May 19, 1952

LIVESTOCK


On the orders of the day:


PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Lake Centre):

should like to direct a question to the Minister of Trade and Commerce. Has any communication been received from the United States government that the embargo against Canadian cattle will be lifted within two months if there are no further outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease?

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   LIVESTOCK
Sub-subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO LIFTING OF UNITED STATES EMBARGO
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Right Hon. C. D. Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce):

Messages could have come to someone other than myself. I have seen no such message, but the law of the United States is that the embargo can be lifted two months after the certificate of final clearance is given by the United States secretary of agriculture.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   LIVESTOCK
Sub-subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO LIFTING OF UNITED STATES EMBARGO
Permalink
LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Hon. Douglas Abbott (Minister of Finance) moved

that the house go into committee of supply.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   LIVESTOCK
Sub-subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO LIFTING OF UNITED STATES EMBARGO
Permalink

THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW

PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, today I intend to present a motion such as is made possible at this stage of the proceedings of the house. It is one which I hope will receive consideration from members on all sides of the house having regard to its subject matter and also to the importance of the subject at a time when we actually have before the house the consideration of estimates for the Department of National Defence which it is anticipated may come close to $2J billion with the supplementary estimates that will be submitted later. Without going into the details of any matters now before any committee of the house, it is only necessary to draw the attention of hon. members to the fact that since this subject was last discussed only a few days ago attention has been drawn to still further examples of widespread theft and looting of government property in military establishments across this country.

If these things were happening in an isolated camp, or even in one or two camps, there might not be the same reason for returning once again to a subject which goes to the root of the confidence which can be placed by members of the house and the people of Canada in the administration of a department which is seeking an allocation of public funds that will amount to almost half of the total raised by taxes from the people of Canada during the coming year. Members of the house have been well aware for some time of the concern that has been expressed in the press and elsewhere about losses, thefts, incendiary fires and looting in government camps and storehouses throughout the country.

Our attention was directed to this subject very dramatically by the nature of the thefts that occurred at Petawawa. Since that time there have been further thefts in Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, British Columbia and elsewhere throughout Canada, all of a nature which suggests a complete break-down of the

[Mr. Diefenbaker.l

administrative supervision of public property by the Department of National Defence. Nor is it simply a case of this concern being expressed by laymen. It would seem that this concern is being expressed in equally forceful language by those in uniform. The Calgary Herald of May 13 reports the contents of a letter written by Colonel J. S. Ross, officer in charge of administration, western command, to the heads of branches and staff, to the heads of services and to units and subunits under his authority. As reported in the Calgary Herald of that date the letter contains the following statement by Colonel Ross:

The adjutant-general has expressed sincere concern at the apparent laxity revealed by the current scandals at Montreal and Petawawa. The trials resulting from these episodes may bring substantial penitentiary sentences to guilty parties.

However, such action will not necessarily redeem lost confidence in the army by the minister, the members of the house, the press or the general public.

There have been numerous incidents of a similar nature, all of which indicate a very distinct lack of higher level supervision. Further, it is apparent that some of the younger officers have not grasped the fact that they are custodians of crown property, and that their action in becoming involved in various fraudulent enterprises displays a moral laxity which can only be described as shocking.

The most recent scandals involve officers and men in the sale of government stores and the appropriation of government stores for their own personal use.

It is of the utmost importance that such irregularities be curbed forthwith. Accordingly you are directed to impress on all officers under your command the necessity for increased vigilance and good personal example.

Drastically increased supervision is to be exercised immediately.

Unit, subunit and detachment commanders are to fully understand their personal responsibilities.

The line of responsibility within your organization is to be clearly defined so as to ensure a clear-cut disciplinary course in the event of slackness or dishonesty coming to light.

Heads of services, units, subunits and detachment commanders will be answerable for future irregularities developing within this command.

That is the end of the quotation in the Calgary Herald of May 13 from a letter attributed to Colonel J. S. Ross. I have pointed out that I am reading from this newspaper report, and that is my only source of information in regard to this letter. I would point out, however, that unless it is disclosed that such letter was not written by the officer in charge of administration, western command, then this house has reason to pay particular attention to certain words contained in that letter written by an officer occupying a position of considerable responsibility in the Canadian armed forces.

May I refer hon. members to one particular sentence in the letter-and I quote again: "There have been numerous incidents of a similar nature, all of which indicate a very

distinct lack of higher level supervision". That quotation suggests reasons why hon. members of this House of Commons should seek in every way in their power to bring about reforms which will examine with the most complete and searching inquiry every detail of the supervision, protection and accounting in relation to these vitally important public stores.

These are not just ordinary stores. These are not simply valuable pieces of public property. This is property which is part and parcel of the costly and vitally important preparation for the defence of Canada in case our security should be threatened. Therefore any method that is followed should be one which will assure that supervision either at the lower or at the higher level, as mentioned by Colonel Ross, will be examined dispassionately, judicially and completely.

Since this matter was first under discussion in the house during the present session, not only have there come to the attention of hon. members and the people of Canada incidents in particular camps, but there have become available reports of theft, looting and fires, some of them incendiary, which have resulted in the last two years in a loss estimated by the Department of National Defence at a figure of more than $7 million. There may be some question however as to whether those figures in themselves even approach the actual value of the losses to the people of Canada. It will be recalled that the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) spoke of losses at Farnham as being in the neighbourhood of $3,500. If the accounting methods of the Department of National Defence report a loss of only $3,500 at Farnham, then the statement given of the total loss as in the statement prepared by the department, showing a loss of more than $7 million, should contain figures very much higher than it actually does.

What prompts me to raise this question with some sense of urgency this afternoon is that within the last few days it has been disclosed that the individual who was asked to undertake some form of inquiry into what had occurred at Petawawa is not actually in Canada at this time. One of the reasons why this in itself should call for immediate attention is that Colonel Currie's reputation, both as an accountant and as a man of great personal integrity and ability, did convey to the public a measure of confidence when the statement was made that he had undertaken to do this work.

No one would question either the accounting ability or the personal integrity or the high standing, in the esteem of Canadians who know him, of Colonel Currie, whose

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts name was placed before us as the man who had been asked to carry out certain inquiries about which we are not too clearly informed.

It has been pointed out already in this house that, no matter what Colonel Currie's personal standing may be, that in itself is no substitute for an inquiry conducted under appropriate terms of reference which would give the inquiry the opportunity to go into every detail of the situation which has been described in such forceful terms by Colonel Ross in the letter quoted by the Calgary Herald. Since it has been stated that Colonel Currie has left Canada and is in England, and that this was with the knowledge and permission of the Minister of National Defence, and that such inquiries as are being conducted are being carried forward by his staff, then it does seem appropriate that we should examine with the utmost care just what measure of authority the staff in Colonel Currie's office really have to conduct an inquiry into laxity in administration which, according to the letter of Colonel Ross, if that is correctly reported shows a distinct lack of high-level supervision over government stores.

When the Minister of National Defence was asked under what authority Colonel Currie has been appointed to conduct an inquiry he replied that it was under section 4 of chapter 43 of the statutes of Canada, 1950, volume I, at page 473. This is known as the National Defence Act. Section 4, which is the section the minister put forward as the statutory provision under which Colonel Currie acquired his authority through a letter from the minister, reads as follows:

The minister shall have the control and management of the Canadian forces, the Defence Research Board and1 of all matters relating to national defence including preparation of civil defence against enemy action, and shall be responsible for the construction and maintenance of all defence establishments and works for the defence of Canada.

That is the whole section and it contains no reference, by implication or otherwise, to an inquiry of any kind. This is the section which says that the minister shall have the control and management of the Canadian forces. Under the authority of that section the minister has written to Mr. Currie to ask him to do certain things at the Petawawa camp. It was said before, and it should be repeated, that under the letter written to Mr. Currie by the minister, Mr. Currie has no authority whatever to call for the production of documents, to compel the attendance of any witness or generally to do any of the things that are essential to the conduct of an inquiry such as I am sure most Canadians thought had been initiated when they read the announcement by the minister. The section merely says that there will be a minister.

Mr. Speaker, without getting away from the real consideration which should be in the mind of every member here, may I suggest that this does reflect the superman complex

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts

with which we seem to be dealing so frequently in this house. There is a minister appointed, and according to him he has the authority to do anything, therefore it is not necessary to bother about the public Inquiries Act or any other act that was designed by this parliament to authorize the kind of inquiry which should be under way at this time. In fact, one might almost hear the minister say, in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan:

The law is the true embodiment,

Of everything that's excellent.

It has no kind of fault or flaw,

And I, my lords, embody the law.

The minister is appointed. He is in charge of the establishment, and therefore he embodies the whole law, and his wish expressed in a letter to Mr. Currie is adequate to conduct an inquiry, which certainly would be one of the most important inquiries conducted in this country if it were carried forward with the measure of authority which such an inquiry should possess.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I am going to present a motion, and in doing so I wish to refer to certain arguments which indicate an attitude toward inquiries provided by the public Inquiries Act which seems to be strangely inconsistent, not only with the attitude of this government on other occasions but also with the history of inquiries of this nature both here and in Great Britain, from whose records we gain so much when we seek precedents of value in dealing with matters of this kind. When it was suggested on another occasion that an inquiry under the public Inquiries Act should be conducted, the Minister of Defence Production (Mr. Howe) belittled the suggestion that an inquiry of this kind could serve any useful purpose. He stated on an earlier occasion that a group of experts had been brought in from Chicago.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I gather that the hon. member is referring to another debate during this session. If it took place during this session, I request that he do not do so.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I had no intention of quoting, but in any event I can put forward my argument without any further reference to what was said on another occasion. The attitude has been adopted on a number of occasions that the calling in of experts is not what is helpful in producing reforms. At the time that matter was under discussion I did not have the opportunity of replying because I had introduced a motion. If I had I would have pointed out that on a number of occasions the failure of people brought in without full authority has been demonstrated, and that is exactly what should be in the minds of hon. members in this house if the arguments which have been put forward against (Mr. Drew.]

the appointment of a body to inquire under the public Inquiries Act are to be regarded as valid. Those arguments themselves demonstrate the unsatisfactory nature of inquiries conducted without the appropriate authority to obtain evidence, to obtain the production of documents, and that is exactly what has been suggested in this house and elsewhere. It has been suggested that, no matter how high the standing may be of any individual or group of individuals asked to inquire into certain matters of importance to the public, that inquiry can produce no satisfactory result if such individual or individuals do not find themselves cloaked with adequate powers under the public Inquiries Act.

Any suggestion that it is a derogation of the authority and responsibility of members of the house to suggest the appointment of an appropriate body to conduct a public inquiry under the public Inquiries Act is surely answered by the fact that this government has on so many occasions seen fit to appoint bodies to conduct inquiries into matters which ultimately could only be dealt with by this house and by parliament, and have, in fact, claimed a substantial measure of credit for adopting that course.

May I, Mr. Speaker, anticipate the possibility that we would once again hear any suggestion that it would be a derogation of the responsibility of the members of this house and of parliament to express their opinion that an appropriate body should be appointed under the public Inquiries Act. May I point out the occasions on which the appointment of such a body has been of vital importance not only here but at Westminster, from which we draw so many of our valuable precedents.

I think it may be worth while pointing out that our whole present system of public accounting and the presentation of accounts and reports to parliament is the result of the recommendations of a royal commission appointed in 1831 by the parliament at Westminster to inquire into their general methods of accounting, the preparation of accounts and, generally, the business methods of the government in relation to those subjects. Not only were the reforms effected at Westminster which produced their modern system of accounting but since we became, to use words that have been so often employed, "the transcript of Westminster", we adopted the same methods that were the result of recommendations of a royal commission in 1831.

Then when we are told that our treasury system is so perfect that it could gain nothing from such an inquiry, may I remind hon. members that another commission appointed two years earlier by the House of Commons

and parliament at Westminster conducted an inquiry into treasury matters-it was known as the treasury commission-and our present treasury methods are largely the result of the recommendations of that commission.

Then, to bring the examples closer to the subject matter under discussion, I know that most members will recall-and most certainly the Minister of National Defence will do so- the Esher commission of 1904, which was a judicial commission headed by Lord Esher and which made recommendations that resulted in a complete reorganization not only of the British army but of the department of national defence and of the allocation of tasks within the department of national defence. May I remind the hon. members who have not recently read the findings of the Esher commission-when there is any suggestion that the appointment of such a commission is a derogation of the responsibilities and duties of members of parliament-that the Esher commission even went so far as to recommend what duties the prime minister of Great Britain should perform in relation to the supervision of national defence, and that commission outlined generally the duties of ministers, the duties of the general staff, of the adjutant general's branch, of the quartermaster general's branch, and of the whole military organization. Those recommendations brought about reforms without which it would never have been possible for the United Kingdom to go into the war of 1914 with an organization which was capable of performing the great services it rendered to Great Britain and to the whole free world.

Here in this country we have had commissions which have dealt with subjects that most certainly come under the authority and the responsibility of members of parliament at some point. Only a few days ago, I have reason to believe, approval was expressed on both sides of the house of an indication that the government proposes to carry out another recommendation of the Massey commission. The very fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) was making this announcement indicated that this subject is one which must be dealt with by parliament if it is to be dealt with effectively. I have seen no suggestion that there was any derogation from the authority and responsibility of members of parliament when the Massey commission was appointed to inquire into subjects which must be dealt with by this House of Commons and by parliament if the recommendations are to be implemented.

Then at a time when we have reason to examine the estimates of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation it perhaps is appropriate to remember that the Canadian Broadcasting

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts Corporation is simply the Canadian broadcasting commission under a new form and that the Canadian broadcasting commission was set up as a result of the recommendations of a royal commission appointed by the government of Canada. In addition, there are a number of members who will recall that a royal commission conducted an inquiry into certain episodes connected with customs in this country, and that, as a result of the recommendations made at that time, there have been for a great many years no major scandals connected with customs.

There also have been a number of commissions appointed to deal with railways, shipping and other matters of the kind. In every single case those commissions were called upon to deal with subjects which ultimately would call for examination by the House of Commons and parliament if anything effective was to be done.

May I point out what a strange conclusion we would be led to if we accepted the proposition that the government has on some occasions put forward. If the government believes that it is a derogation of responsibility to appoint a royal commission to inquire into something that relates to the duties of government, then what does the government say about its appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the irrigation project and the power project in Saskatchewan which has been requested so frequently and with such vigour by the members on this side of the house?

If the government does not think that such a royal commission should be appointed, surely it is to be hoped that this thought was not in their minds when they appointed such a commission to deal with that tremendously important project at a time when the members of this party, and of all other parties in the house, were urging the government to act, and to act promptly, to carry forward this great and very beneficial undertaking.

No, Mr. Speaker, the history of royal commissions is a history of inquiries which have produced many of the major reforms in our administrative system, as well as in the detailed duties of government and of parliament. Granted, there have been in this country and in other countries royal commissions which have not done all that was expected: the fact remains nevertheless that over the years most of the major reforms in the organization of government, in the reorganization of military services, have been the result of inquiries of this kind. It was in fact because of the inquiry conducted by what was known as the Otter commission that there was a re-organization of the militia in Canada prior to the great war, which

2332 HOUSE OF

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts made it possible for the Canadian forces at that time to take such an effective part so early in the first world war.

I have mentioned the 'history of these commissions to anticipate any suggestion that an inquiry under the public Inquiries Act would be any derogation of the responsibilities, duties and authority of the members of this house, and at the same time to urge the hon. members on both sides of the house to approach this subject with a recognition of the fact that each one of us should be seeking some method by which confidence will be restored in a department which is seeking approximately half of all the heavy taxes which will be imposed upon the people of Canada at this time, and which has the responsibility for preparing our defence forces in the hope that their effectiveness, along with the effectiveness of the defence forces of other free nations, may in fact avoid the necessity of employing these forces again at any time in the future for war itself.

How can the members of this house, the members on either side of this house, say to the people of Canada that they are confident that everything is being done, when step by step what has been done challenges our confidence in every way? No matter what view may have been expressed on other occasions, any arguments I have put forward as to the arguments raised against royal commissions are put forward only with the hope that arguments raised on other occasions may not be raised at this time against what seems to me to be the only possible device by which we can get a satisfactory inquiry that will restore confidence to this house, yes, restore confidence in the minds of the members on both sides of the house, and in doing that restore confidence to the people of Canada that something effective will really be done, and that if, as Colonel Ross is reported to have said, there is in fact a distinct lack of higher level supervision we shall know where that lack of supervision really is, no matter how high it may be.

