March 16, 1939

LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

But that is not what the hon. member is saying.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

He is giving judgment.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

He is

resuming the whole debate on the merits of the first motion to send the matter to the committee.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

No, no.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

He is adducing arguments which were adduced at that time, and which have nothing to do with the proposal to visit the plant. Indeed his arguments show conclusively that it is important that the plant be visited.

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CON

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HOMUTH:

If there is a continuation

of the debate I say it is the fault of the government that there is any debate on this matter at all, and hon. members of that committee making any such silly suggestion as that of going to Toronto. We charge-

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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

That is a reflection on

the government and members of the committee.

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CON

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HOMUTH:

Mr. Speaker, I did not

say members of the government were silly; I said it was a silly suggestion to make- and I still think so. I still say that the whole condition of the plant was misrepresented, and that what we will see in Toronto is a new plant equipped with government money. This government has $844,000 invested in the plant, and we do not know yet how much more will have to be invested in it before they are able to turn out Bren machine guns.

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LIB
CON

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HOMUTH:

If the committee wishes

to go to see the plant, then let us go to see some of the plants which were mentioned in the evidence.

Public Accounts Committee Report

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Who mentioned them?

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CON

Karl Kenneth Homuth

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HOMUTH:

Let us go and see the

plants which could have made the Bren machine gun. On the committee we have doctors, lawyers, farmers and insurance brokers, men who in their own professions are undoubtedly capable. I have been in industry all my life, but I could not go into any plant, and simply by looking at it and at the machinery, say whether or not it would be equipped to turn out any particular article.

With all due respect to their ability, I venture to say that members of the house could be taken into a washing machine factory and be told, "In this factory we can turn out pistols and machine guns," and they would simply reply, "Is that so?" What knowledge have the members of the committee with respect to the manufacture of a machine gun? No man on the committee, even if he has been interested in industry all his life, is in a position to go into a plant, inspect it and be able to say that it would be an efficient plant for the purpose of turning out the Bren machine gun. He could not do that unless he knew every operation necessary to turn out such a gun. These matters are all secret; they are not for the knowledge of the members of the committee. We have been told by the minister that they are so secret that they had to be very careful with respect to the men they employed in their plant at Toronto.

If the committee is going to make inspections, let it inspect the plants which could have done the work, without the government having to invest a million or more dollars to do it, and to build up a private enterprise for some stock promoters. Let them go and inspect plants which could have made shells such as are being made in Montreal. Let them inspect plants which made shells during the last war, which are equipped to-day to make shells and to make them cheaper than they are being made under contract in Montreal.

If hon. members and people throughout the country have any reason to protest against loss of time and waste of money, they will certainly have a great deal of reason to do so if the house decides the committee is to go to Toronto to investigate the plant. Personally I shall take no part in this joy ride. I will not be a party to this burlesque. I do not intend to go to Toronto to inspect the John Inglis company plant.

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SC

James Alexander Marshall

Social Credit

Mr. J. A. MARSHALL (Camrose):

Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to take up much time of the house or to hold up the vote on this particular question. As a member of the

public accounts committee from time to time I have purposely refrained from making any statement or any remark on the floor of the house with respect to the Bren machine gun contract or the report of Judge Davis. I prefer to defer any comments until such time as the committee has completed its work and made a report to the house.

It has been stated that over S800.000 has been spent on the plant by the Canadian and British governments since the investigation took place before Mr. Justice Davis. It may be possible to visualize the condition of the plant before that expenditure was made, but I do not believe a casual inspection as is contemplated would enable me at any rate to form an unprejudiced opinion. Therefore, I shall support the amendment to the resolution, and all the members of this group will do likewise.

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CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):

Mr. Speaker, the question before the house is whether the public accounts committee of some fifty-six members shall be authorized to proceed to Toronto to visit the Inglis plant and hold there a session of the House of Commons and a parliamentary inquiry. That is what it amounts to. There is an amendment before us to strike out paragraph 4 of the report of the committee. There has been a great deal of criticism of this house in connection with the appointing of committees and commissions and empowering other people to go all over the civilized world on public business. Very little is accomplished or learned. The reference to this committee was that it should find out whether or not this was a good contract and in the public interest. That is why the' committee was appointed and constituted. Now they want to go beyond their prerogatives and hold a session of parliament, a session of the public accounts committee at the factory of John Inglis Company on Strachan avenue, Toronto. How many members of this committee are technical men who would know anything about the plant nr its work.

If Canada were industrialized to the same extent as Great Britain, some object might be accomplished in inspecting this plant in Toronto. Ottawa alone is where this committee should sit. A royal commission was appointed under the Public Inquiries Act and considerable evidence was heard and the judge made his report. I may say that in England a parliamentary session was held at Aider-shot, according to pictures which appeared in Sketch for February. The whole membership of the House of Commons went to Alder-

Public Accounts Committee Report

shot to inspect the armaments being manufactured there. But Aldershot is only a few miles from London and they were able to be back in the house the same day.

At the present time the Inglis plant is not fully equipped for this purpose, but will soon be. I passed there last Saturday and there was a large number of men at work. It is an old and splendid plant and is a most commendable idea if it is extended to provide work for all. I understand from the minister that he has had reports by his officials on 1,300 plants, but there are many other plants which were not inspected but which should be at once. This is a unit which is actively engaged in this work, but I cannot see the necessity for holding a public judicial inquiry in Toronto at present. Witnesses are to be heard and their evidence taken under oath. I cannot see how any good results can be obtained from such a visit. If the House of Commons is to hold a session in Toronto, they should hold it in the Toronto exhibition coliseum which is next door to this plant in Toronto. The members would then be able to inquire into a much more important question, namely, why 1,200 transient men are on relief and cannot get work. In my opinion unemployment is a much more important matter for us to deal with than the present business to be dealt with by this committee.

When the session closes we find our representatives travelling all over the world, on each one of the seven seas. We get very little good out of these joy rides as the press call them because that is all a great many of these trips are. So far as this committee is concerned, I was a member but I am not at the present time. I believe the committee would be better employed if it stayed here in Ottawa. A few members could be appointed to make an inspection of this plant if the government thought it necessary. It may be necessary to do a little later on what was done during the days of the war when a visit was made to the Baldwin plant and other munition plants in Canada. However, we are not yet far enough on with this munitions expansion at the present time. I understand the program of the minister on rearmament calls for an expenditure of several millions, and when we get far enough along perhaps it may be thought advisable for the House of Commons to appoint a committee, as was done during the war, to visit this plant and other plants later and make a report. As I understand the reference to the committee, the committee is to go over the evidence taken before the royal commissioner and his report. We are now being asked to delegate our powers

and permit sessions of parliament to be held in Toronto. If that is to be done, let us consider this more important question, the question of unemployment.

Mr. GORDON B. ISNOR (Halifax): Mr. Speaker, as a member of the public accounts committee I hesitate to take part in this debate because I understand it is not the usual procedure to discuss matters before a committee until a report has been tabled. As other hon. members have brought to the attention of the house, an amendment was moved by me iu committee to provide for the appointment of a smaller committee of seven members to proceed to Toronto to inspect the plant and then report to the main committee. I was quite willing to abide by the decision of such a committee. However, when that amendment was presented it was discussed by the various members and the majority thought that the committee as a whole should visit the plant. I do not feel this is a joy ride, as has been suggested by some of the hon. members who have spoken on this matter. This trip is necessary in order that we may vote intelligently on this important question. I like the attitude taken by the hon. member for Cam-rose (Mr. Marshall). The hon. member intimated that he had refrained from discussing this matter because he wanted to keep an open mind. That is my attitude with respect to this whole question. I want to hear every detail brought before the committee and then make up my mind to support the majority or minority report, as the case may be. I feel that we should visit the plant and I am supporting the recommendation made by the majority of the committee.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

If the hon. member cannot vote intelligently without going to Toronto, how does he expect the members of the house generally to vote intelligently unless the whole house goes there?

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LIB

Gordon Benjamin Isnor

Liberal

Mr. ISNOR:

I think I can answer that to the satisfaction of the hon. member. One hon. member has said that an expenditure of SSOO.OOO was made on equipment. I should like to satisfy myself or have a report from a subcommittee as to whether that expenditure of 8800,000 was justified. I think that is a very important aspect of the matter.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. R. MacNICOL (Davenport):

Mr. Speaker-

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

The expert!

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

I am persuaded to rise as much by the remark I have just heard from the opposite side as anything else, but particularly because of an article which appeared

1944 COMMONS

Public Accounts Committee Report

in the Toronto Telegram of Saturday last, March 11, apparently an interview with the officials of the Bren gun plant, justifying the plant. This interview says:

What precisely is the John Inglis plant like? Is it the broken down, empty boiler factory, the wretched ghost of more prosperous days, its critics say it is?

Anything I said about the John Inglis plant in the former debate was about the plant as I knew it and had known it for many years. I have known it from end to end and my remarks had reference to the plant as I knew it, not as it is now. In fact, the whole debate applied to what the plant was like before it was purchased. I continue to quote:

According to officials of the company that is an unfair and untrue picture of the situation, based upon rumour, gossip and miscomprehension.

I repeat that any references I made in the debate to the John Inglis plant were to the plant as it was before this contract was let, not as it is to-day. My remarks had no reference to the new part of the plant. Continuing the quotation:

They admit that the original purpose of the plant was to manufacture boilers, that it went into liquidation, but they claim that now, under new management, the plant is staffed and equipped to meet the demands made upon a competent engineering and ordnance organization.

I have nothing to say as to the competency of that company to manufacture to-day any kind of equipment, large or small, or the Bren gun. What I have to say refers to what the plant was when the member for Trinity (Mr. Plaxton) wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King).

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

It is still the same.

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March 16, 1939