May 18, 1939

CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

In considering these estimates at this time I find myself under a considerable handicap-I might say, a self-imposed handicap. It has been my view since being a member of the House of Commons that discussions of defence and militia matters and matters of external affairs should be conducted as far as possible on a nonpolitical basis. I think that view is particularly applicable under the present circumstances. If the minister were to answer all the questions I should like to ask it would probably be most unfair to the officers in charge of the active militia and defence forces, and not in the interests of the country generally. But to the extent that such a reserve of discussion is observed the government must assume complete responsibility for whatever is done and whatever results or lack of results flow from their efforts and action. I agree with the leader of the opposition (Mr. Manion) that there should be set up a committee of the House of Commons, possibly of the two houses of parliament, which might hear in secret from the officers in charge of our various units and branches of defence full explanation of the matters before parliament and before the defence department. I believe that would be a sound thing to do, because we are entitled to much information-

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Hear,

hear.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

-which obviously it is not in the public interest to disclose publicly. A handicap is there enforced on hon. members in the discharge of their duty in checking the government in its expenditures.

I understand we are still discussing item

178. It is a substantial sum. To give detailed information about coast defences, mobile and anti-aircraft armaments, machine guns, searchlight and general equipment, mechanical vehicles, tanks and so on, would possibly not be in the interests of the country at large. However I should suggest to the minister that we ought to have definitely and officially from the government a declaration that the measures necessary for reasonable defence are being taken. I admit that sounds a little weak and anaemic, but I cannot see how we can go much further; at least I am not prepared to go much further in demanding that information be publicly given. It would be doing a disservice to the country if I were to ask the minister exactly what searchlights or antiaircraft emplacements and so on be has on the

Supply-National Defence

Pacific coast, although I am vitally interested in the matter. But this is a subject which could be dealt with secretly in a committee.

I gather, from the amounts being expended, that definite efforts are being made to overtake the results of what has been Canada's policy for the last several decades, that of doing nothing in regard to defence, and the lack of development during those years.

Let me say just a word, however, on this point. Sometimes it is implied that the preceding government, in fact you might say preceding governments over the last couple of decades, have been derelict in their duty in regard to defence. But it must be borne in mind that Canada throughout its history has been notably a pacific country. We have never presumed to be a military country, and it would be sheer folly for us to attempt to become a military country to-day. Obviously Canada cannot rest its future security on its own ability to resist attack from outside, no matter where it comes from, we can never achieve that. On the other hand in recent years conditions have developed in the world which warrant Canada's making certain preparation for defence, such as may be commensurate with our resources. That, I think, is what is in the mind of the government, as expressed in these estimates. It depends, however, upon the efficiency and wisdom with which these comparatively large grants are expended in the defence of the country. I do not think it is possible for Canada as the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Church) a moment ago suggested, to take complete responsibility for her defence against any possible attacks. But I agree with him to this extent, that we ought to show a spirit of cooperation with the other dominions and the mother country in this great crisis which confronts us at the present time. I concur in what the leader of the opposition said the other day, that if we could have an examination of these highly confidential matters by a committee of both houses, where they could be carefully reviewed, it would be a desirable thing to do. But speaking for myself I do not feel disposed to press too strongly for information the disclosure of which would obviously be unwise and unfair to the country. With that handicap I simply bow to the situation, and I repeat that we shall hold the government definitely responsible for the expenditure of the large sums that are being appropriated.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

I feel that a point has been overlooked by the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Stevens). I agree that we should conduct discussions without acrimony and without seeking partisan advantage. But as

he is very well aware, people generally on the Pacific coast are tremendously interested in this subject. Members of the house, particularly those who represent constituencies either on the Atlantic or on the Pacific coast, should be in a position to take an intelligent part ir general public discussion of these issues, without requiring the disclosure of vital military or naval secrets. And they should be in a position to dispel statements or rumours which are without foundation, or which may tend to undermine public morale or the public confidence in the operations of our staff officers.

