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


Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)


Mr. Claxton:

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. In the house itself, those charges have been made about lack of information. I venture to say that more information has been, and is being, given about defence and matters relating to defence than in any parliament in the British commonwealth. I ask any hon. member who questions that statement to prove his contention. I have here references to the debates on defence in the British House of Commons for the session corresponding to this one. I have the number of hours already spent, and the number of speakers who have taken part in the debate. I wish some hon. members who make these charges would read British Hansard to see how the debate on defence compares with the debate here. The government set aside one day in December for general debate on defence. There was one day for debate on the estimates on each of the service departments, the navy, army and air force, and one day on supplementaries. That is all there has been, and that is all there is likely to be this session.
There is a committee on estimates, but during the last year and a half it has not met for as many hours as our committees on public accounts and defence expenditures have devoted to defence matters. That committee, and the house at Westminster, have not had before them one-tenth of the information that has been placed before this house on defence matters. I suggest that it is time those who make these charges about lack of information should prove them.
It is time that the operation of national defence be regarded as an operation on a scale which is comparable with that of anything there is in the country today. At the present time, in addition to the 137,000 men and women engaged full time in defence, there are nearly another 60,000 in the reserve. There are well over 500 units, and there has been an increase of strength of over 100 per cent in two years. When you have an operation involving that number of people and the

amount of property and equipment that there is in the services, the record compares favourably with that of any operation about which we know and are able to obtain information.
The leader of the opposition was interesting when he said that he had confidence in the chiefs of staff, of the navy, army and air force, and others responsible for the strictly military operations. I was not surprised to hear him make this statement because he must know, and the house must know, that the sweeping charges of "wholesale looting" tend to cast aspersion on all members of the armed forces, officers and men alike. He must know, and the house must know, that the service personnel keenly resent these charges, because they believe that they are as honest and decent a group of men as there is in Canada. To anticipate this, the leader of the opposition says he has confidence in the chiefs of staff-well, so have I. I have confidence in the chiefs of staff who are responsible for the operation of the three services.
Under the general supervision of the chief of the general staff of the army comes the quartermaster general, who is responsible for the store of the ordnance corps and its administration; the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and its administration; medical and dental stores, the Royal Canadian Engineers, and the Army Service Corps. Those are the branches concerned with the business of taking in stores, issuing stores, keeping stores and accounting for stores. They have had a very large job. Today the engineers are concerned with 513 major contracts across Canada. The engineers were concerned with plans and specifications and, to a certain extent, looking after this very large operation. This has been accomplished without any very substantial additions to personnel of the engineer corps. We are trying to handle this big operation without building up a large overhead which we would not need after the peak has been passed.
Now, I have mentioned these branches of the service which are responsible, and when the adjutant general, the quartermaster general or the chief of the general staff or the corresponding officers in all the three services, find that there has been a theft, he draws to the attention of the officers under him the need for effective supervision. When Colonel Ross was referring to a distinct lack of higher level supervision, he was referring to supervision at a level subordinate to himself.
We have had before us a motion that all this should be the subject of a royal commission. This is not the first time that the

leader of the opposition 'has made suggestions of this kind. I have not a full list, but I have some notes indicating that he made similar proposals back in 1949. On October 26-

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