I should like to direct a question to the Prime Minister. Can he say now, or if not will he ascertain, whether all the reports that are required by law to be laid on the table of the house within the first fifteen days of the opening of parliament, or some such similar period, have in fact been produced?
The rules of this house, Mr. Speaker, provide that, on the motion to go into supply, a private member may rise in his place and voice any grievances or bring to the attention of the house any matter that concerns him with respect to public policy. I want to take advantage of that rule this afternoon in order to bring to the attention of the house a matter which is of grave concern to me as well as to other members, and is causing considerable alarm in the country as a whole. I refer to the serious matter of national defence.
Since the last session of parliament the world has been marching forward at a tremendous pace. We have seen grave events taking place in Europe, in Asia and in other parts of the world. In this house and outside of it we have listened to speeches which can only cause the greatest possible consternation among the people of Canada. As to Asia, we have seen the red tide of communism sweeping across China. We have seen the new people's government recognized by Russia. So far as Europe is concerned,
only within the last few days have there been a series of general elections, the result of which it is extremely difficult to foretell, and which will undoubtedly have very great bearing upon the future of the peace of the world.
Since the last session of parliament, the fact that Russia has been able to develop an atomic bomb has been confirmed. Furthermore, we have seen the great republic to the south of us passing legislation which will authorize the development of weapons even more ghastly than the atomic bomb. Since the last session of parliament a number of defence and military conferences have been held in Europe. Our own Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) attended a conference at Paris. According to the reports from that conference, not only were the broad principles of defence planning discussed, but details as to military production and supplies were gone into so that the North Atlantic treaty might be implemented. It would appear that the chiefs of staff of the various countries are getting down to the details of the problems of collective defence. These responsibilities go with membership in the Atlantic alliance, but these responsibilities cannot merely be discharged by getting together boards of experts. The one thing that is necessary is that the people of all peace-loving countries get wholeheartedly behind their experts in order that the responsibilities that the governments of the countries have assumed may be fulfilled by the peoples of those countries.
It is essential that if that is to be done there be a philosophy established amongst the people which will demonstrate a determination to work in the direction of collective security and to put their whole effort into the plans which are designed to prevent a third world war. It is to the prevention of war that all our efforts on national defence should be directed; and we can only get a nation working wholeheartedly toward that end if the people of the nation are convinced that their government is working in the right direction, and furthermore that they are in possession of the true facts regarding the defence situation.
By agreement we are participants in this collective enterprise. This is a treaty for the security not only of the north Atlantic but of the world as a whole, because no war can be confined to the coast line of the north Atlantic. Should another war break out it will undoubtedly be a global war; no part of any continent will be spared. But while these conversations have been going on there has been some uncertainty in the minds of the Canadian people as to the extent and scale to which we, the Canadian nation, are committed, and whether those commitments which
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Proposed National Defence Committee have been made, or which are about to be made, bear any relation whatever to the capabilities and the possibilities of this nation fulfilling these commitments.
In the last few days the estimates for 1950-51 have been tabled. The defence estimates are the largest in the peacetime history of this country. They have been increased by some $42 million. The question which is being asked all across the country is: Can this nation, in view of its many obligations, afford that sum? Likewise, disturbed by reports that have been made in various quarters, to which I shall refer later, the question is also being asked: Is this sum adequate? And again, is this sum being correctly distributed? There seems to be a good deal of uncertainty as to whether the amount which is divided between the fighting services is being distributed in the proper proportions.
On February 16 a report was published in the Citizen which indicated a considerable change in policy in so far as the Royal Canadian Navy is concerned. It is dated Ottawa, February 16, and is a Canadian Press item. In it we are told:
The navy today announced plans for a two-division fleet designed to build up a small, compact force ready for swift action in an emergency.
The main feature of the plan will be division of the fleet in two main segments, one concentrating on training and the other on operational work.
As we read on we are told:
The navy termed the two-division plan "the most important step taken by the navy since the war."
Hon. members will notice that this was announced on February 16. It goes on to describe how the first move was taken last year by the conversion of the cruiser Ontario into a training ship from its operational role. That is apparently a big and radical change in naval policy.
In the past we have heard about the submarine hunter-killer teams, for which it was announced in the white paper published during last session that special training and equipment are required. In looking over the defence appropriations for the United States I find that, according to the New York Times of March 3, the amount of money allocated for anti-submarine warfare has been increased by the United States navy to the extent of 200 per cent. In our estimates for this year we see a total increase of $4 million over the amount of $84 million allocated last year, indicating an increase of merely five per cent. One cannot help wondering whether these submarine hunter-killer teams, which we are supposed to be working upon and to be making as our first naval commitment, can be fully developed with only an increase of five per cent in expenditures.
