Hon. C. H. CAHAN (St. Lawrence-St. George):
Mr. Speaker, when I read this bill and attempted to consider it in all its ramifications and complexities, I felt I need not discuss its provisions in detail, either on second reading or in committee. It is an elaborate effort to provide for a Department of Munitions and Supply under a minister who will have the most extensive powers ever given to a minister of the crown in Canada.
Section 6 of the bill provides that the minister shall examine into and organize the resources of Canada, the sources of supply and the agencies available for the supply of munitions of war, and supply for the execution and carrying out of defence projects, and the needs present and prospective of the government and of the community in respect thereto; and may make use of the services of any board, agency or association in carrying out the provisions of this section.
Then in the definitions section it is provided that "munitions of war" shall mean:
Arms, ammunition, implements of war, military, naval or air stores, or any articles deemed capable of being converted thereinto, or made useful in the production thereof.
And the term "supplies" is defined in this
"Supplies" includes materials, goods, stores and articles or commodities of every kind including, but not restricting the generality of the foregoing: (i) articles which in the opinion of the minister, would be essential for the needs
of the government or of the community in the event of war; and (ii) anything which, in the opinion of the minister, is, or is likely to be, necessary for, or in connection with, the production, storage or supply of any such article as aforesaid.
Therefore the scope of the work of the department is very extensive indeed, and I might almost say unrestricted. It occurred to me, therefore, in reading the bill that it was to be brought into operation at an early date by order in council, and that it was to continue for a period of three years, with a possible extension of one year for certain of its provisions. I had thought therefore that it would be advisable to refrain from any criticism of these provisions for the present, in view of the fact that at a later date-perhaps at the ensuing session of parliament-the bill would have been in operation for several months, and that we would then know something of the success and efficiency of the measure.
I now find, however, that this bill will be held in abeyance for the time being, while the new war supplies board, which is to be created and which is to function under the War Measures Act, is to make the necessary investigations and examinations of the economic conditions and industrial life of the country, preliminary to setting up the Department of Munitions and Supply as provided in the bill.
Under those circumstances I think criticism is vain and premature. I trust, when the war supplies board is constituted, that the order in council, by which it will be constituted, will be made known to the public, so that during the recess we may thoroughly examine into its provisions and watch with great care the manner in which it functions.
I should have thought it might be advisable to start at once with the Department of Munitions and Supply because that department, if it is to be created, should be under the administration of a minister of the crown. The war supplies board will not be under the direct administration of a minister of the crown, whose time can be given exclusively to the efficient operation of the board. Perhaps any further comment from me is unnecessary.
I notice that under section 20 the governor in council may from time to time make such regulations as may be necessary to carry into effect the provisions of the bill. No provision is made for the publication of those regulations, or to provide that they shall have the force of law after they are once made.
Section 14 provides-and I believe very properly-that subject to the order of the minister any person carrying on business, which comes within the scope of this enact-
Department of Munitions and Supply
ment, shall not be bound, in respect of such matters as may be specified in the order made by the minister, by any obligation or limitation imposed on that person by or by virtue of any other act, order, rule, regulation or by-law. That is a provision whereby the minister administering this department may exempt all persons and all companies, with which he may deal, from the provisions of any act existing on the statute books of Canada, which would otherwise restrict their operations in furnishing munitions of war and supplies.
For instance, had this bill been drafted after the remarks I made the other night respecting the Combines Investigation Act, I would have suggested that the draftsman had carried out the suggestions I then made, namely, that if industry is to be mobilized for the efficient production of munitions of war and supplies for carrying on the war, it must not be subjected strictly to a number of statutes, such as the Combines Investigation Act, and one or two others which I might mention.
I regret to have taken any considerable time, but the Prime Minister's statement that the bill is to be held in abeyance and is not to be put into operation at an early date, came without notice. Otherwise I would discuss certain of its provisions more at length.
Topic: MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY
Subtopic: ESTABLISHMENT OF DEPARTMENT TO MOBILIZE AND CONTROL RESOURCES, MUNITIONS AND ESSENTIAL SUPPLIES