432. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • Canadian Ambassador’s Farewell Call

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Ambassador Heeney, Canadian Ambassador
  • Mr. William R. Tyler, Acting Assistant Secretary

The Ambassador expressed his regret at leaving Washington, and commended his successor, Mr. Charles Ritchie, to the President.1

The President said he was sorry the Ambassador was leaving, and asked when elections were going to be held. The Ambassador said he thought the announcement of elections in June would be made within a day or two. He said things were “getting pretty rough” in Canada with sharp exchanges between Pearson and Diefenbaker. According to the polls, Diefenbaker was strong in the prairie provinces (because of the wheat sales to Communist China) and in the maritime provinces. Quebec was running strongly Liberal, and Ontario was evenly balanced. Polls indicated there were 29% undecided votes. The President observed that in reality, the percentage of those who did not decide which way they would vote until the last minute did not exceed 3% or 4%, but a much larger number than this didn’t commit themselves openly.

The President inquired what Canada thought she was getting in return for the wheat sales. Ambassador Heeney said that these were made on a hard cash basis, and that they tended to create some degree of dependence of Communist China on the West. The President commented that, while these wheat sales might be of help to the Chinese regime in the midst of its difficulties, he didn’t think that the West derived any benefits from them.

The President said he noted with appreciation the remarks of Prime Minister Diefenbaker on nuclear testing a few days ago. Ambassador Heeney said that the Prime Minister had made further remarks along the same lines yesterday.

The President said that Khrushchev’s message of April 10 to Prime Minister Macmillan had been pretty harsh, and had not provided many [Page 1171]grounds for encouragement on the nuclear test issue. Ambassador Heeney agreed, and asked the President whether he thought that the Soviets really want to conduct further tests themselves. The President said he thought this might be the case, and that we would have to see after the next round of tests whether there was a chance of making a successful approach with the aim of achieving an effective and mutually acceptable nuclear atmospheric test ban.

The President said he hoped that after the Canadian elections, another visit might be arranged, and that there would be some forward movement, for example, in the nuclear field, which was of great importance to the defense of Canada as well as the United States.

The President said he hoped that there might be some increase in Canada’s aid effort, which seemed low in terms of Canada’s resources. Ambassador Heeney said that the figures on which we had based our estimate of Canada’s contribution were “phony” in the sense that they went back much too far, and thus unduly minimized their share of the aid effort. He said that the figure of 1/5 of 1%, which had been used last year, was inaccurate and much too low. He added that he had other figures which he would be glad to make available to the President, which presented the real state of affairs. (It was agreed that Ambassador Heeney would send these figures to Mr. Tyler, who would send them on to the President through Mr. Bundy.)

The President said he would like to take up the problem of British Guiana with the Canadian Government on the next go around. He said he wished that Canada could have seen its way to join the OAS, as this would have been very helpful to our efforts. Ambassador Heeney said he thought Canadian public opinion would have welcomed this, but the people who were thinking of their elections had not been of this opinion.

In conclusion, there was some reference to the Nobel prize winners’ dinner with the President on April 29, with the presence of Lester Pearson. Ambassador Heeney commented that this would be taking place while the electoral campaign was in full swing, and observed that Pearson would be the only Nobel peace prize winner who would be present. The President smilingly said that a lot of people seem to be out to win the Nobel peace prize these days.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Canada. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted and initialed by Tyler.
  2. For Ritchie’s account of his presentation of credentials on May 6, see Storm Signals, p. 6.