In answering the leader of the opposition the minister suggested that the charge that our defence forces are inadequate, and that proper disclosure has not been made, is a vague one. The minister also suggested that to give this information would be to aid the enemy and not to aid ourselves. When it is charged that the minister and the government are cloaking behind the suggestion of military security or secrecy their failure to provide Canada with even a minimum of the standing forces needed to beat back the minister's own idea of a diversionary attack, what is vague about that charge? I think when such a charge is made it is most necessary that the minister disclose this information to parliament and to the Canadian people. When we are dealing in figures that are below minimums it is much more important that the people of Canada should be informed than that we should consider what kind of aid we may be giving to a possible enemy. A possible enemy will not get any information of any value from the fact that the government has fallen so far behind a target which is inadequate in any event.
The minister suggested that there were no precedents in this parliament for disclosure of this information. Let me give him a few very specific precedents. He claimed that the answer to the question referring to the number of parachutists in the P.P.C.L.I. would, if it were given, eventually disclose the entire
battle order and fighting strength of the Canadian forces. On page 1713 of Hansard of the second session of 1945 the then Minister of National Defence disclosed in detail the battle order of this brigade group. He gave it as headquarters, three infantry battalions, one field regiment, one anti-tank battery, one field company, two armoured regiments, a medium battery and an anti-aircraft battery. I do not think there could be much more complete disclosure of the order of battle.
In 1947 at page 5327 of Hansard for that year the present Minister of National Defence gave for that time exactly the information asked for by the hon. member for Calgary East in his second question. The second question is, what is the strength of the active force, Canadian army brigade group, as of February 15, 1949, or the nearest date to that for which returns have been made? In 1947 the Minister of National Defence said that it then consisted of 192 officers and 1,952 other ranks, that he had set a quota on it of 3,541 officers and men, and that its full strength would be approximately 5,000 officers and men. There is a precedent in the Canadian parliament from the mouth of the present Minister of National Defence, who in 1947 answered this very question.
The Minister of National Defence said that if an enemy was contemplating a diversionary raid on this country, that enemy would like to know nothing better than the strength which was available to oppose him. I do not think that any aggressor, and particularly an aggressor that has as large an armed force as this one, and is as far away as it is, will ever figure as closely as the answer to the question asked. I should think that the information contained in a Canadian press dispatch of January 4, 1949, which presumably emanated from the minister's office, or from the public relations branch of the armed services, would be quite adequate for the purposes of any would-be aggressor. Dealing with the brigade group there is this paragraph:
The last of the new pieces of equipment to come into the limelight is the American Fairchild Packet transport plane that will be used by the airborne brigade, which the government has said will be a standing force to meet any diversionary attack on the country. Its eventual strength has been given as 7,000 men, including three battalions of infantry.
Defence Minister Claxton said recently it should begin training as a formation some time this year but that may be a bit optimistic if the entire formation is included.
I wonder what more an aggressor would need than the mere perusal of press reports which have come out of the minister's office with regard to this brigade group. Then as to the number of people trained as parachutists, I have not seen a statement by the minister giving any figures, but in a report
appearing in the Ottawa Citizen of December 28, 1948, I have a statement by the minister to this effect:
In the training of the army's out-size airborne brigade, extra attention would be paid to airborne and Arctic fighting. For the first time, Canadian infantrymen would study fighting under Arctic conditions at the Churchill, Manitoba, experimental base this winter.
That very statement suggests, of course, that up to this time Canadian infantrymen have not engaged in the study of fighting under Arctic conditions, which I should think might be a very important bit of information given by the minister to this would-be aggressor. Then the statement goes on:
There also would be an enlargement of the size of classes taking paratroop training at Rivers, Manitoba.
There you have the name of the base for parachute training, and the suggestion that this year there is going to be an enlargement of the intake for that training. I suggest to the minister that to say the information requested in this question should not be given, when he has volunteered other information about future intentions probably much more important than the actual strength of our forces as of today, is quite ridiculous. I think the precedents I have brought before the committee tonight show clearly that the reason the government does not want to give this information is that it is ashamed of the progress it has made in the recruitment of this brigade group and our regular air force.
I do not want to suggest for a moment that this is any fault of the defence forces themselves; in fact I am perfectly certain it is not. After all, the three defence forces must work under the direction of the minister and the government. If the minister provides them with target strengths adequate for expansion, then they can be expected to provide the training and recruitment facilities to reach those target strengths. If on the other hand the minister cuts down the target strength so they cannot recruit up to the numbers they would like to have, then quite obviously they will provide training establishments and equipment upon the scale permitted to them by the minister. The house knows that in 1947 the minister imposed a limitation upon the size of our armed forces; that is, seventy-five per cent of authorized strength. The result of that limitation certainly must have been that the defence forces cut back their provision for training facilities. Obviously it would be foolish to plan on training a very large number of men if the government was not going to permit the forces to recruit beyond a very low limit. Certainly one of the results of that cut-back in 1947 has been that in all three services, from the global
Supply-National Defence figures the minister is always willing to give, recruiting has been very poor, and that their strength is inching upward very slowly month by month.
When I said recruiting has been poor I noticed the minister make a note. I realize that in the last two months, according to an answer he gave the other day, recruiting for the army has stepped up considerably; but in actual fact during the past year there has been an intake of only 3,000 into the active army, only 1,200 into the active navy, and only 2,671 into the active air force. Those figures give members of this house and the people of the country cause for alarm. On the one hand we have statements by the minister and other members of the cabinet about the grave international situation, and on the other hand we see our defence forces progressing so slowly towards strength. According to another press clipping the authorities have stated that it takes twelve to eighteen months to train a force. I should have thought it would take longer than that to train a regular airborne force, but let us take the statement as it stands. If in fact, as I believe, the only active force in the army, the brigade group, is at present under strength, has not done any formation training, has not completed its airborne training and is not provided with transport aircraft to lift it, and if in fact there are not sufficient fighter planes to escort that force should it be required to go anywhere, then I submit that the giving to this house of the accurate information so we can do something about it is much more likely to save the country than aid the enemy.
I could say much more on this question of the strength of our three services, Mr. Chairman, but I rose only to give you and the members of the committee these precedents which the minister said we did not possess.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE