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.