Hellyer, Sharp, Turner— Pearson? Hees, Fulton, Hamilton—Diefenbaker? Or someone else? Who will lead the Liberals and Conservatives into the next election? On the eve of their conventions, it's still a toss-up choice

BLAIR FRASER June 1 1967


Hellyer, Sharp, Turner— Pearson? Hees, Fulton, Hamilton—Diefenbaker? Or someone else? Who will lead the Liberals and Conservatives into the next election? On the eve of their conventions, it's still a toss-up choice

BLAIR FRASER June 1 1967


Hellyer, Sharp, Turner— Pearson? Hees, Fulton, Hamilton—Diefenbaker? Or someone else? Who will lead the Liberals and Conservatives into the next election? On the eve of their conventions, it's still a toss-up choice


BOTH OF CANADA’S major political parties face, this year, a situation that neither has had to meet for at least four decades: the possibility of an open contest at a leadership convention.

For Conservatives the last such encounter was R. B. Bennett’s narrow victory over Hugh Guthrie in 1927. For Liberals it was young Mackenzie King’s hard-won triumph in 1919 over the elderly ex-Unionist W. S. Fielding. Since then the Liberal Party has ; held two leadership conventions and the Conservatives four, but all six have been sham battles or, at the very least, foregone conclusions. In five of the six cases the party Establishment made a decision long before the delegates assembled; some doubt may have existed about the Establishment’s ability to make its will prevail, but the doubt soon proved ill-founded. The sixth case — John Diefenbaker’s election as Conservative leader in 1956 — was a defeat for the Establishment that then existed, but not an unforeseen one. The former palace guard knew it was beaten weeks before the vote was cast, and some of its members had already joined the force that they knew they could not lick. In every case the choice of party leader was predictable, not as a matter of mere speculation but as a virtual certainty.

From the viewpoint of party managers this tidy and bloodless form of combat has much to recommend it. Defeated individuals may feel aggrieved, as John Diefen-

baker and James Gardiner did after the two conventions of 1948, but their followers are more easily consoled. Also, platforms can be tailored in advance (at the same conventions) to match the known views of the known winner. No intra-party power struggle need take place, nor even inconvenient rearrangement of the hierarchy. Maximum smoothness can be achieved with minimum effort.

But this year, both parties are thinking of these advantages with wistfulness rather than hope. In order to impose an Establishment decision, the Establishment must first of all exist. Neither major party, at the moment, can meet this minimum requirement. Both find themselves, for different reasons, in a state of fragmentation for which there is no precedent.

Conservatives have not recovered from the collapse of party unity that began as early as I960, reached a climax with the overthrow of the Diefenbaker government in February 1963, and led to the meeting last November that determined, after bitter and open conflict, to call the leadership convention of next September. Quiet efforts to heal these gaping wounds have begun, but they still have to be carried on in secret.

Liberals have been spared the tensions of revolt against their incumbent leader, but their divisions immediately below the top are almost as grave as the Conservatives’. So many Grits have vowed that this, that or the other leader would be chosen “over my dead body” that when the choice is finally made, the convention platform may look like a stage for the fifth act of Hamlet.

Chief target of the “over-my-dcad-body” syndrome is Mitchell Sharp, Minister of Finance and still, probably, front runner among Liberal aspirants. The most prominent corpse upon the field of a Sharp victory would be that of Walter Gordon, Canada’s leading economic nationalist, who won his most recent battle with Sharp but who signed no pact of peace. Gordon has no personal ambition to be Liberal leader, and not enough support to win the post if he did want it, but he may well command enough strength in the party to defeat any man he resolutely opposes. Among such men, Sharp leads all the rest. As a front runner, therefore, he seems to be losing speed.

A year ago, even six months ago, the name most often bracketed with Sharp’s as that of a leading contender was Paul Hellyer, Minister of Defense. Hcllyer’s reputation rested mainly on his handling of integration and unification in the armed forces. It still docs. But since the debates in parliament last autumn, and most precipitously since the defense committee hearings last winter, Hellyer's chief asset has become a grave liability. The Liberal consensus, though it may yet change again, now is that Hellyer is too rigid, too dogmatic, too self-assured to be an effective party leader. Also, he seems to have alienated a small but important section of the

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FOLLOW WHAT LEADER? continued from page 24

While the hares jockey, Old Tortoise Martin plods forward

electorate — the service vote — which had been reliably Liberal for the past 20 years.

Jean Marchand. Minister of Manpower and Quebec leader, is often mentioned by those who still value the Liberal “tradition” of alternation between Frenchand English-Canadian leaders. (The so-called tradition is largely mythical: both Laurier and St. Laurent were chosen for many reasons, and in Laurier's case his French ancestry was thought to be a drawback.) Marchand is a relative newcomer to politics and parliament, but his 20 years in the Quebec labor movement proved his talents for persuasion and political agility. In his 18 months in parliament he has made no serious mistakes, and has established himself as a man who can win fights without inflicting scars, and repel attack from before or behind.

But Marchand has no intention of running for the leadership. His prime concern is to make the principle of confederation prevail in Quebec over the extreme view of provincial autonomy, and also to make Quebec's federal group a progressive instead of a reactionary force within the Liberal Party. He thinks he can do better at both these tasks in his present position than as the party's national leader. He also has grave doubt, his friends say, that now is the right time for a French Canadian to lead the Liberals. They are certain he won't run.

Therefore, Marchand and his Quebec group will be a powerful, perhaps decisive force for someone else's victory. Whose? The question is not yet answerable — Marchand has not made up his mind — but his choice will certainly fall to the Left rather than the Right of centre. He would certainly not back Robert Winters, Minister of Trade and Commerce, and almost certainly not Mitchell Sharp.

Alan MacEachen, Minister of Health and Welfare, is one of Marchandé

best friends and agrees w'ith him on most policy issues. But MacEachen is not w'ell known outside his native Nova Scotia, and even there he lacks a firm political base — only two Nova Scotia scats w'ent Liberal in 1965, and those two will be merged by redistribution. Even if he got Quebec support, it is unlikely MacEachen would be a serious contender. 1 hcrefore, he is unlikely to get it. Like any minority group, Quebec prefers to back w'inners.

A much more probable candidate for the favor of Quebec is Paul Martin, Secretary of State for External Affairs, who lost to Lester Pearson at the leadership convention of January 1958. Indeed, some people think Martin and not Sharp is already the front runner. While the aforementioned and other hares have been jockeying for position, and trying to push each other out of the inside track. Old Tortoise Martin has been plodding steadily and unobtrusively toward the finish line. No MP ever has a birthday without a congratulatory call or card from the minister of external affairs. He alone of all the aspirants will have wrung the hand, not once but many times over the

years, of almost every delegate to a Liberal convention. He is a politician’s politician, the Old Maestro of electoral arts and crafts. Also, if he is not exactly a French Canadian (he was born in Ontario and his father was of Irish descent) he at least had a French-Canadian mother, a truly bilingual name, and a fluent if not

impeccable command of the language.

"If Jean Marchand decides to back Paul Martin, the Quebec group will go with him solidly,” said a leading Quebec MP, "but if he backs anyone else, they will split. About 20 to 25 percent will vote for Martin anyway.”

Martin thus has formidable assets, but some of them are also liabilities.

As dean of the House of Commons, he is the best known of all the aspirants, but he is by the same token the oldest — 64 in June of this year. His repute as a master of ward politics is a plus with some people, a minus with others. Some call him adroit, others call him wily. And foremost among these double-ended qualities is the fact that he represents the status quo, the mixture as before. Senior privy councillor in the Pearson cabinet. a member of every Liberal gov-

Conservative Hamilton’s drawback: he’s not conservative

eminent since 1945, he can hardly present himself now as an apostle of change.

if, as some Liberals believe, the only way the party can win another election is by presenting a new face to the electorate, the likeliest leader would be young John Turner. The new Registrar-General and minister-

elect of consumer affairs is 38, has fought three elections, has been a minister for 18 months after a betterlban-average record as a parliamentary secretary (northern affairs). Educated in Ottawa and British Columbia (as well as Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and the University of Paris), Turner practised law in Mont-

real before running for parliament there; thus he has firm links in three provinces. He is also fluently bilingual, one of the very few English-speaking MPs who can make a rousing speech in French without notes. His handicap is inexperience — but that, like experience. can be a double-ended quality. More than any other candidate in

sight he could impart an air of freshness and youth to a Liberal Party that otherwise looks dismally familiar.

A dismal familiarity is also one of the drawbacks of the Tory contestants, or some of them. Others suffer the opposite trouble of being unknown quantities in the federal arena.

Premiers Robert Stanfield of Nova Scotia and Duff Roblin of Manitoba, for example, both have records of victory in the provincial field. But twice in the last 25 years the Conservatives have taken provincial premiers as federal leaders — John Bracken from Manitoba in 1942. George Drew Irom Ontario in 1948 — and neither was able to duplicate in national politics his local success. Moreover, the Liberal experience, though less noticeable, has been no less discouraging. Angus !.. Macdonald was unbeatable as Premier of Nova Scotia, but a disappointment in Ottawa as minister of naval affairs during World War II. Stuart Garson of Manitoba was often mentioned as a possible leader until, but not long after, he entered the federal cabinet in 1948. The moral seems to be that provincial champions, however eminent, are a bad risk in the Commons, which has its own tests and traps for the intruder.

Too late to be a hero

Therefore, a seat in the House is a great advantage for any aspirant to the Conservative leadership, and one that several of them enjoy. Three arc serious contenders: George Hees, ex-

Minister of Trade and Commerce; Davie Fulton, ex-Minister of Justice; Alvin Hamilton. ex-Minister of Agriculture. But each of these labors under some drawback.

