March 14, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. A. A. HEAPS (Winnipeg North):

A few remarks which the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie) made in this chamber last week, when he introduced the resolution on this subject, prompt me to rise on this occasion to say a few words on the question of a defence purchasing board.
In the first place I asked the minister what was to become of the interdepartmental committee which has been functioning for so many months. When I put that question to him, as usual with him, he spoke of the magnificent work which the committee had done while it was in existence and said that if I carefully perused the bill when it was
introduced I would ascertain what was to become of the committee. I have casually gone through the bill, and if I understand anything of what it proposes it seems to me that in one way the interdepartmental committee goes out of business while in another respect it is resurrected.
I have no objection to what has been done in that respect, but if the interdepartmental committee had done such splendid work while it was functioning I do not see why it should go out of existence. Personally I believe that those wrho comprised the committee were all men of excellent character and great ability, and I feel that the persons who will be appointed to the new defence purchasing board will in their own way be no better men than those who until now have been functioning in that particular regard. If that is so, I wonder why we have this bill at all. As I say, in one way we are doing away with the interdepartmental committee, and in another way we are resurrecting it. In the measure itself we find that before a contract is finally approved, the Minister of National Defence makes a requisition to the proposed board, then it goes through the Department of Finance, then it is approved by the governor in council. I think that is a cumbersome way of doing government business. I may be alone in that assertion, but I have more confidence in existing departmental officials than to believe that it should be necessary for a contract to go through three departments before being finally approved of. Is there any other contract of more than
85,000 which has to go through the same routine as is proposed here? If there is I should like to know what department deals with contracts in such a manner.
When the minister spoke on Friday last he paid this group indirectly a very fine compliment. He did not intend it, and that is why I say it was indirect. In his lengthy speech he paid more attention to the seven members of this group than he did to the duties which the new defence purchasing board is expected to perform. He spent more time in trying to point out the fallacies of the things we stand for than he did in discussing the purpose of the resolution. If there was one thing which ho tried to impress upon the house it was the fact that, unless there were some incentive, people who might make munitions could not, be expected to engage in the successful production of armaments.

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