Ross Wilfred GRAY

GRAY, Ross Wilfred

Personal Data

Lambton West (Ontario)
Birth Date
January 5, 1897
Deceased Date
December 11, 1968

Parliamentary Career

January 14, 1929 - May 30, 1930
  Lambton West (Ontario)
July 28, 1930 - August 14, 1935
  Lambton West (Ontario)
October 14, 1935 - January 25, 1940
  Lambton West (Ontario)
  • Chief Government Whip (January 1, 1937 - January 1, 1940)
  • Whip of the Liberal Party (January 1, 1937 - January 1, 1940)
March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Lambton West (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 147)

May 12, 1942


I agree with the hon. member for Danforth (Mr. Harris).

Topic:   R.C.A.F.
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March 20, 1942


'Twas ever thus.

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March 20, 1942


I am not condoning it.

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January 27, 1942

Mr. R. W. GRAY (Lambton West):

Mr. Speaker, in rising to express some views on the speech from the throne presented to this house on Thursday last, may I first be permitted to congratulate the mover of the address in reply, the hon. member for Hull (Mr. Fournier), and the seconder, the hon. member for Brantford City (Mr. Macdonald), on the excellence of the material chosen and the clarity with which they expressed their views. Both these hon. members have recently returned from a visit to war-time Britain, and it is therefore fitting that they should have been chosen for this high honour. They have discharged their duty with credit to themselves and to the constituencies which they represent.

Since we met in this chamber in November last, a new and powerful enemy has attacked us. But a new and more powerful friend has joined us. When the history of this war is written, I feel certain it will be found that the part which the present Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. Mackenzie King) has played as liaison officer as it were between England and the United States, in forging those links which now bind the English-speaking nations together, will rank among the highest of his achievements.

Mr. Speaker, we have passed through difficult times; we are facing times more difficult. We have achieved much; much remains to be done. That there is room for criticism the

The Address-Mr. Gray

government would be the first to admit. But in any criticism we may offer let the fact not be obscured that Canada is rendering a service of which we may well be proud. There are times when we are too prone to belittle our own effort. That is due in part to the fact that we are hearing over the radio and reading in the press of the huge production programmes announced by our neighbours to the south, and losing sight of the fact that we are a nation of some twelve million while they have some 130 million. We have, as has been pointed out in this house-and I think it cannot be too often repeated-accomplished some great things since we declared war. We have some

150,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen serving outside Canada. We have a total voluntarily enlisted man-power of something over 387,000. Our navy went into action immediately war was declared and has played an increasingly important part during the battle of the Atlantic. The personnel of the Royal Canadian Air Force as of December 31, 1941, totalled something over 100,000 men. To this must be added some 12,000 civilians, or a force of nearly twenty-five times as many as we had when war was declared.

I should like here to commend the Minister of National Defence for Air (Mr. Power) for his foresight in establishing an air cadet corps and schools and other services in order to bring up the educational standing of men who did not quite meet the required qualifications. The commonwealth air training scheme is turning out pilots, gunners and observers at a rate far in excess of that which was planned for this time. It has been reported that some 80 per cent of the personnel of its air crews are Canadians, and the fact must not be lost sight of that Canada is paying 60 per cent of the cost. In its first three years of operation the plan will cost something like $500,000,000, more than the dominion collects in ta^es in a normal peace-time year. Canadian aircraft industry, very small as we know it was at the beginning of the war, has now turned out something over 2,700 aircraft. Chemical and explosives plants of huge dimensions have Sprung up. Shells are being made in factories, some of which were closed for years, others have been built upon soil which up to a few months ago was barren land. Tanks, army vehicles, are rolling off assembly lines; automatic weapons, guns and small arms ammunition are being produced in greater and greater quantities.

One could go on and tell of corvettes, freighters and smaller craft being built in Canadian shipyards. All this is a tribute to the industry and energy of the Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) and the

staff that he has gathered under him. Canada's direct war spending in the present fiscal year will be more than $1,300,000,000. When to the war expenditures are added the other expenses, federal, provincial and municipal, the Canadian taxpayer will be found to be paying in taxes between fifty and fifty-five cents out of every dollar he earns. These are some of the things we are doing, and, for a nation of around twelve million people, not to be deprecated.

