24 April 1971, Ottawa, Canada
All my life, I've wished that it were possible that I could attend my own funeral and listen to the eulogies that would be made on my behalf, but I knew that this would be extremely difficult as I'd have to be dead.
Laurier LaPierre and his committee have made it possible maybe for me to listen to the eulogies without the disadvantage of having passed on to another world, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to have eulogies delivered by such talented and eloquent spokesmen, and I would like to thank Pierre Berton, this noted author and outstanding radio personality, and to say that I know of no one in Canada from whom I would appreciate this tribute more than from this man.
I want to assure you that my wife, Irma, and myself are deeply touched by these tributes that we are profoundly grateful for this occasion. I am glad that you included Irma because, as someone has said, "Behind every successful man, there's a surprised mother-in-law," and I have been fortunate that in all my political career I've had someone who has helped me and encouraged me, and tonight I'm glad that you are paying tribute to her.
I want to say to Grant Notley that I am not saying goodbye either. I propose to stay in the House of Commons until the next election. Our supporters in the Nanaimo-Cowichan Islands have done me the great honour of nominating me to contest the next federal election and, if God gives me strength and the electorate give votes, I'll be here fighting at the same old stand for the things in which you and I believe.
But, tonight, my wife, Irma, and I did not come here so much to receive your thanks, although we are deeply grateful for it. We have come tonight to thank you, to thank the hundreds of thousands of people you represent who have made anything we have done possible.
I think of the men and women who 35 years ago and more dreamed the impossible dream, men and women who lived beyond the lean horizon of their years, who believed devoutly that it was possible to have a more humane and a more just society, and who gave up their time and their money and their energy to begin building it.
Tthe men and women who travelled in all kinds of weather and in all kinds of vehicles, who went from schoolhouse to schoolhouse organising, raising money, who canvassed from door to door, who passed out literature, who manned the polls, who drove cars on election day, you who are here and thousands whom you represent. These are the men and women to whom we should be profoundly grateful.
I feel tonight a great flow of gratitude to them, and I'm filled with wonder that I, raised in a working class home on the wrong side of tracks in the city of Winnipeg should have been given the opportunity by the working people of this country to make a contribution to the public life of Canada, which I hope will long endure.
If I were asked to sum up for the people of Canada and for the New Democratic Party what I have learned from more than a third of a century in public life, I would sum it up by saying to them that it is possible in this country of ours to build a society in which there will be full employment, in which there will be a higher standard of living, in which there will be an improved quality of life while at the same time maintaining a reasonable stability in the cost of living.
We don't have to have three quarters of a million unemployed. We don't have to choose between unemployment and inflation.
My message to you is that we don't have to do this. My message to you is that we have in Canada the resources, the technical know-how and the industrious people who could make this a great land if we were prepared to bring these various factors together in building a planned economy dedicated to meeting human needs and responding to human wants.
Mr. Coldwell and I have seen it happen. In 1937, when the CCF proposed in the House of Commons a $500-million program to put single unemployed to work, the minister of finance said, "Where will we get the money?"
Mr. [inaudible 00:08:21] asked the same question today. My reply at that time was that if we were to go to war, the minister would find the money, and it turned out to be true.
In 1939, when we declared war against Nazi Germany, for the first time, we used the Bank of Canada to make financially possible what was physically possible. We took a million men and women and put them in uniform. We fed and clothed and armed them. The rest of the people of Canada went to work. The government organised over a hundred ground corporations. We manufactured things that had never been manufactured before. We gave our farmers and fishermen guaranteed prices, and they produced more food than we'd ever produced in peacetime. We built the third largest merchant navy in the world and we manned it. In order to prevent profiteering and inflation, we fixed prices, and we did it all without borrowing a single dollar from outside of Canada.
My message to the people of Canada is this, that if we could mobilise the financial and the material and the human resources of this country to fight a successful war against Nazi tyranny, we can if we want to mobilise the same resources to fight a continual war against poverty, unemployment and social injustice.
Fifty years ago, the founder of our movement, J.S. Woodsworth, wrote a pledge. That pledge has been the beacon star of my life, and I pass it on to those of you who must continue the building of this movement, and I hope you'll make it your pledge.
J.S. Woodsworth wrote, "We pledge ourselves to united efforts in establishing on the earth an era of justice, truth and love. May our faces be to the future. May we be the children of that brighter and better day which even now is beginning to dawn. May we not impede, but rather cooperate with those spiritual forces which we believe are impelling the world upward and onward, for our supreme task is to make our dreams come true, to transform our city into the holy city and to make this land in reality God's own country."