April 4, 1949

PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

And the minister knows full well that the surprise would not be one which would bring any gratification to the Canadian public.

Going back over the debates in this house, over the debates in the British House of Commons, and over the debates in the houses of other nations of the commonwealth, over and over again before the war you will find the answer to similar questions, that it was not in the public interest-when the only interest that was being served was the interest of a department which was hiding its failure at that time.

These facts are all a matter of record today. It is now history. But let us not disregard that history; let us not permit the same device to be employed for the purpose of holding back the preparations which should be made.

I said before, and I repeat, that the frankness and accuracy of the answers given by ministers is fundamental to our system. It used to be an accepted proposition that if a minister knowingly misled the house the house was entitled to his resignation.

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An hon. Member:

What about the leader of the opposition?

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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Smith (Calgary West):

Does not the hon. member agree with that principle? Does he know anything about it?

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Unless that principle is

accepted, this house can never be really sure whether it is dealing with the facts. That principle should be recognized now and adhered to. Under our system the opposition has a right to full knowledge of all essential information so that debate may

Supply-National Defence take place on both sides of the house with all essential facts being in the minds of hon. members when they are reaching their conclusions. I hope that no hon. member will suggest that there is any other principle which is the basis of our system, because our history is too clear in that respect to be challenged now.

Let me give an example of how difficult it is for hon. members to be certain of the facts in regard to some important things related to these matters. Let me give as an example the Berlin airlift. It is not necessary at this point to debate the importance or otherwise of participation in the Berlin airlift, but let me recall to hon. members the statements that have been made in regard to the Berlin airlift by responsible ministers of the crown. This goes back to June of last year when the Berlin airlift became related to the blockade of Berlin on land by the Russian forces there. The first statement on this subject was given on June 30, 1948 by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) as reported on page 6143 of Hansard. After having been asked a question in regard to the possible participation of Canada in the airlift which had just been started, the then Prime Minister answered in these words:

I do not think it is advisable tor me to attempt to answer that question at the moment. I would have to consult with other departments o 1 the government, and I should not like to make a statement with regard to a matter so far-reaching as to the inferences that might be drawn from any reply without first having the opportunity to consult with my colleagues.

Those words of the then Prime Minister made it clear that any answer given in regard to a matter of this kind was of the utmost importance and should be accurately and carefully given. But time went on. On June 30 the statement was made that the reason was that apparently it would not be necessary to do this as the airlift would not be necessary much longer. As I say, time went on. There was a great deal of discussion on this subject. On June 30 the explanation was not that Canada should not participate-may I remind hon. members of that. The then Prime Minister expressed the opinion that it was not likely to continue much longer.

On October 29 it was still continuing and on a greatly accelerated scale. At that time the acting Prime Minister, who is now the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), made the statement that since Canada was not one of the four occupying powers it would be considered a violation of Potsdam if she acquiesced and sent planes into the airlift. That was another explanation.

Then time went on, and on this occasion the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner),

one of the senior members of government, expressed quite a different point of view. He said that Canada was not participating in the Berlin airlift because such action would cause more international complications than would be offset by the actual aid given. He added that Britain, the United States and France had larger air forces which could carry out the plan without Canadian assistance.

The Berlin airlift kept continuing and expanding with the tonnage carried mounting every day. Then on January 12 the minister of external affairs said that there was a possibility of the Berlin airlift coming to an end, and he left the suggestion that consequently that would dispose of any need to consider that question. During the present session the minister of external affairs had another comment to make. On February 25, as recorded on page 906 of Hansard, the minister said in reply to a question that was asked:

Efforts are being made by the security council to arrive at a solution of the problem by way of raising the blockade of Berlin. This would make the airlift unnecessary.

The Berlin airlift is still going on and has now passed 8,000 tons per day. There is no immediate indication of any likelihood of the Berlin airlift coming to an end. Hon. members of this house were told the first time this was discussed that this was an important subject and that no statement should be made without careful consideration and without full recognition of the importance of such a statement. One explanation that has been given is that if Canada participated in the airlift it would be a breach of Potsdam. Potsdam was back in 1945. I hope all hon. members know that flights have been made into Berlin with planes bearing R.C.A.F. markings which could be seen by any Russian observers. Certainly those observers would not know what was inside the planes. If Potsdam presents any reason why Canadian planes should not be participating, then I hope that all hon. members will seek some explanation as to why it is thought the Russians would be able to distinguish between one R.C.A.F. plane and another from the outside, because the flights which have been made have been made in R.C.A.F. planes of the same type and design being used in large numbers by the R.A.F. at this time. They would have no reason to think that any such plane was not in the airlift-and remember that nothing changed in June of last year. If there was any reason why we should not have had planes flying into Berlin from June on, those reasons were equally apparent at any time from 1945 up to June of last year because we are informed by the present

Prime Minister that it is under Potsdam that there are some provisions that might be embarrassing in the case of Canada.

Hon. members are, of course, aware that in the present Berlin airlift there are not only members of the air forces of the United States, of Great Britain, and of France taking part, but there are also members of the air forces of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. If there is any limitation under Potsdam it is difficult to understand why it does not apply to the air forces of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The fact is, of course, that if there were any such provision it would apply to them with equal force.

Hon. members of this house have a right to know why Canada is not taking part in that airlift, because no member of the government has suggested at any time that it should not be done. It has only been explained that there were reasons why it was not being done. The important thing in relation to the remarks that I am making in connection with the present item before us is not whether or not we should be in there, but what the reason really is, what the explanation is of the fact that, while we are told that Potsdam would prevent Canadian machines going in there, there have been R.C.A.F. flights in there with R.C.A.F markings plainly visible to any Russian observer who saw the machines going into Gatow airport in Berlin.

Many people may wonder why Canada might not be taking some part in this in view of all that we have been told about the long-range aircraft which have been supplied to the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Minister of National Defence has given extremely glowing accounts of the North Star transport planes that are in the possession of the R.C.A.F. Since more than twenty of these have been supplied to the R.C.A.F, it is only natural that Canadians might wonder what is being done with all of these machines. The house should know why about half of those planes are in storage at this time. Do not misunderstand me. They are not being stored in reserve for emergency use; they are being stored in a partly dismantled state with no suggestion at all, from the condition in which they now are, that there is any intention of using them.

Those are the things that members of the house should know. Millions of dollars of public funds are tied up in these North Star transports which are immobilized, partly dismantled, and with every appearance that the intention is to inhibit them, to use the technical term employed by the air force, and that the intention is not to use them for actual service. After all, these machines are

Supply-National Defence part of the equipment which has been supplied, and about which this house has a right to know a good deal in detail, first as to why they are in storage now, secondly as to why they are partly dismantled, and thirdly as to what the future intentions are as to these stored machines, if any.

At the end of last week public attention was very properly drawn to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It is a good thing for all Canadians, but for young Canadians particularly, that we should be reminded from time to time of what young Canadians have done in that particular branch of the services. While the twenty-fifth anniversary was only celebrated at the end of the past week, Canadians had written an imperishable record, not only in the history of Canada, but in the history of aviation, in the years of the first world war before the separate R.C.A.F., was formed. There is something in the very condition of this country and in the character of our people, in their spirit of adventure, and their acceptance of new and challenging tests, which has given them unusual qualifications in this new field of transportation.

No Canadian should forget that of all the allied pilots in the first world war the leading fighter pilot was a young Canadian, now Air Marshal Bishop. There must be some special significance in the fact that out of the first six fighter pilots in the other war four were Canadians. Even yet, long years afterwards, every one of us must feel a sense of pride that these young boys-and that is all they were-entered this new field of service, and that at the very top in actual record of achievement were Bishop, Collishaw, Barker and McLeod, all men whose names were known all over the country where interest was taken in the development of this means of transport that emerged from the terrible challenge of war. A very large percentage of all the pilots in the R.A.F. in the closing year of the war came from this country. Those young men demonstrated that they had special qualifications of a very high order; in fact in the closing years of the war some forty per cent of all the pilots in the Royal Air Force came from this country.

Time went on; we did not advance perhaps as well as we might have, with all the qualifications possessed by our young men in this field. We did, however, achieve great things throughout the northern reaches of Canada. Our bush pilots wrote a new page of history when they opened up great new areas of the north and brought new opportunities to scores of thousands of Canadians by their vision, their initiative, their skill and their courage. Then when this last war came,

2320 HOUSE OF

Supply-National Defence once more our young men-and this time our young women also-showed the special adaptability of our people to everything connected with air transportation. Once again Canadian pilots, Canadian air crew, Canadian ground crew and all the supporting organization made the name of Canada respected and admired throughout the world among those who read of the great events of those days.

Hon. members on both sides of this house have good reason to feel a particular pride in that service, because we have here a number of honourable and gallant gentlemen who belonged to that great service during the last war. Others who did not themselves participate had the opportunity to see what was being done. They saw the Canadian fighter squadrons; they saw the great Canadian bomber squadrons; they saw our coastal patrols, our anti-submarine patrols, our army co-operation forces. They saw Canadians again demonstrating that in this particular field of service no people in the world have greater natural skill.

It is fitting that we should remember that great record of achievement, which challenges every Canadian in the future to make use of this great development in the cause [DOT]of peace. As we remember what they have done, however, I am sure the veterans of the R.C.A.F. would be the last to wish that the noble achievements and glorious service of those in the land and sea forces of Canada should be at any time forgotten. In all these services Canadians have reason to remember what was done by young Canadians, both men and women, as our forces developed and increased during the years of war.

Now we come to the time when Canadians are asked to recognize their defence forces as forces for peace; and when we examine the condition in which we find those forces, it is appropriate that we should recall the statement of policy, by the Minister of National Defence on June 24 of last year, when at page 5784 of Hansard he stated that policy to be:

(1) to provide the force estimated to be necessary to defend Canada against any sudden direct attack that could be or is likely to be directed against it in the near future;

(2) to provide the operational and administrative staffs, equipment, training personnel and reserve organization which would be capable of expansion as rapidly as necessary to meet any need; and

(3) to work out with other free nations plans for joint defence based on self-help and mutual aid as part of a combined effort to preserve peace and to restrain aggression.

Taking that as a statement of policy, then, it is essential that every hon. member should consider how it is to be carried out. Every hon. member not only has a right to information in that regard; he has a duty to know

Supply-National Defence the stated policy of this government. Those are things that hon. members should know, on the highest possible advice that can be obtained anywhere in Canada.

In past years requests have been made for a select committee to examine this subject and to report to the house upon the basis of information of that kind. Without the delay involved in submitting any formal resolution I urge upon the government, in all earnestness and seriousness, the immediate setting up of a special select committee to examine the present state of our national defence and to make recommendations in regard to future organization and requirements.

In the face of experience elsewhere, in the face of the inability of this house to obtain the information to which it was entitled, on the record of the lack of candour shown in discussing the Berlin airlift, I do not see how the government can do less than give the assurance of the setting up of a committee of this kind at this extremely important time in Canadian history.

It is not only a question of the efficiency of our defence forces. It is a question of economy in the use of enormous sums of money that are devoted to this purpose. These are things which should be in the mind of every hon. member in dealing with this subject. Surely this is something which we can approach without indignation being expressed that there should be requests for more information than has been given in the past. In the past, in the years before the war, parliament had a record, in relation to the explanation that it was not in the public interest, which should be a warning to it that it should not accept that explanation today. That explanation, used not only here but in Britain and in the United States as well, nearly brought the most tragic consequences that can come to a free people anywhere. We were all too close to the ultimate in tragedy in those days as a result of the fact that the public did not know how ineffective the defence forces of free nations really were.

I would urge that the government give an assurance that this special select committee will be set up along the lines suggested. The suggestion is not in the form of a motion before the committee, but hon. members of this committee can express their opinion in a simple way, namely, by not passing this item in the estimates unless that assurance is given. I would ask that hon. members take the item that is now before us not merely as so many dollars and cents but as a test of whether or not the government is prepared now to give us the assurance of a committee which will give us the information we should

have before another cent is voted to this government for this purpose.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence):

I was glad indeed, Mr. Chairman, to hear the leader of the opposition pay the well-deserved tribute that he did to the Royal Canadian Air Force upon their twenty-fifth anniversary. I paid my tribute before, and I daresay other members of this house have joined with the people and the press of Canada in paying that well-deserved tribute to the air force.

In the course of my preparation for the speeches and the messages I had to deliver on the work of the Royal Canadian Air Force since it was instituted on April 1, 1924, I had to look at the record of what various governments had done with regard to our air force during that period; and I can say that there was no moment at any time during that twenty-five years when the air force was let down worse than it was by the Conservative government under R. B. Bennett. During the last week I found that fact was remembered by the members of the air force who were still in it, just as the remarks that have been made tonight will be remembered by the members of that force.

I am not going to take time to answer these vague and general ^pharges-

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PC
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

-of the hon. leader of the opposition. They are quite in pattern with what we have been accustomed to over these last forty-eight or forty-nine days in this house. I think the record throughout the country of how that kind of vague, challenging charge, without anything to back it up, is going to be received, is quite clear.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

I will pay him-as I would pay any hon. gentleman opposite-the compliment of admitting the right he has to get an answer to specific questions, and I will answer them just as quickly as I can.

In the first place, why do we not have a special committee on the defence forces? That question has been answered a couple of times before, and I raise it again-I have no final answer to it myself-because it is a difficult one. But I do say this. When the hon. leader of the opposition says that the United States and other democracies have this kind of thing, I ask him to name the other democracies in addition to the United States. In the case of the latter, it is a fundamental difference between our system of government and theirs that they have functional committees dealing with this kind of

thing in the way they do. I do not say this is wrong and I do not say it is right; but I do say it is different. And it is thoroughly different from the practice they have in Great Britain, or in Australia or New Zealand or South Africa, and so far, with respect to most matters, in Canada.

I say that if you are going to make that change, then you have got to be prepared to go a good deal further with regard to your parliamentary system-the system under which ministers meet the House of Commons every day. We have responsibility, through parliament, to the people, and we face that responsibility every day.

Now, I say, let him name the defence committee of parliament in other British parliamentary democracies. I do not know of any.

I may be wrong. He has mentioned others.

I would like to hear him name them. I do not know of one.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

There are not any.

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Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

I say it is a fundamental concept of our constitution that we meet parliament every day, answer questions, deal with problems of administration. We are responsible through parliament to the people, and our constitution differs basically from that of the United States.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

I did not interrupt anyone; I would like to go on. If you wish to change our system to that of some other system, that of the United States, or some other country, then let us know where we are going. But I say that when you say there are other democracies that have this kind of thing, then I say let us name them.

Then the next point was that we did not give the kind of information that we should have given with regard to a question asked by the hon. member for Calgary East (Mr. Harkness) on March 17. Let me give the whole question:

As of February 15, 1949, how many Canadian army personnel have been qualified as parachutists (a) of the P.P.C.L.I.; (b) of other units?

And to that I answered-and I shall give the whole answer:

As is well known, it is not the practice here or in the United Kingdom to give the strength and other detailed information about individual units of the armed forces.

I say that that is not a pre-war practice; it is a post-war practice as well, and I would ask hon. members and the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) to give any precedent of any instance in which that kind of information has been given in the parliament

Supply-National Defence of the United Kingdom, or in this parliament. I go on:

If the information were to be given about one unit, there would be no reason for withholding it about others,-

They would ask about one unit, and then another, and then another, and the whole thing would add up to what?-your whole battle order, whatever it is.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

What battle order?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

Then, going on-

-and thus the entire battle order and fighting strength, which are matters any prospective enemy would take a great deal of trouble to find out, would be disclosed. Even though individual figures-

And that is perfectly true in this instance, of course-in one of these two instances, but not in the other.

-may not have any immediate significance, the fact that some were given and others withheld would give information or create ground for speculation.

Then I go on to say:

Changes in the strength or locations of individual units might have the utmost significance. It may be interesting to observe-

And I make this observation about the soviet union-

__that in the soviet union the giving of such information as is sought here is a crime punishable by ten to twenty years in prison. Few figures could be given which would be of greater interest to the only possible aggressor-

And the only possible aggressor is one of the things about which I do agree with the leader of the opposition.

-than the information sought in answer to these two questions.

I shall consider in a moment why that would be.

Accordingly it is not in the public interest to give this or similar information in reply to this and the next question. However, I shall be glad to give the hon. member the information for his own private use, if he wants it.

The information asked for in the second question particularly could be of the utmost importance to the only possible aggressor, to quote the leader of the opposition. The question is:

As of February 15, 1949, how many Canadian army personnel have been qualified as parachutists (a) of the P.P.C.L.I.; (b) of other units?