In spite of these tremendous accomplishments more remains to be done. It is true that too many of us may be what is termed Monday morning quarter-backs, but it is a poor coach who does not take a lesson from such quarter-backs.

Mr. Speaker, these words stand out in the speech from the throne:

The conflict can have but one of two outcomes. Either tyranny, based on terror and brutality, must be overthrown; or the free peoples of the world, one and all, slowly but eventually, will be reduced to a state of bondage. Upon the outcome depends, for generations, the future well-being of mankind.

Agreeing as I do with that statement, I am disappointed that the government have not given us the facts which enabled them to put into the mouth of his excellency the words indicating the gravity of the crisis. These were not surmises but facts of which they had knowledge; facts which, if given boldly to the people of Canada, would have been accepted just as willingly as the people have accepted every definite request made during this war. They have accepted, without question, higher taxation, restrictions, loans of all kinds, whatever they have been told was necessary for the successful prosecution of the war.

With this in mind, Mr. Speaker, I submit that in this crisis the government would be justified in now

and by "now" I mean immediately-asking parliament to extend the provisions of the National Resources Mobilization Act in order to eliminate the restrictions concerning service in Canada only, in order that our armed forces -both here and overseas, including reserves and reinforcements, may be maintained at -the highest possible strength consistent with the maintenance of our food supply and industrial production. Instead, the government is about to refer this question to the people of Canada in the form of a plebiscite. I would not be true to my convictions or to my duty as I see it if I should, fail to voice in this house my disapproval of that procedure. It means delay; it means heartburning; it means bitterness. It means that after it is all over and the government is released from its pledge, the issue still must be faced; and the bogy of national unity

The Address-Mr. Gray

will again rear its ugly head. Speaking for myself alone, I do not ask to be relieved from the responsibilities that go with responsible government. I was elected* to do my duty, as I saw it, to my country. If I fail to do so, then under our democratic system the remedy is at the polls.

Much has been and will be said of broken pledges. The hon. member for Brantford City, in seconding the address on Friday last, remarked that under our democratic system the promise of a leader was as binding as any bond under seal. Does the hon. member forget that in the mother of all parliaments, Westminster, on April 27, 1939, while the nation was still at peace, and only four weeks after the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, had renewed a pledge made by his predecessor, Mr. Baldwin, that compulsory military service would not be adopted, Mr. Chamberlain introduced a motion in these words:

This house approves the proposal of his majesty s government to introduce as soon as possible a system of compulsory military training, as announced on the 26th of April.

In the debate which followed the introduction of that motion, the prevailing opinion was the same as it should be here in Canada: The facts are there and we must face them as they exist to-day. Let me suggest to the Prime Minister that whatever his declaration may have been, as our first minister in this hour of peril he is bound to act in accordance with what, he believes is required for the national safety. That is the supreme pledge which he made, though perhaps not in words, when he assumed the high office which he now holds. What, of the solemn pledge given by President Roosevelt during his last election campaign, to the effect that the forces of the United States would not be sent overseas? Within one month of the declaration of war we find the president telling congress ' and the nation:

We cannot wage this war in a defensive spirit. As our power and our resources are fully mobilized, we shall carry the attack against the enemy. American land, air and sea forces will take stations in the British isles-

Has there been any outcry in the United States of America against broken pledges?

There is another powerful weapon being used in this war, one of which we must not lose sight. That is the weapon of propaganda. Can anyone here doubt .that the position Canada is taking to-day will be distorted far beyond its real significance? Can anyone doubt that the very real accomplishments of Canada, to which I have already referred, will be ignored in an attempt to show that in taking this plebiscite there is uncertainty and lack of sincerity when we

say that total war can be met only with total effort? It does not matter what our enemies think. What does matter is the interpretation that will be placed on this action by our allies. I need refer to only one of them. On the very day that the government announced1 this plebiscite, the Commonwealth of Australia, through Prime Minister Curtin, was calling the man-power and the woman-power of the nation to take battle stations. What will the Australian people think as they read the pages of Australian casualties in Libya and Singapore; what will they think as they hear the air raid sirens warning of impending Japanese attacks, and at the same time read that Canada is leisurely to take a plebiscite as to whether or not the government may be released from certain pledges given prior to the hour of national peril?

These, sir, are days when the situation changes very rapidly, indeed almost from hour to hour. It is not too late to take a different stand; and I urge the government to extend the provisions of the National Resources Mobilization Act in the manner I have indicated.'

Whenever the subject of compulsory selective service is brought up, there are those who immediately take it that this has reference to compulsory service in man-power for the armed forces only. Of course that is only one phase of a compulsory selective system. In the broad sense it would include all of us. It would mean immediate re-registration and reclassification. It would train those best fitted for industrial work; it would release man-power, replacing it with woman-power, for our women are just as anxious to serve as are the men. It would put an immediate stop to the flow of labour from the farm into industry at high wages, a situation which is serious in many parts of Ontario and which will require immediate action if the farmer is to be enabled to maintain maximum production. If proper boards are set up, it should clarify the system of calling up the extended classes for training. At the present time the uncertainty with which these postponements are being granted has a detrimental effect on the production of our farms. This is so in spite of the excellent manner in which registrars-and I refer particularly to the registrar in western Ontario, who is handling a difficult job.-are carrying on this work. We find that farmers, particularly those having one son in the age category, are in a state of absolute uncertainty. It is all very well to say that there can be postponement. I am sure nearly every hon. member has had farmers come to see him in the fall asking what they should do in regard to putting in

The Address-Mr. Gray

a stock for the winter. They have had to be told: "Yes; a postponement may be given for a couple of months if application is made to the registrar." But then they ask. "Well, what about the next postponement, and the next?" They want to know if they will continue to get postponements, provided that conditions remain unchanged. I do not know what has been the experience of other hon. members, but in many cases of which I have knowledge, in which two postponements have been granted, letters have been received to this effect:

Kindly be advised that commencement of your military training has been deferred until approximately date. No further postponement will be granted.

That situation must be clarified. With all the emphasis at my command I state that a plan to provide farm assistance in western Ontario must be announced at once if our farmers are to be equal to the task of producing what is required of them.

I turn now to the question of man-power. What are some of the weaknesses of the voluntary system as we have it to-day? Key men in industry, and men who, if not key men, are of an age at which they would be more useful in Canada, are enlisting.

I am of opinion also that the pressure put upon young men of the trainee age, during their four months' training, to enlist for service in units anywhere is unfair, and in many cases unjust. It is a method of getting men through the back-door when we cannot get them through the front. Further, Mr. Speaker, don't let us fool ourselves by saying that we can go under the old system by extending the trainee age; in other words, by saying that if we can get 300 volunteers out of a class of 1,000 of the 21- to 24-age limit, then by extending the trainee age to 30 or 35 we can obtain 700 in each class. The method of embarrassing and, in some instances, coercing men into service is not to the credit of this country.

The question naturally arises: Are we getting sufficient men for the army under the volunteer system? Much has been said in connection with this matter-too much, perhaps. _ And as a result there is confusion. We have information from departmental bureaux, speeches, some of them from ministers of the crown, implying at least that all is well. On the other hand, we have the opinions of commanding officers of military districts, and of military recruiting officers, who say that we are not getting a sufficient number of men under the voluntary system.

They should know, and I prefer to accept their statement. I think this house should know of the latest system being adopted by {Mr. Gray.]

those in charge of recruiting for the army, certainly in western Ontario, and, I am advised, elsewhere as well. The method is that of setting up civilian recruiting committees in the various counties. I attended a preliminary meeting a few weeks ago at which time the officer in charge of recruiting for that district frankly and honestly admitted the difficulty he was facing in getting recruits for the army. He told us that they plan an exhibit for two days in the county town, and that exhibit is taking place to-day.

That is all very proper, and in my opinion the army has been lax in not placing before prospective recruits the advisability of joining the army, telling them something of its life and helping them to choose the service in which they are best fitted to serve, in the same manner that visiting recruiting officers for the air force and the navy have been visiting various county towns and larger villages for the past few months, giving their assistance and help. As a result, they have been able to get volunteers.

