Mr. Rodney Adamson (York West):
Mr. Speaker, when the house adjourned last night I was coming to the point ini my remarks where I hoped to deal with the plea that we have made for a defence committee.
The responsibility of the private member in this house to his constituents is twofold. First, his responsibility is to see that the money voted) by this parliament is properly expended. But in the matter of defence he has a far greater responsibility, that of seeing to it that this country is properly defended.
The minister has a responsibility to the cabinet. Under our parliamentary system the decisions of the cabinet must be endorsed by the minister. Whether they may be right or wrong, it is his duty to approve and back them up. That is the principle of cabinet solidarity, and it is one of the parliamentary keystones of our democratic system. Yet, Mr. Speaker, the minister may or may not be right; the cabinet may or may not be right. On the question of defence the house is of course the final arbiter. In. the past there have been debates on defence in which we have been given less than scientific or accurate information. When defence was being considered on June 9 last, practically the only detailed information given us was a list of personnel at national
The Address-Mr. Adamson defence headquarters. The debate on that day started off on a high plane, but degenerated into something approaching a riot when a famous quotation from Shakespeare's Kinig Lear was used-hardly a useful or objective way of dealing with national defence.
I suggest that if we had the chief of the general staff, or the vice chief of the general staff, along with other experts, appearing before a select committee on national defence, we would be given factual information by those officers, instead of answers from the minister which he felt he must give to maintain the principle of cabinet solidarity. The responsibility for the decisions must in the final analysis be that of members of the House of Commons, particularly those who have served in the armed forces.
The question as to the regular Canadian army being solely an airborne army, a sort of agile home guard, would be the sort of question discussed. There are probably good reasons for it, but as yet they have not been stated in this debate. This would involve the policy of the present administration. Perhaps that policy is correct, but what are the alternatives? Was any consideration given to the formation of a force of ground troops, or having them in being should there be an outbreak of war? That question must have been discussed at some level, and the pros and cons investigated. Then there is the question of armour, the size of tanks and guns, and whether we are going to use the British or American tanks. These are some of the things the house should be told, and they should be discussed now. We should know whether we are going to use the United States Patton or the United Kingdom Centurion tank. These are not matters which should be decided hurriedly in an emergency, or concerning which snap decisions can be given, because that might involve giving wrong decisions. They are matters requiring careful consideration, and, may I add, consideration not in the political atmosphere of the House of Commons-although it is the final arbiter-tout rather in the technical atmosphere of a committee of the house.
During the summer, in company with other hon. members, I attended a demonstration of firepower at the Petawawa camp. When I asked why the main armour in the tank was not fired I was told that the ammunition was so old that it would be dangerous to use it. It seems to me utterly futile to carry out tank training unless the main weapon with which the tank is armed is to be used.
We then come to the question of the reserve army. The minister says that a fine season of training took place. Every commanding officer and most of the men with whom I have spoken have told me that their units went to camp shockingly under strength. What is the truth of the matter? What is the future role of the reserve army? This is something which could be discussed in a committee, and some decision arrived at. It is not a matter of politics; it is a matter transcending all politics, and one concerning the vital defence of this country.
I come now to the question of the F-86 and the Orenda engine. We have recently heard about the far more powerful Sapphire jet engine and the new Meteor. There should be discussion of these matters, and it is the responsibility of the people's representatives to consider whether it would be desirable now to Change the program and to produce the new aircraft, or whether such change would take too long and cost too much.
The question of submarines has already been discussed. The minister says it is not the policy of a small nation with a small navy to have submarines; that it would be uneconomical. Well, naval staff officers have told me that at least they are in disagreement with that policy. I do not know the answer, but definite opinions have been expressed to me toy certain people who should know. Yet the minister, who must back up the cabinet, says that Canada is too small to have submarines, that it would be uneconomical and improper for a navy as small as that of Canada to have a submarine division. Perhaps he is right, but let us not put this matter on a political basis. Whether we do or do not have submarines is not a political question, but one concerning the vital defence of this country, and one which should transcend political considerations.
We come now to artillery. What is our policy there? Are the industries of Canada to be making artillery co-ordinated with the American pattern, or are we to use the British type? These are questions which industries must be asking now. Certainly industries in my riding are asking them.
Then there is the question of the use of the absolute weapon. Are Canadians being trained in the use of absolute weapons, in the use of atomic weapons? If not, why not? If there is a general war I do not think any hon. member of this house will be foolish enough to believe that atomic weapons will not be used. It has been the historic role of Canadian troops to act as shock troops. If there is a general war, which
is the hideous possibility we must look forward to, these weapons will be used, and we may be asked to become part of the team that uses them.
Another matter to be considered is the training of mountain troops. The whole perimeter of the iron curtain countries is mountainous. We have found to our bitter sorrow in Korea that the troops that get to the top of the mountain, the troops that have the advantage of being able to fight m mountainous countries, are those who survive the nasty, dirty, ruthless slaughtering that is going on now in that country. '
General Sherman did not say, "War is hell." What he did say was, "War is all hell." The expenditures which we shall be asked to make are for destruction, hellish destruction, and there is nothing good we can say about them except that if we do not make them we lose our freedom. My plea for a defence committee is made so that members of this house who are responsible to the people will be able to go back to their constituents and say: Yes; the policy in this matter is correct, because the chiefs of staff or the experts in the defence department have given us the pros and cons; while it is not altogether satisfactory-no preparation for war can be entirely satisfactory-it is the best of the three or four possible courses that are open to us.
This, I repeat, is not a question of politics; it is something that transcends all party considerations. Each of us has responsibilities to his constituents; each of us has a responsibility to the country to see that our defences are kept up. I hope there will be no hon. member of this house who will begrudge the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) anything he asks for in the way of defence. But unless we are informed, unless we can see that this is the proper thing to do, we shall be an uninformed assembly, and an uninformed assembly is not one which can fulfil its duty to its electors.
If we are called upon to fight a total war we shall have to fight with the utmost scientific ruthlessness. The house should be informed now of the preparations being made, and thus be prepared to act. If we do not do so, our whole life as Canadians comes to an end. We must fight now or crawl after.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY