June 25, 1943 (19th Parliament, 4th Session)


Major James William Coldwell

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


I understood the hon. gentleman was addressing his question to me.
The Minister of National Defence told us -if I am wrong I would like to be corrected, but I got these figures from Hansard-that we have some 190,000 in the armed forces overseas, the bulk of whom are well equipped and well trained soldiers ready to strike. He told us that we have in addition 250,000 general service personnel who could be sent overseas at any time. But this figure includes, as I understand it, a good many recent recruits who are yet insufficiently trained in the arts of modern war. Besides these there is the home establishment personnel of some 80,000 men. These, I understand, are engaged in instructional and other duties within this country. They are men who for various reasons are not fit to be sent overseas or are considered more important to be kept in the field of training here in Canada. We also have a part-time reserve army, a volunteer army of about 120,000 men. Then there is the home defence personnel who have been called up for service under the National Resources Mobilization Act. The Minister of National Defence told us, as I recall it, that
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these men number about 68,000, and that they could be placed on duty under various orders in council anywhere in Canada, Newfoundland, Labrador or Alaska. The Minister of National Defence also told us that at the moment reinforcements are adequate. But in the light of the casualties that might be sustained in an invasion of the continent of Europe a pressing need might suddenly arise for all the reinforcements we can muster during the next few months. Again, let me repeat, this afternoon I am not going into the question of the wisdom of the government's military undertakings in the light of the needs of agriculture and industry. But I do think that consideration should be given now to what the government's policy should be if the need for heavy reinforcements arises. I venture to say that never since the war began has the government or this house, for that matter, faced the problem of devising a plan that would best serve the common cause or ensure our maximum contribution in the direction in which it can be most useful.
Now the time has come when our allies are crying aloud for more food from this country and we face a fuel shortage. The army at the same time is likely to need heavy reinforcements. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, we should make our decision now as to what we are going to do in the light of all the circumstances of which we have knowledge.
I have said that should an invasion of the continent of Europe occur our casualty lists would, I fear, be very heavy. Under those circumstances it would be difficult for this house to give proper consideration to the problem of man-power amid the pressure of an urgent war situation. The government must surely realize this, but I fear that it hopes to relieve itself once again of the necessity of giving calm consideration to the question and of making up its mind. I believe that it is hoping to rely on the pressure of public opinion to deliver it from having to make its own decision. That is not responsible government. In the long run it will be bad for the government, bad for parliament, bad for this country. That is a policy of drift which this house should protest vehemently against while there is yet time.
The story of the government's man-power policy has been one of opportunism rather than of calm consideration of the needs of the country as the war developed. Never have we had a clear-cut policy laid out for any length of time. I realize that as the war has developed, and as the government has committed this country to various plans with, or more often without, the consent of this parlia-
ment, or rather without prior consultation with parliament, all parties in this house have had to reconsider their policies in the light of circumstances and the needs of the country. Now we have surely reached the point, with the immediate prospect of heavy casualties and calls for increased food and other supplies, when this house should be fully apprised of the government plans to meet the situation. A year ago we discussed the amendment of the mobilization act, a measure which, incidentally, we criticized when it was passed in 1940, because we said at that time that the government would not use that act to do aught else than mobilize man-power, and time has shown that we were correct in that position. I have only to refer in a few brief words to the story of the Aluminum Company of Canada. When our people were being frozen in their jobs and wages, when farm prices were being frozen at a level too low to give a decent and adequate return, these people were not only paid a high price for their product but they were given an escalator clause in their contracts-not with Canada, because we have not even got a contract with them; we are following somebody's else's contract-so that during this quarter of the year 1943 these people are receiving five and a half cents a pound more for their aluminum because, it is said, the costs of transportation and so on have gone up. I said in this house on July 7, 1942, as reported in Hansard, page 3997:
What should this house do? In our opinion, this house should decide now, at once, without further delay, for total mobilization of industry, of wealth and of man-power. But what are we doing under this bill that we are discussing?
That was the bill to amend the mobilization act following the plebiscite.
We are merely allowing the government once more to postpone its decision on one phase of the mobilization that I have mentioned, and that not the most important. This, it seems to me, is distinctly an abdication of the responsibility of this parliament; it is undemocratic, it is unworthy of our tradition. This is the place where these grave decisions should be taken; this is the place where the policy should be laid down; this is the place where every regulation to be used under that policy should be carefully scrutinized by members of this house.
When, fourteen months ago, the people of Canada voted to free all the parties in this house from pledges given not to impose conscription for overseas service, they expected us to put into effect a policy of total mobilization for total war. I want to make it very clear that when I appealed for an affirmative vote on that plebiscite I did not do so on the ground that we should, mobilize manpower only; I said that as far as we were

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concerned we would demand, and continue to demand, that if we were to compel young men to join the army as we were already doing, we should use the same means to mobilize in the national service giant corporations like the Aluminum company, Consolidated Smelters, and Falcon-bridge Nickel. It will be recalled that the letter of the president of Faliconbridge Nickel was tabled here the day before yesterday, and I shall have something to say about it on a more appropriate occasion. I thought with it would be included a letter from the Prime Minister saying what he thought of the statement made by Mr. J. Gordon Hardy, when he expressed satisfaction that their plant over in Norway had been preserved and used by the Germans. I thought the Prime Minister would have conveyed to Mr. Hardy, as he should have done-because although the Prime Minister said something in the house, Mr. Hardy may not have read Hansard or the reports in the newspapers-what the government and this house thought of a man who would say that kind of thing in the midst of this great struggle.

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