Mr. E. W. George (Westmorland):
I rise on a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker. I want to deal with the personal attack made against me by the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Nickle) in this house on the evening of January 15. He asked for an explanation regarding the matters he then raised, and I am glad to give him the explanation for which he asked. I make this explanation out of a strong sense of responsibility as a member of this house.
When I heard of the nature of the hon. member's speech, I naturally wished to take time to read it in Hansard and put myself in a position where I could verify properly all the factual references made in that speech and the one which I am making this afternoon. I am, therefore, taking the very first opportunity which has been open to me to rise in this house and reply to the hon. member for Calgary West. I propose to deal with this matter simply by laying the facts of the situation before this house.
On a matter of this kind involving the privileges of the house, and myself as a member, I recognize that it is for the house to decide whether my actions, as a member of this house and as a commanding officer of a reserve unit, have been proper or not. It is in the sense of one being concerned not only with the charge that has been made against me but with the broad principles which ought to govern the conduct of members of this house that I make these remarks today.
When I assumed command of my regiment, the 8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars, in January, 1951, on the death of the former commanding officer, we had an excellent unit, and it was rated as the best reserve army regiment in Canada by Mr. Ross Munro in the Edmonton Journal on the 17th February, 1951. In 1950 we won the Leonard trophy, emblematic of the best reserve armoured regiment in Canada.
The death of the former commanding officer created a real problem as to what 68108-71
would happen to the regiment, and how and by whom it would be led in the future. As second in command, in order to maintain continuity within the regiment, I felt that I was under a strong moral obligation to the unit, and to the army itself, to contribute what I could to the maintenance of the unit's excellent reputation.
The former commanding officer did an excellent job, by his initiative and application to the heavy task. I, as second in command, in Ottawa a large part of the years 1949 and 1950, was not completely in the picture when I took over the regiment. Naturally, on assuming command, I had to devote a large amount of time to the task of familiarizing myself with all the details of the unit's operations and in addition as a consequence of the change of command certain organizational changes within the unit occurred. I mention this so that hon. members will appreciate the problems with which I was faced in 1951, as a result of having assumed command.
I think that many hon. members are familiar with the difficulties faced in the administration of reserve units in a rural area. As an example I might give some details about the organization of my own regiment, and the large territory in which it carries on its operations. Our regimental area is spread over a radius of 85 miles; regimental headquarters and "B" squadron are at Sussex; headquarters squadron at Hampton and St. Martins; "A" squadron at Petitcodiac, Havelock and Salisbury; and "C" squadron at Dorchester, Sackville and Port Elgin. This is a slight change from the regimental areas of 1951, as in that year we were training in both Saint John and Moncton, but we did not have the Petitcodiac-Salisbury area.
In order to familiarize myself with the affairs of the regiment, as well as looking after the day-to-day affairs I spent most of my spare time working for the reserve army.
I took no holidays, and spent any time I had, including every week end, in the interests of the reserve.
The training program for 1951 included one evening at local headquarters, and one week end per month at Sussex on corps training; three Sundays per month were used by the squadrons, one or two of them at a time, depending upon their number of personnel
Mr. E. W. George and on the fourth Sunday the officers, W.O.'s and N.C.O.'s trained on the equipment. If there was a fifth Sunday, this too was often used. During the Easter and Christmas recesses tradesmen courses were conducted with about one hundred personnel attending each course. This extensive training program was carried on over the regiment's large territory; and it will be understood that, in addition to the training time, a large amount of time had to be spent in administration by the senior officers of the unit in organizing these activities.
As commanding officer of the regiment,
I also have under my command the army camp at Sussex which has sufficient accommodation for a regiment, in addition to a former R.C.E.M.E. workshop which we use as a tank hangar and for stores. In addition, I have on charge the Sussex armouries, which is used by "B" squadron. I also have on my charge accommodation at Hampton, St. Martins, Petitcodiac, Havelock, Salisbury and Sackville, the tank driving range ait Camp Sussex and the Sussex rifle range. Altogether, I have on my personal charge over three million dollars' worth of buildings, tanks, training equipment, clothing, et cetera. While I have not seen all the training areas in Canada, I am sure that our reserve army training facilities are among the best in the country.
No hon. member would expect that the great responsibility of administering these extensive training facilities could be properly undertaken without the devotion of a large amount of time to it. I felt and continue to feel a real responsibility for the proper use of this property and equipment, and consider it to be a necessity to spare no time or pains in this task.
Unlike the situation under active service conditions, when one had a complete establishment of fully trained personnel and when the troops were always in camp, we as a reserve unit have to make all these administrative arrangements ourselves and to provide for the transport of our troops on Saturday evening from their homes to Sussex, feed, sleep and train them, and then transport them to their homes on Sunday evening.
In May, 1951, the regiment supplied its quota to the Panda recruiting program for the 27th brigade in Germany. Teams were entered in all rifle shooting competitions. During the year I attended many unit and area conferences on training and administration. Summer camp was conducted under unit arrangements at Camp Sussex with the tank shoot being held at Camp Tracadie in thfe northern part of the province.