The leader of the opposition tried to use sarcasm and irony to suggest that the Kremlin must be trembling over our refusal to give this information. No, it is not the Kremlin. It is not the Kremlin at all. The fact is, as our statements on defence have indicated, that the only possibility that is envisaged by the government and its advisers at this time of an attack on Canada would be

Supply-National Defence in the nature of what is called a diversionary raid-not a knock-out blow, but something designed to attract attention and to create local tension, and to force us by pressure of public opinion to put much more into static defence than we should otherwise do.

If this is the only possibility-and I suggest that it is at the present time, though the situation may change-then what could the only possible aggressor want to know more than the kind of force he might have to divert from his major military activities in order to make this diversionary raid? If he knew the strength with which he might be faced, which might be available to clean up any landing operation he might make, then he would make a very nice calculation-one that he would be very glad to be able to make. And I can assure you that, so long as I am Minister of National Defence, I am not going to give him that information.

I have asked: Is there any precedent for the giving of this information? There is not.

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An hon. Member:

Yes.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

There is no precedent. There has been none here since the war, nor has there been any in the United Kingdom. Because I am sure some hon. members may wish to have the information, let me go over one or two extracts from British Hansard on this question.

On Tuesday, May 6, 1947, Mr. Swingler asked the Secretary of State for War:

-why he has now decided not to publish information about the numbers and proportion of men of the army intake posted to each arm of the service?

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Mr. Bellenger@

I have come to the conclusion that to continue to give these particulars periodically in reply to questions might enable deductions to be made as to the detailed composition of the army from time to time which it would be contrary to our present policy to divulge.

And on February 11, 1948:

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge asked the parliamentary secretary to the admiralty whether, as there has been an unofficial disclosure of the strength of the fleet in the publication "The Navy", he will now give the house accurate details of the ships at present commissioned in the Royal Navy.

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Mr. Dugdale@

No; the considerations previously

given to the house which prohibit disclosure of this information are unaffected by the publication of private estimates of naval strength at any particular time.

And on March 2, 1948:

Mr. Low asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement setting out the latest position as to recruiting to the regular army, showing progress in each arm and branch of the service, separately, and, in particular, how many volunteers are still needed to bring each arm or branch of the service up to its peacetime strength.

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CCF

Alistair McLeod Stewart

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. M. Stewart:

It would be contrary to present

policy to publish information about the detailed composition of the army. As regards recruiting to the regular army as a whole, I would refer the hon. member to paragraphs 9 to 12 of the memorandum relating to the army estimates 1948-49.

On March 12, 1948, Mr. Sharp asked the minister of defence the total number of troops estimated as serving overseas in March, 1948, and March, 1949, distinguishing each of the three services from the others. Mr. Alexander replied as follows:

On present advice, it is considered to be undesirable, for reasons of security, to add to the information on this subject which I gave on 3rd March, in reply to a question by my hon. friend the member for Aston.

Then Lord Hall, speaking in the House of Lords on naval policy on February 23, 1949, said:

Your Lordships will see that we have again provided this year the information regarding the composition of the fleet which I gave twelve months ago and which, I think, was then very much appreciated. At the same time, I am afraid it is difficult or, indeed, impossible for me to give a complete statement of the disposition of the fleet, even now. It is true that, by making inquiries, the facts of that disposition could probably be obtained. But that is entirely different from an official statement by the service departments as to the dispositions, not only of the fleet, but also of the air squadrons and, indeed, units of the army.

Then on March 15, 1949, Mr. Shin well, the minister of war, said:

I can assure the hon. member that I have no desire to mislead the house on this or any other matter. If he is anxious to obtain from me the figures of the territorial component of anti-aircraft command, I will do my best to furnish them; but, for reasons of security, I will not give him the figures of anti-aircraft command including the regular component.

For reasons I have given, such as were given by the British ministers, questions of the same character but in more general terms were not answered and no exception was taken. I submit to this committee and to the consideration of this country that if we are to give this kind of information about the strength and state of training of the components of the forces to which we look, under the definition of government policy, for our immediate defence, then we are aiding the enemy and not aiding ourselves.

The hon. member said something about the aircraft situation in Canada and suggested that North Stars were being inhibited, stored and dismantled. Perhaps I have not the order of his words correct, but I have the three words he used. I can assure him that not one of those three words is accurate in any sense whatever.

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April 4, 1949