CANADA AT THE CROSSROADS
AN ADDRESS BY
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GEORGE A. DREW, K.C., M.L.A.
Chairman: The First Vice-President, Mr. C. R. Sanderson.
Thursday, March 6, 1941
MR. C. R. SANDERSON: It would be an impertinence to pretend to introduce Colonel Drew to the audience which is present in this room, or to the audience that is listening to us over the air. For twelve months he, himself, sat in the Presidential Chair which I occupy today through the unavoidable absence of the Honourable G. Howard Ferguson. And as President of this Club, Colonel Drew was a distinguished President in a long line of distinguished Presidents. In the Empire Club he is therefore among friends who will always be grateful for what he did when he guided its destiny. But he also comes as the Leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the Province of Ontario, bringing the experience of a distinguished political career, a career which holds still greater things in store.
May I read you the official announcement: We welcome to the place of honour, with great pleasure, a former President and an ardent supporter of the Club. Frank at all times and never hesitating to declare and to stand by his convictions, George Drew may well be described as an outstanding figure in Government and professional circles and his definition of Canada's position at this critical period should prove to be of compelling interest.
Gentlemen, I give you George A. Drew; his subject, "Canada at the Crossroads." (Applause.)
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GEORGE A. DREW, K.C., M.L.A.: Gentlemen: You have paid me a very gracious tribute indeed by asking me to speak again to the Empire Club of which I am a member and with which I have been associated in so many ways and for so many years.
Today I will not attempt to follow any prescribed formula for entertaining you at the outset by something humorous. I am going to take the time which is perhaps all too short-for you it may be all too long-to discuss a subject which I think is the most important subject we Canadians have to think about at this time.
In the past few years I have discussed a number of subjects before this Club. Some of you will remember that when I spoke here after returning from Germany in 1935 I chose as the title of my speech, "Germany Prepares for Conquest." You may recall that I predicted on that occasion events which, unfortunately, came all too true. In some quarters I was then branded as a warmonger.
In 1937 I gave you my impressions following a visit to Russia and expressed the conviction that we could expect no good from that cruel and incompetent dictator ship. On that occasion some thought I gave a prejudiced picture. The illusion of a Socialist Paradise was still in many people's minds.
I spoke to you again on March 16th, 1938, three years ago now, almost to the day, and I would like to quote just a few words from that speech: "What is the use of asking ourselves what we shall do if war is declared? War has been declared. We are at war now and that war is going to determine whether civilization or barbarism is to predominate."
When I made that statement a year and a half before the outbreak of the present war, I was again criticized as an alarmist.
I refer to these incidents without apology only because they offer a suggestion that coming events do cast their shadows before them and that it is possible to predict events if one has been placed in a position to see the shadows.
Today I am going to enter the dangerous field of prophecy again. 1 am going to speak of this Canada of ours and may I say again, with the utmost earnestness, that there is no subject of more concern to us at the present time. I have had the good fortune to visit almost every part of this vast country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the United States border to the Arctic. I firmly believe that no country in the whole world can offer such opportunities to its people as Canada can today. We have only started to employ the almost limitless resources at our disposal. There are unexplored frontiers of development in all directions still beckoning to our youth. Agriculture, industry, the mines, the forests, fishing, transportation by air, land and water, the production of power, the research professions, all these and many other fields of activity are wide open for young men and women of courage and vision who will employ the lessons of science and find the way to make new things from old materials. Science is the key which will unlock the door to peace and security. There are few limits to the opportunities open to the youth of Canada if we only organize efficiently for the future.
Do some craven souls suggest that the days of great opportunity in Canada are gone? If so, let them just think of a simple Canadian boy who was raised on an Ontario farm, who received only the state-supported education which is available to every citizen of this province, and then with dogged courage and sublime faith won the affection and admiration of the whole world by discoveries in the field of medical research which have been of help to all mankind. Let any Canadian who doubts the future and questions the spirit of our people think of Sir Frederick Banting, the Canadian farm boy from Alliston who won the respect of Kings and Statesmen. He died as he lived, in the service of humanity, but his spirit lives and will continue to live among us. His is the spirit which must not die in Canada. It is the spirit which will carry us through to victory and make Canada a great and prosperous nation in the years to come. His life should be a shining lesson to all of us, and particularly to our youth. Victory, success and happiness are not won by wishing. That is what he would tell us today. He would tell us also that success is invariably the result of unselfish cooperation and co-ordination of the combined skill of all who work together. He would remind us that his discovery of insulin was made possible only by the wholehearted unity of purpose which actuated his great associates-Best, Collip and Macleod.
That lesson is in fact the most important lesson which has emerged from this war. Wavell's smashing victories in Africa were the result of perfect co-ordination between all branches of the Service. Our failure in Norway and later the French collapse were mainly attributable to the lack of co-ordinated effort. Had the Navy or the Army or the Air Force struck separately in North Africa, then probably the Italians would still be holding the ports along the North African coast, but they struck together and their combined might overcame armies which had, in fact, been preparing to attack them within eight days.
We failed in the last war at Gallipoli because of lack of co-ordination. The ships went first and then, too late, came the Army. We succeeded in North Africa in these past few months because all our strength was pooled to give the greatest result. That, Gentlemen, I repeat, is the outstanding lesson of this war--Co-ordination.
The motto of this Club recognizes that principle. You know the words--"Canada in a United Empire." This Club has reason for pride in the effort which it has made year after year to stimulate in Canada the sentiment which is needed to make those words come true. We need have no concern about the unity of the Empire today. Never in the life of any one now living was there so much reason to be proud that we Canadians can call ourselves British. A truly united Empire stands proudly and gallantly, as the front line of civilization, accepting the responsibility and prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.
Canada will play her part in that grim test which lies ahead. I believe implicitly in our ultimate victory. I cannot believe that treachery, lies, deceit and barbarism can extinguish the strong flame of freedom, no matter how terrifying their scientific organization may appear at this moment. But victory will call for sacrifices such as we have not yet been prepared to contemplate. That sacrifice will, I am certain, create a bond of sympathy and of understanding between the people of the British Empire throughout the whole world which will bring us closer together than we have ever been in the past.
I am not concerned at all about the unity of the British Empire. I am very much concerned, however, about unity within Canada itself. I am not at all sure that we have not reached a point in our national affairs when it might be considered necessary to adopt a new motto-"A United Canada in a United British Empire."
It cannot be said too often that this is a war of ideas just as much as it is a war of weapons. Out of the stern crucible of this ghastly war, nations will emerge, clean and strong, or the very opposite, depending on whether or not the national components have been fused into a strong and indestructible mass by the intense heat of the struggle, or have become separated through lack of inherent affinity.
We have been warned in Canada of the danger of complacency, but there is a particular form of complacency about which we should be much more concerned than we have been in the past. We have recognized the increasing difficulty of efficient government in a country where the conflict of authority between the Federal and Provincial Governments has created a complete impasse in many fields of legislation. We know, or should know, that we are the most over-governed nation in the whole world. I say that without reservation of any kind. We know, or should know, that we have more Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament per capita than any other democratic nation in the whole world.
Legislation for the security and protection of our workers, for the efficient marketing of our products and for the general improvement of the social conditions of our people still awaits enactment simply because we have not found some formula for overcoming the inexcusable confusion which exists. Other nations, not nearly so prosperous as we are, have passed such laws. We know such laws should be passed. We know sooner or later they must be passed. Some, you will remember, were placed on our Statute Books and then were held to be unconstitutional because our governments could not find any basis for agreement.
In spite of all this confusion there has been a complacent assumption that everything will solve itself in the course of time. Now we are up against stern reality. We are up against the sternest reality this nation has ever faced. The time has come to realize that we are in less danger of national bankruptcy as a result of the enormous expenditures on this war, than we are from the disorganization and confusion which exists in the business relationships between the Dominion and Provincial Governments.
Please don't misunderstand me. I have no intention whatever of criticizing those responsible for past mistakes or of tracing the source of our present difficulties. We are all to blame. I intend to point out what those difficulties are and to suggest certain things which must be done with the greatest possible speed.
First of all, I wish to discuss some aspects of our constitutional position which may sound rather academic, but I believe an understanding of the constitutional problem is vitally necessary if the extreme urgency of the situation is to be understood. The British North America Act, which is the framework supporting our national structure, defined the legislative authority of the Dominion and Provincial Governments. It was intended that the Dominion Government should deal with all matters of national concern and that the Provincial Governments should deal with matters of purely local concern in the different provinces. One particular authority was given to the Dominion Government and another particular authority given to the Provincial Governments, which have had a very profound effect upon our national affairs and upon our present difficulties.
The right to pass legislation dealing with property and civil rights was one of the exclusive powers conferred upon the Provincial Governments. An examination of the discussion, which took place prior to Confederation makes it perfectly clear that this was merely intended to provide for enactments relating to the ordinary civil and property rights of the people of Ontario. It was never thought for a moment that this provision would be a vehicle by which the Provincial Governments would obtain new and sweeping powers. But as time went on and the simple life of 1867 passed into memory, a new and more complicated system of living emerged and questions arose in regard to business and financial activities which had not even been dreamed of at the time this Act was passed.
Unfortunately Provincial Governments claimed the right to legislate in these new fields, contending that they came within the broad definition of property and civil rights. Many appeals were taken to the Privy Council and a wider and wider interpretation of this provision added wider and wider powers to the Provincial Governments. Many of the most serious difficulties we now face are the result of an extremely generous interpretation of this somewhat vague provision.
Through the course of all this constitutional litigation the Provincial authorities seemed to forget more and more that the Dominion Government was the creature of their own choice. To hear the arguments of some of the exponents of provincial rights you would think that the rights of the provinces were hard-won rights, obtained from an unwilling, superior authority. That state of mind has a great deal to do with our difficulties.
In 1867 the British Colonies of North America each had their own legislative powers. Subject to such control as was exercised from London, they were independent legislative bodies. Rights were not given to them grudgingly by some government superior to their own. The men who met in the conferences prior to Confederation decided of their own free will that the welfare of the British people of North America would be best served by limiting the activities of the Provincial Governments to purely local matters and making it possible for the Dominion Government to legislate effectively in regard to all matters of national concern.
That is something which should be remembered and should have been remembered throughout the years when petty officialdom sought to increase its authority, as petty officialdom always does. And that is something which should be vividly in our minds today. The attitude undoubtedly developed that the provinces were protecting their own rights by insisting upon increasing decentralization. By a process directly opposed to the purpose and spirit of Confederation every Provincial Government continued to increase its powers to the point where it might be extremely difficult at times for a stranger to Canada to know whether he was in one nation or in nine.
So much for the years of peace. When war comes the trend is immediately reversed. The other important provision to which I referred then comes into effect. It was provided in the British North America Act that the Dominion Government should have authority to pass laws for the peace, order and good government of Canada. Again the Courts have played their part. It has been held that this provision makes it possible for the Dominion Government to assume all powers necessary for the most effective prosecution of the war. That authority was invoked to an extremely limited extent prior to the Great War. Then in 1914 the War Measures Act was passed under that provision. Such powers as were assumed by the Dominion Government during the last war came to an end with the termination of hostilities, but when the present war began the same Act was still on the Statute Books. Its powers again became operative and immediately Orders-in-Council were passed, under its sweeping provisions, of a much more far-reaching character than any we had known before.
Then last year the Mobilization Act was passed, so general in its terms that it gives the Dominion Government power to control almost every phase of our daily life by Order-in-Council, without regard to any limitations in the British North America Act. Under this Act the Dominion Government can control the man-power as well as the industrial and agricultural activity of Canada, and any other activities which may be interpreted as playing some part in the prosecution of the war.
Under these two Acts I think it is perfectly clear that the Dominion Government has full power to occupy any field of legislation and any field of taxation which has any bearing whatever upon the effective prosecution of this war. Already they have set up Control Boards dealing with what would ordinarily be property and civil rights, such as the control of fuel, gasoline, fuel oil, timber, hydro-electric power and so on. Prices of agricultural products have been fixed and limits set upon industrial profits. A control has been placed upon rents and upon other obviously property rights. All of these things would ordinarily fall under the exclusive control of the Provincial Government.
This is probably only a beginning. It is not necessary for us to argue as to whether this situation is wise or unwise. It is the law. It is the situation we face whether we like it or not. That being so, what utter nonsense it is to talk of the danger of losing provincial rights. Provincial rights have to all intents and purposes been suspended for the duration of the war. Of course when the war is over these sweeping powers will disappear, but let us think of what might happen then. We will have created a great and intricate supervising structure, occupying almost every field of agricultural, industrial and economic activity. Can you imagine the chaos that would follow if immediately after the termination of war all these controls, all these guiding Boards and Committees set up during the war were suddenly swept away, and nothing was ready to take their place? There would be chaos.
That is the dangerous possibility which lies ahead unless we face the situation as it is now. Tomorrow--today--the Dominion Government can take full control by Order-in-Council, without public discussion or notice of any kind, of gasoline or liquor. It can also decide that it is necessary for the effective prosecution of the war to enter various fields of taxation and make them available only to the Dominion Government. You may say, well this won't happen. But it has happened. It has happened already in almost every other country now at war. The simple truth is that no matter what the intention of the original British North America Act was, it is clear from the judicial decisions interpreting the authority of the Dominion Government in the last war that the Dominion Government has full power now to do everything except affect the most personal relationships of the individual, such as the solemnization of marriage, and so on.
What a pitiful waste of time it is in the face of these facts to boast of the preservation of the sovereign authority of the Provincial Governments. For the duration of this war, long or short, the sovereign rights of the provinces depend entirely upon the extent to which the Dominion Government is prepared to recognize them.
It seems to me that this makes it perfectly obvious that none of the Provincial Governments can prepare a budget which is anything but the wildest guess unless there is some working arrangement with the Dominion Government in regard to the probable' course of action for the ensuing year. The most substantial items in the budgets of all the provinces are the revenues from the sale of gasoline and liquor. I have already pointed out that the Dominion might ration or curtail the use of either of these sources of revenue at any time. The Dominion Government may find it necessary to do so. I can't see how it will be possible to avoid doing so at some point in this war.
I hope you will not accuse me of being an alarmist when I point out that steps which may become necessary in the opinion of the Dominion Government could put all the Provincial Governments into virtual bankruptcy. The provinces might conceivably suddenly find their available sources of revenue cut to a half of the expenditures to which they were committed by action which the Dominion Government found absolutely necessary for the successful prosecution of the war.
It may seem unlikely this will happen. But it can and may happen. Surely that is a state of confusion and uncertainty which should not be permitted to continue a day longer. And yet this financial uncertainty is only one of the problems which confronts us as a result of the effect of the war upon our constitutional system of government. Let us examine some of the others.
For the first time since Canada became a nation we have practically no normal foreign markets for our agricultural products. The Dominion Government has found it necessary to control the distribution and the sale of our most valuable agricultural supplies. For the first time the farmers of Canada are living under what has been generally known as "a controlled economy." But our farmers find themselves in this extremely unfortunate position. The method of distribution and sale is controlled, an increase in prices in certain lines is strictly limited, and yet there is no effective plan for the maintenance of adequate prices for the general run of agricultural products. Now, surely a controlled economy implies just control from the source to the consuming point. Surely it is obvious that where the method of distribution and the sale price is under control there must be not only control of the price but also maintenance of the price level right to the source. This can only be done by the Dominion Government if it is prepared to encroach fully upon the clearly defined authority of the Provincial Governments. As I have pointed out, it can take that authority, but there are obvious reasons, having regard to future goodwill, why it is unlikely that it would do so. That being so, there is urgent need for some working arrangement between the Dominion and Provincial Governments which will co-ordinate the handling of agricultural products right from the producer to the consumer, if there is to be any control at all, in such a way that while exploitation is prevented a fair return is also assured. That, it seems to me, is the least that can be expected.
