March 7, 1910 (11th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Duncan Hamilton McAlister



The ' Atlantic Monthly.' Would you like to have it? My hon. friend's question reminds me that there

has always been a lot of suspicion, I have evidence of it myself, among hon. gentlemen opposite. I do not like to see that. It is the worst thing in the world. I do not like to see any individual member or any group of members too suspicious. You know that the fox is the most suspicious animal, and that that rascal is the first fellow to rob a hen-house.
The defence conference saw the importance of the dominions beyond the seas laying the foundations of future dominion navies of their own, which forces would contribute_ immediately and materially to the imperial defence if need should occur. The Canadian ministers then in the old country agreed in that, and the next step was to see what the admiralty would suggest. What did the admiralty suggest?
That certain vessels be constructed as a nucleus of a Canadian navy.
^ To .this the Canadian ministers- then in England agreed, and the proposals now before the House are exactly in accordance with that suggestion. There seems to be some misapprehension in regard to the admiralty's proposals. Conservative members and the Conservative press speak as if the British admiralty suggested a course that had not been carried out by this government. That is not so. I understand that these objections are based on the fact that the British admiralty asked first a direct contribution or the establishment of a fleet unit consisting of a Dreadnought and auxiliaries. A careful perusal of the blue-book shows how closely the present proposal harmonizes with the admiralty's suggestion. The blue-book says:
As regards Canada, it was considered that her double sea-board rendered the provisions of a fleet unit of the same kind unsuitable for the present.
The reason for this must be obvious. A fleet unit to be any good must remain intact, and how can it remain together if it is to be stationed on the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts? To divide it would destroy the object sought and the British admiralty saw the position we were in. Knowing that to create and maintain two units would be beyond the financial position of Canada, they wisely determined to adopt an alternative course:
It was proposed, according to the amount of money that might be available, that Canada should make a start with cruisers of the ' Bristol ' class and destroyers of an improved river class-a part to be stationed on the Atlantic sea-board and a part on the Pacific.
The principle of making a start was here clearly laid down:
Canada and Australia preferred to lay the foundations of fleet units of their own.
The scheme now submitted to the House by the Prime Minister is exactly upon these lines. Canada is making a start, and is making that start not only with the approval of but on the direct lines recommended by the admiralty. I think this reaches the objection raised by the opposition to the non-establishment of a fleet unit. As further evidence that the admiralty approved and recognized Canada's action, I refer to page 24, where it is said:
While laying the foundations of future Dominion navies to be maintained in different parts of the empire, these forces would contribute immediately and materially to the requirements of imperial defence....A simple contribution of money or material may be to one Dominion the most acceptable form in which to assist in imperial defence. Another while ready to provide local naval forces, and to place them at the disposal of the Crown in the event of war, may wish to lay the foundations upon which a future navy of its own could be raised.
I think this should be sufficient to dispose of the suggestion that Canada's action is contrary to the wishes of the admiralty. At page 24 of the report I find:
The main duty of the forthcoming conference as regards naval defence will be, therefore, to determine the form in which the various Dominion governments can best participate in the burden of imperial defence with due regard to varying political and geographical conditions. Looking to the difficulties involved, it is not to be expected that the discussions with the several Defence Ministers will result in a complete and final scheme of naval defence, but it is hoped that it will be found possible to formulate the broad principles upon which the growth of colonial naval forces should be fostered. While laying the foundations of future Dominion navies to be maintained in different parts of the empire, these forces would contribute immediately and materially to the requirements of imperial defence.
In the opinion of the admiralty, a Dominion government desirous of creating a navy should aim at forming a distinct fleet unit; and the smallest unit is one which, while manageable in time of peace, is capable of being used in its component parts in time of war.
Then at page 25 of the conference blue-book, we find:
It has been recognized that in time of war the local naval forces should come under the general direction of the admiralty.
This clearly contemplates that the navy should remain under local control in time of peace.
Great Britain cannot go to war without the consent of the British parliament; Canada cannot go to war without the consent of the Canadian parliament. In both cases they are co-equal. Why not?

Topic:   EDITION'.
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