March 20, 1941 (19th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

The Minister of National Defence I think has made a fair and moderate statement of the position, but there are a few things he might have mentioned, I think, which he did not mention. First of all let me point out to him, and I do so with the utmost good-will, that when the war appropriation resolution was before this committee last year the utmost expedition was afforded to its passage with great goodwill by opposition members. At the same time we coupled with that exhibition of goodwill the statement that when we met again we would ask the government to give us the items of expenditure in some detail. I remember saying that the Canadian people would pay this money willingly but would hold the government accountable as trustees for the manner in which the money was expended.
The policy that was adopted by the government this year was to have the Minister of Finance bring down a very short resolution, and I must express some surprise at the lack of detail there was in his opening statement on the resolution. His statement did not occupy twenty minutes. When you are asking parliament to vote the sum of $1,300,000,000, which later the Minister of Finance increased by $160,000,000, the fullest information and detail must be given. I must confess that to me the amount of the appropriation was staggering. Just how to approach the consideration of this huge appropriation was something that I debated with myself for a considerable length of time. The discussion proceeded and I noticed that we were not getting very far. I am bound to say that the debate on the aircraft industry injected itself very early in the discussion. That was something that was bound to come up. It had to be aired on the floor of this house either at this time or at some other time. So far as I know, it is now pretty well out of the way; there may be repercussions of that branch of the discussion at a later stage, but certainly not now.
Then it dawned upon me that the government did not propose to give us any further information as to how this money was to be expended. I was astounded by the statement of the Minister of Finance that it was our duty to ask for the information and to dig it up. I should not have thought that was the principle upon which information as to government expenditures ought to be given to the public. It certainly is not the principle upon which we proceed in peace time. I admit at once that the two positions are not quite comparable, and that it might not be wise, perhaps would not be possible, to follow out the peace-time method of developing items of expenditure, for this huge war appropriation and for the $700,000,000 which was authorized last year, and the additional amount that was spent. But it was a matter of surprise to me when the Minister of Finance told me it was my duty to dig this out from the government, and that in effect I had been derelict in my duty. Well, I was not conscious of any dereliction of duty. I am just a young fellow trying to get along and to do a job, and I was astonished at the minister's statement, because I believe that trustees must account whether they are asked to account or not. That was the principle which was running through my mind as a lawyer, and when the Minister of Finance intimated that I was not on to my job, that I had not done my duty to the Canadian people, he rather " set me up," if I may use that expression. So this thing has gone along, and it will continue to go
War Appropriation Bill

along for a limited period of time. I agree that a good deal of time has been wasted, but I do not feel guilty, myself, and if there was the war pressure on this parliament which there was in June last, this resolution would go through just like that! But there is not.

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