March 16, 1939

CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

Will the hon. gentleman permit a question?

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LIB
CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

If the hon. member's argument is sound, why did not Mr. Justice Davis go to Toronto?

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LIB

William Daum Euler (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. EULER:

Ask him.

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LIB

Arthur Graeme Slaght

Liberal

Mr. SLAGHT:

As I read his report, Mr. Justice Davis did not indicate why he did not go to Toronto. Without any disrespect to him, since we are having in this house innuendoes supported by pictures on the wall which do not exist-

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Pictures in magazines.

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LIB

Arthur Graeme Slaght

Liberal

Mr. SLAGHT:

-I think he would have had an even better insight into the situation if he had gone to Toronto. It does not appeal to me and it will not appeal to the people of Canada, that this committee should bandage its eyes and refuse to make one overnight journey to the city of Toronto to look at the plant before deciding whether they are going to recommend cancellation of the contract. That is the suggestion of the hon. member for Greenwood (Mr. Massey) who has just asked the question, and of his friend

George Drew, whom he so lustily supported for leadership, and who has been going up and down the country in the past few weeks preaching the closing of the Inglis plant. Does the hon. member approve of that? Let us go and look at the plant. Let us go down there and get a notion of what the evidence is about. I appeal to this house to support the report of the committee.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. J. EARL LAWSON (York South):

Mr. Speaker, I happen to be one member of this house who up to this time has not spoken in connection with the Bren gun matter. I rise at this time, not because I desire t~ participate in a debate upon the merits oi demerits of the Bren gun contract, but because as one who did not actively participate in the debate when it was at its height, I might say to the members of this committee, without giving offence, that it seems to me they have drifted a long way from what I have always understood to be the points at. issue in this house in connection with the whole Bren gun matter. To my mind, if one will keep in mind what was the issue when the matter left this house, it will be found to have a very great bearing on the question of the wisdom or lack of wisdom of the procedure now proposed.

Let us go back for a moment or two. As I understood the situation, in 1936 the government declared in this house as a policy that they favoured the national manufacture of defence materials. I understood at the time that that was a declaration being made by the responsible minister of the crown, the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie) . Then an article appeared in a magazine, and it was alleged that munitions were being made by private enterprise. As a result of that a royal commission was appointed and a royal commissioner made a report. The royal commissioner in his report made findings of the fact with respect to all but two matters. One of those matters, he said, was a question of policy for the government; the other was as to whether the contract was provident or improvident. Those two things, he said, were matters for the parliament of Canada. Hence it came back here; hence we had a reference to the public accounts committee. I submit that the reference was not made to that committee for the purpose of determining whether Inglis had or had not a plant. I submit the reference was not made to the public accounts committee for the purpose of reviewing the very things in respect of which a royal commissioner had made a finding. It was submitted to the committee for the two purposes which I have pointed out. Therefore I say that the issue, as I

1956 COMMONS

Public Accounts Committee Report

have always understood it, speaking from an absolutely non-partisan political standpoint, is this: What is to be the policy of Canada with respect to the manufacture of defence material? Will anyone tell me what earthly purpose is to be served by going to inspect a plant from the point of view of determining what should be the policy of this country? It is true that in the course of debate in this house critics questioned whether the contract made by the government was provident or improvident, but not because of the condition of the plant; that is beside the point. The criticism that was made in this house, as I understood it, was that gentlemen in private enterprise were permitted to take a plant which cost 8100,000, plus some balance of $110,000 in bonds, and by a process of valuation convert that into $1,500,000 and then extract 81.250,000 of the stock of that company-

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Order.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

I think I am perfectly

in order. I submit that was a feature of the allegation of providence or improvidence. I submit that is a question with which this committee should concern itself. But will anyone suggest to me how you are going to be assisted in determining that question by going and looking at a plant, leaving aside its efficacy or otherwise?

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LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch

Liberal

Mr. MUTCH:

What possible harm could

it do for the committee to see it?

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

If by harm is meant harm to the gentlemen who may go and see the plant, I do not see how it can possibly do them any harm. On the other hand would anyone think I was in my right senses-

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

You are not.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

Thank you for the compliment. Would anyone think I was in my right senses if I advocated, for example, that the civil service committee should go out as a body and view all the public buildings across Canada because this country has millions of dollars invested in them? An hon. member to-day was arguing with great vigour that we should go and visit this plant because the government has advanced 8800,000 odd for the purchase of machinery in it. That I submit is entirely beside the point.

Let me give my hon. friend the second phase of the answer to his question-and his question permits me to say something that I had no thought of when I got up in the first place. I will tell you the harm that will be done. You are avoiding-and when I say "you" I am using it in an impersonal TMr. Lawson.]

sense-the issue in this case, which should be kept clearly before the public, namely, what is to be the policy of Canada with respect to the manufacture of defence material-

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LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

That is not

the issue at all.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

-and not whether the Inglis plant is a good plant or a bad plant, an efficient or inefficient plant. I have been long enough associated with my friend the hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Slaght) in the practice of our common profession to recognize the tactics of setting up a straw man to knock him down. That is a favourite practice of lawyers.

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LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

Is that what

the Bren gun charges were?

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

In my opinion that is

what is being attempted now, to set up a straw man, to introduce an issue which is not the real issue before this country.

I propose to vote against the house instructing this committee as an official act to go and visit this plant. I do not care if every individual member of the committee or every individual member of this house goes and inspects the plant personally. I wish to make clear to the house and the country my reason for the stand I take in this matter. It simply avoids the real issue which is before the public accounts committee, that issue being: What shall be the policy of this government and this country with respect to the manufacture of munitions, and was the Bren gun contract a prudent or imprudent contract in the circumstances?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

My hon. friend who has just taken his seat (Mr. Lawson) says he objects to this house directing a committee to go to Toronto to view a particular plant. That is not a true statement of the position.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

May I change the word to "authorize"?

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March 16, 1939