February 29, 1944

LIB
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

It is not the same thing; I am not blaming the minister for it; but I am informing the committee of the many reasons I have to say that there were political strings; and even if the minister canonizes them I will so express myself.

Topic:   M.D. No. 7
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Is the hon. member charging that the medical board at Quebec is bossed by some young lady?

Topic:   M.D. No. 7
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

No, I did not say that. And I am not talking of flirtations, but of office routine.

Topic:   M.D. No. 7
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

The hon. member cannot laugh that off. I want to know whether or not he is charging the medical board in Quebec with being bossed by a certain young lady, of whom I have never heard at all? It is gross calumny, if he is suggesting any such thing.

Topic:   M.D. No. 7
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Once again the minister does not understand what I say, or know that the person is secretary to one of the members of the mobilization board in Quebec. There is no love affair between them. It is not that I insinuated, at all.

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LIB
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

If no one suggested it, so much the better. But what I say is that when we have a man in charge, he should be running the business, and the business should not be run by a secretary.

Topic:   M.D. No. 7
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Does the hon. member charge that the medical officer is run by his secretary?

Topic:   M.D. No. 7
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LIB
LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Then I suggest to the hon. member he should stick to the item, instead of talking of national selective service.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

I told the minister five minutes ago I was not speaking of his department, but by way of comparison.

War Appropriation-Army

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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Order; surely we cannot have a discussion of that matter before the committee. If so, we shall never finish.

At six o'clock the committee took recess.

After Recess

The committee resumed at eight o'clock.

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NAT

Herbert Alexander Bruce

National Government

Mr. BRUCE:

I have a certain amount of

sympathy for the minister who has been under questioning for so long, and) I would not intervene at this moment except to clear up if possible, the confusion which seems to exist in the minds of many people, even among members of this house, as to the real situation in regard to our armed forces, their dispositions, and the available reinforcements which will be very much needed as soon as we open a western front.

There has been a certain amount of discrepancy between the figures given out by the minister and by the wartime information board. The minister stated in September last that the intake of the draft boards between January 1 and) September 30, 1943, totalled 30,796. But according to the wartime information board's release, the total number of men obtained during that period by conscription was only 17,264, or 13,332 short of the minister's claim.

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LIB
NAT

Herbert Alexander Bruce

National Government

Mr. BRUCE:

I have the statement made

by the minister in September, 1943, and those were his figures. In other words, only about fifty-seven per cent of the number claimed by the minister were taken in by draft. I have a good many other figures here -which show a similar discrepancy, but I dio not intend to take up the time of the committee in referring to them because they will be found in the records of Hansard and the press.

I was under the impression that, to maintain an army overseas, eight divisions will be necessary. I think three divisions have already been broken up. Have the men so released been used as reinforcements overseas?

The minister stated a little time ago that there was a shortage of tradesmen in the army. If this is so, does it not stem back to the shortage of man-power? If there were sufficient man-power it would not be difficult to train tradesmen.

The idea of Canada being able to create and maintain an army overseas without conscription will prove to be a fantasy. It is difficult to understand how a government which would

not countenance conscription would make commitments which it should have known it could not fulfil without conscription.

The situation briefly would1 seem to be that many of these young fit men called up under the N.R.M.A.-and I understood the minister to say last night that there were 73,000 of them in Canada-are holding non-active jobs which could equally well be filled by returned men now being boarded out. I wonder why the minister does not use these returned men to replace the fit ones now holding non-active jobs, and send the latter overseas where they will soon be needed urgently for reinforcements.

Again I would ask, what about the men who are being freed from industry? I understand that these men are under call, and therefore that is another source for reinforcements for overseas.

The minister stated the other evening that if the time arrives when it will be necessary to bring into force the conscription act by removing its restricting clauses, he would do so. I would ask him if he thinks he is justified in waiting until reinforcements are urgently needed before taking the preliminary steps to make it possible to secure them. It does not require expert army staff officers to tell us that an assault against a highly fortified position such as our troops will have to face on the western front, a position prepared over a period of three years by a resourceful enemy and fortified, I understand, for many miles in depth, will be very costly in casualties. Have we not had sufficient information of the cost in casualties that our troops have already experienced at Dieppe, at Salerno and at the present moment are experiencing at the Anzio bridgehead. Surely, therefore, we should realize what will happen when the second front is opened in western Europe. An officer of experience told me recently that in his opinion the casualties within the first two weeks of the opening of the second front will amount to fifty per cent of those engaged, and that within another two weeks the rest of our troops might have to be replaced. This would necessitate a very large number of reinforcements being available in a position from which they could easily get to the front.

I asked the hon. minister the other evening if he thought he had sufficient reinforcements in the pool in England to take care of the situation. I ask him again if, after further consideration, he thinks that reinforcement pool will be amply sufficient. If not, will it not be imperatively necessary to take steps at the earliest possible moment to have the

War Appropriation-Army

restricting clauses in the National Resources Mobilization Act removed so that this idle draftee army of some 73,000 men may be available for reinforcements overseas. It has been estimated that these men are costing the country $2,000 a year each, which would mean a total of $146,000,000. I presume that is a fair estimate. I believe that the minister will be recreant to the trust that is now reposed in him if he does not take immediate steps to provide the necessary reinforcements by the only possible method, the one to which I have just referred.

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LIB
NAT

Herbert Alexander Bruce

National Government

Mr. BRUCE:

We already have a conscription act on the statute books. I am favouring the removal of the ham-stringing clauses of that act.

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LIB
?

Frederick Clayton Casselman

Mr. CASSELMAN:

Where does the hon. member stand?

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February 29, 1944