Permit me, Mr. Speaker, at the outset of the few remarks which I purpose making, to offer you my hearty congratulations upon your being called to fill the high position which you now occupy. I know that you will pursue the line of your predecessors, and reflect nothing but credit, honour, and dignity upon the position.
I scarcely know, Mr. Speaker, how to begin my remarks. Thus far, nothing of an adverse nature of any importance has been said concerning the department over
which I have the honour to preside. There has been more or less talk concerning the organization called the Shell Committee, but, as was the case with like expenditures at the time of the South African war, the expenditures in connection with the Shell Committee and the conduct of its business do not appertain to this Parliament- In 1890 and 1902 large sums of money were placed by the British Government to the credit of ministers of the Crown in Canada and they were checked out by the ministers or by their attorneys, and when inquiries were made by members of the House as to the disposition of these moneys, they were met with a prompt refusal. On that occasion I myself had a thirst for knowledge. In my locality in the central part of the province of Ontario, rumor had it that a large number of horses had cost the British Government the sum of $157 or $160 each on an average, were, within three or four weeks of the closing of the war, sold for the sum of $38 each- It was in vain that I made inquiries in regard to this matter, so I promptly dropped it, and I have never been enlightened as to the real facts of the case, from that hour until the present. At the outbreak of the present war I declined to follow the line set by my predecessors in that regard, and accordingly, the funds for all these shell contracts uTere placed to the credit of a special account under the control of the Shell Committee. For a double reason, therefore, I do not see that it is the function of this House specially to inquire into any of the transactions in connection with that committee; although I should be more than pleased, so far as I am able, to give all the elucidation of the facts, and all the enlightenment as to them which it is possible for me to give. I attended two meetings of the Shell Committee, the first and the last-but I shall take that up later.
I wish to deal, as briefly as possible and yet as fully as possible, with some of the statements that have been made by gentlemen on the other side-possibly by gentlemen on both sides-as to the impatience of the troopts to get across the water. We all realize that the troops are impatient to get away, but I am sure that every one who understands the situation knows that upon the British Government and the British Government alone depends the calling of the troops across the water. Canada today stands prepared to send twenty regiments as soon as transports can come for
them, but the British Government have not the transports available, nor have they huts available for winter quarters. In general, without going into the details of the matter, 'it is impossible for us to send the troops over until they are asked for on the other side. We feel that it would be good for these splendid fellows to get over and 'to obtain a stepping-stone training in England before they cross to the front to do their duty for King and country. However, it does not necessarily follow that because the troops are kept in Canada their training is not good. We feel that -the troops that were trained in Canada for the first division were second to no troops in the world; I know that the troops that have recently gone over are favourably reported upon. Our boys who have gone across the . water aTe better trained in shooting and manoeuvring than are any troops on the other side that have been under training for a similar length of time. This speaks well for the training of our troops in Canada. This impatience to go to the front is a matter, affecting not only those who are now training for overseas service. Personally, my own heart's ambition was to go to the front, but my duties at home prevented me from doing so. Possibly I am filling a better job here than I could at the front. It is true that I had my own ideas of how this war should have been conducted at the beginning. It is true, as everyone knows, that your humble servant, before the war began, predicted that this war would be a trench war, and endeavoured to lay plans to have it thus carried out from the beginning. However, I feel that my position here is much larger than it could possibly be in command of a mere division or corps at the front.
I d-o wish to say a word for a great many of my officers who cannot go to the front. Surgeon-General Fiset served in the South African war with great distinction, under fire and not under fire. He was always a friend of the soldier and was always ready to do his duty fearlessly and well. It would have been the joy of his life had he been able to go to the front; but it was impossible to spare him. The same thing is true of General Macdonald, Quartermaster General, was anxious to go overseas to look after his department, but he could not be spared. So with many more, General Gwatkin, General Hodgins, Colonel Winter, every officer on the staff has been anxious to go to the front, but we could not spare them.
Subtopic: ADDRESS IN REPLY.