Righl Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prime Minister): Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement in connection with the emergency measures organization. Hon. members will recall that some months ago the government adopted the policy of arranging for regional, federal administration in Canada should a major war occur, to work in co-operation with provincial governments and tie in with the regional army commands.
The plan is to provide in each province a centre from which a small core of federal, provincial and army personnel can direct emergency operations within the province, even in the presence of radioactive fall-out, the loss of normal means of communication and possibly the destruction of some provincial capitals.
Continuity of government is essential to our survival as a nation, and the need of guidance and control by civilian authority will be more than ever vital to our people should Canada find itself in war. Moreover, the army has responsibility for emergency communications, for the attack warning system, for prediction of fall-out patterns, and for a number of other important survival services. These responsibilities make it necessary to have a centre in each province where, given reasonable protection against fall-out, the army can meet its military commitments and carry out the survival and support functions it has been assigned.
The government, in assessing physical requirements for meeting the federal civilian responsibilities and for those falling on the army, believes that they should be met from the same emergency centre in each province, recognizing as it does the very important role of the provinces in respect of the more localized wartime responsibilities falling on them. While the regional governmental centres will be provided and administered by federal authorities, the plan is to make suitable provision for a nucleus of the provincial government and officials in each regional centre. In this way the province concerned would use the facilities there to aid in meeting
its own wartime role, and would work in close association with federal authorities in so doing.
Regional centres will be established speedily in each of the provinces. There will be some variation in their size and character, depending on a number of factors including the size of the population to be served, the likelihood of the provincial capital coming under direct attack, and particularly the emergency communications system and its technical requirements. The centres will be limited in size but will be sufficient to ensure the required operational capability.
In some provinces construction will be necessary, while in others modification of existing buildings may suffice to meet the requirement. The principal need is adequate protection against radioactive fall-out, the same peril against which the government is encouraging householders to protect themselves by means of suitable basement shelters. Immediate action is being taken to provide the required structures, and details regarding provincial participation in their use will be the subject of discussion with provincial authorities forthwith.
In making this announcement at the present time, Mr. Speaker, I underline and emphasize what I said on an earlier occasion when this plan had its inception, namely that I do not want anyone to interpret the announcement at this time as indicative of any change in the peaceful relationship of our country with other countries.