March 2, 1944

PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

I appreciate that. Nevertheless, interested as he is in the welfare of those who serve and no one has exhibited a greater interest-I am sure the Minister of National Defence for Air would welcome a discussion of this subject so vitally in need of consideration at the present time.

With reference particularly to the minister's department, I should like to secure from him a statement respecting elementary flying training schools, and whether it is the intention of the government to continue that system. Will he tell the committee whether any changes ave taken place in the past year with respect to the administration of the elementary flying training schools, and the matter of profits now being received by civilian shareholders and, generally, make a statement as to whether or not the present system will be continued after the war?

While the minister says that the matter of rehabilitation does not come strictly within his department, may I point out that I have received complaints from two or three young men, sergeant-pilots who have been invalided

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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:

Then they must have changed the Pension Act since I had anything to do with it.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

I mention the matter because it has been raised on two or three occasions.

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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:

I had something to do with the phrasing of the original section in the act, and I know that formerly it read that a pension would be paid on the rank or acting rank held by the applicant at the time the disability occurred. However, that may have been changed since I had anything to do with it.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

That is perfectly true; these men raise the objection that that is not being carried out.

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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:

If my hon. friend will give me the names I shall pass them on to the Minister of Pensions and National Health.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

Perhaps the Minister of Pensions and National Health will answer now?

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LIB

Gordon Benjamin Isnor

Liberal

Mr. ISNOR:

Before asking the minister to answer some questions I intend to ask, may I join with other hon. members who have paid tribute to him for his thorough and informative presentation of the activities of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He and those associated with him in the administration of his department have been paid high compliments.

Coming from Halifax on the Atlantic coast, and meeting large numbers of the personnel of the air force, instead of giving all credit to the minister and those associated with him in Ottawa may I pay tribute to those in charge of the eastern air command on the Atlantic coast. I include not only the officers, but also men of all ranks who comprise such units as

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the eastern air command, eastern passage, Y depot and other units stationed along the east coast. We in Halifax appreciate the splendid conduct of the men carrying out their duties on our sea coast.

Would the minister advise the committee as to why it is necessary to transfer Y-l depot from Halifax to Lachine, Quebec? I realize that there is a shortage of housing accommodation in Halifax. I understand that the reason given was that it was found necessary to provide quarters for the navy. However,

I am somewhat doubtful whether the desired results were brought about by the transfer, and I am concerned as to whether the good accomplished equalled the inconvenience and loss to the R.C.A.F., as far as the quartering of men is concerned. The Y depot was an embarkation depot. Men were sent from all parts of Canada to Halifax so as to be ready, on short notice, to go aboard ships and sail overseas. I understand that many of these men are now being sent overseas through United States ports. If such is the case, I should like to know if the transportation facilities provided by those ports are as efficient as those provided under the former arrangement. Perhaps the minister can tell me if there is any truth in this. A most efficient organization, known as No. 1 posttransit unit, was set up, and the movement of R.C.A.F. personnel has been looked after in a most efficient way.

The hon. member for Cape Breton South referred to the lack of planning to take care of the members of the R.C.A.F. and other services on demobilization. I do not know whether the hon. member intended to, but he implied that in so far as the R.C.A.F. was concerned no steps were being taken to take care of its men when demobilized. If there is one branch of our defence services which has planned for rehabilitation, it is the R.C.A.F. It has what is known as an auxiliary service, which in turn has created service counsellors. These men have gathered something like 40,000 men together, and they are being given instruction in various trades in order to fit themselves for jobs when they are demobilized and enter civil life. I mention this to offset any misunderstanding which may be created by what has been said by the hon. member. It may not have been his intention to create any such impression, but so often members of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation are ready to sow seeds of dissatisfaction and discontent. That does not help the government or the country in efforts to plan successfully for post-war needs.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. GILLIS:

We admit that the R.C.A.F. are doing what they can to fit their men for jobs when they leave the service, but can my hon. friend tell me where they are to get those jobs? That is what I had in mind.

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LIB

Gordon Benjamin Isnor

Liberal

Mr. ISNOR:

Statements such as that create a feeling of distress in the minds of the men now in the service; that is what happens when they feel that no plans are being made to take care of them. I am hopeful, and I think the hon. member for Cape Breton South is hopeful, that every one of these men will be taken care of. As I say, elaborate plans are under way to provide jobs or places for them in our social economy, and this applies to men in all branches of the service. I should like the minister to advise us more fully as to what studies are being carried on and what instructions are being given to teach men various trades in order to fit them into civil life after they are demobilized. Perhaps the minister could tell us also what cooperation there is between his particular branch and the other two branches of the armed service, the navy and the army.

I have received a letter in connection with transatlantic and middle east airmail service.

I do not know whether the statement made by the Postmaster General the other evening covers this matter, but apparently it did not satisfy this particular person who feels that the airmail service to R.C.A.F. overseas personnel is not as quick as it should be. I desire to join with other hon. members in offering my congratulations to the minister upon the able manner in which he has administered his department. I believe he will be able to answer to my satisfaction and to that of the hon. member for Cape Breton South any questions we may have as to plans that are under way to provide instruction to these men so that they may take their rightful places in our social economy at the end of the war.

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PC

Joseph Henry Harris

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HARRIS (Danforth):

In common with other hon. members of this committee I appreciate the manner in which the minister has handled the many difficult problems of his department. However, as kindly as I can I must say to the minister that the Canadian people have not received from him the type of statement which would engender confidence in their minds as well as in the minds of our forces overseas. As I listened to the statements being made, I could not help contrasting what we get in this chamber and what emanates from the Prime Minister of Great Britain in that chamber which is so close to the scene of action.

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I appreciate what the minister and his department are doing; but when he replies to the many suggestions which have been made I should like him to give us a few minutes of inspiration or guidance in order to lift the Canadian people out of a frame of mind into which they are slipping, namely, apathy, complacency and perhaps the thought that the war is won already when, in my opinion, we are a long way from winning the war. Many lives will be saved and less blood will be shed if we pursue the conduct of this war with more industry and diligence and attention instead of giving a major portion of our attention to worthwhile things such as rehabilitation, reconstruction and other matters which are so necessary. It is true that they have their place, but while this war is on let us prosecute it to the limit.

Let us have a few more. Churchillian statements emanating from the minister who is to-day charged with the responsibility of one of the most important departments of war. He is able to do this, and by doing it he would inspire our own people and in turn inspire the boys who are serving us so valiantly. Abroad is the statement that recruiting has slackened down. That may give a little comfort here and there to our people, but the measure of comfort it will give to the enemy is, to my mind, a serious matter. I would not for a moment admit that we are slackening in any phase of our war effort. I would say that we are pursuing it more rigorously than we ever pursued it before, and that by so doing we shall reach victory that much more quickly than by any other means. Nothing will strike the fear of God into the hearts of the enemy more than-the old fashioned term of "an allout war eff^|" is perhaps the best term we can use-a vigorous prosecution of our effort. Let there be no complacency, no apathy, no slackening of our recruiting, no less money spent on our war effort, but more and more, everything we can give to get this job over as ' quickly as possible. That is the policy on which I should like the minister to dilate when he comes to answer the questions which have been brought forward. We all admire his disarming methods when he introduces his estimates. We all admire the tact, the skill, the judgment with which he handles himself m this chamber. So much, so good.

But there is a war on; let us realize that. We are now in the south part of Italy, up on a beach-head. Let us search our hearts and seriously ponder what measure of success we have really had. A letter to which I am now replying said a few short weeks ago, "We will be in Rome in two weeks". We are not in Rome yet. God forbid that we should have (Mr. J. H. Harris.]

another Dunkirk beach-head. We are certain there will not be another Dunkirk there. But a policy which spends the time of 245 men in this chamber and engages the attention of 11,000,000 people at this time on reconstruction and rehabilitation and all these issues which we are capable of taking care of in due course, is not the kind of thing which should now engage our attention. And I ask the minister, when he makes his reply and deals with this most important section of our war effort, to give us not only something which we can cheer for but something which will inspire us to do what we, the Canadian people, represented in twenty-five per cent of the air force, are willing to do on behalf of the allied nations to bring this war to a conclusion much more rapidly than it is being brought to a conclusion now. I entreat the Minister of Pensions and National Health, with whom the minister for air is now conferring, and who knows, from experience with citizens in Canada who are charged with responsibility of trying to do something for the rehabilitation of those who are brought back to us, in reconstruction, and in all these other matters, to recognize that the Canadian people will rise on the proper day in their might and look after these problems. In the meantime, however, I ask the cabinet, and particularly the minister who now has the floor, to address themselves to a problem from which I cannot shake myself free, namely, that we have not won this war and must give attention to its prosecution. Let them say things in this chamber which will echo across the civilized world, assuring the other nations that we, the virile Canadian people, are going "all out" to finish this job first, and that we may be depended upon to look after these other matters when the time comes.

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LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch

Liberal

Mr. MUTCH:

If I have a word or two to address to the minister to-night, I would) first wish to say that we who know something of his organizing ability and his humanity believe that if he will continue to devote his attention to ^ his duties rather than compete with the Prime Minister of Great Britain with respect to oratory, as far as the services are concerned we shall feel just as comfortable.

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NAT

Gordon Knapman Fraser

National Government

Mr. FRASER (Peterborough West):

That is a wonderful statement!

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LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch

Liberal

Mr. MUTCH:

A sensible one, I think.

That does not necessarily make it unique in this company. I am concerned to point out to the committee, and to the minister, that if the air force is showing a slackening in expenditures, or if there may be, or may have been, suggestions that there is some lessening of recruitment because they have now reached their general level and are thinking in terms

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of replacements, this does not necessarily mean that either the youth of Canada or the government of Canada are slackening in their war effort.

All of us hope and some apparently believe that we are at least within two years of the end of the war. If so, I should like to suggest to the minister that it is important to consider, when a young man offers himself for service at this time, where he is most likely to be useful. If, as has been said, a man entering aircrew at the present time cannot hope to be ready for action in service before two years, then there are other branches of the service where he can be made effective in a very much shorter time, half that time, at any rate, and, under circumstances which might easily prevail, very much less.

There is danger in pointing to the size^ of an estimate or the position of enlistments in one branch of the service as though it indicated a slackening of the war effort of the people. I have seen something across this country and abroad, of the war effort of the people of Canada, and it ill becomes anyone in this chamber to suggest there is any slackening off because of such adjustments. The other branches of the service have suffered to some extent in personnel because it has been a matter of policy to encourage many of the very best youth of this country to go into one of the most difficult and courageous tasks there is. If at the present time or if at any time in the future the minister anticipates a period when his reserves are likely to exceed what he requires without what one might call a "scraping the barrel," the other services will be glad to have the services of those people and to avail themselves of their desire to serve.

I had an opportunity of spending a few days with some of the Canadians in the Royal Canadian Air Force who are flying and fighting in the British isles. There is no reason, other than admiration, why I should pay any particular compliment to them, except that, coming from another branch of the service, it has a note of sincerity and may have the merit of being a little unusual. All the time I was away I never ceased to be proud that I was a Canadian. I do not think I ever felt prouder of it than when I spent a few days with a bomber squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force and saw the boys who are nightly doing the fighting, and realized the way they are regarded by the people of England. I do not think these boys will feel that they are being let down if the minister continues to support them with organization, with reinforcements and with supplies and leaves to others the oratorical effort.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

The minister spent some time in discussing the matter of rehabilitation, and I wish to say a few words in connection with one particular phase which I believe should receive more careful consideration than any other. It is true that our men of the aircrew who will be returning to civilian life will be faced with many difficult problems, and the minister and his colleague, the Minister of Pensions and National Health, will find that these problems will not be easy of solution. There are, however, a number of these young men who will be returning from the prison camps of Germany after peace has come, and who will be a much more difficult problem than those returning from active aircrew service. After all they will have spent two or three or four years in German camps, during which time they will not have been leading an active life, and they will have been almost completely out of contact with the world. They will, therefore, have developed an outlook on life which will tend to prevent them from making ready adjustments on their return. Those who have studied the position ' that ensued after the last war realize that these men will be particularly sensitive and will have to be carefully and delicately handled when they return. I suggest, therefore, that their position should receive special consideration and the attention of the best experts, psychologists, and psychiatrists who can be found in the country.

