General Articles

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

What’s Drew Up To?

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK June 1 1948
General Articles

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

What’s Drew Up To?

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK June 1 1948

BACKSTAGE AT OTTAWA

What’s Drew Up To?

THE MAN WITH A NOTEBOOK

ALL THREE parties seem to take it for granted that Premier George Drew will be re-elected in Ontario, June 7. Discussion, what there is of it, centres mainly on two questions: Why did Col. Drew call an election at all?

What effect will it have on other June contests? He certainly didn’t need an election this year. The Drew Government is only three years old, has a smashing majority, and is not visibly losing strength to either opposing party. As for the so-called “issue” of the new hydro-electric program, it got one of the few unanimous votes of the session. So why the rush to the hustings?

* * *

MANY people, including some Progressive Conservatives, jumped to the conclusion that Premier Drew wanted to clear his path to the federal leadership of the party. Leading members of both the Drew and the Bracken camps assure me that this is entirely wrong.

It’s true that John Bracken is continuing to lose ground with his own party. When the Progressive Conservative Association met in Ottawa in April, anti-Bracken sentiment was so strong as to be almost vocal, despite the “unanimous” resolution of “unlimited” confidence in Mr. Bracken’s leadership.

It’s also true that whenever Mr. Bracken does step down, Premier Drew will be a favored candidate for the succession. He is the party’s most colorful figure.

Finally, it’s quite true that the relations between Bracken House and Queen’s Park are something less than cordial. Although invited, neither Premier Drew nor any of his Cabinet attended the Progressive Conservative Association meeting in Ottawa, nor the banquetai which Mr. Bracken spoke.

However, it is definitely not true that Premier Drew plans any attempt to supplant John Bracken this summer. He and his supporters know very well that a move to depose Mr. Bracken would be regarded, in many parts of the country, as treachery. Even if it succeeded in capturing the leadership, it would assuredly lose the next election for the party. The safest prediction is that the victorious Drew will be “available” in the event of a party “draft,” should Mr. Bracken step down of his own accord—but that’s all.

And, among those in close touch with Mr. Bracken, the opinion is unanimous that he has every intention of leading his party in the next general election, which the Liberals say will probably come next spring.

The pro-Drew faction assumes that Mr. Bracken will resign voluntarily if he loses that election, but there are some anti-Brackenites who fear that he might remain on as Opposition Leader. These people are hoping devoutly that their leader will be beaten in his own chosen constituency, Brandon.

This is a sentiment that may prove serious for the Progressive Conservative treasury. Most of the party’s money comes from rich Ontario, where anti-Bracken feeling is strongest. Some of the men who contributed to Mr. Bracken’s campaign fund in 1945 may well refuse to contribute again.

* * *

A MORE plausible explanation of the Ontario election, gleaned from Progressive Conservative sources, is this: Liberals are expected to bring in a social-security program at their convention in August, if not before. It will probably include higher and wider old-age pensions and the foundations of health insurance. Ontario couldn’t afford to stay out of any such scheme.

But to come into it, Ontario would presumably have to sign an agreement with Ottawa. Premier Drew has loudly and strongly opposed agreement with Ottawa on the present terms, which seven provinces have already accepted. He would not care to reverse that stand on the eve of a provincial election. So, just to be on the safe side, he’s going to the country now, according to this reasoning.

* * *

AS FOR the effect of the Ontario campaign on L.the other June elections, Progressive Conservatives here are glum about it.

The provincial election is June 7. The federal riding of Ontario (Oshawa and district) has a

by-election the next day, June 8. Federal strategists fear two ill effects from this:

1. Their organizers will celebrate their provincial victory and in their jubilation will practically forget the federal fight.

2. Liberals will benefit in the federal fight hy the licking the CCF is expected to take in the provincial fight.

In the constituency of Ontario in 1945, a Progressive Conservative won the provincial seat on June 4. He got 9,000 votes, the Liberal 8,000, the CCF 7,600.

One week later, in the federal election, a Progressive Conservative also got 9,000 votes just as many as had won the seat for his provincial running mate. But the CCF had been obliterated in the provincial show and many of its backers lost heart. In the federal election the Liberal got 12,000, the CCF only 4,400. These are round figures, but their moral is plain: More than 3,000 people who voted CCF on June 4, turned around and voted Liberal on June 11. It could hapjjen again.

* * *

THAT’S only one, and not the worst, of Progressive Conservative worries about the coming by-elections. At this writing, the constituency they’re least happy about is the one that counts in the record as “theirs”—Grote Stirling’s riding of Yale, B.C.

Before he resigned, Mr. Stirling used to win Yale by commanding the Progressive Conservative vote, plus hundreds of personal friends. For the May 31 by-election, the Progressive Conservatives have a good candidate, but the Liberals have one just as good if not better, Ted Chambers. They are counting on him to deliver the Liberal vote plus hundreds of his friends. And if he can puli any vote at all away from the Progressive Conserva-

tives, he’ll beat them —not by winning the seat himself, but by throwing it to the CCF.

In 1945, Grote Stirling got. 9,600 votes for the Progressive Conservatives; the CCF was less than 2,000 votes behind him. The Liberal got only 4,700 votes. If Ted Chambers were to split that antiSocialist vote evenly, t he CCF could win.

However, there is one completely unknown factor in the 1948 election picture: What effect will

Communist: support have on the CCF’s voting strength?

The CCF has repudiated the Communist backing vigorously, and repeatedly, but the Communists still embrace the Socialists. In Yale, that support could add 800 votes to t he CCF total, on the basis of 1945 figures—that’s what the Communist candidate drew last time. But the $64 question is: How many votes will Communist support take away from the CCF? ★