Hon. C. G. Power (Quebec South):
Some hon. gentleman earlier in this debate made the statement that in his opinion this session of the House of Commons would be devoted largely to the discussion of international affairs. To some extent I agree with him; but I think his attention should be called to the fact that there are many weighty
matters of domestic concern which will have to be debated and discussed during the present session.
To some extent I am inclined to agree with him because it is impossible to get a true picture of the over-all situation of Canada at the present time unless one gives at least some consideration to the relationship of Canada to the United Nations organization and to world affairs.
Just over 30 years ago in this house I opposed the subscription of Canada to the covenant of the league of nations; and some years later, in 1923, I introduced a resolution calling upon Canada to withdraw from the league of nations. Nevertheless I cannot claim the prescience of having opposed the entry of Canada into the United Nations organization because at that time the wave of idealism for the brotherhood of man and of enthusiasm swept the world and encompassed Canada itself. But permit me to say, sir, as one who has never made any claim to an extensive or intensive study of external affairs, and who knows no more of the proceedings of the United Nations than that which he gleaned from the headlines in newspapers or from the radio commentators, that in my humble opinion, whatever may be said in favour of the United Nations organization -and much can be said and has been said by its supporters and apologists-certainly we can no longer say that it will bring about peace in this world. Nor can it be said that the United Nations of itself can prevent aggression by a major power or its satellites.
In order to endeavour to assure ourselves of a somewhat uneasy peace we are obliged perhaps not to disregard the United Nations organization but at least to set it aside in favour of the Atlantic treaty. Let me say at the outset of my remarks on this subject that I favour the Atlantic treaty; but let me also say that in placing most of our faith and confidence on what can be accomplished out of that pact and that treaty we are returning to that which we have condemned and reviled in the past, namely, power politics.
I can see little or no difference between the state of the world as it exists at the present time and the state of the world as it was immediately prior to and during the seven years war, the Napoleonic wars and the first world war. Now as then, nations, desiring to preserve their autonomy and their liberty against the encroachment of mon-archial or dictatorial tyrants, had been obliged to band themselves together in combinations or coalitions; now, as in that time, the weaker nations are obliged to call on the
stronger ones for subsidies for arms, and for the furnishing of armed forces.
Now, as in former times, there are satellite wars and undeclared wars. Prior to the seven years war the English were fighting the French in America, and the French were fighting the English in India for months and perhaps years, long before their governments and courts declared that a state of war existed. So that if my conjecture is the right one, and we are dependent almost entirely, for the preservation of peace in the world and for the prevention of aggression, upon the construction of a wall of peace against Russian aggression in Europe, then we have returned to the realm of world politics and of power politics.
As I said before, I am not opposing the Atlantic pact; but I would like it to be placed in its true light before the people of this country, and before the members of the house. I believe that at the present time the combination of the Atlantic nations is probably the only thing which will save the liberties of the European nations, at any rate, and probably save their hides.
I realize, as every member realizes, that the Atlantic nations, particularly those in Europe, in banding themselves together to resist aggression are taking upon themselves a very grave risk. But it is what Mr. Churchill called in the last war a calculated risk. It is a calculation that fear of the atomic bomb may deter Russia for a sufficient length of time to enable the Atlantic nations to rearm. And, less probably, it is a risk calculated on the fact that perhaps Russia, with the diverse elements of nations and races which compose it, has not as yet formed herself into a nation so well integrated as to permit of undertaking a global war. The Atlantic nations, those who subscribe to the pact, and who live on this side of the Atlantic, have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that they cannot afford to allow Russia to sweep over Europe, and to become possessed of the manpower and industrial potential which is on that continent. As a result of that, these nations have decided to extend their frontiers to the other side of the Atlantic, by extending assistance in the way of armament and equipment, and by rearming the peoples of Europe.
The policy and program laid down last evening by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) is that, as a nation, we shall give our utmost support to the Atlantic pact nations, that we shall do so by supplying arms and equipment, by placing our industrial potential at their disposal, and by sending armed forces to Europe.
With respect to the program which was so well explained by the minister himself last
The Address-Mr. Power night, it seems to me that the first reaction of the house and of the Canadian people must have been one of astonishment at the magnitude and cost of the program he unfolded. It drove home to us, and I think to the people of Canada, that in order even to prepare for war we must spend almost astronomical sums. If that be the case, if the preparation in order to deter the enemy from attacking us runs us into five billions of dollars, then it is difficult to imagine what a real war would cost.
The next reaction-and this is the one which struck me-is that it behooves us to have a certain note of caution. We should- and I gather the government has given consideration to these things-endeavour to ascertain for ourselves, as Canadians, how we may be of the most assistance to our partners in the Atlantic pact, if we are to play fully the role we propose to play. And the note of caution I would wish to sound would be this: Having decided on the course of action and on the program which we should follow in order best to render assistance, let us be careful not to waste our energies and our resources by an overdiversification of those energies and resources.
I take it for granted, indeed I think the minister so stated, that the decisions arrived at as to the kind of assistance we propose to render to our partners were decisions which had been approved of and agreed upon-subject of course to confirmation by parliament-by our partners in the Atlantic pact. Canada, by agreement with the Atlantic pact nations, apparently has decided to give preponderance in its assistance to air power. It will do this, firstly, by training the air crews of its associates, and secondly by furnishing squadrons to Europe. Apparently our allies are satisfied with this proposed contribution. The question I ask myself is whether the people of Canada will be satisfied with this contribution of a preponderance in air forces. I say that because, during world war II, there were persons in the country and even in the House of Commons who, notwithstanding the glamour and the glory of the achievements of the air force, and notwithstanding that, in proportion to the number of their men actively engaged, they suffered greater casualties than any other arm of the service, were not convinced that Canada was doing its part in that war, until such time as casualty reports came rolling in from Italy.
I am not saying I blame those people. There are in Canada a number of men who are battery-minded, battalion-minded, division-minded; and they have as much right to their opinions as anyone else. Then there
The Address-Mr. Power are other hon. members of the house and other men in this country who believe in a big navy.
I expect to be accused of being prejudiced, but I put myself on the side of the angels, geographically speaking-I favour the Royal Canadian Air Force. Since we are now laying down government policy for the next three years, a policy which presumably will be followed should we be so unfortunate as to be drawn into a shooting war, it should be part of the duty of every hon. member of this parliament, before allowing this program to pass unchallenged, to explain his views and state whether he considers it to be in the interests of Canada to have a greater proportion of the strength of Canada devoted to an air force than to any other force.
I say that advisedly because I well remember at the beginning of world war II when the delegates from Great Britain came here to propose that we embark upon a great air training scheme. The then minister of finance, my late chief, a leader and patriot whose like has rarely been seen in this house, Layton Ralston, said to the delegates that we should be careful to be sure that Canada could afford this large amount of money and, secondly, that Canada should not be bled white right at the start of the war. He pointed out further to the delegates that we were likely to have other commitments, that we were likely to have to furnish ground forces. The reply was made that the primary duty of Canada was to undertake this great air training scheme.
As time went on we all know how that air training scheme was developed, but other efforts were put forth paralleling that scheme. Not only did they cost enormous sums of money, but in the long run it led to serious difficulties.
I mention these things in order that we in this house, as well as the people in the country, may thoroughly understand this program. As I said before, I strongly favour a preponderance of assistance by way of an air force. Since I am asking other hon. members to give their reasons why they would favour a big navy, a big army, a big tank brigade or preference for other components of an army, perhaps I should give some of the reasons I have for suggesting that an air program should be adopted. I say this notwithstanding what may appear to have been a setback at the beginning of the Korean war. Perhaps the supporters of a great air force held exaggerated views and possibly the effectiveness of air strength did not come up to their expectations, but I do believe,
and I think this is admitted, that supremacy in the air will go a long way toward settling any future war.
The reasons I have for supporting an air program are that Canadians for some reason or other have a great reputation as air warriors; that Canada has earned a reputation for its capacity to train air crew; that the program calls for Canadian squadrons, manned by Canadians and supplied with Canadian equipment from Canadian factories.
Perhaps I am treading on dangerous ground when I contend that there is less danger of deterioration of morale among air force personnel stationed in a foreign country than there is on the part of, let us say, army personnel. I think it will be confirmed by those who were fortunate to be in England during the first two and a half or three years of the war that it was extremely difficult to keep up the morale of the ground troops no matter how well the manoeuvres simulated actual conditions of warfare. There is always the danger of boredom with a consequent loss of morale.
But as far as the air force are concerned, the ground crew will be doing exactly the same work they would be doing in wartime. They will be preparing aircraft for troops. Perhaps the danger will not be so great as if an enemy were shooting at them, but they must be ever alert to any deficiency in the machinery or equipment. The air crew are engaged in a hazardous occupation. Every young man who makes up part of an air crew has the pleasure of having under his hand a fast, swiftly moving machine. For these reasons I believe there is less danger of deterioration in their morale.
Undoubtedly there would be an easier interchange of squadrons. Those which are trained here in Canada could more readily, more efficiently and more expeditiously be exchanged with squadrons being trained on the other side. With respect to the psychological effect on our allies and1 on our enemies, which is given as one of the great reasons why we should send forces to Europe, the greater mobility of the air arm and the fact that there will be a large number of men engaged in servicing and in flying eleven squadrons would result in their making their presence felt equally with and perhaps more than an equivalent or similar number of the other arms of the services. Perhaps I should not say this as a last reason, but if the worst comes to the worst the air force has half a chance of getting out and coming back again.
I assume that the division-which is a new term to me in air force jargon-mentioned by the minister will be composed of fighters, interceptors, reconnaissance and transport. It
is a matter of regret to me that it will be almost impossible to add squadrons or wings or groups of bombers. Although I have not gone to any authoritative source, I am informed that to have in Great Britain or on the continent of Europe a group similar in size and equipment to No. 6 Canadian bomber group in the last war would cost in initial equipment alone anything from $1,500 million to $2 billion. Therefore we are precluded by the very thought and consideration of the cost of any such contribution of heavy bombers.
I am told that an individual heavy bomber costs anywhere from $5 million to $6 million. Therefore a squadron composed of twenty bombers would cost in equipment alone $100 million. Therefore the task of strategic bombing of the enemy will, as I understand it, be left largely to the air force of the United States of America just as the task of supplying ground forces will apparently be placed to a considerable extent on the shoulders of the republic of France.
There is one other matter that I should like to mention, and since it is one that has aroused some controversy in this house and outside I approach it with considerable diffidence. It is the question of whether or not a committee of this house should be set up to discuss the expenditure on national defence. The leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) has set forth his views on the matter eloquently and cogently. Members of the government have replied equally eloquently and in terms which merit consideration. I am inclined to think that there is a middle course between the views of the government and those of some of the members of the opposition.
With respect to the constitutional aspect, I believe that matters relating to policies and strategy are the responsibility of the government and the government alone. Recently I was reading the life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, by Brian Tunstall, and I found this passage in reference to the government of William Pitt:
In a country such as England, governed by a constitutional monarchy, it is neither desirable nor practical for war to be conducted either jointly or independently by the heads of the fighting services. On all major issues they must receive express direction from the crown constitutional advisers, responsible to parliament. Admirals and generals are the commanders-in-chief of the sea and land forces, but the crown and ministerial advisers are the commanders-in-chief of the whole nation.
I believe it will be found that Lloyd George in world war I and Winston Churchill in world war II kept within their own hands all decisions with respect to policy and strategy, and I can conceive of nothing worse for the morale and discipline of the various armed
The Address-Mr. Power forces than for their chiefs of staffs to be called before a parliamentary committee to give evidence either for or against the policies laid down by the government. I will give one instance. I myself, although I was a member of the government when the project was initiated, have always had serious doubts as to the value to this country of the creation of a fleet air arm and of the acquisition of the Magnificent.
I hold those views and I believe that in all probability a great many of the superior officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force hold similar views, although I have not communicated with them for over five years, but I would not think it either fair to the forces or fair to the minister to call the chiefs of staff of the Royal Canadian Air Force before a parliamentary committee and to place them in contradiction with the policy of the government. I would go one step further. In my time there were in the Royal Canadian Air Force earnest, conscientious and devoted men who had strong views as to certain types of equipment. Those views were fought over and discussed in air council and sometimes went as far as defence council, but once the policy was settled, once the chiefs of staff and the officers concerned had decided that such a type of equipment should be that which would be acquired and no other kind, then the matter rested there.
I think it would be unfair to place officers of different arms of the services in contradiction with each other with respect to such matters. That is only a personal view acquired from some little experience in dealing with this department.
On the other hand it seems to me that since we are embarking upon a program calling for the expenditure of $5 billion, this House of Commons of Canada has a duty to scrutinize and supervise that expenditure. It is extremely difficult for that scrutiny and supervision to be carried out in a house composed of as many members as we have here; and I believe that if a committee on expenditure were set up, with an appropriate reference which could be agreed upon by the leaders of the government and the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew), much good would result. Members of parliament would be in a better position to analyse and understand why certain moneys were being expended.
I would not propose to curtail in any way the right of every member of parliament to talk on any subject arising out of this expenditure; nor would I implement the rule, if it ever was a rule, that was brought into effect some years ago to prevent questions being placed on the order paper with respect to a department whose affairs were under the
The Address-Mr. Gosselin scrutiny of a committee of this house. Either by arrangement among the members of this house or by the order of reference I would safeguard in every possible way the rights of members of parliament to discuss anything arising out of the estimates of the Department of National Defence. At the same time I believe that a more careful scrutiny of these expenditures, having in mind the complexities which are bound to arise in connection with an expenditure of this size, could be made by setting up such a committee. This I believe would maintain the traditions of parliament and at the same time would be a benefit to the members and to the people of this country.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY