The Western Socialist
Vol. 30 - No. 232
No. 2, 1963
CRISIS AND CRUSADE
A political crisis came to Canada on February 5 and chased the Conservative government out of office. The candidates are now locked in combat for the privilege of filling the vacated benches.
The politicians are agreed that the crisis was a terrible one. New Democratic Party MP Stanley Knowles expressed a widely held view when he said the last parliament was "just about the most tragic session of parliament in Canadian history." (Feb. 21*)
Unemployment in the country had reached 541,000, 8.3 percent of the labor force. Currency devaluation had pushed the cost of living to a new high, bringing a downward trend to the general living standard. Poverty was as widespread as it had been when Prime Minister Diefenbaker rose to power.
But these things had nothing to do with the crisis. In the motions of "no confidence" which brought the government's defeat, the Liberals charged the government with "lack of leadership, the breakdown of unity in the Cabinet, and confusion and indecision in dealing with national and international problems"; and the Social Crediters declared the government "had failed to give a clear statement on national defense, failed to organize the business of the House and does not have the confidence of the Canadian people."
The main event bringing on the "no confidence" motions centered about nuclear arms: whether these should be allowed "on Canadian soil." The Liberals claimed that the government had committed itself to the admission of such weapons and that "Canada must honor its commitments." The government claimed the matter of nuclear arms for Canada had still to he decided. The Social Crediters said yes, there should be nuclear arms, then no, there should not be nuclear arms. The New Democratic Party, in the words of its leader T. C. Douglas, "stands alone in unqualified and unambiguous opposition to nuclear arms." (Feb. 16).
The government, then, was bounced not over how best the workers could be cared for, but how best they can be blown to bits. In none of the current discussions is there dispute about the end result; only the means are causing concern.
Libs, Cons and Uncle Sam
The Liberals would like in the election campaign to get away from the nuclear arms question, although they used it as a lever to unseat the government. Their position was embarrassed by the U. S. State Department poking its nose into the squabble, declaring Canada was not pulling its nuclear weight; and although the offending snoot was briskly withdrawn, this occurred only after it had been tweaked by everyone in Ottawa and the groundwork laid for a Canadian version of the Yankee-go-home chorus, so tiresome a feature these days of Uncle Sam's helpful foreign exploits. Liberal leader Lester Pearson would have us believe we need a Liberal government to "clean up the mess" left by the Conservative government. He says, "We will have to get things in order, to clean up the mess we are going to inherit. It's going to be a difficult thing to do." (Feb. 28). When Mr. Diefenbaker rose to power a few years ago he too sighed over the mess that had to be cleaned up—left behind by a Liberal government.
The Conservatives are not at the moment campaigning strongly on the nuclear issue and U. S. interference in Canadian affairs. But the campaign is young and there is still time for Mr. Diefenbaker to climb on his horse and save his fellow Canadians from the rascals in Washington.
Whatever kind of campaigning the Conservatives finally decide upon, the Social Crediters and NDPers are wringing all the substance they can from the nuclear question. At first supporting nuclear arms, Social Credit has given way to pressure from its French-Canadian majority and now opposes them, although its national leader Robert Thompson, lecturing in the west, tries to make this opposition look like something else. Social Credit's present garb is a mixture of French-Canadian nationalism stirred up by its fiery and hysterical Quebec lead Real Caouette, and the watered down bible thumping, funny money theories from Alberta. Mr. Thompson says he and God are Social Credit's leaders and the Social Credit rallying song is "O God, Our Help in Ages Past."
New Democratic Party
NDP leader Douglas claims "the April 8 federal general election will be a referendum on the nuclear-warheads issue. This is the day on which the people of Canada are going to render their decision." (Feb. 16). Mr. Knowles says the nuclear arms question will be "the most important issue" of the campaign. (Feb. 21). Statements of this kind are frequent from NDPers, one of whom, Erhart Regier, believes his party ought not to run against External Affairs Minister Howard Green because this would split the anti-nuclear vote and allow the Liberal candidate to be elected and "many people will say the Canadian people defeated the only cabinet minister who had given leadership against joining the nuclear club." (Feb. 15):
CP and Twin
The Communist Party will run "a possible 25 candidates" in the campaign, according to its national leader Leslie Morris, and will support the NDP in other constituencies. (Feb. 13). Mr. Douglas calls this "the kiss of death" and rejects CP support; but he could profitably ponder the similarities between CP and the NDP so strikingly to the fore at the moment. Both parties regard the nuclear arms question as the main issue in the campaign. Both are opposed to nuclear arms for Canada. Like Mr. Regier, Mr. Morris has given a friendly nod to the Conservatives ("I wish to pay tribute to John Diefenbaker . . ."—Feb. 13). Both parties are also nationalistic and anti-American.
Nationalism and Anti-Americanism
The CP, in line with Russian government policy, has for years carried on a hate campaign against Wall Street and Washington, demanding that Canada be owned and operated by Canadians. The theme is now a frequent one among NDP spokesmen, Mr. Douglas regularly giving it the full benefit of his oratory. At a meeting in Edmonton he said "ownership and control of the Canadian economy has been falling into the hands of foreign investors at an accelerated and frightening rate"; "U.S. interests invested (since the war) between $600,000,000 and $700,000,000 a year in Canada"; "Canadians must open their wallets in a massive effort to regain control of the country's economy." (Feb. 26). In another address, partly taped and broadcast on CBC Radio, he said, "I have nothing against the Americans. I like the Americans. I have nothing against my relatives. I like them, too. But I wouldn't want them moving in and occupying every room in my house." (CBW, Winnipeg, March 1). This sort of thing has become almost daily fare from the party that says it represents the "common people."
It shouldn't be thought, of course, that NDP spokesmen do not talk about other things. How the workers in large numbers may be separated most honorably and reasonably from life is important; but other things are also important. There is evident a feeling among the candidates that a party can't run an election campaign without a program. Opposition to nuclear devices is hardly a program. And since the party has made no move to adopt one, each candidate is coming forward with a program of his own. Mr. Knowles places his trust in the ever-dependable "Full employment, a health plan, an old age pension program, a housing plan," etc., (Feb. 21) which have long brought him comfort. David Lewis has a seven point program dealing mainly with "foreign ownership and control" which he says "hadn't been worked out in detail but made good common sense." (March 2). Other spokesmen are daily thinking up things to advocate.
NDPers are also contradicting each other. Fred Zaplitny, a Manitoba candidate, believes a Liberal minority government would be supported by the NDP. Mr. Douglas says flatly that the NDP will never support a Liberal government. Mr. Lewis, by way of variation, says the NDP would support another minority government, "provided that it was a good government." (Mar. 1).
On April 8, then, the workers will go to the polls and vote for capitalism. After a while, if they're still here, there will be another campaign and great issues will again be discussed, including the need for full employment, a health plan, an old age pension plan, a housing plan, etc., and the workers will vote for capitalism again. And life will go on this way, insecure and uncertain, from one election to another, until they decide to call a halt and do away with capitalism.
* Unless otherwise indicated, quotations are from reports in the Winnipeg Free Press.