November 2, 1945

LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

I think one reason is that when you reduce it to scrap you reduce it to the smallest volume possible so that it can be readily carted away.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

Were not several hundred thousand pounds of this stuff transported to Penhold, Alberta, from air force camps all over Canada?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

Equipment was brought to Penhold.

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CCF
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

Yes.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

And freight and express were paid to get it to Penhold. It does seem to me a terrific waste of time and money to pay freight and express to transport several hundred thousand pounds of this stuff to Pen-hold for the purpose of deliberately destroying it. Was there anything else among the material destroyed besides wireless, and, if so, what were the instruments?

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SC

Victor Quelch

Social Credit

Mr. QUELCH:

The complaint that I received from some W.E.M.'s who worked there went farther. They were working there repairing these sets for several months, and then they were sent out to smash the Sets that they had repaired. That is not just a funny story; it is actual fact. The complaint they made was this. If it was considered not feasible to put these sets into channels of civilian trade, each W.E.M. could have been allowed to take one away. I am told that they could be operated on a six-volt battery and would make a satisfactory radio. After repairing these sets, the W.E.M.'s were sent out to smash them with a hammer, and then the debris was covered over with a bull-dozer so that nobody could see what had happened. The minister's explanation is not very satisfactory.

1S03

Demobilization-Air Services

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

That

story has been told of trenches having been dug and of the stuff being thrown into them and covered up with a bull-dozer, but I am informed that that is not correct. Destruction took place between August 17 and 28 inclusive. It included many different types of transmitters and receivers as well as radio accessories, but only one type of transmitting or receiving unit. The original cost of the transmitter was $1,000 and only a few of these units were destroyed. The story was going around that $60,000,000 worth of equipment had been destroyed. One of the members referred to the fact that when questioned on the matter I had'said that that was all nonsense and that later had to admit that destruction had taken place. I did get a telephone call from Calgary one night at midnight, and somebody asked me'if it was true that $60,000,000 of equipment was being destroyed at Calgary. I told them that that was nonsense.

. Investigation showed that the value of new equipment would be in the neighbourhood of $600,000. But, the equipment destroyed was obsolete equipment that had ceased to be of use largely .because it had been supplanted by later models. Consequently War Assets decided that it was better to dispose of it in that way than to spend time and money in repairing it.

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SC

Victor Quelch

Social Credit

Mr. QUELCH:

Would it not have beern

possible to allow the W.E.M.'s to have it?

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CCF

James Herbert Matthews

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

Mr. MATTHEWS (Kootenay East):

I was going to speak very much along the same lines as the hon. member for Yorkton. Public funds have been used to transport this equipment from camps all over Canada to a centre to be destroyed. It does seem to me that where there is smoke there is fire. All over this country there is a great deal of dissatisfaction at what has been going on since the war ended. Equipment is being destroyed, and deliberately destroyed, to prevent it from falling into the hands of people who could use it. Perhaps it is too much trouble to pass equipment into the hands of. War Assets Corporation, but let me say that it is going to take this government a long time to live down the stink over the sale of the Fairmiles. They have been practically given away. There can be no denial [DOT] of that by any minister. There are things going on that wTill not bear the light of day so far as many of these departments are concerned. I am glad that the minister was man enough to admit that some destruction of material had gone on and that he stopped it. I would recommend to him that he look a little deeper and stop more things that are going on. That would be of advantage to every department and to the government itself.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

As I listened to the minister's statement I thought that he was defending on behalf of his department and the government the procedure which has just been described in the house with respect to the destruction of what seems to me to be articles that had at least some use and value in the normal course of trade and commerce. May I ask the minister this question? Is he thoroughly satisfied that the procedure taken in this case was in the national interest, and is he defending what was done at Penhold?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

I would say yes, in the national interest. The goods destroyed had no commercial value whatever. While it has been contended, and perhaps rightly, that they might have had some educational value, I understand that there are plenty of other instruments which also have no commercial value, available for this educational work. The cost of storage and looking after this surplus equipment would have been a complete waste of money.

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SC

Frederick Davis Shaw

Social Credit

Mr. SHAW:

It is interesting to me to find that after quite a number of days the dis-* cussion is in my own backyard, at the T.S.U. at Penhold. I brought this matter up on a previous occasion, and I did not do so without first giving careful . consideration to all the facts relating to the so-called destruction of . equipment at Penhold. I have been in Pen-hold on more than one occasion. I was there a number of times during the period when destruction was presumed to be taking place, and it was not always known that I was a member of parliament. I have talked to men who have driven the bull-dozers. I have talked to uniformed members of the- technical section; I have talked to civilian employees of Penhold 'T.S.U., and I am thoroughly and completely convinced that the minister has not all the information. I know that Air Commodore Tackaberry was sent to Penhold.

I should like to know just how long he was at Penhold. I think it was a matter of possibly three hours. I should like to know exactly what he did with respect to making an investigation at Penhold. These men that I have mentioned, including uniformed personnel, have told me that they are fully prepared, if an investigation is called, provided that they are given proper protection, to make oath that the charges enumerated last August and in early September by the M.L.A. for Banff-Cochrane were based on facts. I do not want the minister to think for one moment that I am holding him personally responsible for what is going on, but I believe that an investigation should be held.

I am hopeful that when the special committee of the house is set up to investigate War

Demobilization-Air Services

Assets Corporation it will not be restricted in any way whatsoever. I for one as a member of that committee, I presume, when it is set up, am going to press for an investigation of what went on at Penhold, because, if it has gone on at Penhold, I am quite right in assuming that it has gone on in other places.

I should like to ask the minister if Mr. J. H. Ross, of vocational training, was advised that any equipment of educational value was at Penhold, and if he was even invited or permitted to examine this material to see if it had educational value. The minister said that it has some educational value, and I am wondering where he got his information in that respect.

I wish to know whether the representative of War Assets Corporation at Calgary was called into the picture at all. I wish to know whether War Assets Corporation or a representative of that corporation was at Penhold and made an investigation. I should like to know, too, if Air Commodore Tackaberry specified definitely that there was no ground equipment destroyed; that is, no electrical equipment. I think the minister stated that it was all for airborne personnel; but it seems strange to me that, as I have been told, uniformed personnel could sit down and use that equipment on the ground and bring in stations from all over the continent, and they said it tore their hearts to see bull-dozers go over this equipment, which was lined up on the floors of these hangars, and crush it almost into powder. Further, I should like to know where that scrap is going if these materials have been rendered into scrap. I have had some disturbing reports about this. I do not think I should take the time of the committee to deal further with it, but I am not satisfied, but completely dissatisfied, with what has gone on at Penhold.

I do not want the minister to think for a moment that I am holding him personally responsible. I believe that if he were thoroughly aware of what has occurred there he would investigate. Moreover, if an investigation is carried on with respect to Penhold- and the minister has said that bull-dozers were not used to bury anything-I should like to have some of these uniformed personnel go out with us, show us certain spots, and let the government provide us with bull-dozers to unearth some of these things which can be unearthed at Penhold. I believe the Canadian people are justified in their demand that every precaution be exercised in dealing with these surplus assets. They have spent millions and hundreds of millions of dollars on this equipment, and they are extremely anxious to see that every dollar that can be recovered from it is recovered.

TMr. Shaw.]

As I say, I am going to reserve further remarks until the time when the committee is set up. Let me just say that I regret very much that so much time has elapsed without the committee having been set up. I believe it should have been at work long ago; and I urge, regardless of what the reasons for not having set it up may be, that it be set up at once, and that in its deliberations it be not restricted in any sense whatsoever. I can assure the committee that I can give them dii'ections which will probably assist them and the government tremendously in preventing what I am going to characterize now as wanton destruction of certain materials having value.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

Before the committee rises, may I give one answer to the hon. member for St. John-Albert. He asked me how many civilians were employed at headquarters on V-E day. The answer is that there were 1,157. He also asked, how many are employed there now? The answer is, 910.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

Is item 6 carried?

An lion. MEMBER: No.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

If so, I want to object.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

No, it is not carried.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

I should like to have the Chairman's word on it.

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LIB

William Henry Golding

Liberal

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Golding) :

The item was carried, and item 7 was called. Then the discussion went back to item 6 again. If it is the wish of the committee to have item 6 stand, that is all right.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

Yes.

Item stands.

Progress reported.

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November 2, 1945