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Proposed National Defence Committee
Are we placing too much dependence upon obsolete or obsolescent ships held in reserve? A great deal of information has been published in the last few months about the type of submarines maintained in the fleets of some other countries, including Russia, which are commonly referred to as snorkel submarines. These vessels have an underwater speed of from 20 to 25 knots, a speed which is truly alarming and which cannot be met effectively by the frigates and corvettes of our Canadian navy. Nor have the destroyers of our Canadian navy been equipped with antisubmarine devices.
Therefore it would seem that although we have set as our naval objective the development of anti-submarine craft, at present we have no such craft available, although we understand that three vessels are now being prepared. I do not know the stage of development that has been reached in their preparation. It would be well for us to ponder the recognized capabilities of the submarines which do exist today in the navies of the world. Not only have they a much higher speed than those which were in operation at the close of the last war, but they can drop to depths far greater than the depths to which submarines in the last war submerged. This factor gives an unquestionable advantage to the submarine.
Can a submarine at a depth, let us say, of a thousand feet be detected by means of the appliances with which our Canadian vessels are at present equipped? Can the depth charges which might be delivered be effective against such vessels? Again, the endurance of the modern submarine is such that it may remain submerged indefinitely. It is equipped with weapons far more deadly than those used during the last war, equipped with the homing warheads that can be attached to torpedoes which, by means of either magnetic or acoustic warheads, once they have been launched in the general direction of a target can find that target, even though such torpedo has to change its course.
In naval quarters there is much questioning whether our Canadian navy is following along the right lines at the present time, and whether far more emphasis should not have been placed upon what has been described as our major naval objective.
Then, to consider the air for a moment; it was not long ago that Air Marshal W. A. Curtis announced that the Royal Canadian Air Force was now going to emphasize the operational side of its activities, and that this change represented a departure from the nucleus theory of the air force which was being slowly built up. In the estimates which will be before the house on Friday
it is indicated that the ratio between the amount of money which has been spent in the past on the air force, and that which will be spent in the future, is as 42-6 is to 44-8. The question is whether that change is adequate; whether in view of our commitments we should not be placing even greater emphasis on defence and spending a larger proportion of our defence dollar on the air force.
Perhaps no real balance has yet been reached between the army and the air picture. On February 21 a correspondent who was attending the recent Sweetbriar exercises remarked that the R.C.A.F. plans to form another jet squadron this year. According to the statement in the press there are at present two jet squadrons in Canada equipped with Vampires, one at Montreal and one at Chatham. The report goes on to say it was originally intended that there should be two jet squadrons added this year, but that owing to budgetary problems it is unlikely that more than one will be added. The report goes on to quote a senior air officer to the effect that a strength of five such squadrons would be required to protect vital areas in Canada-that is, to protect merely the vital areas.
The question must again be asked: Are we saving money on the R.C.A.F. at the expense of safety? Reading from the Financial Times of a week ago it becomes obvious that these problems have been disturbing not only the senior officers in the various services but also the cabinet and other people across the country as a whole. In a report from the Financial Times we find this:
The really big fight has been on the defence estimates. All services came up with big and potent arguments for higher spending in 1950-51. They supported these arguments with cash demands needed to pay for equipment already ordered and committed in previous years and which will be delivered in 1950-51.
As well, there was submitted the growing demands of the cold war in terms of Canada's new North Atlantic pact commitments.
What actually happened was a slashing of proposed defence plans.
In recent months uncertainty has been caused in the country by the reports which have been made regarding Exercise Sweet-briar which was held in the Yukon and Alaska. All these reports were loud in their praises of the individual airmen and soldiers who took part in the exercise. While there is no doubt there was a distinct improvement over previous exercises, the reports indicate that we are far below the necessary standards of equipment which would be essential if warfare is to be carried out in the Arctic.
Mr. Baldwin, writing in the New York Times, used this picturesque language in describing how warfare can be carried out in the Arctic:
Air power has stormed the ramparts of the cold.
It is obvious that war can be waged in the Arctic provided that there is adequate air support. Mr. Baldwin's article in the New York Times has been repeated in various editorials across the country. The people of Canada have become concerned by the bold statement that the military weaknesses of Alaska and Canada were startlingly revealed by Exercise Sweetbriar. Mr. Baldwin goes on to say:
The number of aircraft Canada plans to maintain probably will never be adequate in peacetime to airlift all three battalions simultaneously.
He is referring there to the three battalions of the Canadian active army which are being trained as airborne troops for the express purpose of operating against diversionary raids such as may be launched in the northland. We know that one regiment, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, has demonstrated the effectiveness of its training, but the men had to be carried in aircraft of a type which would have made it extremely doubtful that they would reach their dropping points in real operations. North Star aircraft are not equipped to permit parachute jumping.
Mr. Baldwin described the Canadian air force as being quite small by United States standards. As I said, the Princess Patricias were transported by Dakotas and C-47's which are not really efficient up-to-date aircraft for the carrying of airborne troops. An officer is reported as describing the Patricias in this way:
We have a fine buggy in the Pats, but no horse to pull it.
I think that describes very well the situation that exists at the moment. We have a fine regiment made up of excellent men who have progressed a long way in their training as a parachute jumping and airborne battalion, but unfortunately we have not the aircraft in which to move that battalion to its proper position. That makes one ask this question: Is there really a balance between the army and the air force at the present time? Other senior officials connected with the defence department have spoken and caused considerable alarm; I refer to a speech reported to have been made by Dr. O. M. Solandt, chairman of Canada's defence research board. In that article Dr. Solandt is indicating the extent to which machines will replace men in the fighting forces of the
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Proposed National Defence Committee future. After describing the replacement of men by such things as rockets, jets and other machines, he goes on to say:
The tendency to replace men with machines, which has already begun, will spread rapidly through all the services.
After referring to the developments in connection with guided missiles, he goes on to say:
All these things are possible through the use of existing knowledge. This means that most of them are ready to pass from the hands of the research scientists to those of the research-minded engineer who will convert the ideas into realities; the crude experimental mock-ups into finished, effective and reliable machines.
Then he concludes by saying:
We are just on the threshold of the age of atomic power. I think that it will be many years before atomic power will be widely used in industry, but it will be used much sooner for military applications such as the propulsion of warships and submarines.
Those are some of the matters which are giving this nation concern. The only way in which the country can be satisfied and the people rallied behind the efforts being made to prevent a third world war is to make full publication of all the details. If the people are given the details of the commitments which this government has made, then I think they will respond. I quote again from the editorial in the Globe and Mail of February 28:
No doubt the Canadian people, aware of the country's present dangers and new obligations, approve of this increase in principle. But they are interested in knowing, and entitled to be told, what they are buying with the money, what specific responsibilities Canada is undertaking and whether our defence plans are sufficient for the purpose.
There is no substance in the argument that these matters must remain top secrets. When both the United States and Britain openly discuss the adequacy of their defences, it is nonsense to say that safety will be jeopardized by publicity for Canadian plans.
I have referred to a number of things which have happened in the last few months. In the speech from the throne at the opening of the present session information was given to the effect that it is the intention of the government to introduce a measure to revise and consolidate into one act the various acts under which the armed forces of the country have been operating for a great many years, to give to Canada the sole authority to administer her own forces, to make the various forces essentially Canadian, and to give them a uniform code. There will be new paragraphs designed to meet the present and future requirements of the services.
When explaining a bill of this nature in the Senate during the last session of parliament the Minister of National Defence emphasized the importance of it. When he referred to it in the House of Commons during the last
Proposed National Defence Committee session he pointed out how important the bill was, and said that because of its far-reaching effects he would be prepared to have it referred to a committee of the house.
In the speech from the throne there is other legislation forecast dealing with the Militia Pension Act. Although the minister has not so indicated, no doubt he will also be prepared to have that measure referred to the committee. What I want to ask for now, and what I feel will lead to a solution of the problem which confronts the people and will relieve them of their fear and anxiety, is what members of the Progressive Conservative party and others have asked for on many occasions in the past, namely, a special committee to inquire into the whole question of national defence. I do so at this time because only last night the house leader announced that on Friday next the estimates of the Department of National Defence would be called. Year after year we have had them introduced, and members on all sides of the house will appreciate how difficult it is for the minister to give in a few brief sentences the information required, no matter how willing he may be to answer the questions which hon. members of the opposition ask. Nor can members of the opposition be expected to place the minister under a prolonged cross-examination in order to disclose the innumerable details which go to make up the final picture as to Canada's defences-which, I repeat, are designed with the sole object of preventing a third world war.
If we had a committee in which members who are particularly concerned with the defences of this country, and whose past training has given them a certain experience in such matters, were able not only to ask the minister to state the general policy but also to call before the committee the senior officers of the various departments, we would be able to obtain the information we desire. As I have indicated, senior officers have been stating their views across the country. We could call before such a committee people with experience and authority in industry and science who are accustomed to looking after the social services of Canada. I do not think we are asking for too much. We have made the same request before, and it seems to me that when there are such big changes taking place in the world as a whole and in the policy of our defence forces, now is the time to ask for the widest and most thorough investigation.
Therefore I propose to move, seconded by the hon. member for Calgary East (Mr. Harkness):
That all the words after "that" to the end of the question be deleted and the following substituted therefor:
"It is expedient to appoint a special committee of this house to examine and report upon the Department of National Defence and the armed services of Canada; and that such committee have power to call for persons, papers and records, and to report from time to time to this house."
Topic: PROPOSED SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL DEFENCE
Mr. Speaker, in supporting the motion of the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) I should first like to draw attention to the fact that the experiences of the past five years have abundantly shown that a general discussion on defence matters or a discussion of the defence estimates cannot be satisfactorily carried on, either when the house is sitting as at present with the Speaker in the chair, or in committee of the whole. I think it has been shown conclusively that it is impossible under such circumstances for any member of the house to secure the detailed information necessary to enable him to form a sound and intelligent idea of what our defence situation is, and what is needed in connection therewith. That is one of the reasons why, during the past four or five years, we of this party have been urging that a standing committee on defence should be established.
During the time that I have been a member of the house the matter was first raised by the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra (Mr. Green). I think it is worth noting that at that time the government did not take the adamant position they have assumed during the last two years towards the creation of such a committee. In that regard I should like to read a short extract from Hansard which gives the position of the then minister of national defence, now the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott), when the hon. member for Yancouver-Quadra first raised the question. It is to be found at page 877 of Hansard for October 9, 1945, and reads:
Topic: PROPOSED SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL DEFENCE
would welcome the establishment of such a committee, because I believe it could perform a useful service. The discussion and consideration of defence matters in my view should1 not be the subject of party strife, and I believe a committee of that sort could perform a useful purpose. I would1 hasten to say, however, that I feel it would not be feasible to set up such a committee at this session, one which is of a rather special nature. While I cannot commit the government as to policy, yet I would recommend personally that such a committee be established at the next session, when I have no doubt we shall not be quite so pressed for time as, I am afraid, we shall be at this session.
That was the position taken by the then minister of national defence, a position which was almost the same as that taken by this party since that time. The only reason he
did not agree to the setting up of the committee immediately was that in a short postwar session, it was not feasible.
Later on in that session the then prime minister, Mr. Mackenzie King, indicated that he was not opposed to this idea of setting up a committee. He said he thought it could serve a useful purpose. In view of the attitude of the government in 1945, why the extreme change that has taken place? Has the government something to hide about which it does not want this committee to learn the truth? If so, that is all the more reason for setting up the committee. I am not saying it is so, but I wonder if the government has come to the conclusion that the less the members of parliament know about defence matters, the better it is for the government. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why it is so firm in its refusal to set up this committee. It may be that it is part of the general disregard for parliament that this government has shown during the past few years. I am inclined to think it fits into that general pattern. In any event, no satisfactory explanation has been given for the extreme change in the attitude of the government towards the setting up of this committee.
I do not think the present Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) could give any good reasons for the change in the government's attitude. It seems to me it is part of the general picture of denying all the information to members of parliament which the government could possibly deny. It is illustrative of the position in which the government virtually says: We have our
fingers in this pie, so you keep yours out; we do not want you to have anything to do with the matter. So far as the value of setting up a committee is concerned, I think everyone will agree that it is not only important, but vitally necessary, that there should be a group of members who are well informed on defence matters. At the moment there is no way of becoming informed. A member of parliament is up against insuperable difficulties in securing any information on this subject.
As I indicated, the hit-or-miss discussion we have across the floor of the house is entirely inadequate. The hon. member for Nanaimo has shown that, from the time point of view alone, it would not be possible to discuss all the detailed matters upon which we would like to have information. In addition to that, we all realize that there are certain matters about which the defence heads do not want to make information public. The government refuses to answer questions on these subjects. I believe, however, that in far too many cases that excuse is used1 as a means of escaping the answering of any questions. Nevertheless
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Proposed National Defence Committee there are some questions which fall within that category and cannot be answered publicly.
During the past four or five years, comparatively few members have taken part in the discussions on national defence. The majority of the members have paid no attention to it, and are not even present when it is taking place. The reason is that the members have little information; they do not know anything about the subject. It is an obvious truth that a man is not interested in something that he knows nothing about. The more anyone delves into a certain subject, the more interested one becomes. The setting up of a standing committee on defence would serve the extremely useful purpose of increasing the interest of the members in this important subject, as well as the interest of the people throughout the country. It would serve also the interests of the defence forces themselves. What the forces were doing would be better understood and better appreciated by the general public. As a result, I believe we would get better support for our recruiting program.
On many occasions we have indicated that we believe there should be a standing committee before which the various defence chiefs and the members of their staffs could appear. Detailed information could be presented, on the basis of which the members could make up their minds as to the adequacy or otherwise of general defence policy, as well as the particular development which defence services are undertaking at any particular time. We could ascertain also whether our defence policy was changing as conditions changed, and whether we had a set-up which met the threats to Canadian security as they develop from time to time. The need for a standing committee on defence is indicated by a look at the estimates for this year's expenditures. One finds that the three largest spending departments, so far as money voted is concerned-I am leaving out of consideration the money which is spent by statute-are national defence, with about $420 million to be voted; veterans affairs, with about $199 million to be voted, and public works, with about $100 million to be voted.
Of these departments, the Department of National Defence is the largest. The amount involved is more than twice as much as veterans affairs and more than four times as much as public works. Of the $420 million, approximately $408 million, nearly the whole amount, is in two bulk items. They are numbered 202 and 203 in the estimates, and they cover over $408 million which we are asked to vote. Surely if a committee is needed to go into the expenditures in the Department of External Affairs, a similar committee is
732 HOUSE OF
Proposed National Defence Committee needed for the Department of National Defence. The experience we had in the house last year, as a result of trying to go into the details of these defence estimates, well illustrates that. The estimates came up towards the end of the session, and I tried to secure information about a number of matters. Every time I rose to ask a question, a great howl of protest went up from the benches facing me, and from those to my right-cries of "sit down, sit down"; "we want to get home" and so forth.
Topic: PROPOSED SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL DEFENCE
benches, certainly. In addition to that I received from the other side of the house notes saying "Please do not ask any more questions." That is the situation when only one member tries to ask a few questions requesting details in connection with defence matters; he is howled down by the large number of government members in this house and every means really is taken to try to get him to desist. Under these circumstances it is quite obvious that we must have some other means whereby the large expenditures for this department can be properly examined. The only means by which that can be done, as far as I can see, and the only means that anyone has suggested so far as I am aware, is a standing committee on defence. About a week or so ago I received from a reserve force officer a letter in which he mentions several matters in connection with defence. He is a man whom I had known overseas; as a matter of fact, he is an old friend. The letter contains this sentence:
Is there no meansi of discussing defence questions and putting up contrary views to those of army headquarters without publicity?
In writing back to him I was obliged to say, of course, that there was no means. That letter would indicate that members of the reserve forces who are thinking on this matter and who have ideas which are contrary to those of the constituted authorities would like to see some means whereby those ideas could be brought to the attention of the minister and the defence chiefs and their merits discussed with those people. There just is not any means of anything like that being done at the present time. It is another indication of the necessity of there being some way in which members of this house can put forward their ideas and the ideas they pick up from other people who are interested in defence matters, and at least have an opinion on these contrary ideas expressed by the heads of the defence services and reasons given why, in their opinion, they would not be practical.
One other matter I should like to say something about is that of civil defence, and I have spoken about it in this house on numerous other occasions. We have never obtained from the minister or from the government any satisfactory information in connection with what was being done, nor have we been told whether anything at all was being done. All we have ever heard was that General Worthington had been appointed to look into the matter and to report upon it.
Last year when the defence estimates were up for consideration the minister said that this matter of preparing any plan for the defence of the civilian population in the event of ordinary bombing, atomic bombing or any other sort of attack, or preparing a plan for the evacuation of our large cities and so on was a matter of timing. I am prepared to agree with that statement; it probably is a matter of timing. The impression was left, however, that the time had not arrived for us to do anything along that line. Nevertheless, a large number of people think that the time has not only arrived when we should be doing something fairly definite, but is long past. A mere perusal of the newspapers during the last few months will indicate that there is a constantly growing awareness on the part of the general public of the necessity for plans for civilian defence being put into operation or at least for getting further along than this investigation-and-report stage at which the matter rests now, as far as we know.
A committee such as the one we are advocating would be the appropriate place where a question of that sort could be discussed, where the suggestions and ideas which members receive from their constituents right across Canada could be put forward and brought to the attention of the heads of the defence services, and where they might be, we will say, prodded into action on something definite.
The hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) mentioned the act with respect to national defence which was introduced in the other place last year and which will come to us in this chamber for consideration this year. As to that act of last year, the minister indicated that, in his opinion, it would have to be dealt with by a committee. There is no committee of this house which is adapted to deal with that act. It seems to me that if, in the minister's own opinion, this long and important act is to be dealt with by a committee, the only choice the government has is to appoint a committee on defence to take the matter up; and as a result of that act coming in at this session, it seems a singularly appropriate time to institute or inaugurate a standing committee of the house on defence. I
hope that the government will pay to the arguments we put up now on this matter, and which we have put up in past years, the attention which they deserve, and will proceed to some action with regard to setting up this committee.
Topic: PROPOSED SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL DEFENCE
I should like to say a few words, Mr. Speaker, in support of this amendment moved by the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) with respect to setting up in this house a committee on defence. It seems to me that there are a great many other members who, like myself, have little information on what our defence situation is in this country. It is true that the estimates on defence have been brought into the house and discussed each session; but quite often it was in the latter days of the session, when discussion was limited, and we did not obtain all the information we should like to have had with regard to this matter.
Today we are spending a large proportion of our budget on defence; it is a much larger proportion than we have spent in the last two years. This year, as a matter of fact, we are spending $425 million plus whatever supplementary estimates there may be, plus whatever we may be spending on research work, and whatever we may be spending in the matter of atomic energy: in all, the amount will probably reach some $500 million. It seems to me that in the world as it is today, with the forces of evil there are in existence, we in this house should pay more attention to our defence estimates and should try to ascertain whether we are getting the most for the money we are spending in this respect. I have no doubt that the government are trying to do the best they can, and that they are trying to see that the dollars they spend are being spent for the best purpose. Nevertheless, we get a little bit alarmed when we read in the papers, as we did the other day in the Montreal Gazette, I think it was, that when certain officials were brought before study groups of government members in this house, the matter which the government members seemed to be most interested in was the patronage they might get out of defence estimates rather than the best service they could get. This report has not been denied; and it seems to me that, under the circumstances, we should have a committee of this house before which we could call in officials of the defence department and see that we are getting the best for the money that we are spending on defence.
Prior to the war-I believe it was in 1939 -we had a defence purchasing board set up under a special act of parliament. When the war broke out the duties of this board were turned over to the Department of Munitions
14. 1950 733
Proposed National Defence Committee and Supply, and that department did the purchasing for the armed forces. After the war the duties of purchasing for the armed forces were turned over to the Canadian Commercial Corporation instead of being turned back to the defence purchasing board under the old act passed in 1939. By the way, this was a fairly comprehensive act and it gave a great deal of protection to the government and to the people of this country in the purchases that were being made
My reading of the act under which the Canadian Commercial Corporation was set up leads me to believe that we have not the protection that we had under the defence purchasing board in seeing that there is no patronage in the matter of defence and that we get value for every cent that we spend in purchasing for the defence department.
There is also the matter of civilian defence. I believe General Worthington was appointed to make an investigation and report to the government as to what should be done with respect to civilian defence in Canada. Up to date, so far as I know, and I think as far as every hon. member knows, we have very little information as to whether anything definite has been done. In a war such as we might have, should there be a third war, and we all hope that we may not, with the use of bombs, atomic bombs and H-bombs, the matter of civilian defence becomes very important, of much greater importance than it ever was in former times. We should be organized. We should know what is taking place with respect to civilian defence, not only to relieve the minds of our people, not only to see that this matter is being taken care of, but to see that the civilian population is not left defenceless.
These are just a few things which I think should be discussed in a committee of this house. The idea is a good one. We would be in a much better position if we had our defence estimates referred to a committee, and if we, as members of parliament, through a committee such as this, took a greater interest in our defence, and through our interest transmitted it to the people of the Dominion of Canada.
Topic: PROPOSED SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL DEFENCE
Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to take up much of the time of the house, but I do wish to support the motion which has been made by the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) for the setting up of a defence committee of this house. I think the house is indeed fortunate to have a member such as the hon. member for Nanaimo, who has a wide knowledge of defence matters. I might say also that the house is fortunate in having so many other
Proposed National Defence Committee men, especially those from the last war, who are well qualified to give advice and sit on a committee of this kind.
There is nothing more important to the people of Canada, and in fact to the people of the whole world today, than this question of defence. I am sure that there is nothing more complicated, and nothing which gives the government of this country more concern, than this question of defending our country. Wars of today are not like the wars of the past. Perhaps they would compare slightly with the last two wars, but in former wars, before the first and second great wars it was just a matter of armies getting together and fighting it out. The civilian population had very little to do with it.
As has been stated by one hon. member, time for preparation would be very short in the event of a war breaking out. Today a nation must be prepared. In the first great war we in this country had time to wait for months while France, Great Britain and the other countries held the line, as it were, for us. What was true of the first great war was also more or less true in the second world war, but I am sure everyone is convinced that should another war break out the time will not be a matter of months or weeks. It may possibly be a matter only of days until we shall have to have our army and our defences ready.
There are many matters which could and should be discussed by a committee. I do not wish to repeat what has already been said. For instance, a matter which might be discussed by a defence committee is that of the dispersal of munition plants. As we know, they are more or less in vulnerable spots throughout the country. In the event of bombing there is no question in my mind but that our munition plants would be the first to suffer. The matter of the dispersal of munition plants could and should be considered and acted upon long before war comes.
Then there is the matter of supplies and storage of food. If a war comes we shall require large quantities of food, and the food will have to be stored at different points throughout the country. That is a matter that a committee could very well discuss.
A committee on defence does not necessarily discuss only the air force, the navy or the army; but it could and should discuss practically every phase of our life.
