The Western Socialist
Vol. 30 - No. 233
No. 3, 1963
THE ELECTION IN CANADA
Many years ago a member of the British parliament wrote in disgust that his fellow MPs could be replaced to advantage by the first 500 men 'passing on the street.' Something similar can be said about the new Canadian parliament while allowing the better informed of the passers-by to be excused. But the workers need not be concerned; they are without representation.
The election was called after several months of Liberal Party rowdyism in parliament, with noisy contributions by the Social Crediters. Liberal strategy had been aimed at forcing an election, which the Liberals felt could only end in their favor. The strategy could have paid well, since Mr. Diefenbaker's government had to face the electorate with a record that was less than impregnable. But the bright men of Mr. Pearson's "team" failed to prove themselves noticeably brighter than those they sought to replace; and while the Liberals have now formed the government their efforts succeeded mainly in reducing their potential strength to the point where, like the Conservatives before them, they can hold office only with the support of one of the other parties.
The campaign created more interest than has been customary in Canadian elections, but it is not clear why this should have been so. The electorate showed little interest in the issues described as vital — anti-Americanism and nuclear warheads for Canada; yet the party leaders held public meetings that broke all attendance records. One is tempted to wonder if the voters were fascinated by the sheer intellectual emptiness of the campaign. Certain it is that this is unerringly attractive in other fields.
The top levels of the employing class were determined to get Mr. Diefenbaker out and Mr. Pearson in and the result cost them a lot of money. Even traditionally staunch Tory newspapers changed sides, one of these being the "Toronto Globe and Mail." Mr. Diefenbaker had been more concerned about the western farmer than about the eastern plutocrat. He had been a bit reckless with the treasury, adding a billion or two to the "public debt." Then he got into a row with Washington, "our best customer." Feeling ran high in the upper crust and he was given the works, an extreme example being the outpourings of the "Winnipeg Free Press" which were savage, vile and continuous.
Although proudly and unanimously Canadian, the candidates could not resist a few Americanisms. The Liberals had a "truth squad" attending Mr. Diefenbaker's meeting to note and correct his errors. They also had a political coloring book soliciting the support of grown-up children. There were chicken dinners, night club gatherings, guitar players, choirs and other sources of enlightenment. There were even two bomb scares, one for Mr. Diefenbaker and one for Mr. Pearson. And Mr. Pearson gave a bang-up performance at a "giant rally" in Winnipeg, complete with a hundred girls, a concert band and a singsong that tugged at the heart strings with old favorites such as "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."
Not having the funds to duplicate Liberal hi-jinks, Mr. Diefenbaker had to depend mainly on his vocal chords in presenting the attractions of Conservatism. He did a good job. He tore into the bullies to the south of us roaring, "Nobody pushes Canada around!" He noted that there were "powerful interests" arrayed against him and said "Canada is a power not a puppet." He welcomed his position as underdog and said "Everyone is against me but the people." All things considered his performance was superior to Mr. Pearson's, not taking into account the Winnipeg singsong.
Social Credit continued through the campaign with two or more opposing voices. Nuclear arms for Canada took up much of its time. It supported them, opposed them and in the final days of the campaign its leader Mr. Thompson straddled them by proposing a parliamentary committee to look into the matter. Mr. Thompson also talked, with customary Social Credit mysticism, about money and how to create some. But Social Credit's case was less acceptable than last year and it lost six seats.
The New Democratic Party gave away packets of matches and bag-piped, kilties and all, its leader Mr. Douglas to the platform at his public meetings; but, like the Conservatives, its giveaways and entertainment were miserly compared with those of the Liberals. Mr. Douglas, however, was the star performer of the campaign, outshining by far Conservative Diefenbaker and Communist Morris in ultra-nationalism and anti-Americanism. At the outset of the campaign nuclear warheads were the main issue, but as the campaign progressed emphasis shifted until the Yanquis became unmasked as Canada's number one woe.
At a meeting in Vancouver Mr. Douglas said: "We have lost control of our economy" and this was. the "main reason" for Canada having. "the highest rate of unemployment in the western world." "We have now come to the point where 70 percent of our industry is owned by foreign interests," the result being that "Canada was paying back to the US $700,000,000 a year in dividends and interest." He also linked the Liberal and Conservative Parties with US interests. Holding up a Liberal campaign button he said it was "made in USA," adding "This isn't the only thing that's made in USA. A lot of their policies are made in USA." He donned a cap bearing the slogan "Carry on, John" that had been used by the Conservatives. Then he looked inside the cap and read "Made in Columbus, Ohio."
At a meeting addressed by Mr. Douglas in Winnipeg a member of the Socialist Party, distributing literature outside the meeting place, was attacked by a hit and run supporter of the NDP who came out of the building, seized the literature and scattered it on the street saying, "You can't distribute these to our people!" then hurried back into the building.
All this has happened before. Not long after the end of World War I the German equivalent of the NDP started stirring up the nationalism of the German workers, blaming the victorious powers for their problems. Others took a hand in the game. Emotions led to actions beyond reason, violence became widespread and a few years later there was a smell of burning flesh.
If there is a Canadian Hitler standing now in the shadows, he must be smiling.