One who has not commanded an active reserve force unit has little idea of the amount of work required by the commanding officer and his staff. Naturally, the more training that is done, the more problems arise and the more personal supervision is required. As I think any other commanding officer who tries sincerely to run a truly good unit would find, I have found that running a modern reserve armoured unit absorbs virtually every bit of his spare time.
The days when commanding officers could satisfy themselves with relatively few weeks' work a year are, I believe, over. If our reserve army units are to be kept in a state of readiness to face potential wartime mobilization, then the job of the commanding officer is a big one indeed. My predecessor found it necessary in 1950 to expend the equivalent of 214 army days as commanding officer of our unit.
Regardless of whether I was in Ottawa, Sussex or at home, my officers continued to provide me with hours and hours of detailed work which I had to handle.
Whether I want to or not-and I do not want to-I cannot divorce myself from my unit during the half-year I am in Ottawa. I spend a good many hours every week doing army work such as reviews of boards of inquiry, endless correspondence, keeping in touch with my scattered sub units, and in general keeping my finger on the pulse of the regiment; all these things absorb hours of time.
For that portion of my reserve army work which I have done in Ottawa I have received the remuneration provided for by the regulations. I say that without shame or without apology. Many members of parliament, in these years when parliament has come to absorb so much time, find it necessary to conduct their affairs from Ottawa. I, too, found myself in this position in respect to my responsibilities toward the reserve army.
Like all armoured corps units in Canada, our regiment is a member of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps association. This association annually puts up trophies for competition and there are five which may be won by an armoured regiment. As I said before, in 1950, we won the Leonard trophy. In 1951, the year under discussion, my regiment won four of the five trophies and, in 1952, we won all five of them. Here I want to pay tribute to the officers, W.O.'s, N.C.O.'s and men of my regiment for their loyal and wholehearted support. Without them, and their untiring efforts and sacrifice, the regiment would not have reached this present high position in the reserve forces of Canada.
It is said that figures do not lie, but they often can be used for a specific purpose. Certain figures were given by the hon. member for Calgary West as reported at page 1055 of Hansard. He suggests that during the year 1951 I was paid for 204 days of service in the army, while at the same time this house was in session for 224 days. He then makes the allegation that I was paid for services performed for more days than there were in the year 1951. In passing, I might mention that, in fact, my pay was for 202J days' service with the reserve forces. The important point, however, is one which will be appreciated by every hon. member, namely, that the actual sitting days of this house are much fewer than the length of the parliamentary session would indicate. For example, in 1951, parliament was in session 363 calendar days, not 224 as the hon. member stated. In the first session there were actually 105 sitting days, and in the second session there were 56 sitting days, making a total of 161 sitting days.
In addition, as all hon. members are aware, during each session a member of this house is permitted 15 days of absence. In 1951, therefore, I was entitled-as was every other hon. member-to absent myself from this house for 30 days; so that in actual fact, had I claimed the full privilege of being absent for 30 days, I would have been required to sit in this chamber for only 131 days. The mere recitation of these figures will indicate the inconsistency of maintaining that I drew pay for more days than there were in the year.
My constituents and the regiment know that, as is the case with a good many other members, my family and personal business affairs suffered because of the time I have spent on my parliamentary and regimental duties. However, I can assure hon. members that I have never neglected the duties and responsibilities which are mine as a member of parliament.
As hon. members know, I am not a lawyer, but I have read the statutes and discussed this matter with my friends, and I am convinced that a person can be a member of the reserve army and receive pay for the work he does without disqualifying himself as a member of the House of Commons. I also recognize that service in the reserve forces does not change the rule regarding attendance in the house except for camps and courses, and during 1951 I complied with the house rules regarding attendance. Having done so,
I felt that there was nothing to prevent my
Privilege-Mr. E. W. George service in the reserve army, whether that service occurred in Sussex, Sackville, Tracadie or Ottawa.
That 1951 was an exceptional year for the regiment is obvious from what I have said. The death of the commanding officer, and the reorganization to which I referred, combined to create difficulties additional to the ordinary responsibilities of the commanding officer of the unit. Results of that work I have briefly mentioned. That the year was exceptional is indicated by the fact that the number of days required to conduct the affairs of the regiment was reduced from 202J in 1951 to 133J in 1952, and I am proud to say that the regiment won all the five trophies available to it.
I have been concerned in this address simply to lay all the facts before the hon. members. In making this explanation, I have endeavoured to keep my personal feeling out of it, but I resent deeply the imputation that I am in the reserve army for what I can get out of it financially. All these charges, implied or directly stated, I deny with indignation and with clear conscience.
I have devoted every hour I could spare to my unit, both in New Brunswick and here. The unit, I feel, reflects this. This required many, many hours of work. For that work I have been paid. For nothing else but that work have I been paid.
I have acted in the sincere belief that there is no ethical, moral or legal taint to what I have done in performing my duty as a member of this house and as a member of the reserve forces.
Subtopic: MR. GEORGE-REFERENCE IN DEBATE TO HON. MEMBER FOR WESTMORLAND