September 5, 1950 (21st Parliament, 3rd Session)


George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

Mr. Chairman, this session of parliament assembled at a time of great domestic and international crises. We dealt expeditiously with the domestic crisis. When we were called to hear the speech from the throne I do not think there was a member who was surprised to hear these words:
You will also be asked to give urgent consideration to the measures for increased national security and international co-operation required by the fighting in Korea and the increasingly grave international situation which that struggle reflects. That was the original reason for summoning you for this special session.
I suggest that even since the day when we heard those words uttered the international situation has seriously deteriorated. The leader of the opposition moved an amendment to the address in which he questioned whether the measures which were being taken by the government were adequate for the defence of Canada. During the discussion that took place the Prime Minister urged all members to consider whether those measures were adequate and whether the steps being taken and the plans being made were being carried out speedily enough to deal with the situation in Korea and to provide for the defence of Canada.
The moneys that we are now being asked to provide are intended to implement the measures which have been recommended. We have listened this evening to an address by the Minister of National Defence, but I have had the greatest difficulty in being able to picture what those measures are for the defence of this country. From the words that the minister uttered last Thursday I have reason to believe that there are plans which he hesitates to tell the house about. On August 31 he outlined the measures that were being taken, and he referred to the experience that his teams of staff officers had had during

what he referred to as the partial mobilization of the last few days. Then he went on to say, as recorded at page 99 of Hansard:
I can say, though, that should an emergency arise we know how many men for each of the three services we shall want during each of the first twelve months. We know what kind of men they should be, what they will do, where they will go, what they will be equipped with and how they will be trained. That is all taped down to the last man.
These are the hidden plans that the Minister of National Defence apparently is not prepared to disclose to the house. How can we judge whether the plans are such as to meet the situation confronting us with speed, and whether they are effective enough to provide for the defence of this country, if we are not told how long it will take for those troops to be mobilized, and when the divisions of our army will be ready to take the field in the defence of Canada?
During the last session of parliament I heard a supporter of the Liberal government stand up in his place and declare that he would not sit in this house and be told that there were not divisions-and he used the plural-of young Canadians who were ready to take the field tomorrow. The Minister of National Defence was in the house when that statement was made and he did not attempt to deny it. Is he trying to give the impression to the people of Canada that we really do have divisions ready now to defend Canada? That cannot be true. What we want to know is how soon after an emergency there will be adequate troops ready and available for the defence of Canada.
We are told that there is an airborne brigade. I have stated in the house during the present session that the airborne brigade is not trained as a formation. The airborne brigade has never been brought together. The airborne brigade-and I am repeating what I have already said-has not trained as a formation and is lacking many of the essential elements of a fighting formation. There is no commander nor has a staff been appointed which has to date worked with all the units of that formation operating together as a co-ordinated team.
Reference has been made to an experiment or test which was carried on in the north in the wintertime a year ago. 1 refer to Exercise Sweetbriar. Certainly there were subunits of the airborne brigade which acquitted themselves exceedingly well and proved that, provided the brigade was trained and all the units had the same opportunities as those who took part in that exercise, it would be able to carry out the task to which it is assigned. But at that time all the units of the brigade had not had their airborne training. That

