May 12, 1922

CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

That has all been cured. This is a case of the government service. You might just as well take any other department and where it does anything that was formerly done by another department charge it up to that other department. That would apply to the Departments of the Interior, Militia,-to every department of the Government. You would have a sort of interchange bookkeeping system that would be the most cumbersome and unmanageable in the world. If the Department of Militia and Defence is performing certain services, those services are not performed for particular individuals, as was the case with the railway service in former years; those services are performed for the whole nation. I see the object the minister has in view, but that is no good reason for adopting this course as relating to the Air Force. I submit the same plan should be followed as in all other departments of the government.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

I do not want to block

these estimates, Mr. Chairman, but I submit that the man who is put at the head of a department should run it on business principles, and if some other department wants his department to spend $50,000, that other department ought to ask for the appropriation and make the necessary transfer. In a large departmental store every branch is on its own footing, and if it

lends anything to another branch it gets credit and the other branch is debited with it. That is the only way in which the head of such an institution can tell which branch is doing business properly and which is not. Now, if one branch of the government service is to be charged with work done for three or four other branches, it may look like a very extravagant branch when it is perhaps the most economical of the lot. I had my difficulties with the Department of Militia and Defence when I was Minister of Railways with reference to the transport of troops and so forth. I insisted that they should use their own railway and that they should pay for it when they did. Why should the Department of Railways carry troops for the Department of Militia, run up its deficit and keep down the expenditures of the Department of Militia?-I am referring to it, of course, from the point of view of the presentation of the results of the work of each department to the House and to the public.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

What the public want to know is what the Air Force is costing. The minister proposes to charge each department for any special work he does for it, and there will be no way of ascertaining what the Air Board costs. That is a way of camouflaging it, of disguising it, by making it appear, if only the total is looked at and no examination is made beneath the surface, that the expenditure has been reduced. If I understand the minister's statement aright, the whole operations of the Air Board are to be continued. I have not heard that any are to be cut off, unless it be that work heretofore done for the provinces on the principle of fifty-fifty is now to be done entirely at provincial expense. That would involve a reduction, but only a very slight one, because the amount contributed by the provinces was very small indeed. But the whole work is evidently to go on and the whole expense will probably be there. All the salaries are continued-$75,000 for this year just the same as last year. What I object to in the system is this: certain newspapers in this country when these estimates were published proclaimed that the minister had performed a wonderful service; that he had cut down the Air Board estimates by some $600,000 or $700,000. But it is evident that the whole work is to be continued; there is no real cut in the estimate, no real reduction in the expense. A good many promises of reduction were made, but according to the

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statement given this afternoon by the minister the work is to be carried on as formerly, though instead of charging it to the Air Board, where it should be charged, it is to be spread out over various departments, with the result that the public will not know what the Air Force is costing. Now, last year the Air Board performed services for the Department of Marine and Fisheries; coastal patrols to prevent poaching and fishing out of season; transportation of spawn; rapid transportation to inaccessible points in British Columbia. That is all charged against the Air Board; we know what the Air Board is costing. Last year certain work was performed by the Air Board for the Department of Agriculture: securing vertical and oblique photographs of mosquito-infested areas in proximity to Vancouver. That was charged to the Air Board. If that work is continued it will be charged to the Department of Agriculture and we shall not know what the Air Board is costing. Last year the Air Board did work for the Department of the Interior; oblique photography of deltas, lakes, etc., for map purposes; also forest fire protection work, forest reconnaissance, and inspection of burnt areas from the air All that work was charged to the Air Board, so that the people know what the cost is. Now, the minister proposes to charge it to the Department of Interior, and no one will know what the Air Board costs. Last year the Air Board did work for the Department of Customs-here is a new avenue of work for it: patrols to prevent smuggling of drugs from the East into Canada. I think it was brought out in a debate we had in the House a few days ago that a good many of these drugs gain access to Canada by being thrown overboard in casks and barrels and picked up by fishing boats near the coast and brought ashore. That has been very largely stopped through the efforts of the Air Board. The activities of the board in this respect are now to be charged to the Department of Customs. I submit that the proposal is wrong. The air service is now a very important item in the budget of every country. Last year the vote for this purpose in the United States was $95,000,000; I think it is about the same this year, or perhaps larger. In Great Britain the amount spent is tremendous. Australia and New Zealand have made their first expenditure in air service, and I think every civilized nation has done likewise. The work is experi-

