March 16, 1939

CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

The hon. member who said that really does not know what he is talking about.

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LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

Let us go and see it.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

On the 24th of August, 1936, the hon. member for Trinity wrote the Prime Minister as follows-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

Very well, Mr. Speaker. The letter is in Hansard and has been quoted often; I do not need to repeat it.

I am going to describe what the plant was like at that time for I know it very well. It consisted of seventeen or eighteen or nineteen large and small buildings, some of them lean-to's. There were five main buildings.

f\Ir. MacNicoI.]

There was the office building. Then there was the machine shop, which is a large building that was used for manufacturing all kinds of steel and iron equipment that the John Inglis company made. They were splendid manufacturers of marine engines. That was their original business. They made hydraulic machines for mines and so forth, condensers, centrifugal and reciprocating pumps. They made tanks; they made boats-they made one of the ferry boats for the city of Toronto. They also made marine legs for grain elevators, and they made coal bunkers. The John Inglis plant at that time was well equipped for making all that kind of material.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Hear, hear.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

I hear a "hear, hear"

from a man who knows I am right, and I hope he is on the committee, because I know he knows what a plant means. It was the hon. member for Huron-Perth (Mr. Golding).

Building No. 3 was for making boilers. It was a large building and the boilers they made were, some of them, perhaps 20 feet long, some perhaps longer, and anything from 24 inches in diameter up; I believe they went as high as 100 to 150 inches in diameter in the boilers and tanks they made. These tanks and boilers had to be lifted away up and turned round and brought down again. It was a thoroughly equipped boiler plant, none better in Canada.

Building No. 4 was for holding the patterns of the company. I knew the company very well because the company I was with bought a vast quantity of material from the John Inglis company. Shop No. 5 was the forging shop. The company in later years made boilers and the boiler-heads were dished at the plant, and because of that the company had a very large forge shop for heating and dishing the heads and flanging the sheets that entered into the construction of a boiler. I see my hon. friend the hon. member for Huron-Perth (Mr. Golding) nods his head. He knows that is a large building.

There were five main buildings and a whole lot of small buildings, perhaps another dozen of small buildings or lean-to's. During the past months a sixth building has been added to the plant, at the rear, as I understand it, of the forge shop, part of it between the forge shop and the machine shop. That building, I heard someone say, is 582 feet in length. At its narrowest its width is 37 feet, and at its widest, in the centre of the building, approximately 140 feet. It angles off alongside the railway for a considerable distance, and at the west end is perhaps not over 45 or 50 feet in width. That new building may be all

Public Accounts Committee Report

that is claimed for it. But at the time the contract was let that building was not there; it has been built since. This new building has tin on the outside, glass on the north side and glass on the south side, and it runs alongside the railway track. I believe the ceilings are about 14 feet high. The machines are assembled in the building alongside the windows on the south side and alongside the windows on the north side, with a row of machines down the centre. That is the new shop.

The company itself in its own advertisements in the Toronto papers endorses everything we said about the plant in the debate in this house. Here is a picture of an advertisement that appeared in the Toronto papers. It carries a cut showing the old John Inglis plant before the new building was added; in fact, the new building is not shown in the cut at all as I see it. This advertisement states what the company can do; and what does the company itself say? It is now referring to the old plant, described as a boiler plant. I do not remember whether someone said-I know that I never at any time said, and it is neither here nor there whether anyone did or not

that it was a broken down boiler plant. It was a good boiler plant in its day, none better in the country, but it stood idle for several years before it was purchased by the company which now owns it. This advertisement reads:

We are designers, engineers and manufacturers of machinery and equipment for mine, mill, power plant and factory.

Our skilled staff of experienced technicians is at your service. We invite particulars of your requirements.

John Inglis Co. Limited.

I have no doubt they can do all that, with their patterns and equipment in the old part of the plant. They did all that before, and no doubt can do it again, and if there is any business along these lines I hope, because of my warm feeling for the old company and the name of Inglis, they will get some of that business.

All our remarks in connection with the Bren gun were by way of opposition to the purchase of the old plant for the making of Bren guns; and we were right, because they are not making Bren guns in the old plant, they are making them in a new plant. I have no doubt that the plant they have put up is a good one; I have nothing but the best to say about it, and I hope that it turns out good guns. No doubt they have good workmen. I do not know any of the men who are working in the plant, but the machinists and other technicians employed in Toronto and elsewhere are, in my experience, quite qualified, and I have no doubt that they will turn out good equipment. The point at issue between ourselves and hon. members who want to make this joy ride is that if the committee go there now they will be taken into a brand new plant and doubtless will find it well equipped.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

Does my hon. friend call a trip to Toronto a "joy ride"?

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

I have heard people say they spent a week in Toronto one Sunday; but to me there is no finer city anywhere. Perhaps others are just as good, but none is better.

