February 13, 1939

LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I said I should be glad to.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

The contract was not tabled until two or three or four days-two days, I am informed-before the house adjourned, anyway. So that the whole affair had not a good appearance.

Then there was the stock promotion. These gentlemen-Major Hahn, the Plaxtons and Messrs. Cameron, Pointon and Merritt, a firm of stockbrokers in Toronto, got stock sufficient to give them nearly-indeed, over a million dollars in profits over and above what they paid for the stock. They paid around $100,000 for it, at 50 cents a share, and they could have sold it-they did sell some of it-at between $6 and $7 a share. So they stood to make over $1,000,000 in profits.

No Liberal standing upon the other side of the house has either endorsed or denied that statement. It was put on record by the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth), the hon. member for St. Paul's (Mr. Ross) and the hon. member for Mount Royal (Mr. Walsh). I did not mention it in my previous remarks, but it was put on record, and nobody has discussed it. I hope the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers), when he is on his feet, will give his opinion with respect to a contract for munitions which is framed in such a manner that the holders of that contract, before the plant is equipped, can clean up a million dollars, for nothing. They can put a million dollars in their pockets.

If that is the opinion of this government, then I say it is not the opinion of the people of Canada that that should be allowed. I say it is repugnant to the ideals of the Canadian

Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

people. If my hon. friends opposite are reading the press of this country to-day they will get that opinion clear enough, even from Liberal papers,-the Vancouver Sun, the Winnipeg Free Press and this very morning from the Ottawa Citizen.

I have received letters by the score. In fact, I have one in my pocket from a young man in which he says he is thirty-three years of age. This man lives in Montreal-I do not know him-and he says, "If this country is in danger I want to fight for it, but I don't want to fight for a lot of blood-sucking profiteers back home, for whom I would be risking my life." That is the attitude the young men have and if we are going to give them confidence in democratic institutions, confidence sufficient to make them loyal to their country, we must stop such dealings as this.

The Prime Minister took the same attitude in the house. He said no profits should be made out of war. I have already quoted his words, as they appear in Hansard of 1937. With the Prime Minister's ideals, against profits being made out of war, I wholly agree. But in this declaration, as in so many others, his actions do not agree with his expressed principles. I said on an earlier occasion that he was a theoretical reformer but a practical reactionary. I say in this instance that he is a theoretical idealist but a practical politician. If his ideals interfere with politics, then so much the worse for ideals. That is the only conclusion I can come to.

This contract is irregular. It shows the possibility of huge profits in stock deals, in complete contradiction of the ideals expressed by my right hon. friend. I have quoted statements of my own wherein I have expressed myself contrary to those methods. I have put on record my remarks in the book I published. I put myself on record in 1934 before the League of Nations, and in various other places. My proposals were that the contract should be cancelled, that Major Hahn might be recompensed if necessary, that the government should take over and carry on the work and that it should expropriate the plant. I pointed out, as I point out again, that there need be no delay in connection with the construction of these guns. It would suit the British government, because it has been pointed out over and over again in the report-certainly it has been stated clearly by Mr. Justice Davis-that the British government did not want to deal with a private contractor at all. They wanted to deal with

the government of the day in Canada. I said this in closing my remarks-as I am about to do now:

This is not ordinary government business. No one can deny that this is a question of life and death, a question of peace and war; it is a question of the life of our boys. It is a question of the safety of this country, and perhaps it is more than that, it is a question of our freedom as a nation.

That has been described by someone as drawing a long bow, and the suggestion is made that I was exaggerating. Am I exaggerating? I am going to put on record one statement I have in my hand which has nothing to do with the Bren gun contract, but which does deal with the defence of Canada. I hold in my hand a publication known as the Canadian Defence Quarterly. It is described as,-

A magazine published for the purpose of providing a medium for the free discussion or expression of views on matters of interest in connection with defence.

At page 54 is an article by a young man-well, I suppose he is a young man; I do not know him. His name is Flight Lieutenant A. Carter, M.M.-Military Medal-Royal Canadian Air Force. I will read two paragraphs of his observations with respect to defence. He says:

When the railway terminal was taken to Churchill and the grain elevators built, the transportation of grain and other produce by the shortest route from western Canada to Europe became a reality.

However, this is also the shortest route from Europe to western Canada; not only that, but with the development of long range high speed aircraft, this route makes it possible for an enemy to establish bases near enough to permit of the bombing of all industrial centres from Quebec city to Fort William and, operating from off Churchill or Port Nelson on the west coast of the Hudson bay, even Winnipeg itself.

