Date: 1947

Origin: CNE Archives with files from The Canadian Encyclopedia and the 1947 CNE Annual Report (The Prime Minister’s Opening Address)

The CNE was closed during World War II and the grounds were used as a Training and Recruitment Centre. This picture, taken at the CNE Bandshell, is of The Right Honourable Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King re-opening the fair in 1947, the year following the end of the war. This would have been in the final of his three terms as Prime Minister of Canada (1921-1926; 1926-1930 and 1935-1948). Mr King (1874-1950) was Canada’s longest serving prime minister. He steered Canada through industrialization, much of the Great Depression, and the Second World War. By the time he left office, Canada had achieved a greater independence from Britain and a stronger international voice. Under his leadership, Canada also implemented policies such as unemployment insurance in response to industrialization, economic distress and changing social realities.

Excerpts From The Right Honourable

Mackenzie W.L. King’s Opening Day Remarks

August 22nd, 1947 

May I express, at once, to you, Mr. President, and to your fellow directors, my warm appreciation of your invitation to be the guest of the Canadian National Exhibition, on this the opening day. I thank you, Mr. Scythes, most sincerely for the words of welcome you have so cordially extended, and for having invited, my friend, the Honourable Albert Matthews, to join with you for that welcome. It is indeed pleasant to be reminded of the many associations I have with the City of Toronto. I especially value the kindly feelings which continue to be expressed by many of those who, for some ten years, I was privileged to regard as fellow citizens. It will always be a source of pride to me to know that when Toronto was incorporated as a city, it was my mother’s father who was elected as its first mayor; that he selected for the city its coat of arms, and chose as its motto, the words: “Industry, Intelligence, Integrity”. What better words, Mr. President, could be applied to this Exhibition? I like also to think, this afternoon, of my undergraduate years at Toronto University, and of the close association also enjoyed by my father with the University, and with the Law School at Osgoode Hall. The years are flying all too quickly by. It is difficult for me to believe that fifty-six years have passed since I entered the University as an undergraduate. I am glad that, while I am still in public life, so favourable an opportunity has been  afforded me to make some acknowledgement of what, in my heart, I feel I shall ever owe to the city of Toronto. It is pleasing also to recall, as you, Mr. Scythes, have done, that twenty years ago, in 1927, I was accorded by the then President and Board at the Canadian National Exhibition, the honour, which it is mine to enjoy again today, of being their guest, invited to open the Exhibition. It was the year of Canada’s Diamond Jubilee. My theme was none other than the growth and expansion of Canada over 300 years.  From its early beginnings, associated with the Indian tribes, I traced our country’s development to the group of colonies it had become at the time of Confederation, and more particularly, its growth, during the subsequent sixty year, to the full status of a nation with the community of British Nations. I had some thought of attempting, this afternoon, a review of Canada’s development in the twenty years that have elapsed since that address was delivered. Such a task would be impossible. It is possible, however, to give, in a word, has been from Canada – A Nation, to Canada – a world power. The emphasis has shifted in the past 20 years, from Canada’s national status to Canada’s international status. It is no longer as a nation concerned almost wholly, or even mainly, with domestic affairs that we, the citizens of Canada, can afford to view with our national activities. Canada, today, is among the foremost of the lesser world powers. Look for a moment at what the last twenty years have witnessed; the rise of Canada to a foremost rank among nations in industrial capacity; her swift ascent as a trading nation, gaining, for her, during the war, second place among world exporters; in war itself, fourth among the allied powers in contributions to victory and world freedom. In the course of six years of war, out of a population of less than twelve millions, more than one million of her manpower served in the navy, army or air force; another million were engaged in war production.  Canada, throughout, held her high place as a great agricultural country and producer of raw materials. Foodstuff in larger quantities than every came from her fields and fisheries, as munitions, on a scale almost beyond belief, poured forth from her workshops and factories. Those six years of war witnessed the increase of the army from less than 5,000 to almost half a million; the Navy, at the outset little more than a name, at the close third in strength among the United Nations; the Air Force expanded from small beginnings, serving over every battlefront and every ocean; a merchant fleet of sizable proportions, built in Canada and manned by Canadian seamen; an air-training plan which made Canada, in President Roosevelt’s words “the aerodrome of democracy”.  It was the achievements of our fighting forces, their skill and their gallantry which, more than all else, earned for our country the proud place it enjoys in the world today, and an effective voice in world affairs. It is just twenty years since the first Canadian diplomatic mission was opened in Washington. Canada now has thirty-two missions on other countries. These include Embassies, Legations, offices of High Commissioners, Consulates, and the special missions in Germany and Japan.  At present, there are in Ottawa thirty missions from different countries. In the drafting of the charter of the United Nations, and in international conferences, her voice has become increasingly welcomed, and her counsel increasingly helpful. It is as a country mightily affected by, and concerned with what happens in other countries, and, in particular, with the doings of the great powers, that we find our position in the world arena of today. Whether we like it or not, Canada’s opportunities and responsibilities have ceased to be mainly national. They have become largely international. National trade has become increasingly a part of international trade, national progress a part of world progress, national peace and security a part of the security and peace of the world. This shift in emphasis from a national to an international outlook is, it seems to me, above all else, is exemplified in this year’s Canadian National Exhibition. As they view here, in miniature, the picture of the industrial and commercial life of our country, its educational and cultural contributions, what our own citizens and visitors from far and near will see portrayed is not so much Canada – a Nation, it is Canada – a World Power. Here may I be permitted to join with you, Mr. President, in extending a word of congratulation to Mr. Hughes and the executive staff on the vision they have displayed in depicting this development of the past twenty years, and bringing its possibilities and responsibilities home to the imagination of our people. Upon the successful re-opening of our great National Exhibition after the lapse of five years, I should like, in my own name, and on behalf of the government, to extend to you, Mr. President, and to your fellow directors, heartiest congratulations upon a service to all Canada.  It is a service which, at this time of international reconstruction, is not without significance to the entire world. The re-opening of this Exhibition is evidence of the progress we have made, and are making, in the re-establishment of the conditions of peace. Let me mention on three respects in which the Exhibition is making a real contribution to what the world needs most today. The Exhibition is an outstanding demonstration of material progress. It shows the developments in material things of which a country is capable where it skills can be turned be turned to peaceful pursuits. Here are displayed the skill of Canadian labour, the ingenuity of Canadian industry, the advances in industrial processes applied to the field, the forest, the mine and the factory, as well as in communications, and in transport by sea, land and air. Is there not, in all this, something to turn the minds of other nations from the further pursuit of war to the arts and blessings of peace? The Exhibition is, however, also a display of achievement in the arts and in the sciences.   It speaks moreover of a form of enjoyment to which millions of persons, young and old, may come for relaxation and diversion from their daily tasks to share innocent amusements and inspiring entertainment.  Here, all may see some contribution which each may make to human well-being and happiness. Finally and perhaps most important of all, the Exhibition affords a vivid illustration of our Canadian way of life. More may be seen here in a day than might be learned in books in a month. The Exhibition draws visitors, not only from all parts of Canada but as well, and increasingly, from other countries.  In this freedom of access to all phases of our national life the Canadian National Exhibition is rendering a service and setting an example to all countries in the world. I have now the honour, Mr. President, to invite the people of Canada and visitors from other lands to view the Canadian National Exhibition, and, to that end, I now declare the Exhibition to be open.