In this discussion I am not seeking to secure secret information. I do not desire to have such information in my possession. It is quite another matter, however, to discuss trends of policy. This point arises-and I should like to have further assurance from the minister with regard to it, and also the views of the hon. member for Kootenay East, because of his experience in matters connected with the Pacific coast: We are assured from time to time that a plan of defence has been worked out for the Pacific coast, and that by the erection of fortifications and the placing of fixed batteries at strategic points the strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver island can be adequately covered. We are assured by experts that that defence would make it virtually impossible for hostile craft to come within striking distance of Victoria or Vancouver-with the exception, of course, of submarines. We understand also that adequate provision has been made for the laying of mine fields and booms, and for patrols to seek out and to destroy bases which might be established by enemy powers. Then within a few weeks we hear disquieting rumours to the effect that it has been difficult for the department to secure the necessary armaments for that type of defence, namely the 6-inch and 9-2-inch guns. I can understand from the report of the department the difficulty of securing delivery of these guns. But most disquieting rumours are in circulation indicating a lack of that sort of armament. At the same time we notice from the report of the department that it has proceeded to purchase howitzers and mortars, which are of little value for that type of defence, and which are usually regarded as being useful only for purposes of army manoeuvres.

The point I wish to have cleared up and dealt with definitely, for the sake of the people generally on the Pacific coast, is this. Is it not possible now to concentrate on the production of armaments of the kind I have described, purely for purposes of coastal defence, without proceeding to secure howitzers

Supply-National Defence

and mortars used to bear upon positions held in strength by an enemy, and to reorganize units so that they might concentrate on a defence of that kind? Could that be done, even without proceeding with expenditures which would be involved in connection with army manoeuvres? I hope I have made the point clear to the minister, and that he may find it possible, without disclosing any military or naval secrets, to indicate a trend of policy or of purchasing which will assure the people on the Pacific coast that they are adequately protected.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I appreciate the spirit in which the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Stevens) has spoken with reference to the general policy. I repeat what I said the other day, that if there is any desire to have an informal discussion with staff officers before the conclusion of the session, it will be arranged. It could be arranged at the next session of parliament to set up a formal committee, on which I think both houses should be represented.

With reference to the point raised by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil) I will repeat what I said the other day, namely, that I am not a military expert. I am in. substantial agreement with what the hon. member has said, but naturally I have to take my advice from technical officers in the department-and of course a mobile army for service in Canada would have to be equipped with howitzers and mortars. That is the policy which has guided the experts of the department. The first preference in the department at the present time is for coastal defence, as such. In my opinion the next preference should be that of anti-aircraft guns. I think if we keep those two preferences constantly in view, and keep them ahead of other technical requirements, we shall do the wisest thing for the defence of Canada, as such.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

I am sure that those of us who listened intently to the observations of the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Stevens) and the remarks made subsequently by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil) were in full agreement with the sentiments expressed. The views expressed by these hon. members have conveyed to the committee, I am sure, the spirit in which all hon. members have made inquiries of the minister.

The hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green), who has asked many questions of the minister, has done so in a spirit which has indicated clearly his interest in the defence of Canada. Naturally he is vitally and

personally interested in the defence of Vancouver, because his wife and family are there. All of us who have such interests have that same vital concern.

I am sure the minister has felt throughout the entire discussion in committee that there has been no attempt either to embarrass or to criticize him, but that rather the attempt has been to obtain information which is in the public interest in regard to policy. We want to know where we are heading in this matter of defence. After all, in the present year we are being asked to spend about $63,000,000 of public money through the minister's department, and the people of Canada have a right to know what the policy of the department is.

The minister has been straightforward and frank in his answers. He has not made any attempt to withhold information in any shape or form, and we appreciate that. In regard to the policy of giving certain information, I would point out that the other day the minister himself made a speech, upon introducing his estimates, which was a forthright statement of the position of affairs in Canada so far as defence is concerned. I believe every question asked the minister has been based on those remarks. I do not feel that any hon. member should regard the questions which have been and are being asked as designed in any way to embarrass the minister or the department of which he is the head, or to make political capital out of defence measures

a matter which cuts across party lines as no other matter could. All hon. members realize that orders have been placed in the United Kingdom for a large volume of equipment of all sorts. We further fully realize, as I pointed out in the brief remarks I made the other day, that the United Kingdom is not in a position to furnish our requirements, in virtue of the demands which are being made upon her to-day in respect of her own. Naturally, therefore, we are interested in knowing what steps the minister proposes to take to overcome the handicap under which he is placed as a result of a condition over which neither he nor anybody else has any control. Questions have been asked particularly along that line. Some of us feel that the manufacture of arms can best be carried forward in government controlled and operated plants, to function as pilot plants, as has been done so successfully in Australia and, possibly to a lesser degree, in the United Kingdom. We are anxious to know whether steps are being taken further to develop the Quebec, Lindsay and Valcartier arsenals, or whether it is planned to rely entirely upon

Supply-National Defence

the results of the survey of 2,000 industrial plants, which the minister has conducted in recent months.

These are general questions. Certainly no one can suggest that there is any endeavour to embarrass the minister or to place the country at a disadvantage as a result of the giving out of information which it would not be in the public interest to disclose. The interest of hon. members in seeking information has been purely the interest of Canada and that of national defence.

I listened to the speech made by the minister on the introduction of his estimates, and since then I have read it carefully in Hansard. It was a frank exposition of the position of Canada in the present crisis. I believe all hon. members realize that, regarded from our point of view, the greatest defence arm in modern warfare must be the air force. Accordingly we wish to know to what extent Canada can produce aircraft, and how rapidly that production can be developed. Questions are constantly being asked in the press and elsewhere as to the potential air strength of Canada and what steps can be taken forthwith to develop an air arm adequate for our own defences. Some go even farther and want to know what contribution we can make toward the defence of the empire through the manufacture of aircraft in Canada. Some go even farther than that and say that Canada could-

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Vincent-Joseph Pottier

Liberal

Mr. POTTIER:

I thought we were going to stick to the item.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

I am sure the hon. member does not object to any particular matter about which I am speaking.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Vincent-Joseph Pottier

Liberal

Mr. POTTIER:

The hon. member is

repeating what has been said on a number of other occasions. I think we should stick to the item.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

I think I am within my rights in speaking at the moment, and I accept the spirit in which rather than the words with which the hon. member interrupts me. I have no doubt he is just as much interested in this matter as I am, and I shall be glad to hear his comments when I resume my seat, which I shall do in a moment.

I am sure that the information the minister has given during the course of this discussion is definitely in the public interest. Can he now state to the committee what are, in general, the plans in connection with any policy for the expansion of the air force of this dominion? Is the government planning to increase the number of our fighting planes, and is it felt that the present available equipment is obsolete and should be replaced?

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

It is intended to encourage aircraft production in Canada as much as possible. I believe at the present time there are about ten firms manufacturing aeroplanes in Canada, although not all for the department. In addition, as my hon. friend knows, proposals have been made by the British government with reference to aircraft production in Canada. We are confronted with two alternatives. The first is the development of a long-range policy of aircraft production in Canada, and the second is the necessity of meeting what might be an immediate emergency. Because of the second alternative we have been compelled recently to order substantial numbers of aeroplanes from the United Kingdom and the United States. I think it was our duty as a government so to do, although we would have preferred to have these machines built in Canada. Various types of aeroplanes have been ordered to be built in Canada, such as trainers, fighting craft and bombers. The present policy is really a compromise between the two alternatives.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

The remarks of the minister apply to aircraft in general. Would they apply also to the manufacture of engines?

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

The

desire of the department has always been to have aircraft engines constructed in Canada. That would be the ideal, but the difficulty is that the aeroplane is built around the engine. If we developed only one standard type of engine in Canada it is doubtful whether that engine could be used in the various types of aeroplanes. If we are to establish an aero engine industry in Canada we must develop six, seven or eight types of engines. The difficulty in the past has been that our orders were so small that they did not justify the establishment of such an industry, and we have had to order engines from the United States and Great Britain. If we adhere to the use of the types of planes used by the British air ministry, we shall have to insert in those aeroplanes the type of engine they use. Recently an order has been approved for North American Harvard aeroplanes from the United States, and of course the type of engine in those planes will be the type of engine which is used in the United States.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink

Item agreed to. Militia services. 179. Ammunition procurement, including dominion arsenals - chargeable to ordinary account (commitments $1,738,000), $1,818,023.


CON

Grote Stirling

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STIRLING:

I understand the cordite for shell filling stations is obtained in Canada under contract.

Supply*-National Defence

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Yes, from Canadian Industries Limited.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
CON

Grote Stirling

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STIRLING:

Is that an annual contract, or is it for a period of five years or more?

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I am

informed that the contract has been in existence for seven or eight years.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
CON

Grote Stirling

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STIRLING:

Does it go on forever, or is it terminable?

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

It is terminable, but the orders have been renewed from year to year.

Topic:   STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON DEFENCE ESTIMATES RESPECTING ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Permalink

May 18, 1939