November 23, 1951

HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATES

OFFICIAL REPORT


queen's printer and controller of stationery OTTAWA, 1952



*



Friday, November 23, 1951


NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY

CANADA'S CONTRIBUTION TO EUROPEAN DEFENCE

LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

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.

Topic:   NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY
Subtopic:   CANADA'S CONTRIBUTION TO EUROPEAN DEFENCE
Sub-subtopic:   REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
Permalink
PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

I submit, Mr. Speaker, that what has been put before the house by the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) does not adequately deal with the question of privilege which has been raised. The point of concern to the members of this house and to the people of Canada is the very ancient principle that the first responsibility of parliament is the control of money. It is not a question of whether members feel that they were slighted in not hearing about declarations of this kind first. The important thing is that neither the question of policy involving very heavy financial commitments, nor the undertaking to other nations through the press that we were going to make such commitments, should be made at any time without the elected representatives of the people in parliament deciding on such a point.

The Prime Minister has stated that he has been informed by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) that he did not use the figures in the press conference to which reference has been made. Naturally, the Prime Minister is in the position where he has presented to the Minister of National Defence the reports that have appeared, and to which reference has been made. In relation to the words that were used, may I say that they were not statements of mine but were reports appearing in the press which were referred to

127G

North Atlantic Treaty

in this house in the remarks that I made. The Prime Minister has given the interpretation placed on the interview by the Minister of National Defence. I must say it is difficult to grasp the explanation made by the Minister of National Defence that the Canadian Press report went beyond what he said. In the first place, the Canadian Press dispatch was one which carried the name of one of the most famous Canadian war reporters, who since the war has been dealing particularly with military matters. I believe that every hon. member of this house will approve of my statement that Mr. Douglas How is one of the most highly regarded members of the press gallery. He gave us a detailed account starting with the words:

Defence Minister Claxton said this morning in Rotterdam that Canada will foot the bill for the construction of four or five aerodromes in Europe.

Then, after explaining the fact that this statement was made at the time the Canadian 27th infantry brigade was being turned over to General Eisenhower, the report goes on:

The aerodromes, he said, will cost $100 million.

I would be very reluctant to believe that Mr. Douglas How would make a statement of that kind unless it had been made, but the thing that makes it difficult to accept the explanation of the minister in this respect is that a similar statement was carried by the British United Press. It is a strange coincidence that they believed also the statement had: been made in regard: to Canada paying the building costs. Furthermore, a similar dispatch was carried by the United Press in the United States, and by Associated Press in the United States and throughout the world.

I believe it may indicate how difficult it is to understand any suggestion that there was an extension of the minister's remarks when I read this paragraph from an Associated Press dispatch from Rotterdam, dated November 21, which appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on November 22:

Canadian defence minister Brooke Claxton said here today that Canada will build four or five new airstrips in western Europe to field an eleven squadron jet air division. He estimated the cost at $100 million.

It would indeed be a remarkable thing if at that press conference the representatives of several of the best known press agencies, for some reason, all introduced statements which had not actually been made by the minister. I would point out that in his remarks the Prime Minister has not referred to another statement, which was not made at Rotterdam but was made the day before, and which goes to this whole question as to whether or not statements of policy and commitments are being made outside of this

parliament without parliament previously knowing about them. An earlier dispatch from The Hague dated! November 20, and also signed by Mr. Douglas How of Canadian Press, contains a brief statement in regard to the arrival there of the Canadian contingent. Then it refers to the construction oi barracks in Germany, and it deals very definitely with where they are to be and what is to be done. It reads in part as follows:

Defence Minister Claxton announced last night that Canada is planning to erect permanent quarters for her 27th brigade in the Soest area of western Germany-a move which would put a garrison in that key area for any allied defence stand east of the Rhine.

Then further in that same dispatch I quote these words:

. . . the minister said the barracks will be built by Germans, the work to start in the next few months and be completed late next year.

