Hon. Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence):
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) has based his appeal to this house to adopt this motion on charges of "wholesale looting" in the Department of National Defence. He has made this charge
Military Establishments-Fires and Thefts before. He made it first on April 21 when he moved the adjournment of the house to discuss a matter of urgent public importance. He repeated it when he spoke for the first time on this subject on May 1. He repeated it in a broadcast of the program "The Nation's Business" over the trans-Canada network on May 6.
This charge is a serious charge. So far as I can learn from the speech of the leader of the opposition this afternoon it is based on thefts at Petawawa, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and in British Columbia. He seemed to derive some comfort and support from the fact that Colonel Ross directed a letter to the staff subordinate to him urging a more careful supervision. Why, this letter was the right kind of letter for an officer in command of men to write. That kind of letter has been sent through the years every time there is occasion. This is the kind of action that should be taken by commanding officers and in so far as anything that is brought to my attention is concerned, I see that it is taken.
I do not suggest that the leader of the opposition has said this, but the implication of these wholesale charges of wholesale looting is that great quantities of stores, out of all proportion to the value of the stores concerned, are being removed wholesale from the warehouses, storerooms and depots of the Department of National Defence and the armed forces. He himself used a figure of over $7 million as the amount of loss through theft and fire. That would be a very large figure but that is not in accordance with the facts before the defence expenditures committee. I will come to that in a minute.
What are we concerned with in the Department of National Defence and the three forces? We are concerned with an operation involving real estate valued at something over a billion and a half dollars, with equipment, supplies and stores having a value of perhaps another billion dollars, quite apart from ships and aircraft.
Subtopic: THEFT AND FIRES IN MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS -AMENDMENT, MR. DREW