May 19, 1952 (21st Parliament, 6th Session)


George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I had no intention of quoting, but in any event I can put forward my argument without any further reference to what was said on another occasion. The attitude has been adopted on a number of occasions that the calling in of experts is not what is helpful in producing reforms. At the time that matter was under discussion I did not have the opportunity of replying because I had introduced a motion. If I had I would have pointed out that on a number of occasions the failure of people brought in without full authority has been demonstrated, and that is exactly what should be in the minds of hon. members in this house if the arguments which have been put forward against (Mr. Drew.]
the appointment of a body to inquire under the public Inquiries Act are to be regarded as valid. Those arguments themselves demonstrate the unsatisfactory nature of inquiries conducted without the appropriate authority to obtain evidence, to obtain the production of documents, and that is exactly what has been suggested in this house and elsewhere. It has been suggested that, no matter how high the standing may be of any individual or group of individuals asked to inquire into certain matters of importance to the public, that inquiry can produce no satisfactory result if such individual or individuals do not find themselves cloaked with adequate powers under the public Inquiries Act.
Any suggestion that it is a derogation of the authority and responsibility of members of the house to suggest the appointment of an appropriate body to conduct a public inquiry under the public Inquiries Act is surely answered by the fact that this government has on so many occasions seen fit to appoint bodies to conduct inquiries into matters which ultimately could only be dealt with by this house and by parliament, and have, in fact, claimed a substantial measure of credit for adopting that course.
May I, Mr. Speaker, anticipate the possibility that we would once again hear any suggestion that it would be a derogation of the responsibility of the members of this house and of parliament to express their opinion that an appropriate body should be appointed under the public Inquiries Act. May I point out the occasions on which the appointment of such a body has been of vital importance not only here but at Westminster, from which we draw so many of our valuable precedents.
I think it may be worth while pointing out that our whole present system of public accounting and the presentation of accounts and reports to parliament is the result of the recommendations of a royal commission appointed in 1831 by the parliament at Westminster to inquire into their general methods of accounting, the preparation of accounts and, generally, the business methods of the government in relation to those subjects. Not only were the reforms effected at Westminster which produced their modern system of accounting but since we became, to use words that have been so often employed, "the transcript of Westminster", we adopted the same methods that were the result of recommendations of a royal commission in 1831.
Then when we are told that our treasury system is so perfect that it could gain nothing from such an inquiry, may I remind hon. members that another commission appointed two years earlier by the House of Commons

and parliament at Westminster conducted an inquiry into treasury matters-it was known as the treasury commission-and our present treasury methods are largely the result of the recommendations of that commission.
Then, to bring the examples closer to the subject matter under discussion, I know that most members will recall-and most certainly the Minister of National Defence will do so- the Esher commission of 1904, which was a judicial commission headed by Lord Esher and which made recommendations that resulted in a complete reorganization not only of the British army but of the department of national defence and of the allocation of tasks within the department of national defence. May I remind the hon. members who have not recently read the findings of the Esher commission-when there is any suggestion that the appointment of such a commission is a derogation of the responsibilities and duties of members of parliament-that the Esher commission even went so far as to recommend what duties the prime minister of Great Britain should perform in relation to the supervision of national defence, and that commission outlined generally the duties of ministers, the duties of the general staff, of the adjutant general's branch, of the quartermaster general's branch, and of the whole military organization. Those recommendations brought about reforms without which it would never have been possible for the United Kingdom to go into the war of 1914 with an organization which was capable of performing the great services it rendered to Great Britain and to the whole free world.
Here in this country we have had commissions which have dealt with subjects that most certainly come under the authority and the responsibility of members of parliament at some point. Only a few days ago, I have reason to believe, approval was expressed on both sides of the house of an indication that the government proposes to carry out another recommendation of the Massey commission. The very fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) was making this announcement indicated that this subject is one which must be dealt with by parliament if it is to be dealt with effectively. I have seen no suggestion that there was any derogation from the authority and responsibility of members of parliament when the Massey commission was appointed to inquire into subjects which must be dealt with by this House of Commons and by parliament if the recommendations are to be implemented.
Then at a time when we have reason to examine the estimates of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation it perhaps is appropriate to remember that the Canadian Broadcasting
Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts Corporation is simply the Canadian broadcasting commission under a new form and that the Canadian broadcasting commission was set up as a result of the recommendations of a royal commission appointed by the government of Canada. In addition, there are a number of members who will recall that a royal commission conducted an inquiry into certain episodes connected with customs in this country, and that, as a result of the recommendations made at that time, there have been for a great many years no major scandals connected with customs.
There also have been a number of commissions appointed to deal with railways, shipping and other matters of the kind. In every single case those commissions were called upon to deal with subjects which ultimately would call for examination by the House of Commons and parliament if anything effective was to be done.
May I point out what a strange conclusion we would be led to if we accepted the proposition that the government has on some occasions put forward. If the government believes that it is a derogation of responsibility to appoint a royal commission to inquire into something that relates to the duties of government, then what does the government say about its appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the irrigation project and the power project in Saskatchewan which has been requested so frequently and with such vigour by the members on this side of the house?
If the government does not think that such a royal commission should be appointed, surely it is to be hoped that this thought was not in their minds when they appointed such a commission to deal with that tremendously important project at a time when the members of this party, and of all other parties in the house, were urging the government to act, and to act promptly, to carry forward this great and very beneficial undertaking.
No, Mr. Speaker, the history of royal commissions is a history of inquiries which have produced many of the major reforms in our administrative system, as well as in the detailed duties of government and of parliament. Granted, there have been in this country and in other countries royal commissions which have not done all that was expected: the fact remains nevertheless that over the years most of the major reforms in the organization of government, in the reorganization of military services, have been the result of inquiries of this kind. It was in fact because of the inquiry conducted by what was known as the Otter commission that there was a re-organization of the militia in Canada prior to the great war, which
Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts made it possible for the Canadian forces at that time to take such an effective part so early in the first world war.
I have mentioned the 'history of these commissions to anticipate any suggestion that an inquiry under the public Inquiries Act would be any derogation of the responsibilities, duties and authority of the members of this house, and at the same time to urge the hon. members on both sides of the house to approach this subject with a recognition of the fact that each one of us should be seeking some method by which confidence will be restored in a department which is seeking approximately half of all the heavy taxes which will be imposed upon the people of Canada at this time, and which has the responsibility for preparing our defence forces in the hope that their effectiveness, along with the effectiveness of the defence forces of other free nations, may in fact avoid the necessity of employing these forces again at any time in the future for war itself.
How can the members of this house, the members on either side of this house, say to the people of Canada that they are confident that everything is being done, when step by step what has been done challenges our confidence in every way? No matter what view may have been expressed on other occasions, any arguments I have put forward as to the arguments raised against royal commissions are put forward only with the hope that arguments raised on other occasions may not be raised at this time against what seems to me to be the only possible device by which we can get a satisfactory inquiry that will restore confidence to this house, yes, restore confidence in the minds of the members on both sides of the house, and in doing that restore confidence to the people of Canada that something effective will really be done, and that if, as Colonel Ross is reported to have said, there is in fact a distinct lack of higher level supervision we shall know where that lack of supervision really is, no matter how high it may be.
I am sure that the members of this house have confidence in the chief of the general staff, in the chief of the air staff, in the chief of the naval staff. I am sure that they have confidence in these officers who are responsible for the strictly military aspect of our defence problems. But, Mr. Speaker, no matter where the break-down may have occurred, I think the members of this house and the people of Canada are greatly in need of restored confidence right up the line in those duties which have to do with accounting supervision and protection.