Civilian defence, which was mentioned this afternoon by the hon. member for Calgary East (Mr. Harkness) and the hon. member for Melfort (Mr. Wright), is a matter about which I intended to say a few words. I find it is not necessary for me to do so except to point out that the United States has made.
and is making today, extensive preparations for civilian defence. I think they are paying proportionately far more attention to that very important matter than we are. I hold in my hand a clipping from the Christian Science Monitor of a short time ago-I am sorry I have not the date-written by Josephine Ripley, called "Civilian Defense Rolls Quietly", and which reads in part as follows:
This planning is going on quietly, but not secretly.
It is not necessary that it should be secret. The people should know what is going on. I continue:
It is going on calmly, and without hysteria. It is going on without frantic haste, but at a steady pace -a pace admittedly speeded up, however, since President Truman's announcement of Russia's possession of the atom bomb.
Since then, of course, we have had the report on the hydrogen bomb and the suggestion that the Russians know as much about the H-bomb as we do. Some of the things which the United States is planning for is a dispersion of government department's from Washington. They are also giving attention to the dispersal of munition plants and other important manufacturing plants.
In the matter of aircraft spotters this article says:
One of these is the call for 150,000 volunteer aircraft spotters to augment the mechanical "seeing-eye" of the radar screen.
These spotters will cover 25 northwestern and Atlantic coast states and stand ready to scan the skies around the clock, if necessary. This sky-watch will eventually be nationwide.
I suggest we can very well learn from the United States in this matter. Another matter worthy of consideration is the special training they are giving to combat radiation injuries, and like conditions. I believe we in Canada are doing something along those lines, but I feel that probably more should be done. Every city and town in Canada which might possibly be subject to bombing attack should at the present time-not at some later date-be prepared to look after matters of this kind.
This article also states that it is not only at headquarters in Washington that this is being done, but that there are state representatives, and that every state in the union is being made conscious of the necessity for civilian defence. Ido not think it is necessary for me to labour that point further; but I do believe, as I said a moment ago, that a committee might well look into and study these matters. A study of that kind would be of great advantage to the government and, I am sure, to the people generally.
Then, again, I was quite concerned not long ago when I read about the quality of
arms being supplied to Europe. It is important, of course, that the allies we might expect under-the Atlantic pact should be supplied with proper arms and munitions. I read an article which appeared in The Ensign of January 21, a paper published in Montreal. The headline reads, "Europe doubts quality of expected arms from United States. Experts believe special tank should be designed to meet unknown situation." This article, dated at Amsterdam, goes on to say that the supplies of secondary munitions for Europe are not good enough. It states the view is that the supplies from the last war would not stand up or be sufficient to meet any onslaught which we might have from Russia. The people in those countries feel that there should be set up some sort of western European arms industry, so that they would not have to rely too much on secondhand arms they are receiving from the United States and Canada.
This is a question which I am sure a committee could look into with great value and benefit to ourselves and to our friends. Speaking on the subject of defence last year, the minister set out as his sixth point the following:
Since an attack on Canada could only be made by air or by sea, emphasis must be placed on defence forces: by air-radar stations and communications, backed by interceptors and a relatively small mobile brigade group; by sea-anti-submarine and antimine vessels for protection of shipping and coastal waters.
The best place to defeat the enemy is as far away from Canada as possible, and1 our forces should also serve as the nucleus for the development of our maximum potential.
That is an ideal with which I am sure we all agree. The best place to defeat an enemy is as far away from Canada as possible. But I think the minister himself, the government and the people of Canada are beginning to realize that probably it will not be away from Canada at all that we will have to meet the enemy. His suggestion, for instance, that a small and relatively mobile brigade group is all that is necessary, I am sure would not meet the situation at all.
I was much concerned to read an article not long ago dealing with a probable attack on this country or on the United States. After all, if Russia ever goes to war, it will be against the United States, and I am satisfied her first attack would be against that country. If it is made against the United States it must and will be made through Canada. This article mentioned the fact that in Siberia, a country comparable to Alaska which adjoins the northern part of Canada, there are 25 million people, and that Russia has today some 20 divisions in that part of the world. It was pointed out that these people are not carrying out Sweetbriar operations of 4,000 or 5,000
Proposed National Defence Committee men, but that they are training many thousands of men for long periods who are well inured to the cold and hardships of that climate. That is something else about which we in this country should be concerned, namely the training of our men in the north.
I commend the minister upon the start he has made. It was small, involving 4,000 or 5,000 men over a period of ten days. My understanding is that it was experimental, and I am sure that the department and the United States authorities gained much valuable information. I am satisfied however that as time goes on the department will realize that our northern areas are the most vulnerable, so far as this country is concerned. There was a time when we thought our north country, because of the snow and ice, and the hardships which would be encountered by men who would fight in that area, was impregnable. Today we realize it is our most vulnerable point.
I believe a committee could assist the minister greatly in studying the situation as it applies to that part of the world. I shall not take further time in this discussion, but I do believe the minister and the government would be well advised to set up a committee of the house to study not only the navy, the army and the air force, but every phase of defence, which includes within its ambit practically the whole life of the Canadian people.
Topic: PROPOSED SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL DEFENCE
Mr. G. J. Mcllraith (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Trade and Commerce):
Mr. Speaker, since the hon. member for Melfort (Mr. Wright) in this debate has made reference to newspaper articles which appeared in the Montreal Gazette on Friday and Saturday of last week, having reference to the subject matter under discussion today, and since those matters were raised in the house last Friday on a motion to adjourn, I think perhaps it would be proper if I were to make an explanation and to set at rest once and for all this supposed change in policy in defence purchasing.
The facts are rather simple. There has been no change whatever in policy with respect to defence purchasing. The policy as carried out by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, which does the purchasing for the defence department, is exactly as it was, and as has been set out in its annual report and stated in the house on previous occasions.
As a matter of actual fact the subject matter alleged in the newspaper article to have been discussed was not discussed. It is just a case of a newspaperman having got hold of some facts and then, I am afraid, having gone considerably beyond the facts for one reason or another-whether misinformation or excessive imagination, or for what reason I
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Proposed National Defence Committee do not know. And I do not know that it is the concern of anyone as to what caused him to do it.
I have convened a study club of Liberal members of the House of Commons during the last session and at this session. They have met regularly. As a matter of fact, if it is of any interest to hon. members, they have thus far had four meetings. The subjects under discussion have all been subjects connected with the organization of the department. Emergency import controls was one subject; the economic research and development branch was another; and on March 7, Tuesday of last week, the subject matter under discussion was the Canadian Commercial Corporation. It is purely a factual study group which deals with the system of organization and governmental functions and there was no discussion whatever on that occasion about patronage.
As a matter of fact I think all hon. members will realize that it would be most improper, if such a subject were to be discussed, to discuss it with a crown employee or a civil servant. The whole thing is difficult to deny completely because it is so much out of line with the facts and because it is so ridiculous. The fact that the meeting was held is quite true. It was held in the ordinary course. These meetings have been going on and as a matter of fact there has been some press publicity about certain meetings. I recall last fall there was quite a lengthy front page press coverage about the system of study groups generally. They go on at regular intervals depending upon when the appropriate officials are available. I expect they will continue to go on as long -as there is any demand for them.
I think hon. members are quite proper in feeling some concern about the newspaper article, that is the first one, because it does cast a serious reflection. Great expenditures are made by the Canadian Commercial Corporation and it would be a matter of concern if any changes had been discussed or made. No change was discussed or made or suggested in any way.
There is another rather interesting bit at the end of the newspaper article which refers to the managing director of the corporation as having been employed in a minor capacity by Canadian National Railways in Montreal before coming to Ottawa some eleven years ago to take up the matter of defence purchasing. That charge is completely ridiculous. Actually the managing director of the corporation was on the purchasing staff of Canadian National Railways. He was brought here in 1939 and has served to date, always
directly associated with munitions purchasing. There was a short break in 1942 when he was recalled to the C.N.R., but I believe that his record is an outstanding one, one that would tend to inspire confidence and indicate competence in this type of work. I am quite at a loss to understand that particular reference in the newspaper article.
Perhaps it would be usfeful to the house if I read a letter which the managing director wrote to. the minister on March 13. Hon. members will recall that the first article was published on Friday, March 10, and the second one on Saturday, March 11. This letter is dated March 13 and reads:
March 13, 1950
The Right Honourable C. D. Howe,
Minister of Trade and Commerce,
Dear Mr. Howe:
In view of the report which appeared in a Montreal newspaper recently, you might be interested in having a word from me as to what actually transpired when, at the suggestion of Mr. Mcllraith, I addressed the Liberal study group at the House of Commons on March 7. The majority of those present were new members, unfamiliar with the functions of. this corporation.
The remarks which I made were confined entirely to the policy and procedures followed by the corporation. While I answered many questions, the information given appeared to be well received and I sensed no disagreement whatever with the corporation's policy, which, as you know, is to seek out all possible sources of supply, irrespective of any consideration except to provide what is needed in the time required and at the lowest price, and to establish prices and award contracts by means of competitive tenders in all cases where it is possible to do so.
No member attending the meeting suggested that the corporation's policy be altered in any way.
Yours very truly,
W. D. Low, Managing Director.
Surely that should set the matter at rest for all time.
Topic: PROPOSED SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL DEFENCE