Hees resigned from the Diefenbaker government in February 1963, too late to be a hero like Douglas Harkness but soon enough to make a massive contribution to the government’s downfall. It would be idle to imagine that The Chief has forgiven this. Also, Hees’s slight and peripheral involvement in the Munsinger affair, if it did him no great harm, did him no good.

Davie Fulton had already left federal politics to become provincial Conservative leader in British Columbia when the cabinet crisis of 1963 took place, so he escaped commitment to either side then. However, his invasion of the provincial field was unsuccessful (the party was defeated in every seat, including his own) and left him with a somewhat insecure political base, even though he had no trouble regaining his own federal riding of Kamloops in 1965.

As for Alvin Hamilton, he bids fair to inherit the Diefenbaker mantle among the prairie farmers, among whom he was an immensely popular minister of agriculture and is still a potent figure. Hamilton’s trouble among Conservatives is that he is not conservative. He is an agrarian radical who bubbles with new ideas, some of them good, and who goes down admirably in the province which for 20 years returned the only socialist government in North America. With the real, or conservative. Conservatives he is incurably suspect. Not only the bankers of Bay Street, but such western pillars of the Right as Alberta’s

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Premier Manning, could never accept Hamilton as one of their own (and Manning may yet decide to become a power in the Conservative rather than the Social Credit Party). There is little reason to hope Hamilton would do better in eastern cities than Diefenbaker has done in the past three elections.

Faced with this three-horned dilemma, some leading Conservative

MPs have started a quiet movement to draft Donald Fleming, ex-Minister of Finance, whom Diefenbaker defeated for the leadership in 1956.

Fleming has many advantages, negative and positive. Of the positive, the strongest are that he retired trom politics undefeated in 1963, has had no part however slight in the soiling conflicts of the last four years, and could thus return as a relatively fresh face in Conservative ranks. But though fresh, he is hv no means new or green.

He was a Conservative front-bencher continuously from 1945 until 1962, a formidable figure in opposition, a competent and industrious minister of finance in the Diefenbaker government. The civil servants of that difficult department respected him highly.

Another of Fleming’s advantages, often overlooked, is that he speaks acceptable French. Quebec MPs rate him slightly ahead of Davie Fulton and Duff Roblin on this score. All three have a fair command of the

language, none is fully bilingual, but Fleming has been working on it for 20 years with considerable success. He has also, ever since his first try for the party leadership in 1948, made a point of cultivating Quebec and his efforts have not gone unrewarded.

His disadvantages are obvious. As a Toronto lawyer and true-blue Tory, he looks, sounds and is a real oldfashioned Conservative. At 62 he has no special appeal to youth. His rhetorical style is heavy, florid, and rather old-hat, but his eastern urban background would be against him in the regions where old-style oratory is still effective.

But perhaps the greatest disadvantage of all. from the viewpoint of Fleming’s supporters, is his own reluctance to run. Fie is now comfortably established in a new career, or an old one re-entered. To go back to politics would be a sacrifice, financially and in many other ways. Fleming is hardly likely to make such a sacrifice unless his backers can assure him of victory at the convention, or at least of a better-than-even chance. To do this, with at least three other strong and resolute contenders in the field, will be quite a challenge.

So for the Conservatives, no less than for the Liberals, the usual preconvention consensus has not yet emerged, and there are no signs yet that it ever will. The field is wide open not only for the candidates aforementioned but for others. J. J. Greene, Minister of Agriculture, is a probable contender for the Liberal crown, and a whole host are declared or potential Conservative aspirants — Michael Starr, ex-Minister of Labor; Senator Wallace McCutcheon. ex-Minister Without Portfolio; Dalton Camp, national president of the Progressive Conservative Party; Robert McCleave of Halifax; even an unknown businessman from Brockville. Ont., named John MacLean. It is unlikely but not inconceivable that one of these long shots might win.

This fact is the measure of the inner confusion in both the major parties. Neither knows where it is going nor even, for sure, where it wants to go. Any national party must contain internal splits, or it would not he national, but never have the splits been so numerous and so wide nor the positive impulses so few.

The Liberals have, or think they have, one avenue of escape from this morass: they could persuade Prime Minister Pearson to stay on another year until the party has sorted itself out — perhaps even (though this is even more improbable) to lead them through one more election. To achieve this result, they would have to break down the prime minister’s firm intention, often announced to his friends (and, more important, to his wife!). But it is not out of the question, and some of his cabinet colleagues have resolved to attempt it.

Conservatives have no such last resort available. Their convention has been called, and if John Diefenbaker should decide to run he would be a candidate like any other, facing opponents. Not a likely prospect.

Thus for both parties, the only certainty is uncertainty. What this may mean for the future of Canada, we shall learn in due time. ★