William Lyon Mackenzie King: 1932-1939: the Prism of Unity

By H. Blair Neatby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
DEALING WITH THE NEW DEAL

THE PARLIAMENTARY SESSION Of 1935 was really the beginning of the election campaign. The members knew that Parliament was in its fifth year, with a mandatory election to follow and, in this session, partisan considerations were accentuated because the Conservative party faced probable defeat. It could not hope to restore its fortunes by campaigning on its past record and so it would have to take the initiative. Bennett's New Deal broadcasts had opened the Conservative campaign. He had announced that he was for reform, for government intervention to provide economic security, and his tactics during the session would be designed to establish the reform image of the Conservative party.

Mackenzie King also concentrated on political tactics. He did not believe that the Conservative party had changed its spots. The New Deal was therefore no more than a desperate effort to deceive the electorate and the Liberals would have to take advantage of the session to expose the government's hypocrisy. From the beginning of the session King made it clear to the Liberal caucus that Conservative legislation could not be considered on its merits but must be seen as no more than election promises. The Opposition must not fall into the trap of appearing to be against reform or of revealing any internal divisions. It could criticize but it could not obstruct. And because this was so largely a question of day-to-day tactics in the House, caucus must allow King to make the tactical decisions. If the Liberal party could keep united the insincerity of the government could be exposed and the election could be won.


I

When the House met in mid-January, Bennett had not committed himself to a specific date for the election; like most Prime Ministers he preferred to delay the decision until the last minute. May was the earliest possible date because an amendment to the Franchise Act the year before

-90-

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