An awakened people look to us now, irrespective of our party affiliations, to see to it that no stone shall be left unturned and no ounce of energy left unemployed to save Christian civilization in the death grapple in which it is engaged. I suppose that there is no member of this house who has not received messages asking, "What is Canada doing?" If by the time the present session ends we have not provided a full and satisfactory answer to the demand of the people, we shall indeed have a bitter ordeal to face. Every act of government and parliament from now onwards must be directed toward the single aim of helping to make victory complete, or we shall experience disgrace.
In common with many members of this house, and with Canadians from sea to sea, I welcomed the words of the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. Sinclair) when on Friday last he sounded a note of rebellion against the attitude of complacency which so far has marked Canada's dealings with the problems of this war. The hon. member, as by right, voiced the high aspirations of the youth of this country. And, let me add, he spoke also for a myriad of others no longer young.
The Prime Minister and his colleagues, as was natural, have received many congratulations on their victory of March 26. It brought them an immense majority and congratulations were no doubt in order, but let me warn them that those congratulations will speedily turn to imprecations if there is a continuance of that complacency. I have no desire to minimize the burdens the government has to bear, but I would be remiss in my duty if I did not dwell on the fact that it must now face an awakened public consciousness of danger that was torpid when the last parliament was dissolved suddenly in January. In March the people of this country voted blindly and without clear information as to what the government had done to maintain the great and glorious name Canada won for herself in the last war through the glorious efforts of
War Appropriation-Mr. Bruce
her soldiers. Voting blindly, a majority of the electors of this country resolved to give the administration a new lease of power. It was a vote of confidence that embodied a great trust.
It is the duty of the government to see to it that that trust is not betrayed. Nor should it be forgotten that it was by no means a unanimous vote of confidence. Nearly 2,000,000 electors who voted for opposition candidates were clearly dissatisfied with the manner in which the military effort of this country was being organized and pressed. Since Hitler's blitzkreig in Denmark and Norway began early in April they have been more than ever dissatisfied.
Every member of the house, no matter to what party he may belong, is face to face with an electorate which is demanding a great deal more information than the government has vouchsafed to it and more information than private members have so far been privileged to receive. After eight months of war very few of us know what is actually the exact position of this country as a belligerent. In the press, in public assemblages, and on street corners questions like these are being asked: What has been done about recruiting since it became clear that Hitler had embarked on a total war? Was the empire air training plan which was advertised to the world last autumn pressed with all speed, and how is it getting on? How far have we advanced with the second division, which months ago we were told would shortly reinforce the first? Is Canada really mobilized, in both a military and industrial sense? When I was in my home city over the weekend I was asked questions such as these, and, of course, I had no answers to give. The sooner the government provides the answers fully and candidly, the better for the morale of this country.
It is interesting to those of us who sit on this side of the house that, through pressure of events elsewhere, the opposition has suddenly assumed great importance in the public mind. Though months ago many were talking as though critics of a government were unnecessary in times like these, now, on all sides, we are told that an efficient and vigilant opposition is necessary if the government is to be spurred on to the necessary effort. It is being impressed on us that our responsibility is a grave and patriotic one. I think I speak for my colleagues when I say that we shall endeavour to live up to that responsibility, under the distinguished and able parliamentarian whom we chose as our house leader and who yesterday justified the wisdom of our selection.
Dependence on our vigilance and patriotism is being expressed in many quarters. It is, I take it, a symptom of the apprehension which many Canadians feel. There is a much deeper realization that the task of winning this war for civilization will be longer and heavier and more difficult than many at the outset anticipated. The possibility that through lack of energy and initiative victory may be withheld is a thought that, while it may chill the hearts, inflames the energies of a people such as ours. The fear that Canada may be found wanting is a more intimate one. People are dismayed by the thought that Canada has not, so far, done its share to avert the fate which awaits all decent people in this world should the Nazis triumph.