On the point of prisoners of war, I would also request that the strong support of the minister be given in an endeavour to see that the number of next-of-kin parcels for overseas is increased. I know that a limit was imposed owing to transportation difficulties, but that limit was imposed during the days when the battle of the Atlantic had been by no means won, when shipping losses were great, and when the means of sending parcels overseas were greatly restricted. Conditions are now improved so far as that phase is concerned, and this is one of the first things we should do with the extra transport facilities available, because it is a well known fact, not only from messages received from overseas but from information gathered from men who have been repatriated from prison camps, that the thing that is keeping our boys alive in those camps to-day and preventing them from suffering from bad nutritional deficiencies, is the receipt of Red Cross and next-of-kin parcels. That point, therefore, should receive far greater attention than it is receiving at the present time.

May I say a brief word about the matter of cutting down of training camps. The minister did not volunteer any information, at least

War Appropriation-Air Services

I did not notice any, as to why recruiting is being cut down. I noticed in the press that they are going to establish a new level of training. According to the Canadian Press of February 26 it was stated that the intake of aircrew had been temporarily slowed down but would shortly be reestablished at a new level. The minister should give more information in that regard. He should give us some indication as to the reasons why these training centres are being cut out; and if it is not transgressing on security policy, some indication should be given of the speed with which they will be closed.

In that connection, I make this suggestion to the minister. He gave some reasons on February 29 as to the factors that will be considered in the cutting down of schools. There is one factor which I would impress upon him, and it is one to which I referred the other day. I have been endeavouring in my own way to impress it on the ministry ever since I came here. More attention should be given the question of congestion. The point was raised in the house yesterday by the hon. member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson), that in Ottawa there was no room for fifty aircrew who are here for the purpose of being trained, and that the conditions under which they are living are not satisfactory. Surely a city like Ottawa is the first place that should be cut out from the point of view of air training stations, because there are less congested areas particularly in the province from which I come.

Probably the minister will bear me out that it is one of the best provinces as far as the training of aircrew is concerned. They have ample space for flying, little difficulty as regards fog; there are no mountains in the way, and in addition to that we are in a position to accommodate aircrew better than some centres which are congested, such as Ottawa. I know it is easy to say these things, but it is a little difficult to impress this upon people in this part of Canada-and I do not say this in order to make any reflection. The attitude of mind I have run into, however, is this. Most of the permanent air force have lived here the greater part of their lives. They have lived in this part of the country; they have spent their time in Ottawa and in various large centres in the middle section of Canada, and they have not been in Saskatchewan or Alberta.

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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:

High River, Alberta, was one of the original stations for the permanent air force and I understand it was a very good one.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

I am talking about the people who are guiding policy. Most of them come from this part of the country, and naturally they think of this part of the country when it comes to establishing stations. Let me give an example. I was discussing the matter with a friend of mine from western Canada. He is in the air force, and he was listening in on a conversation that had to do with the establishment of a place for storage in connection with the air force. The people who had the say canvassed the situation, and they said there was no room in Ottawa but they might try Windsor, Hamilton, Montreal or some other places. This man said to them, "Did you ever think there are places in the prairies?" It did not occur to these particular individuals to go that far.

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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:

You do not make enough noise, you people from the west.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

We are finding that it is necessary to bring these things to the attention of the house, and they are quite reasonable. I am going to keep plugging away at it until I get some satisfaction.

There is one point on which I think the committee and the country are entitled to a little more information in connection with the policy of the air force. It was recently announced that a number of high ranking air force officers were being retired. The minister referred to the matter the other day. Although I have no accurate information on the point, I believe that the ones being retired are practically all permanent air force men, and the impression was given the committee the other day that they are being retired because they are getting on in years and that they will be replaced by younger men. I would be the last to object to a policy of giving younger men an opportunity, but the information I have is that these men have been raised rapidly in rank in the last few years; that before they are retired they are advanced another rank, and that this has its influence on their pension. Many of them are being retired on a fairly substantial pension and some are as young as forty-eight and forty-nine. It seems to me that if they are available; if they are healthy and have the mental capacity and ability which enabled them to rise to the position they now occupy, they should not be retired on such pensions at this time when we need the services of all the trained men we have in the country. We simply cannot allow men of ability and men with their health and training to be retired at this particular time. I raise that point for

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the minister's consideration, and I think that he should give us some information as to the number-I do not want particulars about individuals-of those men who have been retired and some idea of the ranks they hold, some idea of their capacity, their health, and an indication as to the amount of pensions they will be receiving in their respective ranks.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

Most of the members of the committee have commended the minister for his very fine speech and commented on his happy facility of getting estimates through the committee.

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March 2, 1944