May 2, 1922

?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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CON

John Arthur Clark

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLARK:

I know it is distasteful

to some hon. members to hear our national defence discussed. I know also that there are many members here who probably disapprove of Canada's participation in the late war. But I felt it my duty to give hon. members-at least, those on the Liberal side-an opportunity of considering this matter, because I understand that a caucus will be held tomorrow when they will decide

Defence Forces

whether they are going to scrap the militia or not, and before they do so I thought I should at least place the matter before them as squarely as I could, even although they do not appear to be prepared to listen to my arguments. At any rate, I feel that I have done my part. But I should like to congratulate the Minister of Militia (Mr. Graham) upon the manly stand he took on this subject when the estimates of his department were being discussed. I should like also to express my sympathy with the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) and other members of his party who do not see the benefits and advantages of a limited defence force, because I quite appreciate that they have been taught in the past, and have apparently grown to believe, that in principle any expenditure on the militia is wrong. Their own leader sought to teach them that. Therefore is it any wonder that to-day, even though their own party now brings down as Government policy certain estimates, those hon. members are not convinced by such a sudden change of front, and bring forward the amendments that were proposed last week? I would like to see the Liberal party consider this question from the point of view of the national honour of this country. It is a national question; and I hope that if they do meet in caucus before the estimates again come up for discussion, they will seriously reflect before accepting any compromise proposed by men so ill-informed on the subject as the member who moved the amendment to the item which we were discussing the other evening. I believe that the militia estimates which the Government have brought down have been pared to the bone; and if any criticism can be offered in regard to the manner in which the Government has dealt with them, it is that they have been too niggardly rather than too extravagant in their proposals.

Hon. GEORGE P. GRAHAM (Minister of Militia and Defence): Mr. Speaker, I will not discuss questions which will more appropriately be dealt with in Committee of the Whole. But I want to say in defence of the member for Quebec South (Mr. Power), that he won distinction in the war, he won the right to take any position he likes on this question. And I have every respect for his opinion. So far from being misinformed, he is a man who is fully informed. We may disagree on details, but I want to point out that the member for Quebec South is in a position, through years of service on his own part and on the

85i

part of other members of his family, to speak on military matters.

As to the caucus, I am afraid my hon. friend (Mr. Clark) cannot get in, and if he did, he might not stay long. However, the Liberal party, notwithstanding anything that has been said on the estimates is here as a unit to do what it thinks is in the interests of this country, and it will emerge from all the criticism with credit to itself and to the men in it, no matter what their individual views may be. I do not want to say a cross word to my hon. friend, but if he wants to go back to the time when people were taking peculiar positions,

I would refer him to the year 1911, when he was standing side by side with the men who did not want to do anything for the British Empire.

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Motion agreed to, and the House went into Committee of Supply, Mr. Gordon in the Chair. Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment-salaries, $5,620,000.


LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Hon. H. S. BELAND (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment):

Mr. Chairman, it will be observed that there is a reduction of $505,000 as compared with the amount appropriated last year. On page 24 of the Estimates it will be noted that last year $625,000 was voted for salaries and contingent expenses of the Board of Pension Commissioners. During the year the activities of the Board of Pension Commissioners were, to a very large degree, merged with those of the 'Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-estaplish-ment, and this year for the same

4 p.m. service only $71,000 is asked for, being a reduction of $554,000. Adding to this the $505,000, therefore, the reduction in appropriation for salaries this year is over $1,000,000.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

How much of the $625,000 was spent last year?

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

In round figures, $500,000. After careful consideration of the whole matter and consultation with the officials of the department, we have come to the conclusion that a further reduction may be effected so far as provision for salaries is concerned. Therefore, I would move, that the item of salaries be reduced by $195,000. It is the opinion of the officials, and of myself, after surveying the field, that we will be able to meet all our obligations even after this reduction is made.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I commend my hon. friend for cutting down all the expenses

Supply-Re-Establishment

that he can, but I would ask him if the reduction is not entirely due to the fact that the work of the Soldiers' Civil Reestablishment is lessening owing to the condition which prevails-that is that most, or a great many, of the men have been attended to medically, and from a vocational standpoint, and that there has been lessening in other branches of the work? I would like to have my hon. friend's opinion upon that point. *

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

My hon. friend is partly right in that there is a great contraction in the activities of the department. That applies especially to the vocational training. My hon. friend was not in the House the other day when this question was under consideration, otherwise he would have heard the statement I made as to the reduction in the number of men who are actually being trained. I think the reduction is from some four or five thousand last year to six hundred this year. A great reduction in the expenditure has also been effected through the amalgamation of the staff of the Board of Pension Commissioners with the staff of the Soldiers' Civil Reestablishment.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

When was that

effected?

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

It was effected during the course of last year. The staff, I think, was merged in the month of July.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I would like to ask my hon. friend another question. He said the cutting down of the expenditure was partly due to the natural reduction of the staff owing to the work being completed. I thought it was wholly due to that fact. If not would my hon. friend explain to the committee what the other part of the reduction, in addition to the natural reduction because of the lessening of the work, is due to?

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

I explained to my hon. friend that there was a reduction due to the fact that some of the activities of the department were lessened, also that a reduction was effected owing to the amalgamation of two important staffs.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I quite understand, but the point I was trying to make was exactly what the minister has pointed out-that the reduction is due to the natural lessening of the work that is going on in the department. What I wanted to make clear was that there was no real cutting down in these expenditures due to any special

economies. The reason I want to make that point clear is, not in order to establish that my hon. friend has not made any special reductions, but because I do not believe this is a department that can par

ticularly stand reductions, except where the lessening of the work permits of that being done.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I presume the cost per capita will be greater now than it formerly was on account of fewer men being taken care of?

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

I am informed that the cost has not materially increased-

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Not materially increased?

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

-and that high salaried officials are being let out, although not in as large number as the lower salaried officials.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I presume they were let out last year, too?

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

No doubt there was a reduction last year.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

Does not the minister think the time is approaching when it would be safe and proper to amalgamate the department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment with some of the other departments of government-perhaps in somewhat the same manner as was done in the case of the departments of naval service and militia? When the department was created during the war, it was understood by everybody that it was a department for purely war purposes and would not continue indefinitely. The work at the time of the creation of the department was enormous, but I suppose that in 1917, 1918 and 1919 that work

had reached the peak. I do not know what the estimates for those years were but I observe that the amount for the year 192021 was $40,000,000. For 1921-22 it had come down to $19,307,000; and for this year the estimate has again come down to $15,148,000. From these figures one can see that the work of the department is contracting, and rapidly contracting, each year. Now, will the minister consider the question of wiping out the department, or, at all events, amalgamating it with some other department of government? The time cannot be far distant when the work of this department will be finished, just as the work of the Soldier Settlement Board will be finished. The work of the Pension Commission, I suppose, will go on for many

Supply-R e-Esta blishment

years to come; but the number under vocational training has gone do>wn from 4,000 last year to, in round numbers, 600 this year. Next year I would think that work would be completed. Perhaps the minister could give the committee some information as to what, in his opinion, would be the approximate time when this department might cease to exist? It is an extra department of the Government and was only created for the purposes of the war. Some day the purposes of the department will be finished. As the expenditure this year is doiwn to $15,000,000 I would chink the time is not very far distant.

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May 2, 1922