February 12, 1942

CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY


The house resumed from Wednesday, February 11, consideration of the motion of Mr. Alphonse Fournier for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session, and the amendment thereto of Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury), and the amendment to the amendment of Mr. Coldwell.


CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. T. C. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

Mr. Speaker, like those who have preceded me I should like to extend my congratulations to the mover and the seconder of the motion for an address in reply to the speech from the throne.

It has already been said that we are not winning this war, but that in fact we have just barely missed losing it. However, there is something which disturbs me even more than our failure to win battles abroad and to get more efficient production at home, and that is the confusion and disillusionment which exists in the minds of the Canadian public to-day. It is doubtful if there ever was such factional and sectional strife in Canada as there is right now. Much of the discussion in the press and in this house regarding our war effort has been shaped by our emotions rather than by our reason. We are throwing catchwords and slogans at each other rather than sober facts. It is in a welter of mental confusion like this that nazism triumphs. Whenever a nation has lost its sense of national purpose it is ripe for defeat.

I am more concerned for the future of this country to-day than I was even in the dark days of midsummer of 1940. Only wise and courageous statesmanship can save this country from that psychological disintegration which was the prelude to defeat in France. We must all accept some share of responsibility for this state of affairs. None of us is without guilt in this regard. I think it is possibly true, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) claimed, that several powerful groups have fostered the cry for the conscription of man-power with a view to gaining political advantage and embarrassing the government. Others were motivated by a desire to regiment

The Address

Mr. Douglas (Weyburn)

labour and exploit the farmer under the guise of winning the war. Still others were thinking in terms of the first great war and failed to recognize that this was a mechanized war in which large armies were useless unless adequately equipped with modern weapons.

I say that there may have been small groups in Canada acting from such motives. But that, Mr. Speaker, is not the whole story. That does not explain the widespread dissatisfaction with the government's war effort. The real fact is that the government itself must accept a large share of the blame. This country has been looking for courageous and aggressive leadership. It has not been getting it. We have been having a Chamberlain government in Canada, with neither a Churchill nor a Bevin in sight. The least that the people have a right to expect is that their leaders will lead them. This country's leaders have had to be pushed. It is true that no leader can afford to get too far ahead of public opinion, but public opinion in this country is far ahead of the government and is now waiting impatiently for the government to catch up, and I submit that it will not wait much longer.

Nor should the government make the mistake of being lulled into a sense of security because of the by-elections which it won last Monday. The three by-elections which were won by the government-

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NAT
CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

I shall deal with the fourth in a moment. The three by-elections which were won by the government were won because the sanity of the people of Canada voted not so much for the government as against the alternatives. In Quebec it was a vote against a group of irresponsible nationalists, and I was pleased as a matter of fact, to see the people of Quebec show their sanity and belief in the destiny of Canada to the extent which they did. In Welland constituency the vote was a vote against reaction and demagoguery, although I want to point out to the government that in that constituency the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation more than doubled its vote.

I come to York South, which has been mentioned by my hon. friend the member for Davenport (Mr. MacNicol). The leader of the Conservative party made the statement to the press that his defeat was due to a partnership between the dominion government and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. The Toronto Daily Star gives an analysis of the vote in that constituency, in which it says:

In York township, the working class section of the riding, the election was lost for the Conservatives and won for the C.C.F. Conservatives dropped from 12,067 to 7,669, a decrease nothing in any other part of the riding could offset. The C.C.F. polled 13,467 votes in York township.

The remarkable turnover from Conservative to C.C.F. was evident when the first polling subdivision results were known. They came from No. 9, which in 1940 gave Cockeram 218 and the C.C.F. 42. Yesterday's vote was 112 for Meighen and 141 for Noseworthy. This advantage was held throughout.

In other words, the York South by-election was a demonstration by the common people that they did not propose to have leadership foisted on them from above. But I warn the government that these by-elections do not mean that there is no discontent or dissatisfaction in the Dominion of Canada. They will make a great mistake it they are lulled into a sense of security because of their victories in these by-elections.

I would like to ask the house to examine some of the reasons for this agitated state of the public mind. First, there is a feeling that the government has been less than frank in discussing the production of war material. Always we are told of orders given or money spent, but these do not always mean weapons produced. The Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) said last fall that he could equip a division every six weeks. Did he mean that literally? That means equipping eight divisions a year. Yet in November last the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Ralston) said that perhaps one or two tanks from Canada had reached our troops in England.

To illustrate what I mean, let me refer to something which may be small, but it is indicative. The other evening, when the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green) was speaking, he said that at the coast men were equipped with United States Springfield rifles which could not be fired. The Minister of National Defence interrupted to say that they could be fired. Does the minister mean that? Surely the Minister of National Defence knows that these Springfield rifles are twenty-five years old and are marked with red paint to prevent any of our men from trying to fire them.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Will my hon. friend permit me? My hon. friend is absolutely misinformed. They are marked with that red paint because they are a different calibre to the Mark III rifles. We have Lee-Enfield rifles, many of which are twenty-five years old but are perfectly good.

520 COMMONS

The Address-Mr. Douglas (Weyburn)

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

I am coming to that. I will give the minister all the information if he wants it.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

The United States Springfield rifle, . which thousands of these men are carrying, takes a -300 cartridge, while our ammunition is -303; and since our men are not supplied with American -300 ammunition they cannot possibly fire those rifles.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

May I interrupt my hon. friend again. The government has a considerable supply of -300 ammunition in Canada.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

May I ask the minister if he has ever seen one of those rifles fired?

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LIB
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I can say that I fired one.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

The only man whom I ever saw try to fire one of them had a broken jaw when he was finished.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

That may be so, but that might also be true with a Lee-Enfield or a Ross.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Is that speaking as a German?