training has gone on during the months that have passed since Exercise Sweetbriar, and more men have been trained. New recruits have also come in, who have not been trained. We do not know the standard of efficiency of the various units of that brigade; but I repeat that it does not give a correct picture when the minister speaks in such glowing terms of the high standard of efficiency which that brigade is supposed to have reached, as an airborne formation prepared to defend our northern frontiers. In saying that I am in no way casting any reflection upon the type of officer, non-commissioned officer or man in those units. They are men of a very high standard, but as yet they have not had the opportunity of working together as a brigade team. Without a leader, without a staff, without the proper communication units, and without a great deal of practice working together under the conditions in which they may be expected to have to defend this country, they cannot be classed as ready at the drop of the hat to meet any emergency which may arise.
Then we have been told about the reserve units, through which the larger expansion is to be carried on to provide for our part in any operation in which we may participate beyond the shores of Canada. We have just heard that the active army is to provide the means of that expansion. I find it very difficult to reconcile those two tasks; on the one hand the task of being ready at an instant, in an emergency, to defend our northern frontier, and on the other the task of providing for the expansion of the forces which may be required to localize any act of aggression committed against our northland or to take part in any larger overseas expedition. It is not going to be easy for a very small nucleus force to carry out the role of defending our immense northern areas and at the same time train and develop expanding units of our reserve army for the greater task.
Think of the operations that have been carried on during the past few months in Korea, a northern, mountainous land, where spaces are not great. We have heard of the tactics employed by this satellite of Soviet Russia, which has relied so largely upon infiltration, working around the flanks of the forces of the United States and United Nations. It is not just a brigade operating in Korea today. Some five divisions of United States troops and five divisions of South Korean troops are in action, in addition to elements of United Nations forces. There we have some ten divisions fighting on a front which is extremely narrow when compared
Defence Appropriation Act to the enormous expanse of our own northern country. I do not care how small any diversionary raid might be; a brigade would be lost in our northern vastness. If more than a mere handful of soviet troops were landed on our northern shores, either by air or by water, it would take far more than a brigade to neutralize such an act of aggression. Therefore we must immediately consider the raising of additional forces. If a raid should take place the first thing to do would be to mobilize other elements of the Canadian army. How long would it be before those would be ready? That is a question I should like the minister to answer. If he feels that it would give the enemy information, then let us have a secret session, as my leader suggested, where the minister can tell us in confidence the plans which presumably he now has locked up in the recesses of his own mind.
Then we go on to the other services. In the speech the minister made on August 31 we were told that some nine ships of the Royal Canadian Navy are now under construction. Some of those ships are of vital importance; three are new submarine chasers. When will those ships be ready? As I pointed out the other day, we are short of naval protection on the Pacific coast. Everything should be done to accelerate the construction of ships to replace those destroyers that have left our waters. When will they be ready? That is what we want to know. Is the minister prepared to tell us? In his speech he did not say when those new vessels would be ready. Looking at the $477,000 that we are being asked to vote for naval personnel, I am not impressed. Is that going to provide crews for these ships this year? Are these ships going to be ready this year? I am afraid they will not be ready.
A little later we were told that all ten destroyers are being reconditioned; they have been in reserve. Will that process of reconditioning be expedited so that these destroyers will be ready for service in the near future? If so, are we providing in this $477,000 adequate funds for the crews which will be required to man those ten destroyers, in addition to the new ships under construction as well as the ships in service today? We do not know. It is inevitable that replacements will be required for the crews of the destroyers now in Korean waters. I know that it was necessary to transfer personnel from some other vessels and from store establishments in order to make up the full complement of those destroyers before they sailed. That is not unreasonable. That is a thing which is to be expected. Certainly you are

Defence Appropriation Act not going to keep destroyers and naval vessels at full war complement at all times. But it only shows that in times of comparative peace and security it is inevitable that naval establishments sink below the war establishments or the war complements of the various vessels.
We have heard about the aircraft which are to be purchased, including the one hundred Mustangs, and the acceleration of the F-86 and the CF-100 program; but we have not been told when those aircraft will be ready. It has been suggested that aircrews are being trained now at the rate of twenty-five men a week. Only during the last session I pointed out what I thought were one or two great weaknesses in our air training scheme. One was the shortage of young pilots coming on. From seven or eight methods by which a young man could become qualified as a pilot, I think we were at that time producing about 250 new pilots a' year. Are we going to have enough trained air force personnel with which to provide fighter pilots for these new aircraft that we are getting and to provide aircrews which are so essential, as well as the maintenance crews? Are we going to have those in time? Are they going to be ready by the time that the new aircraft, both for land and for sea, are ready?
We were told of the new aircraft which are being supplied for the complement of Magnificent. They will require additional personnel. We want from the minister definite assurance and definite dates by which these personnel, this equipment and these new aircraft will be ready and available for the defence of this country. If the minister is not prepared to give that information to us in open session, then by all means let him meet the request of the leader of the opposition and grant a secret session at which all these matters can be told to the members of this house with frankness and with there being no fear of leakages to any enemy who might not already have that information which we, the representatives of the people, do not have at the present time.
In these resolutions which have been placed before us we find large sums of money being allocated to the different services. When we come to a consideration of the various items, I do not know what the procedure will be, whether it will be that of dealing with each of the details on the various sheets of paper which we received, one by one, such as civil salaries and wages, so much; pay and allowances, so much for the navy, so much for the army and so much for the air force. Will they be dealt with one by one like that so that we may have an opportunity of asking questions of the minister and of examining him as to how these vast sums of money are to be expended? Or shall we adopt the method which was carried out during the last session of parliament when we were passing estimates under these self-same headings, in which the whole amount dealing with the defence forces was dealt with under one heading, with no order, not taking it detail by detail, but enabling one to ask a question at one minute on the northwest staging route and the next minute on army personnel, air force equipment or naval accommodation? I hope it will be possible to take these items one by one and that we shall have the opportunity of asking the appropriate questions.

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