Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to refer to the question of privilege raised by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) on Wednesday with respect to certain statements reported to have been made by the Minister of National Defence at Rotterdam the previous day. The information I have received from the Minister of National Defence is to the following effect:
It was of course known to the press that Canada would be having a brigade group and eleven squadrons in Europe, and that that would require accommodation and airfields. It was indicated in the house on October 22 by the Minister of National Defence that airfields and accommodation were not available on the continent, and that the first of our squadrons would have to be sent to England pending the construction of airfields. The minister's declaration is to be found at page 280 of Hansard for October 22.
It was also known that the cost of construction would have to be met, and that we in Canada have always said that we expected to contribute our share. It was also known that our effort had been to ensure that this would be done in a way to avoid our becoming direct owners of property in Europe. The minister states that at the press conference in Rotterdam he did not give any figure of $100 million or any figure at all; that in fact no new information was given except as to the number of airfields required for eleven squadrons; that that was a figure which is arrived at by dividing the number of squadrons by the capacity of an airfield; and that no other new information whatsoever was supplied.
There were two news Stories published in the Ottawa papers but our information is that one of those stories, at least in part, had been prepared before the press conference at Rotterdam. This matter is one that was covered by the communique of the NATO council meeting in Ottawa on September 20,
1951, and is referred to in paragraph 8 of that communique which reads as follows:
The council noted that agreement had been reached on the financing of an "infrastructure"-
That is a new word which is put between quotation marks.
-program of airfields, communications and certain installations for the support of forces. These projects will continue without delay.
I am satisfied that no new policy was announced, and that the minister would have been very careful not to announce any policy in that respect which had not been communicated to this house. It has been our firm intention, although this is something for which responsibility has to be taken by the government, to give full information to the house before attempting to carry out any decisions that are arrived at, in order that the house may have an opportunity of expressing its views upon the decisions and saying whether or not it is in agreement with those decisions.
Subtopic: CANADA'S CONTRIBUTION TO EUROPEAN DEFENCE
Sub-subtopic: REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE