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

CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

If he had said that it
was as fully equipped as other plants in Canada there might be an argument, but he said that it was fully equipped. That is the first charge, and there has been no denial of that statement. And the deputy minister later, no doubt basing his statement upon the assurance of the hon. member for Trinity, spoke of a reliable group controlling plants- they had become plural by that time. In the second place, there was a letter of introduction given to Major Hahn by the minister -a letter of introduction given to a man who was unknown to the minister. The minister said, a year and a half afterwards, that he did not know this man. So that he was unknown to the minister, to the deputy minister, and to the Prime Minister. In the third place, there was this unknown man being made a representative of Canada. To me this is the most extraordinary proceeding in the whole transaction. I have the evidence here and I have given it, and I suggest that the reason why the Prime Minister has been trying to get out from under the position of having made this man the representative of Canada in this matter is that he realizes that he made a serious blunder. The
Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

next statement I made was that pressure had been put upon the British government, because the commissioner says in the report at pages 47-48:
As appears from the communications quoted above, the war office as late as February 3, 1938 (Exhibit 190), was still adhering to its desire to deal with the Canadian government and not with a Canadian manufacturer direct.
That was more than a month before the contract was signed by the Canadian government. And the Prime Minister, in reply to the letter from the hon. member for Trinity asking whether Canadian firms might obtain orders from the British government for the manufacture of munitions, said, as quoted in the report:
It would be necessary, of course, to see that it was distinctly understood that such orders as were obtained, were at the instance of the firm itself and not either directly or indirectly, at the instance of the government of Canada.
Major Hahn would never have got a contract from the British government without the support of the government of Canada. He was pressed into the contract, and the government of Great Britain, the war office, was fighting against it up to a month before the Canadian contract was let, and did not award their own contract until four months later. The Prime Minister in the House of Commons on April 2, 1937, a year before, had said, in reply to the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation:
We agree with him in asserting the principle that no profits should be made out of war.
But how can you take profits out of war without nationalizing the industry? That is the only means by which profits can be taken out of war, by some form of nationalization. The minister himself is quoted at page 11 of the report, referring to this very statement of the Prime Minister which I have just quoted:
The Minister of National Defence said in his evidence before the commission that that statement was in agreement with his own view. The minister said that there had been no change in the actual policy of the government, or of himself; that government ownership is the best and that the next is competition.
But they did not have either; they had neither'government ownership nor competition but resorted to a form of patronage and favouritism; and the claim that Major Hahn was appointed merely to get information on behalf of the Department of National Defence is to my mind ridiculous and unfair. It is ridiculous because the department, as I have said, had at their disposal many men whom they could have sent to England. They could have sent over men who were better equipped

both mentally and by training than Major Hahn. And it is unfair to the other industrialists of the country that one man, without any special training, should be picked out and given peculiar rights, pushed forward by this government and made a special representative of Canada to obtain secret information from the war office in Great Britain.
The charge has been made from the opposite side that this discussion in this house has had the effect of suspending the flow of contracts from Great Britain. I say that is mere balderdash. The surest way of getting contracts from the British government is to demonstrate to them that they will get a fair deal over here, as in the matter of aeroplanes.

Topic:   BREN MACHINE GUN CONTRACT
Full View