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


Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


The contract was not tabled until two or three or four days-two days, I am informed-before the house adjourned, anyway. So that the whole affair had not a good appearance.
Then there was the stock promotion. These gentlemen-Major Hahn, the Plaxtons and Messrs. Cameron, Pointon and Merritt, a firm of stockbrokers in Toronto, got stock sufficient to give them nearly-indeed, over a million dollars in profits over and above what they paid for the stock. They paid around $100,000 for it, at 50 cents a share, and they could have sold it-they did sell some of it-at between $6 and $7 a share. So they stood to make over $1,000,000 in profits.
No Liberal standing upon the other side of the house has either endorsed or denied that statement. It was put on record by the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth), the hon. member for St. Paul's (Mr. Ross) and the hon. member for Mount Royal (Mr. Walsh). I did not mention it in my previous remarks, but it was put on record, and nobody has discussed it. I hope the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers), when he is on his feet, will give his opinion with respect to a contract for munitions which is framed in such a manner that the holders of that contract, before the plant is equipped, can clean up a million dollars, for nothing. They can put a million dollars in their pockets.
If that is the opinion of this government, then I say it is not the opinion of the people of Canada that that should be allowed. I say it is repugnant to the ideals of the Canadian

Bren Gun-Mr. Manion
people. If my hon. friends opposite are reading the press of this country to-day they will get that opinion clear enough, even from Liberal papers,-the Vancouver Sun, the Winnipeg Free Press and this very morning from the Ottawa Citizen.
I have received letters by the score. In fact, I have one in my pocket from a young man in which he says he is thirty-three years of age. This man lives in Montreal-I do not know him-and he says, "If this country is in danger I want to fight for it, but I don't want to fight for a lot of blood-sucking profiteers back home, for whom I would be risking my life." That is the attitude the young men have and if we are going to give them confidence in democratic institutions, confidence sufficient to make them loyal to their country, we must stop such dealings as this.
The Prime Minister took the same attitude in the house. He said no profits should be made out of war. I have already quoted his words, as they appear in Hansard of 1937. With the Prime Minister's ideals, against profits being made out of war, I wholly agree. But in this declaration, as in so many others, his actions do not agree with his expressed principles. I said on an earlier occasion that he was a theoretical reformer but a practical reactionary. I say in this instance that he is a theoretical idealist but a practical politician. If his ideals interfere with politics, then so much the worse for ideals. That is the only conclusion I can come to.
This contract is irregular. It shows the possibility of huge profits in stock deals, in complete contradiction of the ideals expressed by my right hon. friend. I have quoted statements of my own wherein I have expressed myself contrary to those methods. I have put on record my remarks in the book I published. I put myself on record in 1934 before the League of Nations, and in various other places. My proposals were that the contract should be cancelled, that Major Hahn might be recompensed if necessary, that the government should take over and carry on the work and that it should expropriate the plant. I pointed out, as I point out again, that there need be no delay in connection with the construction of these guns. It would suit the British government, because it has been pointed out over and over again in the report-certainly it has been stated clearly by Mr. Justice Davis-that the British government did not want to deal with a private contractor at all. They wanted to deal with
the government of the day in Canada. I said this in closing my remarks-as I am about to do now:
This is not ordinary government business. No one can deny that this is a question of life and death, a question of peace and war; it is a question of the life of our boys. It is a question of the safety of this country, and perhaps it is more than that, it is a question of our freedom as a nation.
That has been described by someone as drawing a long bow, and the suggestion is made that I was exaggerating. Am I exaggerating? I am going to put on record one statement I have in my hand which has nothing to do with the Bren gun contract, but which does deal with the defence of Canada. I hold in my hand a publication known as the Canadian Defence Quarterly. It is described as,-
A magazine published for the purpose of providing a medium for the free discussion or expression of views on matters of interest in connection with defence.
At page 54 is an article by a young man-well, I suppose he is a young man; I do not know him. His name is Flight Lieutenant A. Carter, M.M.-Military Medal-Royal Canadian Air Force. I will read two paragraphs of his observations with respect to defence. He says:
When the railway terminal was taken to Churchill and the grain elevators built, the transportation of grain and other produce by the shortest route from western Canada to Europe became a reality.
However, this is also the shortest route from Europe to western Canada; not only that, but with the development of long range high speed aircraft, this route makes it possible for an enemy to establish bases near enough to permit of the bombing of all industrial centres from Quebec city to Fort William and, operating from off Churchill or Port Nelson on the west coast of the Hudson bay, even Winnipeg itself.
Ships laden with aircraft, equipment, fuel and bombs could enter the Hudson bay via the north Atlantic and the Hudson strait, anchor off Churchill or Port Nelson and from this floating base assemble long range bombers which would necessarily have to be float planes or flying boats owing to lack of possible landing fields in this part of the country.
I will not read more, but I will show a map to hon. members and, in a few words, I will describe it. In this article Flight Lieutenant Carter sets out a map of the Hudson bay area, including Hudson bay and James bay, jutting down into the central part of the Dominion of Canada. He gives certain mileages-and I must say that I had them checked up, because I could not believe my eyes, although I thought I knew my geography fairly well. He gives the mileages from bases in Hudson and James bays, bases to which there
Bren Gun-Mr. Manion

is nothing in the world to prevent a German boat, or any other war ship, coming during a time of war. For instance, if a ship could escape, as did the Emden, during the early months of the last war, it could reach these points in Hudson and James bays. There would be nothing in the world to prevent them. We have nothing by way of defence at Hudson strait, Hudson bay or James bay.
On the map he sets out some mileages from points on Hudson bay and James bay, where he says an enemy ship could establish a base and enable enemy aircraft to make flights to some of the main centres of Canada. A aircraft carrier could discharge its aircraft and, from these places in Hudson bay and James bay, attack the different points in Canada. Would it surprise hon. members opposite to know that from Charlton island, down in the lower end of James bay, it is only 500 miles to where I am standing at this time?-just 500 miles. To Quebec, it is 525 miles; to Montreal, 525 miles; to Ottawa, 500 miles; to Toronto 550 miles, and to Niagara Falls-the farthest point-600 miles. To Sudbury, where we find the International Nickel Company, a huge industrial organization, it is only 400 miles. The mileage to the Abitibi dam is not given, but, following the scale used, it would appear to be about 150 miles. To Fort William it is 500 miles. Then, from a point in Hudson bay, namely from Churchill, it is 625 miles to Winnipeg, 600 miles from Port Nelson to Winnipeg and the same distance from another point farther down the coast of the bay.
In other words, an enemy ship could come across the Atlantic ocean and nothing in the world could stop it. It could go into Hudson bay or James bay and, with aircraft, operate over a long range, even as far as Niagara Falls. Those enemy aircraft could fly down and destroy Niagara Falls and Ottawa. They would travel a distance of only about 600 miles each way, or a total of 1,200 miles- and what is that, to-day, in view of present flying possibilities? They could destroy Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Niagara Falls, none of which is more than 625 miles from the landing point.

Full View