November 6, 1945 (20th Parliament, 1st Session)

PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MACDONNELL:

I should like to be very clear, if I may, as to what the answer is. I appreciate what the Minister of Finance has said, that he was as much surprised to have the other view put to him as I was a few minutes ago. May I take it from what has happened that it is agreed that this resolution will not preclude the house from discussing these items? After all, we are talking not of theoretical but of practical things; and as a matter of practice I should like to ask hon. members who are much better informed on this than I am, if this actually goes to a committee, is it practicable to have it discussed in two places at the same time, and if it is not, does that mean that in the ordinary course of things this, committee will take several weeks to complete its deliberations and that almost inevitably the matter will come back near the end of the session? I raise that question and leave it to be answered later, and would make one or two further observations before I resume my seat.
I wish to say one or two things about what I hope will be the course of this committee, because it seems to me that if may either be a very useful committee or very much the reverse.
As I understand it, over the past five or six years we have spent many hundreds of millions of dollars through the Department of Munitions and Supply, and assets of a very considerable amount-I suppose running into many tens of millions of dollars-have been acquired and are now owned by way of capital assets by War Assets Corporation, it having received them from the government. Now I take it that it is of very great importance that we have a' sensible way of dealing with this, and I suppose the people of Canada would like to have a comprehensible and comprehensive statement covering the whole matter.
There are two or three practical points which the committee can discuss in a noncontentious and constructive manner. One of
them, obviously, is how these assets are to be made the most use of. They should not be thrown on the market indiscriminately. I am sure we can trust the Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) that they will not be, because he is an experienced man of business. I think the other thing which is very important is that in some way or other they should be so dealt with that small business in this country gets all the advantage it possibly can from these assets, and that they do not go into the hands of a few large companies that probably need them very much less.
I shall not take the time of the house to discuss other matters with regard to the com-mitttee, but I suggest that a good start means a good deal, and that if we go into the work of this committee with the idea that we are sensible men, dealing with a business proposition of enormous importance and magnitude, and if we can be received in that committee, regardless of party, in that spirit, we can do a much better job than could otherwise be done.
I come back to the proposition which I mentioned at first. I was a little taken aback at learning that although the committee is captain of its own soul and master of its own destiny, according to what was said in this house and repeated by the minister to-day, its proceedings are not to take place in camera. That, I assume, is a decision which could be overturned by the committee itself, but I suppose that will not be done. But what I am still uncertain about, and would like to be informed upon by people who are much better versed in this than I am, is the practical question as to whether or not, if this reference goes to the committee, there will be parallel and simultaneous discussions going on in this house; because there are hon. members who are not members of this committee who have' views to express. Is it practicable to have these discussions going on in two places? Is it practicable that the committee shall .come back and report the result of its work in sufficient time for discussions in the house itself?

Topic:   DEFENCE AND DEMOBILIZATION
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OP COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER EXPENDITURES AND DISPOSAL OF SURPLUS WAR ASSETS
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