I am sure that the members of this house have confidence in the chief of the general staff, in the chief of the air staff, in the chief of the naval staff. I am sure that they have confidence in these officers who are responsible for the strictly military aspect of our defence problems. But, Mr. Speaker, no matter where the break-down may have occurred, I think the members of this house and the people of Canada are greatly in need of restored confidence right up the line in those duties which have to do with accounting supervision and protection.

The Minister of National Defence is well aware that for several years efforts have been made within the Department of National Defence to bring about a more efficient method of accounting. I am sure the Minister of National Defence is aware that there have been suggestions that a central accounting organization which also had the most modern type of accounting methods, adjusting its inventory as any business would, would be able both to direct more effective supervision of accounting duties and at the same time to report on any problem relating to accounts in a manner which does not now seem to be possible.

Surely the members of this house must have been impressed with the length of time that, on a number of occasions, it has taken to provide information to the defence expenditure committee, as well as to this house, in regard to details which could have been provided within a few hours if the same accounting methods were in operation in the Department of National Defence as would be required in any big business in this country today.

Over and over again an almost plaintive story has been told of the number of officials required and the length of time that would be involved in preparing details of something that should have been available simply by examining the end entries under any effective system of accounting that was consistent with modern accounting practices. Surely it is something about which the Minister of National Defence can agree without being indignant that it might even be hinted that the Department of National Defence could be improved in any way. Surely the time has come when the constant recurrence of these thefts, losses and incendiary as well as other fires should have impressed upon the Minister of National Defence-even if it were only to reassure himself personally that everything is being done that should be done-that an inquiry of this nature would certainly be justified.

Both in the Supreme Court of Canada and in the supreme courts of the provinces are judges of great reputation, men who served in one war or the other with great distinction. I can think of certain judges who had experience in both wars. I am not suggesting that they alone would be highly qualified, but at least some of them would have available in their own memories a knowledge that would be extremely valuable in approaching a problem of this nature.

The people of this country have indicated through the press and in other ways that they want reassurance, and this government has on many occasions indicated its own belief in

the procedure provided by the Inquiries Act, and it is for that reason that I propose to present this motion. I ask the Minister of National Defence, in his own interest from the point of view of avoiding constant requests of other kinds, and also all members as representatives of the people of Canada, to indicate their desire that this subject be dealt with by a judicial inquiry. Now that we learn that the inquiry, which is not really an inquiry as that term is ordinarily used, is nothing more than an office accounting procedure because of the absence of Colonel Currie in England-that absence in itself indicates an extended delay before any satisfactory answers can be given to this house and to the people of Canada-I am proposing that a judicial inquiry at the very highest level, such as has brought about great reforms in the past, should be instituted to deal with something which now relates to the whole subject matter, not only of accounting but of the national defence of this country.

With a department which is going to spend in this year alone such fabulous sums as those before us, with a department which is responsible for preparing the defence of Canada and our common participation under the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, we should be assured of an administrative system, of an internal organization and of supervision of accounting which will guarantee that we have in this country as efficient and as effective an organization dealing with that vitally important matter as can possibly be made available. Therefore I move, seconded by the hon. member for Peel (Mr. Graydon): '

That all the words after "that" to the end of the question be deleted and the following substituted therefor:

"the government should consider the advisability of undertaking a judicial inquiry into the organization of the Department of National Defence and without restricting the generality of the foregoing, to investigate the accounting, inspection and administrative supervision of public property by the Department of National Defence with particular reference to losses of property by theft, looting and fire; the nature of supervision over the army stores and as to whether there has occurred any dereliction of duty on the part of any of the personnel of the said department whose duty it is to safeguard the public property of Canada.

The judicial body thus appointed to have all the powers of a royal commission under part I of the Inquiries Act, chapter 99, of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1927, to make findings and recommendations and to report the same to parliament."

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) has based his appeal to this house to adopt this motion on charges of "wholesale looting" in the Department of National Defence. He has made this charge

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts before. He made it first on April 21 when he moved the adjournment of the house to discuss a matter of urgent public importance. He repeated it when he spoke for the first time on this subject on May 1. He repeated it in a broadcast of the program "The Nation's Business" over the trans-Canada network on May 6.

This charge is a serious charge. So far as I can learn from the speech of the leader of the opposition this afternoon it is based on thefts at Petawawa, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and in British Columbia. He seemed to derive some comfort and support from the fact that Colonel Ross directed a letter to the staff subordinate to him urging a more careful supervision. Why, this letter was the right kind of letter for an officer in command of men to write. That kind of letter has been sent through the years every time there is occasion. This is the kind of action that should be taken by commanding officers and in so far as anything that is brought to my attention is concerned, I see that it is taken.

I do not suggest that the leader of the opposition has said this, but the implication of these wholesale charges of wholesale looting is that great quantities of stores, out of all proportion to the value of the stores concerned, are being removed wholesale from the warehouses, storerooms and depots of the Department of National Defence and the armed forces. He himself used a figure of over $7 million as the amount of loss through theft and fire. That would be a very large figure but that is not in accordance with the facts before the defence expenditures committee. I will come to that in a minute.

What are we concerned with in the Department of National Defence and the three forces? We are concerned with an operation involving real estate valued at something over a billion and a half dollars, with equipment, supplies and stores having a value of perhaps another billion dollars, quite apart from ships and aircraft.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

What did the minister mean by "real estate"? Does he mean the purchase of land, and so on?

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

Buildings and land, but the land we occupy is not nearly as valuable as the buildings.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

The minister mentioned a billion and a half for real estate.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

A billion and a half for real estate and something approaching a billion dollars for stores, equipment, and the like. I have made as careful comparisons as I can on the basis of the information available on the subject of fire losses. As I said in

2334 HOUSE OF

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts the house a few days ago, we compared the experience of the Department of National Defence with the experience in six major cities in Canada. The experience in the Department of National Defence for the years 1950 and 1951, the last for which we have figures, was about the same as it was in 1949. The incidence of loss through fire in the Department of National Defence was just half as great on a fair basis of comparison as the loss to civilian property in these principal cities despite the fact that in national defence we are engaged in operations using inflammable and explosive materials, despite the fact that the camps and air stations are located at isolated centres and do not have the advantage of mutual protection, and despite the fact that a large part of the property is of wartime construction and is highly inflammable and very difficult to extinguish once a fire has started.

I ask the leader of the opposition or anyone else to establish before the defence expenditures committee that the rate of loss by fire in the armed forces is higher in proportion than it is in civilian life. This is a fair comparison, and no figures have ever been put before me which disclose the contrary. The leader of the opposition referred to the number of fires of incendiary origin. So far as it has been established in a court of law, there has only been one fire of incendiary origin. That was the last fire at Plouffe park and the soldier responsible was sentenced to two years less a day. Every fire is investigated by fire marshals and by the special officers of the R.C.M.P. In some cases civilian investigators are brought in. I suggest that to have one proven case of arson for the whole Department of National Defence in the last five years is far smaller than the record of arson in civil life.

The amount of loss by theft is not the gigantic figure mentioned by the leader of the opposition or implied through his reference to a figure of over $7 million. A return filed before the committee on defence expenditures gives a summary of losses due to theft or fraud, fire and other write-offs for the three services from April 1, 1950, to March 31, 1952, a period of two years. Losses due to theft or fraud less the amount recovered came to $85,809.75. I think every hon. member of the house has enough information from his own experience of fires and fire losses, of theft and losses by theft, and particularly with respect to property like that in the Department of National Defence and the services involving camps where construction is going on and large stores widely distributed among almost a thousand units throughout

the country, to realize that a loss of $85,000 odd in two years by theft or fraud is extremely small.

I have the figures on prosecutions for theft in the civil courts in cases where civilians were convicted, cases where servicemen were convicted and also cases where servicemen were convicted by courts martial for the same offence. The last period for which we have figures is from October 1, 1949, to September 30, 1950. In the civil courts charges in which civilians were convicted totalled 6,643. The number of servicemen convicted in civil courts was 94, and the number of servicemen convicted in courts martial was 31. The total male population of Canada between 18 and 45, which are the ages corresponding to those of practically all members of the armed forces, was 2,722,201 at that time. The mean population of the armed forces during that period was 61,799. The incidence of theft by civilians was -23 per cent and the incidence of theft by servicemen was -20 per cent, so that on the only figures that have been put before me the record of service personnel is better than that of civilian personnel.

Put in another way, during this period the service population was 2-22 per cent of the male population between the ages of 18 and 45, but service personnel were convicted either by civil courts or courts martial of committing 1-9 per cent of the offences of theft committed in the country, considerably less proportionately than the civilian population. In the armed forces today there are over 97,000 individuals. Employed in civilian occupations by the Department of National Defence and the armed services there are another 40,000 civilians making a total population employed full time of 137,000 people.

It is no part of my reply, Mr. Speaker, to say that the 137,000 are all perfect. Unfortunately, in such a large group there are a considerable number of individuals who have been tempted to do wrong. When we find them out we prosecute them; and we have I believe in the provost corps and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which make investigations into every loss in which theft or fraud is suspected, a group comparable in efficiency and honesty with any group of civil or other police in this country.

That we should have any losses is deplorable. It must not be taken in any way, shape or form that, in making this reply, I am endeavouring to whitewash or to show complacency about the present situation, anything that has happened or anything that may happen. Our job is to use every means possible so as to ensure that the utmost care is

taken in safeguarding public property and in preventing loss, whether it be by fire, theft, fraud or any other means.

Toward that end from time to time we have the assistance of officers of the treasury. We have of course within the department itself an internal audit with a travelling group of auditors. We have the control of the Auditor General, to whom these audit reports are sent; and also from time to time we engage outside assistance to look into the question of systems and the like. We have the advantage of making comparisons with the systems and results in other countries, and in particular the United States and Great Britain. There has never been put before me any figure which would indicate that our losses by these causes are any greater than in the armed forces of those countries. As I indicated the other day in the house, the experience in connection with theft, in the Canadian National Railways, which carries on very large operations, showed losses which, in proportion to the amount involved, appear to be greater than those in the Department of National Defence.

Some general assertions have been made by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) and I must make some corrections. The use of round figures of large size should be indulged in with a sense of responsibility; and when the errors are large one can't help wondering how sound are the charges based upon the figures used to back them up.

I mentioned a few moments ago a statement placed before the committee on defence expenditures which showed losses due to theft in two years amounting to $85,809.75 and losses due to fire of $5,205,970.54-a long way from the figure of over $7 million. The other figure is for "write-offs" of $2,112,931.15. There is no evidence yet put forward to show that this resulted from theft, fraud or fire, or to suggest that they were not proper write-offs largely of an accounting nature.

The committee on defence expenditures is sitting. It has had these figures put before it. The witnesses are available. They have answered questions with respect to the figures. And I understand, from the last information coming to me, they have dealt with the write-offs, fires and thefts in so far as the navy is concerned, and that they are proceeding with the others. And I suggest that is the right place to do it.

The leader of the opposition referred to the cost of defence this year as of the order of two and a half billions of dollars. There is provision for two billions in the estimates and he spoke of another half billion in the supplementaries. How anyone can anticipate supplementaries of that magnitude at this

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts stage, I do not know. There is no basis for it. With the exception of the year 1951-52, the Department of National Defence has come within one per cent of spending the amount appropriated!. It would surprise me if there were any supplementaries this year for the defence department.

But another figure was given. In his broadcast the leader of the opposition, making much the same argument as he made today, said:

Let us see just how some of these figures are made up. In the estimates of the Department of National Defence there is for instance a figure of $17 million for publicity. This sum does not include the salaries of the well-trained civil servants who perform the regular duties in connection with information and ordinary publicity.

Note that additional sentence-"This sum does not include the salaries of the well-trained civil servants who perform the regular duties in connection with information and ordinary publicity"-which tends to give a sort of corroborative detail as evidence to support the $17 million figure.

When I read this I must say I was astonished. I was not astonished at the figure, because I knew the figure was wrong; but I was astonished that it should have been given. I looked at once at the statement available to every hon. member, contained in the envelope at the back of the estimates, in which is set out a summary of standard objects of expenditure, under all the different categories, and arranged on a similar basis for each government department. I find there that the item for publicity for national defence is not $17 million but $2,875,460.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

James Sinclair (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance)

Liberal

Mr. Sinclair:

The usual error.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

This item which appears under national defence is entirely for recruiting publicity, which comes under the heading, "Films, displays, advertising and other informational publicity", set out as column 10. The total for all government departments is $10,461,641. Then there is the heading of "Publication of departmental reports and other material", set out as column 9. Here there are over forty items listed for all departments, totalling $6,987,136, and the item for national defence is $2,485,900. It is, as the leader of the opposition has said, in addition to salaries and pay.

Now, sir, the leader of the opposition has made another charge that the need for this inquiry by a royal commission is indicated by the time it takes to get information from the Department of National Defence and the armed forces. We are not performing miracles in the department but I follow the questions on the order paper very carefully, and I venture to say that, having regard to the

2336 HOUSE OF

Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts number of questions, their nature and the size of the operation, answers are given about as promptly as one could expect. As for information requested before the parliamentary committee, I ask hon. members who sit on that committee what information they have been refused, and what delays there have been in making the information available. I have read the proceedings of the committee, and I have seen a number of charges about not getting information. But when the charges are made-

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I think it might be better if the minister did not refer to the proceedings in the committee.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. In the house itself, those charges have been made about lack of information. I venture to say that more information has been, and is being, given about defence and matters relating to defence than in any parliament in the British commonwealth. I ask any hon. member who questions that statement to prove his contention. I have here references to the debates on defence in the British House of Commons for the session corresponding to this one. I have the number of hours already spent, and the number of speakers who have taken part in the debate. I wish some hon. members who make these charges would read British Hansard to see how the debate on defence compares with the debate here. The government set aside one day in December for general debate on defence. There was one day for debate on the estimates on each of the service departments, the navy, army and air force, and one day on supplementaries. That is all there has been, and that is all there is likely to be this session.

There is a committee on estimates, but during the last year and a half it has not met for as many hours as our committees on public accounts and defence expenditures have devoted to defence matters. That committee, and the house at Westminster, have not had before them one-tenth of the information that has been placed before this house on defence matters. I suggest that it is time those who make these charges about lack of information should prove them.

It is time that the operation of national defence be regarded as an operation on a scale which is comparable with that of anything there is in the country today. At the present time, in addition to the 137,000 men and women engaged full time in defence, there are nearly another 60,000 in the reserve. There are well over 500 units, and there has been an increase of strength of over 100 per cent in two years. When you have an operation involving that number of people and the

amount of property and equipment that there is in the services, the record compares favourably with that of any operation about which we know and are able to obtain information.

The leader of the opposition was interesting when he said that he had confidence in the chiefs of staff, of the navy, army and air force, and others responsible for the strictly military operations. I was not surprised to hear him make this statement because he must know, and the house must know, that the sweeping charges of "wholesale looting" tend to cast aspersion on all members of the armed forces, officers and men alike. He must know, and the house must know, that the service personnel keenly resent these charges, because they believe that they are as honest and decent a group of men as there is in Canada. To anticipate this, the leader of the opposition says he has confidence in the chiefs of staff-well, so have I. I have confidence in the chiefs of staff who are responsible for the operation of the three services.

Under the general supervision of the chief of the general staff of the army comes the quartermaster general, who is responsible for the store of the ordnance corps and its administration; the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and its administration; medical and dental stores, the Royal Canadian Engineers, and the Army Service Corps. Those are the branches concerned with the business of taking in stores, issuing stores, keeping stores and accounting for stores. They have had a very large job. Today the engineers are concerned with 513 major contracts across Canada. The engineers were concerned with plans and specifications and, to a certain extent, looking after this very large operation. This has been accomplished without any very substantial additions to personnel of the engineer corps. We are trying to handle this big operation without building up a large overhead which we would not need after the peak has been passed.

Now, I have mentioned these branches of the service which are responsible, and when the adjutant general, the quartermaster general or the chief of the general staff or the corresponding officers in all the three services, find that there has been a theft, he draws to the attention of the officers under him the need for effective supervision. When Colonel Ross was referring to a distinct lack of higher level supervision, he was referring to supervision at a level subordinate to himself.

We have had before us a motion that all this should be the subject of a royal commission. This is not the first time that the

leader of the opposition 'has made suggestions of this kind. I have not a full list, but I have some notes indicating that he made similar proposals back in 1949. On October 26-

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Will the minister permit a question?

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxlon:

Yes.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW
Permalink

May 19, 1952