GENERAL ARTICLES

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

Chubby Recovers From Social Leprosy

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK March 15 1947
GENERAL ARTICLES

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

Chubby Recovers From Social Leprosy

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK March 15 1947

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

Chubby Recovers From Social Leprosy

DESPITE horrendous reports to the contrary, Hon. “Chubby” Power didn’t land himself in the Liberal doghouse with his criticism of his own party (“What’s Wrong With the Liberals,” Maclean’s, Feb. 1). Instead a number of his prescriptions have been adopted.

When the article first came out Liberal small fry treated Chubby Power as if he had leprosy— they’d walk around the longest block in Ottawa to avoid meeting him. Contact with this heretic was obviously deemed unsafe. But as time went on, it became more and more apparent that a good many people in the party’s upper ranks not only didn’t resent the criticism, but agreed with a good deal of it. By mail and by word of mouth, an imposing collection of Liberal big shots told him “atta boy.” Even more enthusiastic was the reaction from the rank and file outside professional politics altogether. Power got enough invitations from young Liberal clubs to keep him on a speaking tour for the next six months.

Final pay-off came when the National Liberal Federation met in Ottawa last month. The meetings were closed, but their proceedings didn’t long remain secret. As the grapevine tells it, here’s what went on:

Prime Minister Mackenzie King, in a keynote speech to the assembled faithful, referred to recent criticisms levelled against the party. Some of these criticisms might be ignored as trivial, he said; others, however, ought to be taken into account most seriously. And, without directly mentioning the Chubby Power criticism, he then went on to deliver just what Power had demanded—a clear statement of Liberal policy.

It was a good deal the kind of thing he said publicly the same week—all about Liberalism being a genuine middle way between Toryism and Socialism, believing in free enterprise but not in special privilege.

At the end of his brief talk the Prime Minister came down from the platform and started for the door. Halfway down the aisle he stopped, reached across two or three other people in a row of seats to shake Chubby Power’s hand.

“How are you, Chubby? Glad to see you,” said the Premier, and walked out,

Mr. Power’s recovery from social leprosy was instantaneous.

AMONG the upper Liberals, resentment . against the Power criticisms was directed not to the main thesis of what he said, but to one or two incidental gibes.

One was the reference to an unnamed minister who once said, “A million dollars is not an important matter.” The culprit was C. D. Howe, the occasion a committee debate in the Commons, and the remark almost inadvertent.

“Nobody can go on for years in public life without saying the wrong thing sometimes,” one Liberal minister said.

“Surely a man’s entitled to more charity from an ex-colleague than that—to magnify a careless remark into a declaration of principle.”

Another was the resurrection of J. L;

Ilsley’s statement in 1945 that the authority of the Government is not delegated to it by the House of Commons, but is “received from the Crown.”

On the afternoon that statement was made, colleagues recall that Chubby Power himself remarked, “Ilsley’s point may be good law, but it’s bad politics.” He was right on both counts.

It was bad politics because it sounded, or was made to sound, like a revival of absolute monarchy. It was excellent law, and excellent political doctrine, because it denied that the Government is a mere delegate or committee of Parliament.

Mr. Ilsley was answering a statement by John Bracken, Leader of the Opposition, who said, “The Cabinet acts properly only under authority delegated by this Parliament.” And, Mr. Bracken declared, he “meant to see to it, so far as he could, that Canada should be governed by this House of Commons.”

To a Liberal, this was constitutional heresy. By that theory there would never be any need for a dissolution of Parliament—each House of Commons would live out its term, led by the kind of patchwork ministeries that in France were the curse of the Third Republic. The Liberal view is that the Government is responsible to the House of Commons, but not subject to day-by-dny direction therefrom—if it loses the confidence of Parliament, its appeal is to the people, whose decision is final.

That was their position in the great “constitutional issue” of 1926. It was restated by the Prime Minister in the debate on the Address last month. It was all Mr. Ilsley meant by his statement about “authority received from the Crown,” as the context of his 1945 statement makes pretty clear.

The Liberal contention is, roughly, that Chubby Power knew better than to construe this as a motion for the return of King Charles the First.

IMMIGRATION IS still a live subject in the upper reaches of Government. Key decisions still have to be made at this writing, but chances look good for a further enlargement of admissible classes before long.

Not that anyone plans a return to the mass influx of 35 years ago. Political pressure against immigration is relatively silent but still strong. The Government plans to lay no stress at any time on the gross numbers of people to be brought in. They’ll just change the regulations a bit and let immigrants trickle in as unobtrusively as possible.

Actually, though, the pro-immigration group (and it seems to have converted the Government to its view) would like to see us acquire perhaps 75,000 Europeans within the next year or so. That would be about the same number as came in 1930, but only about a quarter of the number we took in 1913.