Ships laden with aircraft, equipment, fuel and bombs could enter the Hudson bay via the north Atlantic and the Hudson strait, anchor off Churchill or Port Nelson and from this floating base assemble long range bombers which would necessarily have to be float planes or flying boats owing to lack of possible landing fields in this part of the country.

I will not read more, but I will show a map to hon. members and, in a few words, I will describe it. In this article Flight Lieutenant Carter sets out a map of the Hudson bay area, including Hudson bay and James bay, jutting down into the central part of the Dominion of Canada. He gives certain mileages-and I must say that I had them checked up, because I could not believe my eyes, although I thought I knew my geography fairly well. He gives the mileages from bases in Hudson and James bays, bases to which there

Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

is nothing in the world to prevent a German boat, or any other war ship, coming during a time of war. For instance, if a ship could escape, as did the Emden, during the early months of the last war, it could reach these points in Hudson and James bays. There would be nothing in the world to prevent them. We have nothing by way of defence at Hudson strait, Hudson bay or James bay.

On the map he sets out some mileages from points on Hudson bay and James bay, where he says an enemy ship could establish a base and enable enemy aircraft to make flights to some of the main centres of Canada. A aircraft carrier could discharge its aircraft and, from these places in Hudson bay and James bay, attack the different points in Canada. Would it surprise hon. members opposite to know that from Charlton island, down in the lower end of James bay, it is only 500 miles to where I am standing at this time?-just 500 miles. To Quebec, it is 525 miles; to Montreal, 525 miles; to Ottawa, 500 miles; to Toronto 550 miles, and to Niagara Falls-the farthest point-600 miles. To Sudbury, where we find the International Nickel Company, a huge industrial organization, it is only 400 miles. The mileage to the Abitibi dam is not given, but, following the scale used, it would appear to be about 150 miles. To Fort William it is 500 miles. Then, from a point in Hudson bay, namely from Churchill, it is 625 miles to Winnipeg, 600 miles from Port Nelson to Winnipeg and the same distance from another point farther down the coast of the bay.

In other words, an enemy ship could come across the Atlantic ocean and nothing in the world could stop it. It could go into Hudson bay or James bay and, with aircraft, operate over a long range, even as far as Niagara Falls. Those enemy aircraft could fly down and destroy Niagara Falls and Ottawa. They would travel a distance of only about 600 miles each way, or a total of 1,200 miles- and what is that, to-day, in view of present flying possibilities? They could destroy Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Niagara Falls, none of which is more than 625 miles from the landing point.

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SC
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

The British and United States navies existed in the early months of the war. But at that time the Emden went all around, to different parts of the world, and did a great deal of damage. There is nothing in the world which would stop such a raid. I am simply showing the possibilities *

which have been pointed out by this gentleman in the pages of the Canadian Defence Quarterly. I state these facts to show that I am not exaggerating when I say that this may mean the very life of our defence, and the very existence of our country as a nation.

So I submit that this is one of the most important questions before the Dominion of Canada at the present time. What condition are we in to protect ourselves? What condition have we got into, through the expenditure in the last two years of something like $70,000,000? I am told we are in a very, very poor condition. I have discussed the matter with various people who are much better informed in that regard than I am.

In view of these and many other facts I ask if the Prime Minister can sit quiet and endorse this deal? After all, it is his responsibility.

May I make it perfectly clear to the house and to the country that we have been discussing this important matter from the standpoint of what is best for Canada in defence, and of the method of providing munitions for that purpose.

My object, and the object of this party, is to insist upon the honest spending of the huge sums of money which are allocated for the defence of Canada.

I repeat now what I said in my last speech in this chamber, and on other occasions outside of the House of Commons, that there should be absolutely no profits whatsoever for anyone in the production of munitions to be used for the defence of our own country. That has been my attitude for nearly five years, and I am prepared to-day on behalf of this party to adhere now and in the future to that position. The attitude of our party is one of determination to stop, once and for all, any patronage or profiteering in munitions contracts.

Let the Prime Minister make any proposal he wishes to do away with such methods as the Davis report has revealed, and we will unhesitatingly support him.

In conclusion, may I say that this party has done what it conceives to be its duty. We cannot stop the reference to the public accounts committee, on which we have eight members out of fifty, and I assume the question will go to that committee. To that I have no particular objection, but I have no hope that the public accounts committee will add anything to the information already given to us by the Davis royal commission.

