March 16, 1939

LIB

Gerald Grattan McGeer

Liberal

Mr. McGEER:

I bow to your ruling,

sir, but what I would point out is this. Let us stop this bickering debate. Let us say. to the people not only of Canada but of the British empire and of the democracies of the world: Canada is united, and is moving, in proportion to her wealth and power to make her contribution to the defence of democracy. If we do that we need have no fear of leadership leagues or anything of the kind.

I ask the house to confirm the recommendation of the committee, so that there may be a report from a committee which has done its job fairly well by starting first with the most important feature of its obligation, namely an examination of the plant as it was at the time the contract was entered into, an examination of it as it is to-day, an examination of the organization which is operating, and the conditions under which the contract .is being fulfilled. If we do that one job we shall then be able to deal more intelligently with many other features of the investigation which we have been asked to make.

1950 COMMONS

Public Accounts Committee Report

Miss AGNES C. MACPHAIL (Grey-Brace) : Mr. Speaker, I am sure the government favour which the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. McGeer) is now enjoying will bring encouragement to all members of the House of Commons who are standing out, as some are- and particularly in the government party-against the majority opinion in their party. I say that because I can recall a time, and not so long ago, when the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard was not-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

This really has to do with going to Toronto. There was a time when the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard was not in such high favour. But now, three times, we have seen him called in as the most able lawyer-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

-pinch hitting for the government. Each of the three times has been in connection with the Bren gun. It is really a compliment to the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard, and I am sure with his Irish humour he has already laughed to himself regarding it.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

That is not fair. My hon. friend is in high favour all the time, and she usually opposes us.

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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

I thank the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe); he is always very gracious.

I listened to the whole debate on the Bren gun, but until now I have said nothing about it. My opinion would be, however, that the committee is being taken-for I judge with the "small" majority the government has, the motion will carry-to Toronto to approve the government's action. There is no doubt about that. By going to Toronto now to investigate or to look over a plant, after $844,000 has been spent on it, you get about as much idea of it as you do from visiting an old house which has been renovated. I have not had much experience with manufacturing plants, but I have seen old houses renovated, wings put on, fireplaces put in, a picture window or two added, until you could not tell where the old house had gone; certainly you could not find it in the new one. I suggest it is the same with the John Inglis company plant at Toronto. After $844,000 has been spent the committee will not be able to see the old plant at all, so there is no use going to Toronto to see it. But if members of the committee have to go in order to

know what to do, then all the members of the House of Commons had better go up on a Saturday. It would be a real joy ride; and if it were not a joy ride, we could have a joyous day after we got there.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

No expense accounts, though.

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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

I am not the sort of person who puts in expense accounts, so I would not mind that. Of course I would be on my way home, anyway. It seems to me the government is making an error in asking the committee to go to Toronto.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

The government did not ask it.

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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:

The committee asked it.

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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

Government members of the committee undoubtedly have asked, though, that they go to Toronto. I think it is an error. It would be far better to bring people to tell what the plant was like in the beginning. One cannot now see what it was like, even if one did go. Then the committee could have people come to tell what the plant is like at the present time.

It would look now as though the plant is being groomed as the seat of action for munitions. While I should like to see the manufacturing done under public ownership-and I must not continue with this, or Mr. Speaker will rule me out of order-it would appear that this plant is being prepared for the manufacturing of munitions. The government having spent $844,000, it is going to be difficult to pass over that company and give it to others.

The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard struck a very patriotic note. I was afraid to laugh too much, for fear he would too, and that would have spoiled the effect. May I say to him that one need not have armaments in these days in order to win a war. Just walk in-there is not even a protest. So that the hon. member's arguments seem rather far-fetched. I do not think hon. members of the committee who do not want to go are any less patriotic than hon. members who do want to go. If I were a member of the committee-and I am glad I am not-I should not want to be taken there to see a new plant, and then be put into the very awkward position of saying that the plant was not a fit one in which to do manufacturing.

I be'lieve the committee would be well advised to forget about it, and, as is the usual custom with committees, bring experts here. Otherwise if the government is going to do

Public Accounts Committee Report

what we hope it is going to do, if it is going to be fair and give contracts in other places, this committee will have a great time travelling around the country. It will not be in a position to stop after the visit to Toronto; it will have to go to many different places.

I believe the good sense of the House of Commons, no matter how the vote goes, is that the committee would be well advised not to travel or to start on a roving commission.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. J. MANION (Leader of the Opposition) :

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say only a few words in connection with this matter, and in doing so I shall endeavour to point out the real issue before the house.

In part, the motion moved originally by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil) and seconded by the hon. member for Weyburn (Mr. Douglas) was as follows:

. . . together with a copy of the agreement between the government and the John Inglis Company of Toronto for the manufacture of Bren guns, the report of the royal commission dealing with said agreement, and all related documents, evidence, vouchers and exhibits be referred to the standing committee on public accounts.

That was the reference to the public accounts committee. In other words that committee is to look into the contract and the manner in which it was given, and is to pass its opinion upon whether or not the contract was properly given.