The public demands assurances, not by promises but by action, that whatever sins of omission or commission may have occurred in the past, our effort shall be wider in scope and more intense in efficiency and resolve. True patriotism at the present time visualizes the Canadian nation as a young and virile people engaged in a righteous campaign for the salvation of all that is precious in human existence. There is alarm lest Canada has not been living up to the full glory of that picture. The duty that lies before government and parliament is to quell such alarms; to make our effort tally with that vision.
Canadians have not as yet had it made clear to them in what directions and to what extent they can make their contribution effective. It was hinted from governmental quarters that a different kind of assistance would be needed in this war. If the conditions created by new methods of warfare demand new and different measures, the public unrest should be quelled by knowledge of what the new requirements are. Why was the public kept in the dark so long? The government cannot escape the charge that its policies and administrative methods have aimed at keeping the lid on public enthusiasm. Let there be an end of this. In the face of hourly news from Europe, public sentiment is boiling over. An arbitrarily limited assistance in the face of danger is repugnant to all our thoughts.
A check has been put on recruiting. Men anxious to serve in any capacity have had it coldly intimated to them that this desire is misplaced enthusiasm. The government certainly has it in its power to create channels for the energies of those who wish to serve. Britain is making use of every man and woman available for service. Why does Canada lag behind? At least the government
can provide camps for voluntary training where young men could find outlets for their patriotic ardour by drilling in their spare time. And who is so bold as to say they shall not be needed?
There is another point of paramount importance. While we must spare nothing to organize the most complete war effort of which Canada is capable, we should pursue a policy of rigid economy in respect of nonessential war-time work. This is a vital consideration. The people have been warned of the necessity for war-time thrift, but unfortunately there has been little evidence that the government is pursuing a like policy of thrift in non-essential expenditures. It is to be feared that political promises in connection with projects initiated in peace time but nonessential now, have overridden counsels of economy. This is no time to be building post offices and railway stations, when England is calling desperately for men, guns and aeroplanes.
The state of the public mind demands clear information as to what measures the government is taking to coordinate war administration and deal with the problems of military organization, problems which the cabinet has neither the time nor the technical knowledge to solve. I beg leave to suggest that there be added to any advisory board of military, naval and air experts that may now exist a small group of members of the Senate and Commons who have had war experience in the past. Such a body would, I feel, be of real assistance in coordinating our war effort and facilitating business. Moreover, I urge on the Prime Minister the early appointment of a Canadian Minister of Defence, overseas, who shall be in continuous consultation with British military authorities. This I believe is essential. The transatlantic telephone has its uses, but it cannot alone suffice in the present crisis.
In conclusion, let me say that I am speaking for the first time in a tribunal hallowed by the memories of public men who served their country during the past eight decades, men whose names are bound up with the history of our nation. In seeking election I had no political ambition, no interest but to serve the cause of helping to stimulate a total war effort by this country.
I said on election night that the government would have my support in all sincere and efficient efforts to achieve that aim, and, Mr. Speaker, I repeat that assurance on the floor of this house.
At six o'clock the house took recess.
The house resumed at eight o'clock.
Hon. NORMAN McL. ROGERS (Minister of National Defence): As the first speaker from this side of the house to follow the hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Bruce), I should like to offer him my congratulations upon his initial participation in the debates of this house. I feel I can offer those congratulations no less sincerely because I dissent very strongly from some of the conclusions which he expressed in the course of his address. As members of the house are aware, the hon. member for Parkdale had a long and honourable public career, in the medical profession as a distinguished officer of our medical services in the last war, and later as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I am quite sure he will bring distinction and honour both to himself and to his party as a member of this house. Those of us on this side who must differ from him in his political views have the highest respect for the patriotic motives which prompted him to stand as a candidate for election to parliament in these troubled times.
Before I proceed with the main portion of what I had intended to say this evening, I should like to make an appeal to this house to avoid where possible anything in the nature of recrimination. Some idle words have been spoken in this house regarding the alleged complacency of members of this government in the face of .the present crisis.