Further on in the same dispatch I quote these words:

It is expected to cost between $5 million and $10 million.

That was a very definite statement of policy and commitment which has not been covered by the remarks of the Prime Minister, and which cannot be covered by any reference to the general statement of the Minister of National Defence of October 22, when he simply made a broad statement that aerodromes were not now available in Europe and in the meantime the squadrons were to be based in Britain, or any general reference to the fact that Canadian troops would be sent to Europe and trained there. Those are definite and positive statements which have appeared not only in Canada but in Europe and the United States.

I believe that this is a matter of considerable importance to all of us, having regard to the position in which we find ourselves in these difficult days. We should certainly be giving every assurance we can to our associates as to what we are doing. We certainly should be giving every assurance that we can as to our full participation in the joint effort for the preservation of peace and the defence of our western civilization. No word that I have used in reference to these dispatches can in any way be taken as a suggestion that I am objecting to Canada's accepting such responsibility as has been approved by this house and by the parliament of Canada. What I am pointing out is that statements of the Minister of National Defence at this particular time have more weight and are of greater importance than those of any other minister,, when they are taken in relationship to the place where they were made and to the circumstances under which they were made.

Naturally the people of Canada look to the Minister of National Defence to tell them the facts and to inform them with regard to the defence situation and the things that we are doing. The statement in regard to the construction of barracks and the statement in regard to the construction of airfields, and the cost of those barracks and of those airfields, are things about which every Canadian is naturally greatly interested. Most of all the elected representatives of the people sitting here in this house have an interest and a duty in connection with such statements. But his statements over there have gone further than that. In explaining what Canada was doing in connection with the air, I find that in another Canadian Press dispatch from Rotterdam there is a reference to the eleven squadrons and to the part they are going to play. I quote from a Canadian Press dispatch from Rotterdam, of November 21, referring to the statement of the Minister of National Defence:

Claxton told reporters that the production of Sabre jets at Montreal is the biggest phase of Canada's arms production. He said the Sabre can and does lick the Russian-built MIG-15 daily in Korea.

I think that those who have seen the Sabre jet in operation know that it is an immensely powerful aircraft with great speed. But I think that it is important to keep a sense of proportion in regard to these matters. I think the Canadian people should keep all our participation in a true perspective, and that the perspective should be properly delineated by the Minister of National Defence above all others. On the very same day that the minister was making in Rotterdam that statement which conveyed the impression of the superiority of the Sabre jet, the commander of the United States air force was making a statement in Washington which is something that should be in the minds of everyone if there is any thought of complacency. I quote from an Associated Press dispatch from Washington dated November 21:

The Chinese communist air force has deployed in North China and Manchuria about 1,500 planes, approximately one-half of which are MIG-15 jet fighters. The MIG "in many respects can outperform our own F-86"; it has outclimbed the best airplanes that have been tested against it and performed in combat at altitudes approaching 50,000 feet.

The MIG can fly "at speeds in excess of the speed of sound."

That isi a quotation from an Associated Press dispatch from Washington on the same day as the other statement was made in Rotterdam. The reliability of these statements of the Minister of National Defence with regard to matters of defence assumes increasing importance; and I submit that the points of privilege which were raised in this house in respect of the statements as to policy and

94699-82J

North Atlantic Treaty

to commitments have not been answered by the Prime Minister, although I am sure the Prime Minister has fully interpreted the statement made to him by the Minister of National Defence. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that there is still much to be explained to this house as to why the Minister of National Defence was making statements of that kind in Europe, when the elected representatives of the people have not had an opportunity to pass on those extremely important decisions.

Topic:   NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY
Subtopic:   CANADA'S CONTRIBUTION TO EUROPEAN DEFENCE
Sub-subtopic:   REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
Permalink
LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. Si. Laurent:

I am not going to attempt any controversy on the accuracy or otherwise of the statements I received from the Minister of National Defence as contrasted with statements which have appeared in dispatches in the press. I obtained this information from the Minister of National Defence. I take it to be accurate, and I am putting it before the house as such.

