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Canada's prime ministers: A day of honor

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  Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

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Liberals 127, PCs 97
Ready to Speak as PM: Pearson

By Walter Gray
Globe and Mail Reporter
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, April 9, 1963 - late edition






Lester B. Pearson

Ottawa - Liberal Leader Lester Pearson, on the threshold of victory, early today said he would wait until the outcome of the service vote in at least four critical ridings is determined at the weekend before making any final comment on yesterday's general election.

He said it was clear the Progressive Conservative Government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker has suffered a second major defeat in a year and that the Liberal Party was the only one in this election capable of forming a government. He said the service vote, expected to be in by the end of the week, may indicate a Liberal majority.

The seats in question include Hastings South, Okanagan Boundary, Halifax and Lambton West.

Mr. Pearson emerged from his suite in the Chateau Laurier Hotel at 12.25 a.m. to proceed to a downstairs lobby to speak on the national television network. Hundreds of party supporters and the curious cheered and applauded him as he made his way to the television cameras.

Mr. Pearson said the time had come to put aside the passions and the contentious issues of the election and to decide what was best for the country.

He said he hoped Mr. Diefenbaker would make the best decision in the interests of the country. He pledged service and devotion in this interest.

The Liberal leader was asked what his immediate plans were. Mr. Pearson declared: "Go to bed," then added that he would remain in the hotel until the final results are in. He thought he may take a holiday of a day or two.

He was asked if he thought Mr. Diefenbaker should resign as Prime Minister.

"I leave that to Mr. Diefenbaker to decide what his own responsibilities are," he replied. He was asked if he thought there should be a cooling-off period as Mr. Diefenbaker arranged after the last election, not summoning Parliament for three months. Mr. Pearson said there was no need for that.

Mr. Pearson expressed his disappointment in the lack of support for the Liberal Party on the prairies, but he expressed his satisfaction at the reinforcement of the two-party system. He noted that the splinter parties did not fare any better in this election.

A reporter asked Mr. Pearson if he felt he could speak as prime minister.

"I am quite ready to speak as prime minister," he replied.

Mr. Pearson went into an adjoining room to speak briefly to Ottawa to district party workers, returned to his suite to await further election returns.

Mr. Pearson's 60-day program of action which he produced in the latter stages of the campaign, apparently depended on the support of the New Democrats. The NDP leader T.C. Douglas had indicated in the campaign that his group would support the party receiving greatest number of seats in the event of another minority situation.

The Liberal leader, outlining his immediate program, had indicated he would first choose a government and summon Parliament for My 16. Between now and that date he would fly to London to meet Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and later President John F. Kennedy.

A Liberal government would, at the beginning of the new Parliamentary session, bring in legislation designed to bring full employment through expansion of production. Among the legislation projects would be a bill to establish a municipal development and loan fund, a department of industry and a national development corporation. A June budget would contain fiscal and tax provisions to stimulate production and jobs.

The Liberal program would also include a national economic council, the establishment of a capital fund for the Atlantic Development Board and a federal agency for the development of economically backward areas.

Action would be implemented immediately to establish a contributory portable pension plan and a national commission on biculturalism would be created in an effort to strengthen national unity.

Mr. Pearson is also anxious to establish an all-party committee on defence policy to straighten out the confusion that beclouded the whole campaign.

Assuming a Liberal minority government needed the support of the NDP, Mr. Pearson is faced with the question of reconciling his pro-nuclear policy with the NDP anti-nuclear stand.

 
 


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