April 6, 1949 (20th Parliament, 5th Session)


George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

Mr. Chairman, there are a few questions I should like to ask the Minister of National Defence regarding this vote. I understand that in the main estimates of last year there was a sum of $251 million for purposes of national defence, and that in addition to that there was $37,238,378, which was a sort of floating reserve to be spent during this year. For future years we voted the sum of $59,938,028.
The Minister of National Defence now comes to us asking for a further supplementary estimate of $19,622,583. The first question I would ask is this: Is this amount part of the additional moneys voted for future years? Will there be a reduction from that $59 million, or is this amount to be added on?
I would ask further whether the $37 million odd which was voted has already been spent. I had intended to ask in more detail as to how this $19 million was going to be divided. The headings which were given in the main estimates at the last session divided the sums into expenditures for the navy, expenditures for the army, expenditures for the air force, Northwest Territories and Yukon radio system, northwest highway system, northwest staging route, and research.
Can the minister allocate the division he proposes to make of this $19 million under those various main estimates? I know he did give some information a few moments ago; but he gave it so rapidly that I was unable to follow the actual distribution.
Supply-National Defence Reference was made to war graves, and other minor points. I feel that this is definite and concrete information to which we have a right. We have the right to examine as to how this money is being spent. There is no use shutting our eyes to the fact that there is a good deal of uncertainty in the country concerning the efficiency of the services.
Surely information as to the method in which this $19 million is going to be expended would go some distance toward easing that uncertainty, if we could have frankness on the part of the government. Having due regard to security measures, they should give us as much information as it is possible to give.
I believe the minister would admit that a smoke screen has been thrown across in the form of these so-called measures for security, measures which might assist the enemy in planning a diversionary raid. We have been told who the only possible enemy is, and it is one which would have to come some 3,000 miles to reach our shores. Should we not ask ourselves whether the formations we now have, and whether those various armed services which this supplementary vote is to augment and improve, are designed so that they can be effective to meet the contingencies the minister has outlined as being those for which our armed forces are designed? If the armed forces are not designed so that they can meet the particular emergencies which the minister has envisaged, then this additional $19 million is just being poured down the drain. It is no good spending $19 million on an inefficient organization. It is because we are anxious to know whether our armed forces are efficient, and whether they are the type of armed forces to meet the particular emergency which exists, that we feel we have a right to ask for certain information.
In the past the minister has not been backward about giving information on the composition of the armed forces. When discussing the main estimates last year, he outlined in detail at page 5785 of Hansard the number of aircraft which we had at that time. He said that the aircraft which he had at that time consisted of eighty-five Vampires, thirty Mustangs, twenty-three North Stars, twenty Fireflies, and so on. I need not give the whole list. Then he went on to say:
. . . bringing the total number of planes of all types to something well over 1,000.
If an enemy were planning to launch a raid against this country, is that not the type of information that he might well desire to have?

Supply-National Defence Then in discussing the army the minister referred to the units about which information was asked a few days ago. He said:
The active army, in the first place, is to include a brigade group or later such additional force as may be considered necessary, trained and equipped to deal with any diversionary attack.
In other places he has given the composition of that brigade group. Later on in the same debate he described its strength. He said that 20 per cent of the total active force of the army was serving in that particular brigade group. All that is being asked now is how many men have received a certain type of training. I do not think that the minister has ever said that the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry is a parachute battalion. He has always referred to it as an airborne battalion. We have read in all kinds of service magazines what an airborne battalion is. It may not be known to the general public, but its establishment is certainly known to a trained intelligence officer of any country.
An airborne battalion would normally consist of a certain number of men who had been trained as parachutists, perhaps as many as 100. The rest would be carried by glider or other aircraft, and would be able to exploit the initial advantage which might have been gained by the men of the battalion who had originally been dropped by parachute. There is nothing secret about that. I do not know how many of the men of my old regiment have trained as parachutists but, according to the general principle, the number is something under 100. There is nothing very mysterious about that.
We ask ourselves whether that type of force is suitable to deal with the particular kind of diversionary attack on this country which might be expected. When discussing the main estimates last year I said I considered that our forces were impotent to meet any sudden attack which might be expected. Similar words were used by the late chief of the air staff, who referred to the R.C.A.F. as being impotent to meet any sudden attack. I say now that, on the basis of the information which the minister gave in the main estimates last year, and on the basis of such information as has been published in the papers, and in statements released by his department, our armed forces cannot effectively meet the type of diversionary raid which might be launched against this country.
The minister stated in his remarks on the main estimates last year that the brigade which had been designed to meet such an attack had never been trained together as a brigade. He said that last summer for the first time two of the units would train as
units in Petawawa camp. I doubt very much whether the commander of the brigade has been designated, and whether he has had his staff assembled. I am quite certain that no opportunity has been provided him to train his troops, and as for our airborne battalion it should be realized that it has not carried out a single airborne exercise. The training that they have received up to date has been elementary, individual training. Therefore I contend, and I repeat, that we are incompetent to meet the type of raid which any enemy, having to come a distance of 3,000 miles, might be expected to launch against this country. You cannot conjure up in your mind any target which might justify the general staff of a hostile country launching a diversionary raid against Canada which this force, in its present condition, could deal with effectively. I shall not enumerate all the possible targets. Possible targets exist on our west coast and on our east coast. Perhaps they might launch such a raid from submarines. Our forces consist very largely of recruits scattered across the country, who could not deal with any such contingency. If they considered launching a raid entirely by air, there are of course attractive targets. It is not impossible to think of a hostile airborne force coming across our Arctic wastes and landing airborne troops at unprotected airfields at such places as Whitehorse.
Now on the east coast we have the unprotected airfields we recently took over when Newfoundland joined our dominion. We do not want in future to see such names as Whitehorse or Goose or Gander become synonymous with the activities usually associated with the name of Pearl Harbor. So I suggest that if we are to have a force adequate to meet the very first objective laid down by the minister, that is to deal with a diversionary raid, then we must have a force accustomed to working together; and the sooner that force is brought together, trained together and given more advanced training, the sooner it will be in a position to deal with an operation of that type. If the $19 million is to be spent to improve the efficiency of that force, then I do not believe the people of Canada will have very much objection to it; but it is only fair and right that we should have clear and definite information from the minister.
In the last few months, I suggest, we have had rather unfortunate illustrations of the difficulties experienced when men who have not served together for any length of time are sent on some operation. We have seen the unfortunate incidents-I do not think they were serious-which occurred on three of the ships of the Royal Canadian Navy. As far as I can gather from press reports, these arose

mainly from the fact that the crews of these ships had been permitted to fall short in numbers, and that before the ships were sent on their missions the crews were brought up to strength by transfers from other establishments and perhaps by bringing in some Royal Canadian Naval Reserve personnel. As a result the crews were not accustomed to working together, and when minor difficulties and hardships came along little frictions were bound to arise. So if you were attempting to send a force to meet any diversionary raid that might be made you would find the same little causes of friction unless the units had been working together under their own commanders. If therefore this money is to be spent in improving the efficiency of our forces I do not think any objection will be taken to it. But if it is going to be frittered away, perhaps by visits of senior officers to Ruritania, for example, and by military missions sent all over the world, that is a different matter. We want to be told clearly how this money is going to be expended.
I have made some reference to the air force. I have mentioned the various types of aircraft the minister told us were available.
I have referred to a statement by a senior officer who recently left the department, who considered that in its present form of organization and the degree to which it has received its training it was not in a position to deal effectively with any raid which might be made against this country. I suggest, too, that the mere organization of a force to deal with a diversionary raid is not our only military obligation. Within the last few days we have signed the North Atlantic security pact, which is designed to preserve the peace of the world and to which no doubt we shall have to contribute certain armed forces if that peace is to be preserved. Those forces will not be confined solely to troops held in Canada in order to deal with a diversionary raid. As the second objective, the minister spoke of the organization and training of reserve forces, so they might be capable of rapid expansion if necessary. In view of the fact that we have signed the North Atlantic pact, I feel the minister should tell us whether any of this money is to be used for the purpose of increasing those forces which may be required to supplement plans drawn up under that pact, and whether any scheme will be devised for the rapid expansion of those forces if necessary.
It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that we cannot have schemes for speeding up the expansion of the forces and for getting them into the field at an early date-and this may be the crux of the whole matter-if we are going to adhere to the old, traditional organi-
Supply-National Defence zation, which may have stood the test in 1812 and 1900 and 1914 but which is out of date now. We have to consider what steps we are going to take to meet the need for expansion, the need to implement our obligations under the North Atlantic pact in 1949 or 1950. It is not a question of harking back and being satisfied with the organization that existed previously. We now have far more definite commitments than ever before. So I ask the minister to explain definitely whether this $19 million is to come out of the amount allocated and voted by this house last year, and whether the $59 million voted at that time will be reduced to this extent. Then I ask him to explain in a little more detail how the division of that money is going to take place, how he proposes to utilize it, under these main headings to which I have referred.

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