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


David Marshall

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DAVID MARSHALL (East Elgin).

Mr. Speaker, two questions in this discussion are being confused. The question of beginning the foundation of a Canadian navy, and the question of rendering immediate and effective aid to Great Britain are not the same. It is with the latter that we are called upon at this juncture to deal. The government declares its readiness to assist the mother country, but the proposal contained in the Bill outlined by the right hon. the First Minister provides for the creation of a war instrument which cannot be made effective for many years to come, until the present emergency has been met by Great Britain, and its consequence to Canada as part of the empire already determined. This is not a question which should be decided one way or another for party political profit. The. question is a simple one, a question of determining what is our clear duty to the empire and of our readiness to do that duty. We must look first of all to the question: Is there an emergency? That question has been answered. I am within the mark in saying that were it not that a crisis was known to be impending the government of Canada would not have considered itself compelled to take even such meagre action as is contemplated in this Bill. The right hon. Prime Minister has given good evidence that he appreciates the futility of this navy scheme as an instrument of immediate and effective aid. That proof is to be found in a speech made to his own political followers only a short time ago in the city of Toronto, in which to make this project if possible more acceptable, he declared his conviction that no such thing as a German peril existed.
Is there in the great German preparations now being carried on, a menace to the naval supremacy of Great Britain. We are told that within two years Germany as a sea power may have caught up to Great Britain or surpassed her. The London ' Times ' a few days ago declared that if the present way of construction resulted in a German triumph, no blood need be shed, that Germany would simply impose her will upon Great Britain as she has done it upon various European countries within the past decade. German preparations are unquestionably directed against Great Britain. We cannot read the preamble of the German Naval Bill of 1900 without reaching that conclusion. It says:
Germany must possess a battle fleet so strong that a war with her would, even for the greatest naval power, be accompanied with such dangers as would render that power's position doubtful.

The ' greatest naval power ' is Great Britain, the British empire, of which Canada is a part.
Why did the British admiralty's whole plan of defence change a few years ago? Why were the most powerful of her fleets concentrated in home waters? What compelled the withdrawal of the British fleet from the Pacific? It was not because no fleet was needed there. The British admiralty to-day is anxious to see a fleet upon the Pacific flying the British flag. Why then were these ships withdrawn? The an-_ swer is already history. They were placed in waters adjacent to Great Britain to guard the shores jof England from a threatened descent by a hostile European army, a German army. The statement that we cannot have a navy in commission for many years to come even if we start to-morrow, i3 one that cannot be attacked. We have not the yards in which to build the ships, nor the men to build them. Moreover when you have built your ships you have only begun the work. The task of arming them is still before you, and this cannot be done in Canada. The creation of a navy, however small, involves years of building and years of training, and an outlay of which no man can see the end. We are told that the fleet will cost eleven millions. We were told that the Grand Trunk Pacific would cost thirteen millions, and it has already passed the hundred million mark. We may take it then that the creation of a Canadian navy is not intended as an aid to the mother country in a crisis present or immediate. I say then that this navy scheme stands by itself and must be decided without regard to the question of immediate peril to the empire, with which question it Iras nothing to do. There is no hurry then, about it. That being so, I believe that no ' action should now be taken in regard to it, but that it should be submitted to the people of Canada to be decided by them.
What, in view of these things, is the best for Canada to do? The duty of Canada, I take it is to render such aid to the mother country as will meet t.he demands of naval strategy, because upon this the safety of the empire and the supremacy of Great Britain at sea must depend. What that aid should be is set out within the' four corners of a short paragraph in the memorandum of the First Lord of the admiralty, submitted to the naval and military defence conference in August of last year. That paragraph reads:
If the problem of imperial naval defence wore considered merely as a problem of naval strategy, it would be found that the greatest output of strength for a given expenditure is obtained by the maintenance of a single navy, with the unity of training and unity of command. In furtherance, then, of the simple strategical ideal, the maximum of Mr. MARSHALL..
power would be gained if all parts of the empire contributed, according to their needs and resources, to the maintenance of the British navy.
The principle is laid down by a man whose business it is to know. If that is generally a sound principle, it is equally sound as applied to the emergency which undoubtedly exists. It is ' the maximum of power ' upon which the safety of the empire depends, and that ' maximum of power ' would be best obtained, so far as the Dominion of Canada is concerned, by a cash contribution for immediate use in augmenting the strength of the British navy. This is the new view taken. I believe, by a majority of the people of Canada. It is the view held by a great majority of the people of the constituency which I represent.
I may say, Mr. Speaker, that I mailed to every voter in East Elgin, a circular letter inclosing a slip covering three questions, asking the electors to indicate their views by answering these questions. Between five and six thousand was the number of these sent out, and I had replies from about 75 per cent. I would like to give the House an idea of the result of this work.
In answer to the first question, which was:
Are you in favour of the establishment of a Canadian navy, to be under the control of the government at Ottawa?
To this question 269, or six and one half per cent, of the replies were in favour of a Canadian navy; 3,836. or ninety-three percent, were strongly opposed to it, and twenty, or one half per cent, were quite different.
The second question was:
Are you in favour, as a Canadian, of taking any part in the naval defence of Canada and the empire?
To this question 430 answered they were not in favour of taking any part in the defence of Canada or the empire, while 3,570 were willing to do their share.
The third question was:
Do you believe that the time has come when Canada, should, in answer to the call of the motherland, and in answer to the threats of the enemies of the British empire, perform her share toward ensuring the continuance of British naval supremacy, by the direct contribution of a Dreadnought or its equivalent in money?
The result of this is that: 430 were not willing to take any part; six and one half per cent or 269 were in favour of a Canadian navy; one per cent or 41 were in favour of a Dreadnought being contributed; one and one half or 61 per cent "were indifferent as to what means were adopted, though they were opposed to a navy being

established; 91 per cent or 3,754 were in favour of a money contribution.
These replies come from a people who are in a position to give voice to sensible ideas, for with the present improved rural mail facilities, they are in receipt of the daily papers and the vast majority of them keep in touch with the doings of the outside world, and know as much of what is going on as do people residing in our large cities, and in that way, they are quite capable of judging and giving opinions on matters of this kind.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would consider this a fair criterion of the sentiment of the Canadian people. Judging from the results which I have laid before you, it is my opinion that were the entire electorate of Canada called upon to answer questions similar to the above, the result would be very much the same, and, therefore, I am strongly of the opinion that a national question of such wide importance, involving as it does such large expenditure of money, should, before being undertaken by the government, be submitted to the people and, therefore, I will support the resolution moved by the hon. leader of the opposition.

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