The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. McGeer), in one of his usual eloquent speeches, has done everything he can as a lawyer to confuse the issue. He has dragged in a lot of material which has nothing at all to do with the investigation by the public accounts committee. For example, he said something to the effect that the trip to Toronto and the investigation was for the purpose of finding out if peace-time industry might be turned into war-time industry, or something along that line. I am not quoting his exact words, but that is one of the thoughts back of the expression he used. We all know that peace-time industry in this country can be converted into war-time industry; it has been done over and over again. Just a few days ago

I think the hon. member was absent at the time-I quoted from the Canadian Annual Review where they give the record of Canadian industry during the last war. I thought that this information should be placed on record. I showed from that statement that over a thousand million dollars' worth of war materials had been produced by Canadian peace-time industry during the last war, by converting those industries into war industries. I do not know that I can lay my hand on that 71492-123

statement at the moment, but I quoted from the same book a most complimentary reference to Canadian industry for the magnificent work it had done at that time. We do not need any committee to go to Toronto to find out whether peace-time industry can be converted into war-time industry. We know that without an investigation of any kind. The committee was not asked to do that, as the hon. member for Leeds (Mr. Stewart) points out. The committee was asked to make an investigation of this contract akin to the investigation carried on already by the Davis commission.

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LIB

Gerald Grattan McGeer

Liberal

Mr. McGEER:

Just on that point; in my argument I directed the attention of the house to the possibility of using war-time preparation in industry to assist peace-time industry.

I was not referring merely to the conversion; it was a matter of using the one as a backlog for the other. That is a different thing from what the hon. member is discussing now.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I do not know that the hon. gentleman has asked an outstanding question;

I would not even call it a leading question. Any plant can be converted either way; that is only common sense. Any industrial plant can be converted in the reverse direction. A [DOT] peace-time plant can be converted to manufacture war-time materials, and a wartime plant can be converted to manufacture peace-time materials.

The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard said that I proposed cancelling the contract because of the inability of this plant to manufacture these guns, because it was an old boiler plant or something of that sort. I did not say anything of the kind. I admit at once that an old boiler plant could be converted into a good munitions plant if sufficient money were spent on it. I suggested that this contract should be cancelled because it had been improperly given. I did not go outside the evidence of the Davis report in making that submission. That was the reason why I suggested it should be cancelled. The hon. member says that we are missing $50,000,000 worth of work in Canada because the empire will not spend money here now. I repeat what I said in my argument on a previous occasion. The best way to get empire industries over here to purchase war materials is to show Great Britain that she will get a fair deal, that profits will be properly controlled, and that the implements of war can be obtained on a reasonable basis.

To get back to the issue; which is whether or not this committee should go to Toronto to investigate this plant, to take a look at the industry as it has been built up with the

1952 COMMONS

Public Accounts Committee Report

expenditure of a huge amount of money, the hon. member himself stated, as well as a number of others behind me and to my left, that something like $800,000 worth of government machinery had been put into this plant. Even an old boiler plant can be easily converted into a good industrial plant by the expenditure of money. It has been pointed out by the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. Mac-Nicol) and others that the plant in which the Bren gun is being manufactured is not the old Inglis plant at all; it is a new plant. I have no criticism even of that. I admit at once, and I think the whole house will admit at once, that if you spend sufficient money you can turn any kind of plant, or even no plant at all, into a good industrial plant for the manufacture of munitions. But I do question the utility of a visit by a parliamentary committee made up of fifty members to a plant such as this one. To my mind it would be the most futile trip in the world. So far as I know, in the public accounts committee there is only one member, the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth), who is an industrialist. There may be others, but he is the only one I know of at the moment.

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LIB

James Joseph McCann

Liberal

Mr. McCANN:

What has the wool industry to do with munitions?

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

My hon. friend is supporting my argument, although I do not suppose that was his intention. Even though he is in industry, the hon. member for Waterloo South would not be able to tell any more about this plant after having visited it than he would before his inspection. All he would be able to say is that it looks as though it might be a good industrial plant. That is the reason he gives for not going. I submit that no other member of the public accounts committee is qualified to make an inspection, certainly not the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard, and certainly not myself if I were a member. I suppose that he and I are average of the house in general, but I do not think that either, of us could visit that plant and give to the public accounts committee any opinion which would be worth while. In my position as minister and as a member of this house for many years I have had the opportunity, as have other hon. members, of visiting mines and industrial plants. That is the usual method of entertaining members of parliament when they visit industrial cities and towns. You go through a plant, you see a lot of wheels turning and belts going round, you see a lot of men at work, but you come out no wiser than you were before. Not one member of this committee will be able to go into this plant

on Saturday morning and be any wiser afterwards as to whether the plant will be able to manufacture Bren guns in a splendid manner.

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LIB

William Henry Golding

Liberal

Mr. GOLDING:

That is absolute nonsense.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

The hon. member can make a speech if he wants to, but if he wants to ask a question, he should ask it. I am not going to have him get up and say that this is absolute nonsense. The hon. gentleman may make his own speech, and I am endeavouring to make mine.

I repeat that no member of this committee can go to Toronto and visit this plant and be any wiser afterward as far as the terms of this contract and the method of carrying it out are concerned. It is futile to do that.

The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard "pooh-poohed" any talking about expense. Apparently hon. members have changed their minds since the committee framed its report. The fourth paragraph of the report reads:

To sit, for a period not exceeding two days, in the city of Toronto, and that the payment of any travelling expenses incurred be authorized.

That is the report, yet the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard gets up here and castigates hon. gentlemen on this side because they criticize the expense. I criticize the expense.

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LIB

Gerald Grattan McGeer

Liberal

Mr. McGEER:

Was the hon. member aware that the statements I made about expenses to this house were made in committee, and that the expense item was left in the report so that no one would have the right to say, "I did not go because my expenses would not be paid." That was in the committee.

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March 16, 1939