August 12, 1944


Reinjorcements are physically fit and deemed likely to make efficient combat soldiers. This is a first priority and it is being dealt with as such. The standard of training will be brought to the high level we insisted on in England. There are a considerable number of men in the N.R.M.A. whose physical fitness is below the standard required for first-line combatant duties but who are, in all other respects, capable of rendering useful service in the field, in base installations, on the line of communications and in the forward area behind the battle fronts. In the British Army these men are grouped into the corps of pioneers to act as a reserve of labour for the engineers for the construction of roads and railways and aerodromes and field fortifications and similar works; to man the base depots, to load the supplies of food and ammunition; to help in the repair establishments and generally to do unskilled labour wherever required to set free the combat troops from these ancillary tasks. Canadian employment companies are also being organized. The military side of this training is not extensive. It is from this employment corps that we propose to discharge any requirements for help on works of national importance to the prosecution of the war which we are required to- undertake. In this arrangement you will, I know, agree that two safeguards are very necessary. The first that the tasks requested are really of national importance; the second that by undertaking to do them with our employment companies we are not depriving anyone in Canada of gainful employment they otherwise would have. I am in no position in the defence department to give the consideration which is required to the application of these important safeguards to tasks other than those which are carried out under the defence department for strictly military purposes, and so we are asking the Minister of Reconstruction to undertake the first responsibility, and the Minister of Labour the second. Until we have certificates from these departments, the work will not be undertaken. These certificates may be revoked at any time by the ministers concerned to meet the changing requirements and conditions and to open opportunities for gainful employment to men outside the N.R.M.A. as they may become available. Since we must hold a considerable number of men in the N.R.M.A. in order to ensure that men returning from overseas shall have first claim on remunerative employment, I intend to give the men who are retained in the employment companies useful work to do which will be of benefit in their training and which will make a considerable contribution to our war effort. It is perhaps needless to repeat that only the pay and allowances provided for in military regulations will be allowed, and leave will not be on any more generous scale than is given our troops overseas. There are a number of other categories of men in the N.R.M.A. who are neither suitable for combat units nor for the employment companies. I refer to those who have become physically unfit, and these I propose should be considered individually and that those who are below the category for military duty should be discharged. There are others in the lower physical categories who, by reason of their technical or other qualifications, should be placed in industry to aid in this great effort which is required. These we propose to place in a reserve, which can be released from military duties subject to recall. I have dealt with the N.R.M.A. in some considerable detail because it presents a problem of great difficulty which cannot be resolved by any single measure. Now may I return to the great question which brings anxiety to all of us to-day. I mean the provision of the additional reinforcements required to ensure the effective support of our units and formations overseas in the field and to give them the reserves which they will need to carry forward the great battles which lie ahead. It is absolutely necessary to the confidence of our fighting forces in the European theatres that there be a substantial reserve of reinforcements made available overseas. The absence of such a reserve might mean casualties that would not otherwise be incurred. The lives of our men in the fighting lines must be guarded in every way that is dependent upon action which can be taken from here. The numbers required to make up the reserve that is necessary are larger than could be provided in time by the volunteer conversion of trained and fit personnel of our N.R.M.A. men to general service. I have said that except for some 16,000 men we are able to meet all requirements from men who have come forward voluntarily. I have said that it is our purpose to maintain the voluntary system to the limit. I have stated that 5.000 additional trained infantry must be available early in December to safeguard the position at the end of January; that another 5,000 must be found in January, and some 6.000 in the succeeding months. I have brought these facts before my colleagues in the cabinet. An order in council Reinforcements



has been passed extending the service of this number of men to the European theatres of operations. This power will be used only to the extent necessary to make up the numbers of reinforcements required. Mr. Speaker, in closing I would just like to express my appreciation to my predecessor in office. He left me the most of his personal staff, without whose loyal aid I could not possibly have carried through the tasks and duties of these last three weeks. I am deeply obliged to him and to them for all that they have done to serve the public interest in this matter. Mr. Speaker, I have taken the situation as I found it. I have tried with all my strength to work forward from there. I hope I am in some measure making some contribution to the purpose we all must serve-the effective support of our army overseas in the great task they still must do to discharge our just part in bringing the war in Europe to a successful conclusion, and to safeguard the peace which follows. If we enter this new era united, we will be strong and we have all that is required to carry the happiness and welfare of our people to heights as yet undreamed.


NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

I take it that we are to be confined as much as possible to questioning the Minister of National Defence. Out of deference to a great Canadian I think I should indicate to Your Honour that I should make way for the hon. gentleman who represents the constituency of Prince in Prince Edward Island. I think this deference is due him in view of the importance of the matter and in view of the fact that at this time party lines and all divisions of opinion in the House of Commons are down. Therefore I am ready to give way to the hon. member for Prince.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

There is quite a bit of information that General McNaughton could give, and it seemed to me that it might be regarded as bordering on the territory of security. As I have been listening to him it occurred to me that possibly the way to deal with any matters in connection with the information desired is, if there is to be a secret session or a hearing to deal with this matter, to decide there and then-

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Would the hon. member speak a little louder?

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I am sorry. I have not yet made up my mind, but it occurred to me that possibly it might be more useful to the house and to the public if any information which is desired and which borders on the line

of security could be elicited from General McNaughton with the galleries clear, and then such information as could be made public would be published.

I am obliged to my hon. friend for suggesting that I should be given the right of way; but I am not here as the public interrogator of this house. I am the humble member for Prince, and I know a little about the things about which General McNaughton has been talking. There is little difference between him and me. The only difference as I understand it, is that the general said there was a difference between us respecting policies. I think he rather attributed to me the policy of conscription for conscription's sake or conscription whether necessary or not. My policy has always been, and it has been frequently announced in this house, conscription when necessary, and I was following that policy when I made the recommendation I did which was not accepted by the government. I hope that the general will accept that correction, because there is no difference between him and me so far as the matter of policy is concerned. I understand his policy to be the same, that is to say, conscription when necessary.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

He has changed like the rest of them.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

You will have to eat crow like the rest.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I will have to ask the minister to take the responsibility for warning

us if there is any matter of security connected with the questions I ask. There are only two or three questions that occur to me. I have, not a copy of his statement. I found it a little difficult to hear him. I was interested in something that he did not give, but perhaps he will regard it as a matter of security. I refer to the size of the pools that he proposed to maintain in the Mediterranean area, in the northwest European area and in the United Kingdom; that is to say, the target which he sets as a pool which should be maintained there in the two battle areas directly behind the troops. Could he give us that information? He has given us numbers and has indicated that reinforcement pools are very necessary. Perhaps he could indicate the size of them in view of the fact that he has mentioned sixteen thousand altogether.

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Alan Aylesworth Macnaughton

Mr. McNAUGHTON:

In answer to that question I would say that it would not be possible to give the information requested in open session.

Reinforcements

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Why not?

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?

Alan Aylesworth Macnaughton

Mr. McNAUGHTON:

The reason is that

to be intelligible it would have to be broken down in such a way as to disclose the weeks of intense and other forms of activity. Since the period is not a very' long one it might give indication of intention.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I wonder if that is quite the situation? I understand that when one is estimating casualties one estimates so many weeks or months of intense activity, so many months normal and so many months quiet. I am not talking about that. I am 'talking about the pool, and on the basis of a pool generally the estimate is on so many months or weeks of intense activity. I do not think there is any possibility of giving any information to the enemy if we estimate intense activity. Without giving the numbers of the pool, how many weeks of intense activity would1 you feel that you should provide for by way of a pool in Italy? I do not think'the distinction you make applies to pools; I think it applies to estimated casualties.

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Alan Aylesworth Macnaughton

Mr. McNAUGHTON:

There is a set formula for that, and I think it would be very difficult to justify giving out information from which those rates could be calculated back. I do think that in discussing these matters in open session I must if anything err on the side of caution. We intend to give as much information as we can when there is no danger in discussing the matter, but in open discussion I am fearful that -

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

All I want to know is how many months of intense activity was calculated. I am not asking for the numbers; I simply want to know how many months of intense activity were calculated in planning the pool. Generally a pool is calculated on three months of intense activity, that is, on the basis of the casualties which would be suffered in three months of intense activity. Is that correct?

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Alan Aylesworth Macnaughton

Mr. McNAUGHTON:

No, that certainly is not. The pool is built up upon the basis of the operation; it is assessed upon the nature of the operation. The casualties and wastage rates and so on are assessed and then provisions to replace the casualties are laid down. I do not think that the pools would be the same on any two occasions.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

There would be a variation in the numbers, but is not that generally the basis upon which the target of the pool is fixed? You do not change the pool target every day or every month.

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Alan Aylesworth Macnaughton

Mr. McNAUGHTON:

I would not say

that that is the case, because on many occasions in calculating operations I have had to *take these matters into consideration. The size of the pool, the size of the. reserve, is fixed according to the particular operation you have in front of you. Then your safety factor is worked out.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

But you estimate for how long ahead?

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August 12, 1944