Then let us look at the position of labour. Factory conditions, hours of work and terms of employment are ordinarily under the exclusive control of the Provincial Government. Under the Mobilization Act, however, full control of all matters affecting labour may be assumed by the Dominion Government under Order-in-Council, without any prior public discussion. That being so, labour has no way of knowing what rights it has from day to day. That is a disadvantage to every one of us, and not only to the workers. The history of the last war and the history of the present war has shown the importance in Great Britain of maintaining the confidence of labour by assuring adequate protection of their just rights. No part of the Canadian public can be more quickly and adversely affected by the changes of war than the workers in our factories. Today their position is one of the greatest possible uncertainty. That can only be cured by some understanding again between the Provincial Governments, which ordinarily pass laws to control their rights, and the Dominion Government which now has the power to vary those rights in any way it deems advisable.
The most serious problem of all, however, from the long range point of view is that of creating some effective plan for the rehabilitation of veterans of this war and the re-employment of men and women now in war industries who will be thrown out of work when peace comes. Surely the recollection of the tragic years which have passed, when thousands of the finest young men in the world wandered aimlessly about Canada seeking only the right to work, is too fresh in our memory for it to be necessary to lay too much stress on what will happen after this war is over, if efficient and comprehensive plans are not in readiness to be put into immediate effect once peace is signed.
History teaches us only too clearly what happens in nations where men who have been serving in the army and have been working in war industries find that peace brings only despair, simply because their leaders did not have enough vision to plan for the inevitable readjustment which must come with peace.
There is much to be clone in Canada. I haven't the time to go into further detail. I hope I have said enough. We must start planning for the post-war employment now. We must provide for these members of our armed forces and our munition workers who will be thrown out of work the moment that which we most desire comes to pass. Some twenty thousand men already have been discharged from our armed forces and many of them are now seeking employment. That number will increase rapidly as time goes on. This is not some vague need of the future. The need is urgent. It is with us now.
What is the answer to these urgent problems? I think it is clear. All I can do is offer my suggestion, whether you agree with the suggestion or not. I believe that this critical situation can be dealt with by joint discussion between representatives of the different governments of this country, and in no other way.
Never mind who was to blame for anything that has happened in the past. We have all too little time to prepare for the future. The past is past and the present is moving rapidly away from us.
There should be an immediate conference between representatives from the Dominion and Provincial Governments and it should take place right away. It should not wait until after the present Dominion Session is finished. You may say they are too busy. I don't think so. The successful waging of the war is our first consideration, but our domestic situation must not be ignored. It is in fact the foundation upon which our war effort must be based. It may be too late to deal with many of these problems if we don't act soon. The first conference need not take up a great deal of time. We are not going to create a new world over night. The first conference need not take more than a few days. This country became a nation in 1867 as the result of the adoption of a resolution defining the principles upon which the different British colonies were prepared to work together. I know there are those who say "Oh, what do resolutions mean? They are just words." That is true but every job starts with words of some kind. No successful action ever started except with some fundamental basis for that action. Some such definition of principle is the only basis upon which any conference can succeed.
The first step, then, in such a conference of representatives of the governing bodies would seem to be a simple formula for overcoming our present difficulties. The simpler it is, the better. Once that formula is adopted there should be no great difficulty for men of good will to establish a basis of priority for the consideration of the various problems which must be discussed. The most urgent, the most pressing, should be dealt with immediately.