But the weakness of the system as I see it is the fact that what is being attempted in these exhibitions is the shifting of responsibility to the shoulders of civilian committees. During the exhibit a meeting is requested, to which would be invited some 100 to 125 representative citizens, and the needs for recruiting are set forth. The civilians in turn would be asked to form themselves into a recruiting committee. I think I know the feeling of the majority of those who attended that preliminary meeting, and it was this: Responsibility for the proper and complete utilization of man-power and woman-power rests with the government and the boards it may create, and not with the individual, untrained and without proper knowledge of who should go and who should stay.

This brings me to a further argument in favour of unrestricted compulsory selective service; and when I say that I mean that there is under such a system a place for all of us, a job for all of us to do, not merely in the mobilization of men for overseas but also in the placing of an equal burden of sacrifice in some form on every one of us not in the armed services. This, in my opinion, can be done only by a complete and scientific organization of all our resources and, great as our accomplishments have been, no one will suggest that that effort has really seriously been made.

What criticism can there be with regard to a principle of the right of the state to call upon its citizens to sacrifice wealth, comfort and even life itself when the very existence of our civilization is at stake? Is the

The Address-Mr. Nicholson

compulsory system of selecting men for our armed forces unfair or undemocratic? No words of mine could answer this question as well as the remarks from the lips of Right Hon. Winston Churchill when, as a member of the British House of Commons, and largely opposed to the Chamberlain government, he supported the compulsory training bill in April, 1939, in these words:

There is nothing undemocratic about this measure; it is the most democratic thing we have ever done. Provided that no exceptions are allowed, it will wear away differences between class and class, and it may also be the beginning of a far more broadly and evenly based society than we have ever known. . . . Almost everywhere we see hesitating, cautious governments, and resolute peoples. Here at home, the spirit of the people is far ahead of the government, and perhaps even of parliament, also. . . . This is a time when prejudices must be abandoned on either side, and a true comradeship established between all parties and classes throughout our loyal, anxious land.

If Canada does not put forth the greatest effort possible and we lose the war, the result is plain enough. The lights will go out on this continent for longer than the lifetime of anyone now living-much longer. Again if Canada does not put forth the greatest effort possible, her utmost effort, and none the less wins the war, how can we hold up our heads in the future, and what representation can we make at the bar of history? Sometimes it takes a terrible tragedy to enable a people to find itself. When the full story becomes known, Canada may find herself in Hong Kong. Britain found herself at Dunkirk. So long as the English tongue survives, the word "Dunkirk" will be spoken with reverence; for in that harbour in such a hell as never blazed on earth before, at the end of a lost battle, the rags and blemishes that had hidden the soul of democracy fell away. There, beaten but unconquered, in shining splendour, she faced the enemy.

They sent away the wounded first. Men died so that others might escape. It was not so simple a thing as courage, which the nazis had in plenty. It was not so simple a thing as discipline, which can be hammered into men by a drill sergeant. It was not the result of careful planning, for there could have been but little. It was the common man of a free country rising in all his glory out of mill, office, factory, mine, farm and ship, applying to war the lessons learned when he went down the shaft to bring out trapped comrades, when he hurled the lifeboat through the surf, when he endured poverty and hard work for his children's sake.

This shining thing in the souls of free men Hitler cannot command, attain or conquer. He has crushed it where he could from

German hearts. It is the true tradition of democracy. It is the future. It is victory, if we will grasp it-victory, not of a military character, but victory over our own complacency, a victory which will enable us to see that there is no half-way house. It must be victory or defeat.

We have already heard talk of a new world to appear when this deluge of war has subsided. Unless we achieve victory for the great cause for which we entered this war, the new world will simply be the old world with the heart out of it. To redeem Britain, to redeem Europe, to redeem the world must be the settled purpose of every man and woman who places duty above a life of ease.

Let us have faith That Right makes Might,

And in that Faith

Let us dare to do our duty As we understand it.

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May 28, 1941


The hon. gentleman is taking an extreme example.

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