With respect to the construction of barracks, I am afraid that the leader of the opposition did not read the whole of this clipping or dispatch from The Hague of November 20. In it there is this statement:

In a talk with reporters aboard an RCAF plane which flew him swiftly on a three-stop flight around western Europe, the minister said the barracks will be built by Germans, the w'ork to start in the next few months and be completed late next year.

It is Canada's hope that a way can be found to prevent the Canadian government from becoming a land owner in Germany, that is, that this would become part of her contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization without remaining Canadian property.

It seems to me that that is quite in line with our expectation that we are going to have to provide our share of the cost of construction but that it is no part of our policy to become owners of military establishments in continental Europe.

Topic:   NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY
Subtopic:   CANADA'S CONTRIBUTION TO EUROPEAN DEFENCE
Sub-subtopic:   REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
Permalink
PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to extend this discussion because there is, of course, a much more extensive report than has been referred to by either of us. But I would point out with reference to that particular point that the minister has made a definite statement there, if the report is correct, that Canada is going ahead to build within the next few months barracks in the Soest area of western Germany and as far as the minister's statement goes it is the expressed hope that through some arrangement still to be made Canada may be able to claim that as part of our contribution under NATO.

That is a very different thing from making a contribution under NATO and having the installation built by NATO and under NATO direction. There has as yet been neither an announcement of policy in this house nor an opportunity for the members of this house to express any opinion in regard to Canada

Public Works Act

undertaking to construct barracks in Germany or any place else under such arrangements as these. It is not likely that Germany will be the only place that may be under consideration. Before any positive declaration is made that we are going to do certain things within a certain time limit in a certain area, I submit that the statement of policy should be enunciated here and that the members of the house should have an opportunity of passing upon it.

Topic:   NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY
Subtopic:   CANADA'S CONTRIBUTION TO EUROPEAN DEFENCE
Sub-subtopic:   REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
Permalink
LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. Si. Laurent:

The statement of policy will be enunciated here and will not be in the form of newspaper reports of interviews with any individual.

Topic:   NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY
Subtopic:   CANADA'S CONTRIBUTION TO EUROPEAN DEFENCE
Sub-subtopic:   REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
Permalink
PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I am glad that the Prime Minister made the statement he has just made, because the whole point that was raised as a matter of privilege was that the members of this house do not want policy to be announced by ministers through the press; they want it to be announced here in this house.

Topic:   NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY
Subtopic:   CANADA'S CONTRIBUTION TO EUROPEAN DEFENCE
Sub-subtopic:   REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
Permalink

PUBLIC WORKS ACT

TENDERS BY PUBLIC ADVERTISEMENT FOR EXECUTION OF WORK

LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works) moved

for leave to introduce Bill No. 26, to amend the Public Works Act.

Topic:   PUBLIC WORKS ACT
Subtopic:   TENDERS BY PUBLIC ADVERTISEMENT FOR EXECUTION OF WORK
Permalink
PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Explain.

Topic:   PUBLIC WORKS ACT
Subtopic:   TENDERS BY PUBLIC ADVERTISEMENT FOR EXECUTION OF WORK
Permalink
LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Fournier (Hull):

This proposed bill will be consequential on the passing of Bill No. 25, which received first reading yesterday, to provide for the financial administration of the government of Canada, audit of the public accounts and the financial control of crown corporations. Paragraph (c) of section 1 will be amended and subsection 2 of the old act will be deleted to conform with the provisions of the bill I have just mentioned.

Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.

Topic:   PUBLIC WORKS ACT
Subtopic:   TENDERS BY PUBLIC ADVERTISEMENT FOR EXECUTION OF WORK
Permalink

RAILWAY ACT

AMENDMENT TO INCREASE SALARIES OF CHIEF

November 23, 1951