Hon. NORMAN McL. ROGERS (Minister of Labour): Mr. Speaker, the leader

of the opposition (Mr. Manion) has said just now that he believes the issue in this debate

Bren Gun-Mr. Rogers

ought to be more clearly defined. I agree wholly with that. He has said that there has been a confusion in the minds of some who have spoken as to what is the real issue in this debate. I agree with that too. But I would suggest to him that the confusion, such as it is, to which he has referred, has not been limited by any means to those who have spoken from this side of the house, and I would add further, that he himself cannot escape his share of responsibility for having not clarified the issue in the first instance.

He has said just now that the form and substance of this contract constitute the real issue before us at this time. Am I correct in that?

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

No, that is not correct.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Well, my hon. friend did

suggest that a few moments ago.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I gave the issue as I

see it.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

And he admitted a little

later that when he spoke to this house in connection with the main motion more than a week ago, he had not read the contract at all.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I did not admit any such

thing. The minister is entirely wrong. I said I had read the contract then, and I have read it three or four times since. I had read the contract. I do not want my hon. friend to misquote me. I read to the house what the issue was. I have a copy of what I said before me. I allowed the minister to rise and give a quotation while I was speaking, so perhaps he will allow me to read again what I said was the issue. It was this: The issue in a sentence is the whole

method of buying munitions at a time whep, because of threats by dictatorships against democracy, we in Canada, a peace-loving people, are forced at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to arm in our own defence in order to maintain our freedom as a nation. That, Mr. Speaker, is the issue.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I think my hearing is

fairly good, and when I listened to my hon. friend he certainly did state that when he spoke to the house before he had not read the contract.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I did not state any such

thing. If I did, I would have stated what was untrue.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I am willing to accept my

hon. friend's word, if he says that, but I understood him to say that he had not read the contract.

This debate has continued now for something more than a week, and I am sure there

are many in this house and beyond it who believe that every legitimate public interest would have been served if the questions at issue had been discussed over a period of two days, with a subsequent reference of all matters in dispute to the public accounts committee, as proposed originally by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil).

Why has this not been done? The reasons are abundantly clear. The leader of the opposition has preferred to prejudge and anticipate any report that might come from the public accounts committee. He has asked for the cancellation of a contract which was not condemned by the royal commissioner who was appointed to inquire into that contract and the circumstances surrounding its negotiation. At the same time the hon. gentleman has opposed, by implication at least, any further investigation of this contract and allied matters by a properly constituted committee of this house; and in this rather strange and devious course he has been aided and abetted throughout by members of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation group, including the hon. member who moved the original motion to refer this question to the public accounts committee.

In the face of these facts, it is small wonder that we on this side of the house who are as . anxious, as we have proved, as any members of this house to have this matter thoroughly investigated, are convinced that members of opposition groups have now replaced, as it were, what was at first the paramount consideration in their mind-the reference of this matter to the public accounts committee for further investigation-with considerations of immediate political advantage. I say this with some regret, but I question if any other conclusion can be drawn from the debate as it has developed in this house during the past week. It is not easy to see any good reason for the objection taken by the leader of the opposition to the reference of this question to the public accounts committee. The reason he gave-

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I do not object now, if I may say so, but I want it properly discussed in this house, not drowned in the committee.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

If my hon. friend wishes to make another speech, that is his privilege.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

My hon. friend himself

interrupts very often.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

But the reason he gave is not one which could be accepted by any member of this house, and I am going to recall that reason to the mind of my hon. friend. He said in effect that he did not want an

Bren Gun-Mr. Rogers

investigation by a packed committee behind closed doors. Those were the words he used, and I suggest to him that in making that statement he did not bring credit either upon himself or upon the party he leads in this house. As a matter of fact, his attack was not merely upon the public accounts committee, but upon the entire committee system as it is practised under our parliamentary system. If what he said is correct of the public accounts committee now, it was true of the public accounts committee under any previous administration; and if it can be applied to the public accounts committee, it can be applied, I submit, to every committee of this house. My hon. friend in stating that he is not prepared to have this matter referred to the public accounts committee because that committee is a packed committee, and because, as he suggested, it met behind closed doors, which is absolutely incorrect, as he well knows, has by any rule of estoppel precluded himself from referring in the future any matter to any committee of this house.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

That is just nonsense.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

My hon. friend expresses entire lack of confidence in any investigation [DOT] that might be given to this matter by the public accounts committee.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

That is different. I agree with that, but not as regards any other committee of the house. My hon. friend said that I condemned every committee of the house. I did not do any such thing.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

How does my hon. friend distinguish between one committee and another?

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February 13, 1939