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

I am alarmed at the amount of cynicism and the sense of frustration which are present among some of our armed forces. They feel that we are just playing at war. For instance, last summer, when the Prime Minister came to visit Dundurn camp there were a number of reserve units there as well as active units- about 22,000 in all. The Prime Minister will remember that the men of the reserve units wore a heavy winter battle dress although the thermometer was close to 100 degrees in the shade. The reason was not far to seek: the men had no summer parade uniforms. He will remember that they did not carry rifles, because there were rifles for less than half the men. I had 139 men under my care and we were given thirty-six rifles, all American Spring-fields, and one Lewis machine gun which could not be fired-and that for only half of each day, another company requiring it for the remainder of the day.

Since the entrance of Japan into the war certain newspapers have intimated that the reserve army may assume a defensive role in protecting Canada. How many of the reserve units could be used in the event of an invasion on the Pacific coast? Most of them have no equipment. In the unit to which I am attached most of the men have had a maxi-

mum of six hours on the rifle range. They have never fired a Bren machine gun and have never seen, let alone fired, a trench mortar. Is this the army that is to play a defensive role "in the event of invasion"? Does the government wonder that the public are becoming somewhat sceptical of the rosy pictures which are constantly being painted?

The second factor which has undermined public confidence is the ill-fated Hong Kong expedition. I shall not review the facts already placed on the record by the Minister of National Defence, although the house has a right to expect some explanation as to why 138 to 148 men with less than sixteen weeks' training were sent overseas to meet seasoned enemy troops. Over one hundred officers and men from Saskatchewan units were transferred to the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Last year I lived in barracks with some of these men, and I know just how little training some of them had, and when the house committee is set up to investigate the matter I hope to have something to say about it. Five of the officers who went to Hong Kong are men with whom I had lived and worked for weeks. One expects to lose one's comrades in war time, but not through incompetence and negligence, and if there have been blunders we expect the government to see that the persons responsible are properly punished. May I say to the government that the Pearl Harbour incident was investigated, the report filed, and those responsible punished weeks ago and this government has not yet set up any body to carry on an investigation. There is a growing feeling across Canada that the government is merely stalling on this issue.

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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:

May I say just a word to my hon. friend with regard to the government "stalling on" the matter? As the house will recollect, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) suggested that there should be a parliamentary inquiry into this question. Being anxious to have hon. members assured that the government intended to proceed with an inquiry immediately, I accepted the proposal which my hon. friend made and assured him that an inquiry would be held. In replying to the leader of the opposition, I used the same language which he used in putting the question to me, that it would be a parliamentary inquiry, without restriction. I confess that I had no sooner made the reply I did than there came to my mind what had taken place with respect to the inquiry into Pearl Harbour, which was made, as my hon. friend knows, by a member of the Supreme Court of the United States with whom others were associated. I felt that the same reasons as to procedure which governed in the case of

The Address-Mr. Douglas (Weyburn)

the inquiry into the Pearl Harbour situation should govern in regard to the inquiry to be made into the situation at Hong Kong; and for that reason it seemed to me that an inquiry by a royal commission, with-if possible-a membe* of the judiciary at its head, would be a more appropriate way of proceeding.

Having come to that conclusion, I had a conference with the leader of the opposition, also with the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation group (Mr. Coldwell), and with the leader of the Social Credit group (Mr. Blackmore). I pointed out to them the different aspects of the situation to be considered in deciding as between an inquiry by a parliamentary committee and an inquiry by royal commission conducted by some member of the judiciary, and they agreed with me that, all circumstances considered, the latter course of procedure would be the preferable one.

I had then to ascertain whether I could secure for a commission of the kind some member of the judiciary who would be, I will not say persona grata to all persons, but so far as the country was concerned the one who in every way would represent the best possible choice that could be made.

I felt that no one, if his services could be obtained, would give the same sense of security, of impartiality and of wisdom, in a matter of the kind, as the chief justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Sir Lyman Duff. I had then to see the chief justice to ascertain whether or not his services could be obtained. Before the chief justice could give me an answer he had himself to review the situation with respect to his court and the arrangements it might be necessary to make for the time required for the inquiry. He finally said to me that in a matter of this kind, where it was the duty of everyone to do whatever he could to help in a crisis such as the world is faced with at the present time, no one should say no to any request that might be made of him by the government, and that he would be prepared to undertake the inquiry.

The chief justice has undertaken to conduct an inquiry under royal commission; in speaking to him, I said that the government would place no restriction whatever upon him with respect to the scope of the inquiry or any phase of it, and that he would be allowed to choose whomever he wished in the way of counsel, for secretarial staff and the like. In other words, I was assuring him that he would have entire freedom as regards the proceedings and the scope of the inquiry and that the government would not seek even to suggest the persons who might be associated with himself. It would be for him to name the personnel he might wish to have associated with him in the inquiry if he should undertake the task.

The chief justice has accepted and the government has before it at this moment my recommendation to1 the cabinet to have the chief justice appointed. I had hoped to be able to announce that the chief justice would act gnd that the order had been passed, and to table the reference this afternoon. However, some matters that turned up this morning have occupied my time unexpectedly and made that impossible. I hope to lay on the table of the house to-morrow the order which will have been passed meanwhile, and which will assign to the chief justice the duty of making this investigation.

I trust that will be a complete answer to my hon. friend.

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Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

With the indulgence of the hon. member for Weyburn (Mr. Douglas), may I add a word to what the Prime Minister has said?

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

I rise to a point of order. I do not think it is fair to interrupt the hon. gentleman.

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February 12, 1942