Looking at the situation as a business proposition, I have this suggestion to offer for what it is worth. I believe that out of such a conference there should be formed an Inter-Governmental Planning Committee. The duties of that Committee should be, in my opinion, to work upon plans for the co-ordination of our various domestic inter-governmental activities. This should be a continuing Committee and might well consist of one member from the Cabinet of each of the ten Governments. The very existence of such a Planning Committee would do much to create the spirit of co-operation which is so obviously lacking in Canada today. Co-operation in government or business does not depend so much upon written agreements or written words, as it does upon the desire to co-operate. I would be inclined to think that such a conference as I have suggested need do no more at the first meeting than adopt a general formula, such as that which was the basis of Confederation, and then proceed to set up an Inter-Governmental Planning Committee, or some similar body to start work on plans in accordance with that simple formula. Then, the conference could adjourn to meet again at the call of the Chairman of the Planning Committee at such time as their first plans would be ready for consideration. In this way the basis would be established for continuous consultation and discussion which is so vitally necessary.
Our present course along the line of increasing decentralization can only lead to national disintegration. We must find some way for reversing our course and bringing order out of chaos. Whether I have offered the right solution or not, at least it is an attempt to suggest a way back along the path of national unity.
It seems to me that we must be prepared to face this issue now and to talk about it so that others may know what we are thinking. There must be some rationalization of our utterly irrational jig-saw puzzle of government. Unless we find some way to break through the administrative deadlock created by the meaningless bottlenecks of legislative authority, we are headed for disaster, no matter how complete our military victory may be. An old comfortable world is crumbling before our eyes. Only a few warning cracks may appear on the surface at the moment but mighty forces have been set free which are tearing it to pieces and the job of our generation is to build anew a better and a more helpful world from the wreckage of the old. And it can be done. It can be done here in Canada with greater success perhaps than any place else in the world if we will only adopt sound business methods of government and work together as we have never worked together before.
You may ask why I am discussing this here. You may say that these are things to discuss in the ten Parliaments of Canada. I believe that these are things for all the people of Canada to discuss. These are the things for the people of Canada to demand. Your elected representatives are not your representatives only on election day. They are your representatives all the time. You have a right to tell them what you want done. You have more than a right, you have a duty. Unless that duty is performed, those who have been sent to the ten different Governments to represent you have no way of correctly interpreting what your thoughts are.
The Empire Club has done much to stimulate a spirit of Empire unity. I believe there is an equal need today for the stimulation of a spirit of Canadian unity. But this is not a task for a few people who happen to be members of parliament. This is a task for every Canadian. I think that it is most necessary that your voices should be heard. You should say what you think, for or against proposals of this kind. That is the only way that democracy can really work.
I close as I began. We have two courses before us and only two. We are at the greatest crossroads in our history. Along one road lies disunity and unhappiness. Along the other lies strength and prosperity. If we permit the present sectionalism and disunity to continue, dangerous days lie before us. If, on the other hand, a clear demand is heard on all sides for unity and good will then that demand can and must find expression in appropriate action. If we start to work together with the same unselfish spirit which inspired our forefathers prior to Confederation, then Canada will emerge from this war strong and powerful in spite of all its efforts and its heavy sacrifices. If the regenerating force of national unity is fully aroused then you and I will be able to say to our children with confidence, that this country offers to them opportunities greater than are offered by any other country in the whole world.
MR. C. R. SANDERSON: Gentlemen, we have just listened to a brilliant address which, if possible, should have been left without an after-word. Not only was it a comprehensive survey of Canadian affairs, not only was it a placing of Canadian problems in their historical projection so they can be more clearly understood, it was a definite offering of concrete suggestions toward the solution of those problems. Throughout the address too, there was an underlying faith and optimism which is encouraging and stimulating, a faith and an optimism which are fully justified because we have in Canada the will to understand, the will to adjust, the will to co-operate and compromise, of which Colonel Drew has spoken.
Sir, on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada, and on behalf of our radio audience, may I express to you our deep debt of gratitude for your having given us so much of your time and for having put so much into an address, almost every sentence of which had a thought of its own and could stand alone. (Applause.)