I cannot conceive that the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), for whom no one in the house has a warmer personal regard than I have, a regard which goes back a long time, and makes me feel for him in all this business -on this point Mr. Speaker stopped me a while ago, so I will not now continue what I might have said-will allow the committee to go to Toronto to look at a new building. Not that a new building as such is not worth looking at. The new building of any other company which might have made these guns with much less new equipment and with fewer buildings than the company which to-day has the Bren gun contract, would be worth looking at. What I am particularly opposed to is a joy ride at the country's expense. There are hon. members who do not take any stock in the leadership league movement, but in my judgment it is going to do a great deal of good. At least it will arouse the voters of this country to think of what their members are doing and what parliament is doing. I am convinced that parliament as a whole, irrespective of any party or group, is composed of as good men as can be found in any other parliament in the world. I have the highest regard for this house and its members. But the leadership league is charging us with doing nothing. What will they have in that vacant space to which on two or three occasions the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) has referred?

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An hon. MEMBER:

They have dropped it out.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

When this joy-riding delegation goes to Toronto they will put a line in that vacant space to the effect that the committee is there at the country's expense. Of course hon. members travel, at any rate as far as their tickets are concerned, free of charge. I appeal to the Prime Minister to put his foot down. As I have said, I have a high regard for him; I should like others to

1946 COMMONS

Public Accounts Committee Report

have a high regard for him, but it will be impaired if he lets this junketing joy-riding delegation go to Toronto at the country's expense. If they wish to go at their own expense, let them do so. I have no objection to that. If any individual member wishes to go, let him go, but not, I say, at the expense of the country.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. H. A. STEWART (Leeds):

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the public accounts committee I feel it my duty to speak briefly to this resolution.

There was in the committee a sharp division of opinion as to whether this inspection should be made. In the committee I opposed it. I took the ground that it was a strange proceeding. There had been a thorough investigation of this contract in all its aspects, counsel had been employed by the government and by all parties interested, and it was never suggested in the course of that investigation that anything whatever could be gained by making a trip to Toronto to inspect this plant. What can be gained at this late date? Very much less, I Submit, than could have been gained if an inspection had been made earlier. An inspection at this time, after the large expenditure of money that has been made, is useless.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Why?

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

In many cases it is desirable when a matter is in dispute to investigate the site of the trouble, and sometimes a judge orders it. But if the judge knows that all the conditions have been changed since the event occurred which is the subject of investigation, he declines to authorize an inspection.

What was the reference to the public accounts committee? The Bren gun contract, the commissioner's report, and other contracts were referred to the committee. I wish now to suggest to this house just what our duties are and why this inspection is unnecessary. Reading from page 49 of the report of the commissioner a paragraph or two which I think condenses and summarizes what we should undertake, I quote as follows: The contract is not for a fixed sum; it is on a cost plus basis. It is admitted that we do not know how much the guns are going to cost. There are, of course, adequate powers of inspection, supervision and control vested in the department under the contract and with the etsimates from Enfield of what the guns there are costing it should be possible to keep actual cost well within bounds.

No substantial objection can be taken in my view-

[Mr. MacNicol.l

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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. The hon. member should not go into the merits of the contract or discuss whether it was properly entered into or not. That is a matter for the committee to decide. I do not think that the hon. member should revive a general discussion of this subject which has already taken place in the house. The only question now before the house is whether or not the last paragraph of the report should be struck out.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

Mr. Speaker, I thoroughly understand the point you have taken and the objection you have made to certain statements being read. My contention that there should not be an inspection of this plant is based on what is contained in this report, and all I propose to do is to read one other paragraph as a basis of my argument that that inspection is useless and worthless:

No substantial objection can be taken in my view to the provisions of the Canadian contract, though in the absence of any competitive bids or terms of manufacture I am unable to pass upon the substance as distinct from the form of the contract. It is important, of course, that the contract be a good and businesskke contract; but what is more important after all is whether the procedure adopted in making the contract was that best calculated to protect the public interest and to secure the confidence of the people of Canada that there would be no improper profiteering in the private manufacture of war armaments for the defence of the country.

These are the subjects which are suggested for consideration and investigation by parliament. I submit that for the consideration and determination of these, an inspection of this plant is worthless; it is not helpful in any way. In what is parliament interested in connection with this Bren gun contract? I think we want to know, in the first place, why the manufacture of these guns was not undertaken in a government property and under government auspices. In the second place, if the manufacture of these guns was not to be undertaken as a government work, why were tenders not invited for the manufacture? Why was this particular firm chosen above all others when there were others quite competent and with ample equipment to manufacture these guns? Why was the interdepartmental committee's suggestion and recommendation-

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

What has this to do with the amendment?

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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I think the hon. member is dealing with the question of the Bren gun contract. The question before the house is merely whether it is advisable to accept or

Public Accounts Committee Report

reject one paragraph of the report of the committee. I ask the hon. member to confine his remarks to that subject.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

I accept your ruling, sir, but the argument I am trying to make apparently has not been appreciated by your honour or by the house. I am arguing that what we are in duty bound to do is to ascertain what I have been referring to rather than to inspect a new plant which has been built since this contract was awarded.

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March 16, 1939