The Minister of National Defence is well aware that for several years efforts have been made within the Department of National Defence to bring about a more efficient method of accounting. I am sure the Minister of National Defence is aware that there have been suggestions that a central accounting organization which also had the most modern type of accounting methods, adjusting its inventory as any business would, would be able both to direct more effective supervision of accounting duties and at the same time to report on any problem relating to accounts in a manner which does not now seem to be possible.
Surely the members of this house must have been impressed with the length of time that, on a number of occasions, it has taken to provide information to the defence expenditure committee, as well as to this house, in regard to details which could have been provided within a few hours if the same accounting methods were in operation in the Department of National Defence as would be required in any big business in this country today.
Over and over again an almost plaintive story has been told of the number of officials required and the length of time that would be involved in preparing details of something that should have been available simply by examining the end entries under any effective system of accounting that was consistent with modern accounting practices. Surely it is something about which the Minister of National Defence can agree without being indignant that it might even be hinted that the Department of National Defence could be improved in any way. Surely the time has come when the constant recurrence of these thefts, losses and incendiary as well as other fires should have impressed upon the Minister of National Defence-even if it were only to reassure himself personally that everything is being done that should be done-that an inquiry of this nature would certainly be justified.
Both in the Supreme Court of Canada and in the supreme courts of the provinces are judges of great reputation, men who served in one war or the other with great distinction. I can think of certain judges who had experience in both wars. I am not suggesting that they alone would be highly qualified, but at least some of them would have available in their own memories a knowledge that would be extremely valuable in approaching a problem of this nature.
The people of this country have indicated through the press and in other ways that they want reassurance, and this government has on many occasions indicated its own belief in

the procedure provided by the Inquiries Act, and it is for that reason that I propose to present this motion. I ask the Minister of National Defence, in his own interest from the point of view of avoiding constant requests of other kinds, and also all members as representatives of the people of Canada, to indicate their desire that this subject be dealt with by a judicial inquiry. Now that we learn that the inquiry, which is not really an inquiry as that term is ordinarily used, is nothing more than an office accounting procedure because of the absence of Colonel Currie in England-that absence in itself indicates an extended delay before any satisfactory answers can be given to this house and to the people of Canada-I am proposing that a judicial inquiry at the very highest level, such as has brought about great reforms in the past, should be instituted to deal with something which now relates to the whole subject matter, not only of accounting but of the national defence of this country.
With a department which is going to spend in this year alone such fabulous sums as those before us, with a department which is responsible for preparing the defence of Canada and our common participation under the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, we should be assured of an administrative system, of an internal organization and of supervision of accounting which will guarantee that we have in this country as efficient and as effective an organization dealing with that vitally important matter as can possibly be made available. Therefore I move, seconded by the hon. member for Peel (Mr. Graydon): '
That all the words after "that" to the end of the question be deleted and the following substituted therefor:
"the government should consider the advisability of undertaking a judicial inquiry into the organization of the Department of National Defence and without restricting the generality of the foregoing, to investigate the accounting, inspection and administrative supervision of public property by the Department of National Defence with particular reference to losses of property by theft, looting and fire; the nature of supervision over the army stores and as to whether there has occurred any dereliction of duty on the part of any of the personnel of the said department whose duty it is to safeguard the public property of Canada.
The judicial body thus appointed to have all the powers of a royal commission under part I of the Inquiries Act, chapter 99, of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1927, to make findings and recommendations and to report the same to parliament."

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