March 2, 1944 (19th Parliament, 5th Session)


John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative


I do not intend this evening to enter into a lengthy discussion of the various matters which were dealt with by the minister, since they can be discussed fully when the individual items are considered by the committee. Suffice it to say that all members of this house felt the same pride that was exhibited by the minister in his recital of the activities of the Royal Canadian Air Force. But while we are all appreciative of what is being done, more than ever it is necessary to keep in mind the things that have not been done, to the end that when the period of rehabilitation comes along we may-assure those who have served that they will have a job and an opportunity in life. In other words, we as a nation must remember the sacrifices that have been made, and must be firm in our determination to see that those who served are assured of certainty of occupation when they return. As the minister spoke with pride of the work being done by the air force he mentioned three outstanding young men who were being considered to carry on the work of rehabilitation. At the time I thought of one young man from my own constituency who in less than one year of service rose from the rank of sergeant-pilot to that of wing commander, and who to-day commands one of the outstanding squadrons in Britain. _
In considering what should be done in the post-war period we must bear in mind that many young men who are serving in the air force to-day look forward to an opportunity to take part in the greater air development that will take place after the war_ is over. If one asks air personnel what they intend to do after the war, invariably the reply is that if they have the opportunity they would like to continue in the air force or in civil aviation. If there is one thing in which we in this house and we in Canada have been remiss it has been in our failure to discuss, in regard to the rehabilitation of our men and the future position of Canada itself, the formation of a great international transport system which will give these men an opportunity to serve when the war is over. Only a few weeks ago Mr. Ralph P. Bell, director-general of aircraft production, stated that in relation to our population we shall come out of this war with the largest proportion of trained airmen of any allied nation. What are we to do with these men; what opportunity are they to have to
serve in the great air transport systems of the future The other day the minister outlined something of the policy of this department with reference to the Alaska air lines. International air lines were referred to by the Prime Minister in an address he delivered about a year ago; but we in this country have no wide and comprehensive picture of the postwar air development that will take place, and what will be the position of Canada in regard thereto. Now that we are considering the rehabilitation of these airmen after the war,
I think the time has come for a frank explanation by the minister in charge of that department, giving this committee and the country a recital of what took place at the great conference which was held in England last October and telling us something of Canada^ plans for the future. Shall Canada's air scheme be an international one, under an international board? Shall Canada participate with the other nations of the empire _ in a vast empire air scheme, with the cooperation of the United States? These matters, more important than any others as far as the rehabilitation of the men in the air force is concerned, have remained the secret of the government, if the government has a policy with respect thereto. In order to give hon. members an opportunity to discuss the post-war rehabilitation of those discharged from the air force, the minister should at the earliest possible date, and before this debate on his estimates is concluded, make a statement as to what took place at the conference, in so far as it can be revealed, a picture of the stand Canada intends to take, a recital of such post-war plans as have been made with regard to aircraft production after the war, the continuation of the industry in Canada and the utilization of the man-power now in the air force, when discharged, so that we shall be in a position to discuss these matters.
The air future of Canada and the empire has been kept under lock and key by the government. We have had only piecemeal recitals. We had the statement of the Prime Minister, and a few days ago a further statement of the Minister of Munitions and Supply. But we have not yet had a picture of the stand Canada intends to take. By their agreements, Australia and New Zealand have indicated to the world the stand they intend to take. An opportunity is thereby given to men who serve in the air force to make plans now for a continuation in that service after the war.
I should like to secure from the minister- and I think the minister for air could give it-a statement showing the numbers to-day in the air force who may reasonably expect to be absorbed in civilian aviation after the war.
War Appropriation-Air Services

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