Duplessis says he’s a Communist. Okay, Duplessis says I'm a Communist, too—I know that’s a lie, so why should I believe what he says about Joe?”

And even when they do believe it, they’re beginning to ask “So what?”

THERE’S one consolation in this Quebec picture, though. While Duplessis is driving French Canadians into the Communist Party, Communist discipline seems to be driving them out.

Henri Gagnon is Communist organizer in Quebec, an able young agitator who got into the headlines a few months ago by leading “squatters” into Montreal gambling houses. A month ago, the fifth provincial convention of the Quebec Labor Progressive Party paased a secret resolution accusing Gagnon and three others of “anti-Marxist, nationalist deviation.”

The secret resolution, which was later published verbatim in the Montreal Herald, noted the existence within the party of “a tendency, hostile to Marxism, which . . . has the character of a faction.” The faction had five leading characteristics:

“(a) It adopts, on the question of Dominionprovincial relations, the point of view of nationalism and refuses in practice to fight for the line of the party;

“(b) ... It rejects joint work in the consumers’ struggle, because here as in industrial work it is necessary to work with ‘the English’;

“(c) It expresses openly a contemptuous attitude toward internationalism, engages in anti-Semitism and propagates organizational and political separatism within the party;

“(d) It maintains a negligent and contemptuous attitude toward theoretical study and toward the fight to master Marxism;

“(e) It rejects in practice the principle of the internationalist unity of the party in Quebec and in Canada; adopts a hostile attitude toward the leadership of the party centre; seeks to organize a faction in opposition to the leadership of the parly.” Apparently the Cominform is finding, as other Jess militant parties have found, that Jean Baptiste prefers to do things in his own way.

HON. GROTE STIRLING’S resignation as

M.P. for Yale, B.C., has thrown his Progressive Conservative Party cohorts into a fight that may prove to be a critical point in its career. A win in Yale will not, by itself, restore Progressive Conservative fortunes, but a defeat would be ruinous.

Yale has never been anything but Conservative since it was created in 1914. Before that, the old constituency of Yale-Cariboo backed Laurier

from 1896 until 1908; except for that break, the territory has been Conservative since Confederation.

But of late years the party’s hold on the riding has depended increasingly on Mr. Stirling’s personal popularity. Indifferent health, which finally compelled him to resign the seat, has kept him from being as active and prominent in the House as he might otherwise have been, but throughout his 23 years of parliamentary service he has held the respect of all parties.

Since 1940, even Stirling could not make Yale a really safe seat. He had a majority of less than 1,200 in that year, compared to nearly 4,000 in 1926. The CCF has been the rising power in the Okanagan Valley.

Before the 1945 election, Grote Stirling himself expected to be defeated. His CCF opponent, a popular local man named Jones, had given him a tight run in 1940 when the CCF in general fared

badly; Mr. Stirling, in view of the CCF gains throughout the nation during five war years, was resigned to defeat when he left Ottawa in (he spring of '45.

As it turned out, he did pull through. But Progressive Conservatives know that to win with Grote Stirling was one thing, to win with anybody else will be quite another matter. They can probably count on a good many normally Liberal votes in that riding, from the Right wing of (he Grits who fear Socialism above all things. But, by the same token, if the Liberal candidate appears to be weak, Left-wing Liberal votes may go (o the CCF. And if, on the other hand, the Liberal candidate puts up a strong fight, he’s more likely to cut into (he Conservative than the CCF vole.

Altogether if looks like a hard fight for the Tories, and they are not fooling (hemselves with any false optimism about it. They know they

might lose—and they know their party can’t stand another loss just now.

IN THE seven by-elections since Mr. King’s walkover in Glengarry, the Liberals have won four, the Progressive Conservatives two, the CCF none (the seventh was a Social Credit win in Pontiac, Que., which can hardly be taken as a trend). On the surface it looks as if the older parties have little to worry about.

When you look at the popular vote figures, (hough, the picture changes. In the seven elections the total Liberal vote has declined by 7,565 votes, or nine per cent, from its 1945 total in the same ridings. Progressive Conservative support is down by 8,236 votes, or 16%. CCF votes have increased by 11,386 or 58%.

Even those figures don’t teil the whole story. Some Liberals, after the Halifax by-election, felt that their own party

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was altogether too complacent about the result .

“They think we didn’t lose any votes in Halifax,” said one very intelligent Grit who knows Halifax well. “1 tell them we lost plenty. That CCF gain wasn’t picked up from the Tories, it was picked up from us. Then we, in turn, got Conservative votes from pgpple who’d rather hack Mackenzie King than Coldwell.

“You can see what that means. We’re still all right in places where the Conservatives are fairly strong and the CCF fairly weak. But in places where the CCF is already our runner-up, it won’t be so good.”

His own prescription for this malady is a strong swing to the Left in Liberal policy-—something to chase Tory votes hack where they belong and keep younger Liberals from deserting to the CCF. But there’s not much in Ottawa to indicate that this counsel is likely to be taken. Meanwhile, it’s the Progressive Conservative Party that suffers.

* * *

Prime Minister King’s appointment of six new parliamentary assistants created no great surprise here.

Longest overdue was the appointment of Ralph Maybank to National Health and Welfare. Maybank, who hails from Winnipeg, has been in the House since 1935 and had experience in municipal and provincial politics before that. He’s an able man.

However, in the party view he has one grave fault—he doesn’t toe the party line as readily as some. Two years ago, when the Cabinet decided to raise the tariff on steel pipe, Mayhank organized western Liberals in a protest movement. The rebels stopped the Government in its tracks, forced a change of policy and an amendment of the Budget. This didn’t win Maybank any popularity prizes in the loftier circles of the Liberal Party. Many people, including Maybank, thought his temerity would keep him on the back benches for good. But apparently the job he did last session as chairman of the radio committee restored him to favor.

Walter Harris, who’s assigned to External Affairs, is a hustling young man from Central Ontario whose first exploit was to beat the unbeatable .Agnes MacPhail in Grey Bruce, in 1940. Then he went off to war and hardly saw the House of Commons during his first term. He came hack in time to be re-elected in 1945, has been busy as a beaver ever since.

Harris and Senator Norman Lambert headed the Flag Committee last year. They wasted a lot of patience and skill guiding the committee to the design the Prime Minister wanted— red ensign with a gold maple leaf. Then they saw all their handiwork wasted when the Government:, scared of Quebec opposition, pigeonholed their report.

Now Harris basa job with more body to it. By way of apprenticeship, he’s been down at Like Success all fall with Canada’s United Nations team.

Bob Winters from Lunenburg, N.S., appointed to National Revenue, is a quiet chap who never intended to go into politics at all. He was a rising engineer with Northern Electric before the war, went overseas as a signals officer, later was posted to N.D.H.Q. j in Ottawa where he came under the j admiring eye of several Cabinet Minisj ters. They thought he would he just j what they needed to carry Lunenburg j in 1945; it took very heavy salestalk

to persuade him to run, but when he did he proved them right. Winters talks seldom in the House, but he’s a hard worker with a level head; his appointment has long been expected.

Another quiet chap is Bob McCubbin of Middlesex West, who goes to Agriculture. McCubbin is a practical farmer himself, near Strathroy, Ont. He’s a red-haired, boyish-looking man with an infectious grin—looks several years younger than the 45 he is, and has made a lot of friends in his seven years as an M.P.

Paul Emile Côté of Verdun is the darkest horse of the six. He’s a Montreal lawyer of 38, a tall, thin, rather serious fellow who is known as a steady worker but has set off no fireworks in his two terms at Ottawa. Other men in the Quebec delegation have pushed to the front a lot oftener than Côté— which may be one reason why he was picked. Of all the aspiring young men from French Canada, Côté has shown

perhaps least of the kind of ambition that brought Caesar to a bad end.

Like Bob Winters, Gleason Belzile, who goes to Finance, is a first-term M.P. Lately, those Liberals who think their party needs a new leader in Quebec have been talking about Belzile as a possible successor for Adelard God bout. He represents Rimouski, where lie was born 49 years ago, has lived all his life and raised nine children and sits on the local school board.

Finance already had one parliamentary assistant in veteran Robert Mayhew of Victoria, B.C. In announcing the Belzile appointment, Mr. King said the Finance Department's slate of legislation for the coming year would be more than usually heavy. That was the only indication the Prime Minister gave of what will be the session's biggest and toughest job—contriving ways and means to save American dollars. if