Maybe 25,000 of these would be relatives of those already in Canada—there is no way to estimate how many will apply under this class, but 25.000 would be a fair guess. The rest would be drawn mainly from the Displaced Persons camps and—if plans work out—they’d be the pick of that unhappy crop.

A lot of Canadians got around the DP camps of Europe last year. Some, like M ike Pearson, were on flying visits; others were working for various international organizations like UNRRA, and are now drifting back with their reports, all to the same effect:

Some of the most desirable citizens in all Europe are to be found in the DP camps of Germany. Good types are particularly numerous among the 50,000 Balts— Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians—who fled when their countries were absorbed by the U. S. S. R.

People who have been there say that the Balts converted their DP camps into cultural going concerns. They organized schools, theatres and kindred projects that made living communities out of the dreary barrack mobs. They still have plenty of spirit, plenty of initiative, and reasonably good health. Observers’ advice is that Canada ought to get these people while the getting is good.

Of course it’s not suggested that, we should frame immigration regulations that would discriminate between nationalities. Rather, the attempt now is to work out definitions of admissible classes—by occupation or otherwise—which would enable us to tap this rich pool of highly desirable stock. If anyone else in other countries measured up to the same specifications he’d be equally welcome.

Just how such classes could be defined is the problem. But the Balt camps have, for instance, the director of the national opera of one Baltic country; they have artists, musicians, doctors, scientists, trained personnel of all kinds that Canada could use. The idea is to get as Continued on page 72

Continued on page 72

Backstage at Ottawa

Continued from page 15

many of these people as we can, but not to say too much about it.

This last point—not saying too much about it—is important because the political situation here is extremely delicate. *

To read the debates in Parliament, the proceedings of the Senate Committee, and the average Englishlanguage editorial, you’d think Canada was clamoring for more immigrants. It’s probably true that a majority of Canadians are in favor of letting down the bars. But politicians are painfully aware that although the pro faction may be larger, the anti faction is more deeply set in its views.

French-Canadian opinion is powerfully against immigration—it looks to them like an underhanded plot to win, by trickery, the “battle of the cradles.” Little nationalist weeklies in French Canada are already proclaiming, in scare headlines, that Ottawa is conspiring to flood ta patrie with British and European newcomers, to keep the numerical advantage that the FrenchCanadian birth rate has been slowly cutting down.

On the pro side, opinion is of two kinds. One is the mild, disinterested approval of the average liberal-minded citizen—the man who thinks we shouldn’t try to hog half a continent, but who isn’t much excited about it. The other is the powerful desire of the

man who has a personal interest in getting specific individuals out of Europe.

By the order-in-council of January 30, almost any near relative can now be brought into the country somehow. That alone releases tremendous emotional voltage. And the same order-incouncil admits people experienced in mining, logging and farming—which will satisfy the lumber barons and the Alberta sugar beet farmers, who have been hollering for the kind of labor they used to get from prisoners of war. Once both these special interests are satisfied a lot of the pep may go out of the pro-immigration campaign.

Prime Minister King’s statement on defense co-operation with the Americans was more important for what it didn’t say than for what it did.

Nothing in the statement itself was new. Its five “principles” had been announced piecemeal, some of them months before—exchange of military personnel, standardization of arms and so on.

But in recent months, and especially in the weeks just before Mr. King’s statement, a great number of articles on the subject had been appearing in the world press, notably the American and the Russian. Some had been serious exaggerations. This joint declaration was designed as a complete, official revelation of everything that the two countries are planning in the way of joint defense. It has already been sent to the United Nations secretariat, and it may yet be registered as a regional

agreement under Chapter VIII of the U. N. Charter.

Western democracies have a special reason for wanting to debunk exaggerated “defense” talk these days. In democratic councils, less and less heed is being paid to the people who talk about “imminent” war. More and more solid is the conclusion that there isn’t going to be any World War III within the predictable future, and that any appearance of bellicosity to the eastward has mainly a political motive.

Said a man who has recently been in Moscow: “Nobody in Russia talks about war—none of us foreigners, I mean. I didn’t hear a word of war talk until I got back to New York. In Moscow we take it for granted there isn’t going to be any war.

“We take it for granted for exactly the same reason that people in Berlin or Vienna in 1938 took it for granted there would be war. They could see with their own eyes the Nazis were preparing one. We can see with our own eyes the Russians are not.

“They just couldn’t stand another such effort now. They’re terribly tired—we haven’t any idea of the weariness in a country like Russia. The real question is, whether they’ve even got the strength and stamina left for the tasks of peace. As a nation they’re dynamic now, but they might fold up from sheer fatigue and become static.

“It’s a big strain on a nation to carry a totalitarian regime. One thing that helps them to bear that strain is fear— fear of an external enemy. The more we talk about ‘defense of the Arctic,’ the more we help the Russian people to endure the NKVD.” if