March 16, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


I do not know that the hon. gentleman has asked an outstanding question;
I would not even call it a leading question. Any plant can be converted either way; that is only common sense. Any industrial plant can be converted in the reverse direction. A [DOT] peace-time plant can be converted to manufacture war-time materials, and a wartime plant can be converted to manufacture peace-time materials.
The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard said that I proposed cancelling the contract because of the inability of this plant to manufacture these guns, because it was an old boiler plant or something of that sort. I did not say anything of the kind. I admit at once that an old boiler plant could be converted into a good munitions plant if sufficient money were spent on it. I suggested that this contract should be cancelled because it had been improperly given. I did not go outside the evidence of the Davis report in making that submission. That was the reason why I suggested it should be cancelled. The hon. member says that we are missing $50,000,000 worth of work in Canada because the empire will not spend money here now. I repeat what I said in my argument on a previous occasion. The best way to get empire industries over here to purchase war materials is to show Great Britain that she will get a fair deal, that profits will be properly controlled, and that the implements of war can be obtained on a reasonable basis.
To get back to the issue; which is whether or not this committee should go to Toronto to investigate this plant, to take a look at the industry as it has been built up with the

Public Accounts Committee Report
expenditure of a huge amount of money, the hon. member himself stated, as well as a number of others behind me and to my left, that something like $800,000 worth of government machinery had been put into this plant. Even an old boiler plant can be easily converted into a good industrial plant by the expenditure of money. It has been pointed out by the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. Mac-Nicol) and others that the plant in which the Bren gun is being manufactured is not the old Inglis plant at all; it is a new plant. I have no criticism even of that. I admit at once, and I think the whole house will admit at once, that if you spend sufficient money you can turn any kind of plant, or even no plant at all, into a good industrial plant for the manufacture of munitions. But I do question the utility of a visit by a parliamentary committee made up of fifty members to a plant such as this one. To my mind it would be the most futile trip in the world. So far as I know, in the public accounts committee there is only one member, the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth), who is an industrialist. There may be others, but he is the only one I know of at the moment.

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