May 12, 1942

PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

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

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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.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Perhaps I should answer at

once the questions of the hon. members for Lambton West and Saskatoon City, so that these questions will not pile up.

First may I say that the air cadets are now to all intents and purposes part and parcel of the Royal Canadian Air Force. We have retained our connection with the air cadet league so that the league might function as a propaganda organization and, with the help of public-spirited citizens, arouse interest in the air cadets. To all intents and purposes we now supervise the work of the air cadet corps, because we consider it one of the most important fields for obtaining recruits in the future, particularly air crew recruits.

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LIB
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Yes-perhaps not entirely, but to a very considerable extent.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

And the

training?

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

We are giving them training, too. As a matter of fact that has caused another headache. We are taking them to some of our schools and the question naturally arises whether we will give the boys rides in aeroplanes. Well, if we have 7,000 cadets, as I expect we will have this summer, it would take a good many flying hours to take them up one by one. I suggested to some of our pilots that we might take five or

six at a time in big machines. But one of them said, "Would you like to have a lot of squalling brats crawding all over you in the machine?"-and I said no. As a matter of fact we would have difficulty obtaining permission from parents, and one thing and another; and I believe to take them up in aeroplanes would be too great a risk for us to take. However, all that is by the way.

Now with respect to commissions, I share the views of the hon. member for Lambton West. The situation is that when this air training scheme was inaugurated part of the plan was that 50 per cent of the pilots and observers should obtain commissions. The wireless air gunners were supposed only to become sergeants. It was also arranged that 33 per cent of these commissions were to be granted on graduation, in accordance with the marks attained by the pupil, as in any other school. The other 17 per cent were marked as recommended for promotion.

Well, these lads all went over. Many of them became attached to the Royal Air Force; some of them were in the middle east. We have many hundreds of our men in the middle east. As a matter of fact I have forgotten the figures, but we have a squadron of our own in the far east, and more than one in the middle east, in addition to many hundreds -perhaps thousands-who are connected with the Royal Air Force. The boy who is twenty-first on the list, the twenty preceding him having obtained commissions, may be away off somewhere in Syria. I am sure his commanding officer is not aware of the recommendations made by the commanding officer at Uplands, and I have always felt that that recommendation in many instances was of no value whatsoever. The records do follow the men, in theory; but I doubt if they do in practice.

We had a great deal of difficulty in getting commissions for the 17 per cent who were promised, as part of the plan. Commanding officers in fighter groups, fighter squadrons, bomber groups or bomber squadrons are not apt to worry very much whether Canada has obtained the full 50 per cent of commissions to which it was entitled under the plan. If an individual sergeant is serving in any part of the world his commanding officer may find him to be a good sergeant. But there may be other sergeants of the Royal Air Force who in the opinion of the commanding officer are more worthy of promotion. The officer is not particularly concerned whether Mr. Sergeant, Canadian, comes in under the 17 per cent which would bring the total up to 50 per cent. The result was that for many months we were not getting the quota to which we were

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entitled. One of the objects of my visit to Great Britain last year was to insist that somehow or other we be brought up at least to that 50 per cent. It took a long time, but I am glad to say that since December some 350 to 400 of our graduate sergeants have obtained commissions, to bring us up to the 17 per cent. These are rough figures; if required I could put the exact figure on Hansard. However we are away off the total number we should have at the present time.

One of the matters I took up at that time, and which I hope to take up in the forthcoming conference, is the advisability and the absolute justice of making every member of air crew an officer. We are bound at the present time by our undertakings under the joint air training plan. Possibly treasury control in Great Britain has something to do with it, because, as is well known, Great Britain contributes the pay and allowances of the men attached to Royal Air Force squadrons, with the exception that we bring the pay up to the Canadian rate. That means an addition of about one-third more. That may have had something to do with the reluctance of the British treasury to do anything further at the time the plan was inaugurated.

I read in British Hansard-and I believe this appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press-an account of a bomber returning from a raid over Germany. The pilot of the machine was a sergeant while the observer was an officer. They had been together for eighteen to twenty hours and had gone through a veritable hell of flak fire. When they returned the man who brought the machine home walked into the sergeant's mess and the fellow that he had carried home went into the officer's mess. As one labour member in the British house put it, one walked into the players' and the other walked into the gentlemen's room. There is neither rhyme nor reason or common sense about that.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

It is a hangover of ia past age.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

It may be a treasury matter, but so far as I am concerned it will not be a a treasury matter in Canada. It is one of the matters to be taken up at the forthcoming conference. May I say, in case I have given an unfavourable impression of the feeling of the high command in Great Britain, that I have spoken to some of the highest officers in the Royal Air Force and they are in entire agreement that every member of the air crew should be an officer. It might have been better if we had called them all ensigns or had adopted some kind of intermediate title indicating that they were not

tMr. Power.]

fully graduated as officers in the sense of having gone through an officers' course such as one has to undergo in the infantry or in the artillery. Except in certain instances, they are not taught to lead men. A man who is running his own machine, perhaps a single-seater fighter, may be the finest pilot in the world, but until he becomes a flight commander or squadron leader or wing commander he need not necessarily have the qualities of leadership which may be required in a man who leads, let us say, a platoon or a company of infantry. Nevertheless in a machine they all take the same risks. As the hon. member for Lambton West, has pointed' out, in many instances they left home as buddies, went through the same school, and because of a difference of one or two points, one has to be a gentleman and the other has to be a player. I can assure the committee that we will see that that is not done, if I can help it.

With respect to the many questions asked by the hon. member for Saskatoon City, I may say that of the $344,000,000 in the estimates, some will be required for the construction of additional accommodation. It seems to me that we are always building something or other. Even with the shift that we expect to make, the changing of certain areodromes and schools from one destination to another, this will be necessary. Certain elementary schools will disappear and be replaced by operational training schools. We are extending the scope of our training so that in many instances a man will be fully trained operationally on operational machines. Other schools will be doubled, and some will be tripled. But with all that, I do not visualize any extended programme of building or the establishment of new schools this year. It may be necessary to add two or three schools in order to balance the new set-up, but that I think will be mostly in the way of location of additional aerodromes this year. It must be understood that this refers only to the joint air training plan. We have located- one of the reasons for my recent trip to western Canada was this-a certain number of aerodromes on the Pacific coast and elsewhere in spots where they will be most useful for the defence of the coast. There will be new aerodrome construction on both east and west coasts for defence, but not for air training purposes.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Is consideration being given to the abandonment of other plans? I have heard some statement that perhaps Pennfield Ridge will be abandoned.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Perhaps I am not supposed to say so, but that school was used for astral navigation. In that part of the world they

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never seem to see the sun, so that we are using it for another purpose, one for which it is well fitted indeed. The climate there is somewhat similar to the climate in certain parts of the old country, and some of the work which has been carried on in the old country can be transferred to Pennfield Ridge.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I was not thinking of its being abandoned, I was thinking that some change might be contemplated. I hope the committee will not take the minister's statement too literally, that we never see the sun in the county of Charlotte.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

It was the stars I meant. The hon. member for Saskatoon City wanted to know what had become of our reserves. The reserve we have at the moment is probably not very large; I think about 1,000 men are on leave without pay to report at a certain date. We have a considerable number on what we call tarmac duty, which was formerly called guard duty, and on guard duty.

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PC
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

At the present time I would say that we probably have three or four months ahead of us. We also have a reserve of those who are undergoing youth training. I think I said there were 1,300 under youth training. Then we have those whose applications have been completed and others whose applications are incomplete. We anticipate no great difficulty in obtaining recruits, certainly for six months. Then based on last year's results a large number of boys will have matriculated from high school and will come in during the summer. Figuring on that, I think we are well away for the next year anyway.

With respect to the number of planes that we have, I believe I committed an indiscretion in stating the number which we should have for training. I am only too willing to renew it by saying we are so close to 6,000 now it is no fun. Spares will always be a problem. Only recently I was speaking to a friend of mine in the army who is closely connected with a munitions assignment in the United States. He tells me that there, as in Great Britain and as in Canada-perhaps it is better now-no matter what it is they wish to procure, whether it be tanks, trucks, guns or rifles, it is difficult to get the manufacturer to make spares. They all want to be able to say that they have turned out so many of such and such an article. I think our spare situation is easier than it was. We are still meeting with difficulties, but there is no chance of our being bogged down now as I felt there was over a year ago.

44561-149i

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PC
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

We are making more and more as time goes on. I was told a year ago that there were certain spares that could not possibly be made in this country. I was informed only a few days ago that they are being made, and made in reasonably large quantities.

With regard to our recruits from those in military camps who have been called up under the mobilization act, the Department of National Defence under an arrangement made a year or so ago, or at all events early in the war, permits us to recruit these men if they have not been with the army for more than two months. At the end of the two months the army says: You have had a chance to get these men for two months, and you have not taken them, so now let us carry on with them. After all, the army has been spending money od them, and it would not be fair for us to take them away from the army after that length of time. We have no arrangement at present for taking men out of the army :n Canada because it does cost the army a lot if money to train the men and it would hardly be fair to allow a man whom the army has trained for six months in some trade to change his mind and come over to us. But we have made arrangements with the Canadian forces overseas to take from the army a certain number who wish to. join the air force. Presumably they did not have the same opportunity of joining the air force in Canada early in the war, when it was almost impossible for many men to get into the air force. So that the men serving overseas with the army, if they so desire, have the opportunity of transferring to the air force.

With regard to pay and allowances of the missing, I was not in the house when my colleague the Minister of National Defence spoke of the different treatment between the army and the air force in regard to members of the forces who are missing, and I use the word "missing" advisedly because they must be declared missing. Furthermore, I do not know of anyone in the army who has been declared "missing" as yet.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

They have not yet got to that stage.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

No. I will say this. The British government have the same system as we follow in the air force whereby almost immediately, or at least at the end of the current month, members of the forces who are missing are listed as missing even before they are listed as presumed dead. In our own case, in the air force, I have here a memoran-

War Appropriation-Air Services

dum from the dependents' allowance board which I took the trouble to get-the hon. member for Davenport had asked the question, which I looked up in Hansard, and the ruling of the dependents' allowance board applies to both the army and the air force. Their memorandum is as follows:

When a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force is reported as missing the following procedure is carried out in regard to his pay and dependents' allowance.

(X) Any assigned pay, or assigned pay and dependents' allowance which is in payment is continued to the end of the month in which the casualty is reported and then ceases as such.

(2) From the end of this month the dependents' allowance board immediately institutes a special temporary allowance to the dependent in an amount not greater than the amount to which the dependent would be entitled as pension if the man were reported as dead. This allowance continues until the fate of the man is definitely decided.

(3) If the man is reported alive, either as prisoner-of-war interned in a neutral country, or having returned to duty, service pay and dependents' allowance is reinstated retroactively over the period during which he was reported as missing.

(4) If the man is officially reported as dead pension ruling is immediately given by the pension commission. Arrangements are made so that the allowance paid by the dependents' allowance board ceases as soon as pension is in payment.

(5) Where assigned pay only, and no dependents' allowance is in payment it is considered prima facie evidence that the recipient of the assigned pay is not dependent on the man and the payment of the assigned pay therefore ceases at the end of th'e month in which the casualty is reported.

(6) Members of the Royal Canadian Air l'orce who are reported as casualties while serving with the Royal Air Force receive the same treatment, and at the same rates as if they were serving with their own force.

That is the situation with respect to the missing, and from my information. I would say that it applies as well to the. army as to the air force. The situation is this. Hardships may arise, depending on the amount of pay which the man assigns. Let us say that the wife of a pilot or sergeant receives a dependents' allowance of $40 a month-I do not know the exact figure, I think it is $35; but for the sake of illustration we will say $40.-and that the pilot assigns $40 more to her. That makes a total of $80 a month. If he is posted as missing, at the end of the month his wife receives $60 a month, which is the maximum she would receive by way of pension, and of course she loses his assigned pay. So that there is a difference of $20 between the $60 a month she receives when he is missing and the $80 a month she was formerly receiving. The reason for that-I am speaking subject to

the information I received from the dependents' allowance board-is that the board does not want to pile up against the man's wife, in case he should afterwards be declared dead, $20 or $30 or $40 more a month than she would be entitled to by way of pension.

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PC
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Associate Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Air; Minister of National Defence for Air and Associate Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

But the crown would have no right to pay the salary and allowance of a man who was dead, to be quite frank about it. If a man were not posted as missing but was known to be dead, his dependent would go on pension and the presumption of death, I take it, would be retroactive. That would be my interpretation of the regulations after many years of playing around with pension law and regulations in that regard. I know that that is done by the dependents' allowance board, and I would think it the logical if not the sympathetic way of interpreting the regulations. I know it may strike the members of the committee as not being the right thing to do, but I do not know what else could be done unless the house were to vote a certain sum of money to be allocated to dependents of the missing until such time as they were presumed dead.

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May 12, 1942