mental as yet and the people are curious to know just what it costs. It is an expensive service, there is no doubt about that. Machines are costly; repairs run into large sums; high-class men have to be well paid-flying operations from the beginning to end are vastly expensive. I submit that the estimates last year and the year before were pared down to a very . modest and reasonable amount, one quite in keeping with our general expenditure and our general requirements. This year there is a change in method, but there is going to be no change in result; in fact, any change made under the proposal of the minister will be detrimental. We know to-day just what the Air Board costs, what officials will be retained, and what salaries are to be paid. By the way, I understand that the resignation of the only official who acted in a purely honorary capacity and who gave wonderful service has been accepted since the new Government took office. I refer to Colonel O. M. Biggar, who since the Air Board was constituted had been its deputy chairman and gave his services without remuneration. About a year ago he tendered his resignation to me when I was acting as chairman of the board, but I did not accept it; he was too valuable a man. But I believe that the new administration has accepted his resignation, although he was the only unpaid official in the air service, and his work was extremely important and exceedingly well done, as is everything which Colonel Biggar does. On the whole I cannot take exception to the amount which the Government proposes to expend, but I do think it should be put just as plainly as it was last year; the House and the country should know what we propose to spend. It should all be in the estimates; let us know what the Air Board is costing Canada.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

That is so easy that I am surprised that my hon. friend should bring it up. If he had kept in mind what I said about the departmental store he would know and the country would know exactly what the air service costs. If there are to be credits from other departments they will appear as well.

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CON
LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

They will be in one, but if there are any receipts from provinces or from other departments, they will be shown. The estimates will not be changed. Last year there were receipts from provinces.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

Then the information the minister gave the committee a few moments ago was very misleading, or I am very dense. I understood, because he put it in very plain language, that all that was done for the various departments was to be paid for by them. Now he leads me to believe that his present estimate is the whole expenditure on the air service. I do not know which is right. If the amount stated in this estimate, $1,000,000, is to be the total expenditure, reduced by $625,000 from last year, the minister should not maintain his whole staff as he is doing. He has cut down 33 per cent of his expenditure. I assume, then, that he will cut down at least one-third of his air operations. One may reasonably suppose that a third of his staff would likewise be cut down. But the first information which he gave to the leader of the Opposition was the correct information, that he proposed to continue the operations. He is now trying to camouflage it by letting each department charge itself with the amount which the service performed for that department represents. What the committee want to know, and what the people of this country want to know, is what the whole cost of the air service is going to be; if $1,000,000 is going to be the expenditure, let us know it, and if every department is going to add to that amount, let us know that also.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I will remind the minister, before he rises, that I pointed out the difference between the $1,000,000 and the $1,625,000, and after he told me there were to be charges against departments and against governments, I said "That accounts for this difference," to which he replied that it accounted in part.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

To a very small extent, I think I said.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

To any extent at all, it contradicts what the minister said, because if all the charges are in the $1,000,000 and the credits come in from the departments, they would not account for one dollar of the difference.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

Hon. gentlemen seem to object to the way in which I have brought this estimate down, and the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) talks of "camouflage." There is no camouflage about it at all. He talks of not reducing the staff, but I am inclined to think he knows better. He knows because there have been many people to see him about

it. Practically all the temporary staff of the Air Force, or at all events the great majority, have gone now and $35,000 will be saved in temporary employees who were paid out of the Air Board vote. There is $35,000 saved before we begin to reorganize.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

First, that is not a correct statement; secondly, it is an unfair statement.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

Absolutely correct and perfectly fair.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

No one has seen me on this subject, not a single individual from the minister down to the lowest official, and there has not been one letter-not a word.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

They have been to see me.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

What I state is absolutely correct. Here is the estimate, $75,000, for this year just the same as last year. If you have cut down your operations this year one-third, why do you need the same vote as last year? I maintain that you are not cutting it down except on paper. You are really going to continue the same operations. I hope you will, but I say that you are trying to camouflge the expenditure. What about the resignation of Colonel Biggar, may I ask?

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

I think this matter was explained by myself in the House on a former occasion, but when the militia estimates come up my hon. friend always takes great pains to make it embarrassing for the gentlemen themselves as well as for the minister, when any person retires of his own accord or is retired. The hon. member for South Wellington is no better friend of Colonel Biggar than I am. As I said in this House some weeks ago, Colonel Biggar worked for this

4 p.m. department gratis as vice-president and as soon as I came into the department he told me that he had offered his resignation some time before, and he offered it again. I asked him to retain his position for a while until we discovered what we were going to do. Then, when the time came to discuss the question of amalgamation, Colonel Biggar again offered his resignation, and I accepted it.

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CON
LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Militia and Defence; Minister of the Naval Service)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

His place has not been filled.

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CON

May 12, 1922