In that connection the minister mentioned last year that he was very much in favour of what he called "combing the mane to sharpen the tooth," I think borrowing an expression used by Mr. Churchill-in other words obtaining recruits from the active army. Is there any question of canvassing the active army, to determine whether or not there are men in it who are particularly qualified to become pilots, gunners, and so on, and who would be of more value to Canada's war effort if they were trained as such? In that connection I can understand that the minister might come in conflict with the Minister of National Defence, who naturally would not want to lose any men from the army. But I
suggest that there are in the air force a great many men who enlisted for general duty. The minister mentioned that some of those men were being reclassified, but there must be a great many of them who are not qualified to become pilots or air crew, but who at the same time are physically fit and who could go on active service. I suggest to the minister that he might consider taking up with his colleague the Minister of National Defence the possibility of working out some system under which these general duty men could be transferred to the army, and men taken from the army who could be trained to become air crew. After all, I take it that maintaining a sufficient number of recruits for air crew is the most important part of the whole plan, because if you have not the men the plan becomes completely useless. I should think the minister could replace a great many of these general duty men-and I understand this is being done to a certain extent-with medically unfit men, ex-service men perhaps, and particularly with the new branch which has been set up, the women's branch of the air force. As I understand it, that was the original purpose in setting up this women's division, and perhaps the minister would give us some idea of the extent to which these women are replacing men in the air force and permitting them to be transferred to more active theatres of war.
I should like to offer a suggestion to the minister with regard to a matter which has been brought up on several occasions during the discussion of this war appropriation bill, with particular reference to the army and navy. It has to do with the question of the pay and allowances of men in the air force, particularly with respect to the fact that a distinction is made between the air force and the army in the case of men who are missing. So far as the air force is concerned, the dependents' allowance is cut off at the end of the month during which the man is reported missing, whereas in the army the pay and allowances are continued for a longer period of time. The other day the Minister of National Defence told us that in the army, pay and allowances are continued until the man is either presumed dead or it is definitely established that he is dead.
So far as the air force is concerned my information, which I have reason to believe is accurate, is that if a man is reported as missing in- the middle of the month his pay is computed until the end of the month and sent to his wife. Thereafter however she is immediately put on straight pension, and her income is consequently immediately reduced to the 160 a month provided for the
War Appropriation-Air Services
wives of those up to and including the rank of flying officer. It seems to me that that is a discrimination which the minister should take in hand and remove. The wife of a man reported missing suffers a terrific shock, and she is at the same time faced with considerable financial difficulty, particularly if her income is immediately cut down. I have known it to be cut down by as much as $25 or $30 a month. I have known of children being born to wives of men overseas after their husbands were reported missing. The fact that their income is cut down during that time makes it very difficult for them to carry on and pay the cost involved in the birth of a child, as well as meet other obligations they may have entered into.
In view of the hardships thus being suffered by the wives of these men, I suggest that the minister consider this matter, and very soon, in order to rectify what I believe to be a discrimination. I am not the first hon. member to bring this matter before the committee. It has been raised on several occasions before. I commend it to the minister's most serious attention.