February 13, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


The minister denies that, and I do not wish to misrepresent him. But irrespective of what the deputy minister did, it is the government of the day that is responsible-not only the minister. The deputy minister has been a friend of mine for many years and I have the utmost respect for him. Personally I made no attack on him whatever, and I do not think anybody on this side of the house, in any of the parties here, attacked him personally. We merely directed attention to the action taken by the department in an effort to give the contract to Hahn.
There have also been several wicked attacks on Colonel Drew, who is another fine soldier with a very fine record. Whatever Colonel Drew did he certainly performed a service for this country, inasmuch as he saved this country a lot of money-a quarter of a million dollars, as I have seen it claimed-by causing another letter to be drawn up as a supplement to the contract. In addition, I believe that his article will make any government in power in this country in the future more careful in the letting of contracts for munitions of any kind.
Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

Then there was a defence by several hon. gentlemen opposite of Major Hahn and the hon. member for Trinity (Mr. Plaxton). So far as Major Hahn is concerned I did not attack him; I have not attacked him. I think he was just a shrewd business man who saw in the hon. member for Trinity an instrument at hand to help him get a government contract. He found the government even more pliable as an instrument than the hon. member for Trinity, so he went right ahead and got the contract. That is all we can say about Major Hahn. I do not know him; I have never met him. In that respect I am in the same position as the Prime Minister, except that I did not appoint him as representative of Canada to get secret information from the British government, as did the Prime Minister.
But all these defences or so-called defences that hon. gentlemen opposite have put up, even that of the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot), who has just sat down after making an attack on another official of the Department of National Defence, are no defence at all of the awarding of this contract. They are no defence at all, to my mind; they are just an attempt to confuse the issue. Every speaker from the Liberal party, with the exception of the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard, ignored practically fifty pages of the report and tied his whole case to three short paragraphs which disposed of the charge of corruption.
Now I am going to attempt to define the issue, which is not that of corruption or graft. The issue in a sentence is the whole method of buying munitions at a time when, because of threats of dictatorships against democracy, we in Canada, a peace-loving people, are forced at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to arm in our own defence in order to maintain our freedom as a nation. That is the issue so far as I see it. Are we going to place our very life as a nation in jeopardy through politics, patronage, and favouritism, as in the Bren gun contract? Or, are we going to rise above that low level and act as a united people in building up our defence of all kinds

doing it fairly, honestly, sanely, without profit, so far as is humanly possible-giving our citizens at the same time a chance to show that they love sufficiently this Canada of ours to bend their energies, without the profit motive, to a great national endeavour on behalf of the safety of our country? If the Bren gun contract is any criterion, then we are going to take the low road of private profit and personal selfishness. But I refuse to believe that such is the desire of the great masses of our people.
I insist, sir, that our business men and all others are only awaiting the clarion call

of national service in order to answer it enthusiastically, honestly, and loyally. The government supporters say that in the last war patronage and war-profiteering were rampant. I do not know whether they were or not. I was not here. But if that charge is true, there was at least the excuse of a great crisis and a great danger because of Canada's participation in the war. Even if the charge be true, is it then necessary that we must again, in peace time, continue to wallow in the mire of filthy profiteering while the very lives of our youth and the very existence of our beloved Canada are at stake?
I say now, sir: let the Prime Minister rise to this challenge and I will stand beside him and back him completely in the noble work of not only declaring our high principles as Canadians, in this regard at least, but of living up to those principles.
How then does this contract, and the procedure leading up to it, conflict with the issue as I have defined it? To learn that we must study the whole report of Mr. Justice Davis, the royal commissioner who investigated the Bren contract. It is true he says that no member of parliament or senator is to share in the benefits of the contract, and he adds that there has been no corruption. He makes these statements in three short paragraphs on page 51. But on nearly all the other pages he shows the gross irregularities that led up to the consummation of the deal. For example, the report shows clearly, among other things:
1. That the methods leading up to the signing of the contract and the method of giving it were unfair;
2. That Hahn, whom apparently no one knew, except Mr. Plaxton, was shown great favouritism;
3. That thereby other industrialists, much better equipped, were given no opportunity to compete with Hahn.
4. That Major Hahn, although unknown to the Prime Minister or to the Minister of National Defence, was made by the Prime Minister the representative of Canada in order to give Hahn access to secret information from the British war office;
5. That Hahn and his fellow promoters were placed, through this contract, in a position to make more than 81,000,000 out of stock for which they paid nothing-this in addition to the profits of the contract itself.
Perhaps I should correct that. They paid an average of 52 cents a share and some of it sold for over six dollars a share, or over one million dollars of profits to them. This in addition to the profits of the contract itself.'

Bren Gun-Mr. Manion
These are a few of the aspects of the deal which seriously undermine the confidence of the Canadian people, not only in this deal but in the whole method under which tens of millions of dollars of this year's estimates are to be spent in purchasing munitions.

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