April 5, 1945

LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Mr. Chairman. I do not need to take the part of the minister, because I realize he has made it perfectly clear, since the presentation of his estimates began, that he needs no assistance. But as certain policies have been called into question for which I feel that he should not have to bear the burden of the blame, if there is to be any blame, I should like to say a word, because those policies were entirely my own and developed by 'me in spite perhaps of some opposition on the part of a great many people.

With respect to the pensions mentioned by the hon. member for Lake Centre, I think the committee should know that they are a matter

of law. The Militia Pensions Act applies equally to the air force, the army and the navy. The rights which these men have in respect of retirement are fully laid down in the Militia Pensions Act. I cannot say from recollection when last it was amended, but the act itself has been in force and effect for at least thirty years. Whether the latest amendments provide greater advantages for those about to be retired I cannot say offhand; I would have to look up the act; but certainly no change was made in any militia pension legislation since the start of the war. Every one of these men has contributed to the fund: this is a contributory pension in the same way as superannuation and pension under the civil service. If there is anything wrong with the act it is the duty of parliament to amend it.

As to the pensions being considered overgenerous, perhaps they are, but these men are only taking advantage of what the parliament of Canada in its wisdom decided to allow them.

'Comparisons have been made as to the pensions which they would have received had they retired prior to the war and the pensions which they will actually receive at the present time. Perhaps that is a fair comparison. On the other hand it must be recognized, I think, that owing to the very great and rapid expansion of the air force, from something around

4.000 men to over 200,000 men, it stood to reason that the leaders of it, the men who were doing the good work in it, should at least get rank comparable with that held by people in other forces. Would you have the chief of air staff of Canada, who has the full control of

200.000 men, only a wing commander, or even a group captain? Men who have control of far fewer people and have far less important jobs to deal with day by day in the Royal Air Force or in the United States air force, or any of the other forces, hold titles equivalent of air marshal and so forth. I for one did not want to put the Canadian air force in an inferior position.

Then with regard to the policy of retirement, for that I take the full blame if there is to be any blame. Having returned here after the last war and become a member of parliament, day after day one heard complaints in parliament and through association with troops who served in the last waT, about the number of "brass hats" that were still at the militia office down here in the Canadian building. The general complaint of returned soldiers after the last war was that there were too many generals, that there were too many people who had served as high-ranking officers who were still at the head of affairs, and it * was time to give a chance to the lads who had actually seen service. Knowing that feeling, and in order to help the morale of the boys who were working overseas, I developed-not

War Appropriation-Air Services

without opposition-a policy of my own on which I stand or fall, that, every man who served overseas was to be given to understand that he would have the right to promotion to the highest grade in the air force. I may have been wrong; if I was wrong I am willing to take the blame, but I do not think that the blame should be placed on the minister who is actually directing the administrative affairs of this department. I wanted to impress on every single member of aircrew and of the air force that nothing was going to stand in the way of his promotion during the war or after the war, and that when he returned here, if he remained in the force or had to deal with the force in any way at all, he would not be faced by a solid wall of stagnant brass hats bringing about stagnation in every rank of the service. That may have been wrong. If it is wrong I am in the judgment of the house.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

You are talking about the

permanent air force, are you?

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

This is the permanent force.

With regard to Air Marshal Breadner, here was the situation towards the middle and end of 1943. The air training plan was about to reach its peak. The job had been organized and was about to reach complete fruition. The schools were pretty well established. In any case we knew where they were going and just how to establish schools at that time. Organizing ability was no longer as necessary as it had been. On the other hand, we were sending thousands of men overseas; we were organizing our overseas squadrons. Some we had organized, and we proposed to organize more. With the increased number of people overseas we had more responsibility and additional duties. Our responsibilities were not only to our men but to their parents and to the people of Canada. The chief of the air staff had been Breadner. He and I met every day of our lives. We were in constant consultation with respect to matters at home and matters abroad. I say without the slightest hesitation, and I think everybody knows it, that things did not always go too smoothly with air ministry and other people overseas. Times there were when I had to go over myself to straighten out matters; at other times people from air ministry had to come here. Things had to be settled by personal contact and personal arrangement. There were such things as leave, the length of tours of duty, the command of Canadian squadrons-innumerable things. Breadner was fully in my confidence. He knew everything that had gone on. The cables from his predecessor came through Breadner and were discussed by me with him.

We had on the other hand here in this country Air Vice Marshal Robert Leckie, who had been lent to us by the Royal Air Force at the beginning of the war, who had been air member in charge of training, who had done a wonderful job in the training, but who of necessity knew nothing of our relations with regard to our operational squadrons overseas. Breadner did, Leckie did not.

Breadner, I think, was entitled to go overseas. It was well understood through the senior ranks of the air force that sooner or later the higher ranks would have to retire to make room for the men who had been doing the fighting overseas. I thought Breadner was entitled to the opportunity of going overseas. I believed he was the best man, on account of his tact, his knowledge of the situation, and because he was well known to everyone in the Royal Air Force, was on good terms with them, and was fully acceptable to the air ministry. So I said to him at that time, "In order that there shall be not too much red tape and too much trouble, I want you to send your cables direct 'Breadner to Power' and I wall answer you 'Power to Breadner' ". That was the situation then, and Air Marshal Leckie became chief of staff here. When the new minister came in, for reasons of his own, he took a certain course of action. I think perhaps he was right. He did not know Breadner as I knew him; he had not been so fully in the picture of our negotiations and discussions with the British air ministry, and it is entirely likely that he wanted to have here at his side somebody who would be able to advise him as to what was going on overseas. It then became a question for him to decide whether he should retain Leckie or bring Breadner back over here. I have no blame to attach and no criticism to make of the minister for the action which he took. I think that in his place he did the only thing he could do. I was in a position where, so to speak, I could drive a tandem; he was not. because, through no fault of his own, he had neither the knowledge nor the contact with the people with whom he had to deal. That would probably explain the change of policy.

One more word. From the very tone of my voice people will know that Breadner was a friend of mine. I am proud to say that he was; and so was Leckie. Both of them have done magnificent work for the country, and to insinuate that Breadner had any unworthy motive at all, either in going overseas or in returning, is something I resent very much, as I would resent it if it concerned my dearest friend. Breadner deserves well of the people of this country. He has lost his only boy in

War Appropriation-Air Services

the same service to which he devoted his own life, and it ill becomes any of us to attack him or to impute motives to him.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

Can the minister reply as to the total amount paid out in pensions to members of the permanent air force?

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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Defence for Air)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON:

Does the hon. member mean pensions payable to members of the air force?

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PC
LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Defence for Air)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON:

Going back how far? The air force is twenty-one years old now and we are paying pensions to permanent force men who have retired at various times during that period. I can get the complete amount.

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LIB
CCF

Joseph William Noseworthy

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

Mr. NOSEWORTHY:

I should like some more information on the subject we have been pursuing. Will the minister put on Hansard, if he cannot give it to the house now: (1) a list of those of the air force with rank of air vice marshal or higher who have been retired since January 1, 1943; (2) the years of service

which had accrued to the credit of each of the men retired; (3) a list of those promoted to the rank of air vice marshal or higher since January 1, 1943, together with the length of service which had accrued to each of these; (4) the number of officers with the rank of air vice marshal or higher now on the force in the R.C.A.F. and the number of officers of that rank who were on the force on January 1, 1943.

I have another question with regard to pensions. Are all those men who were retired to be in receipt of the pensions named from the date of retirement, or were those pensions to be the ones which they would receive possibly some years from now? Are any of those men who were retired required to continue payment into the pension fund for any period of years?

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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Defence for Air)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON:

Pensions are payable from the date of retirement, and of course they are based on age and the number of years that the officer has served when the pension is determined. Pensions are paid only to officers who retire from the regular forces. They are not paid to men who may have achieved high rank during the war on ai temporary commission basis.

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NAT
LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Defence for Air)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON:

They are taxable as income, yes.

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NAT

Harry Rutherford Jackman

National Government

Mr. JACKMAN:

Was not a change made some time ago whereby a pension given for war disability was not taxable?

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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Defence for Air)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON:

That is correct.

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NAT

Harry Rutherford Jackman

National Government

Mr. JACKMAN:

But if it is given for service, for having put in time, it is taxable.

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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Defence for Air)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON:

That is taxable as income, yes.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

Would the minister let us know first of all whether there have been any recruitments to the permanent force since the beginning of the war?

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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Defence for Air)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON:

No, there have not.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

At the present strength of the R.C.A.F., how many are permanent force and how many non-permanent?

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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Minister of National Defence for Air)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON:

I have not got that broken down. I could get the figures. We have not taken on any permanent air force since the outbreak of war.

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April 5, 1945