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


John Herron


Mr. JOHN HERRON (Macleod).

The hon. member for Kings and Albert (Mr. McAllister) accused hon. members on this side of favouring a navy for imperialism and protection. I am prepared to admit that hon. members on that side have no desire for protection or they would not put faith in this Canadian tin-pot navy they propose. Rising at this time to address the House on this important question, I feel that I owe the House an apology for taking up

time at this stage of the debate. I would not do so but for the fact that the Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) alluded to myself, with some other hon. members on this side of the House, in his first speech after the opening of parliament this year as having gone back on our position of last March as expressed by the resolution passed by this House unanimously at that time in regard to helping the British empire in what seemed at that time to be a crisis in naval supremacy. I did not altogether approve of that resolution when it passed the House, but I was present when it was passed and am prepared to take my share of the responsibility for anything that was wrong in that resolution, even of anything I objected to at that time. The reasons why we let that resolution go through unanimously have been very well explained by previous speakers. This matter has been dealt with very thoroughly by the hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk), and several other hon. gentlemen on this side of the House. So I w'ill not take up time to discuss that phase of the question. But, having been present, I am prepared, as I have said, to take my share- of responsibility. I would have stood by that resolution, and intended to stand by it, and did stand by it until after our delegates returned from the imperial conference last summer. But at a reception tendered to them on their return to this country the hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Mr. Brodeur) gave a synopsis of what had been done in the *old country, and expressed great faith in this idea of political autonomy. In stating what had been done at the conference he said they had agreed upon a Canadian navy. I gathered from reading his address that it was either by extraordinary strategy or else by threats or force that Canada had wrested from Great Britain her political autonomy. This idea of political autonomy seems to me a mania with hon. members on the other side. They talk about it, and how we have practically wrested it from Great Britain by force or otherwise. I have never heard of Britain trying to prevent us from exercising the full powers vested in us under. our constitution, until I heard hon. members on the other side talk as they did. As I have said, I intended to stand by that resolution, and would have done so but for the reasons I have stated. They compare their Naval Bill with the resolution of last March and accuse us of going back on the resolution which we unanimously supported last session. According to that resolution a navy was to be built, but it was to be built immediately, and to act in co-operation with the British navy, whereas the navy proposed by this government is not to be any part or parcel or to
have anything to do with the British navy, so that on that score I do not think that this Bill in any way attempts to carry out the resolution unanimously passed last March. The navy then contemplated was to fly the British flag, but I understand there is quite a question to-day as to what flag we are to fly on our navy when built.
As regards employing our own labour and our own material, while I admit that we have the material in this country to build a navy and the brawn and the brains, while we have mechanics and labouring men just as capable, if properly directed, as any in the old country, our experience in the past has not been such as to give our people any confidence in the capability of our Marine and Fisheries Department to build a navy with any efficiency or economy. The report of the investigation into that department has not been assuring in any degree to the people, and consequently we may well hesitate in trusting that same department with the building of a Canadian navy. There is another assertion which I am prepared to make regarding the administration of that department. The other day I listened to a debate on the estimates between my hon. friend ' from East Grey (Mr. Sproule) -and the Minister of Public Works with reference to a dredge which was built last year, in which the Minister of Public Works denied a statement made by the hon. member for East Grey, although I think the minister only cleared himself by a technicality. For my part, I am going to make this statement on a rumour which I believe to be well founded, and if it should turn out t-o be untrue, I am prepared to apologize to the House .and withdraw. Within me last year or year and a half, the Marine and Fisheries Department built a dredge in the docks at Sorel, which cost in the neighbourhood of $200,000. AfteT it was launched, they started putting in machinery and anchors and chains, and the vessel would have sunk to the bottom of the river, before even a pound of coal was put into it, if she had not been taken hold of with grappling irons. She was returned to the dock, and is there now getting a false bottom put into her. I have that statement on good authority, and I would like to have any minister, speaking for the Department of Marine and Fisheries, state whether it is true or not. Things of that kind and the other things we all know of that department are not reassuring to the people and not calculated to give them confidence in entrusting the building of a Canadian navy to that department. Not only would there in all likelihood be a great waste of money, but the lives of the crews, British subjects and Canadian citizens would not be safe in a navy built by these gentlemen. _
As regards the cost of construction, that

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