The sudden resignation of Douglass Harkness, Canada's Minister of National Defense, may change completely the Canadian "political equation," according to Joseph S. Dupre, Secretary of the Graduate School of Public Administration.
Harkness, who wants Canada to accept U.S. nuclear weapons, took a dramatic step in order to force the Diefenbaker government to take a clear stand on the question. The Prime Minister, if he continues to refuse the weapons, Dupre told the CRIMSON, must now risk losing a confidence vote on this issue.
But the government has been unstable for a long time, pointed out John J. Conway, Master of Leverett House and an expert on Canadian affairs.
Prime Minister Diefenbaker attained his post in 1957 on a platform condemning U.S. interference in Canada's economic and political affairs.
But since then his Conservatives have lost their majority in the House of Commons. The balance of power between them and the Liberal party is held by the minority Social Credit party, which presently suports Diefenbaker, and by the pro-Liberal New Democratic party.
The Liberals suport a strong role in NATO and NORAD (North Atlantic Air Defense), including Canadian based Bomarc missiles armed with nuclear warheads. The recent U.S. pressure for the program, however, according to both Conway and Dupre, seems to have weakened the Liberal position, and strengthened Diefenbacker's.
But the Prime Minister, may find it impossible to retain the suport of the Social Credit party in a crisis. Although they are his traditional allies, the Social Credit party favors the U.S. weapons. And the New Democrats, although slightly opposed to the atomic weapons, would not align themselves with the Conservatives.
The Social Credit party has asked Diefenbaker to clarify his defense policy in return for their suport.