June 26, 1920 (13th Parliament, 4th Session)


Thomas Alexander Crerar

Unionist (Liberal)


The ground in this discussion has been so thoroughly covered that I do not think I can add very much that is new to the debate. I do believe, however, that the position of the minister in asking us to pass this vote is illogical and inconsistent. In his speech in this House in the closing days of March he stated that our naval policy would be considered at the next Imperial Conference to be held in 1921. If that is true we must assume that we have no naval policy today. Now, if we have no naval policy, where is the wisdom of considering a vote of about $2,000,000 for naval expenditures this year? I am quite agreeable to the vote that tfhe minister brought down when the Main Estimates were laid before the House but I think the House is quite justified in taking the position that the minister and the Government at that time <did not contemplate this additional expenditure of $1,700,000. That being the case I think those in this committee who are opposed to this vote are simply standing by the position that the minister and the Government took at that time. Now, our naval policy is to he considered at the Imperial conference in 1921. Personally, I regret that the Government have accepted the generous offer made by the Mother Country to give
us certain war vessels. It is not known whether these vessels will be of very great use in future wars. I have read recently expressions of opinion by quite competent naval authorities in the Old Land who state that in' future wars the battleships and cruisers that we have had in the past will be of very little use. I have seen it asserted that hereafter light cruisers and submarines might flood the towns and cities along the shores of a hostile country with gas. 'That, I believe, is the opinion of at

least some naval authorities in the Old Land. For these reasons I think we could very well defer this expenditure. But we have other reasons. The Main Estimates call for an expenditure of $550,000,000. We have Supplementary Estimates in addition to the Main Estimates providing for an expenditure of $60,000,000 which means that the Government is asking this country to voite over $600,000,000. The Finance Minister ('Sir Henry Drayton) in the Budget Speech which he delivered a short time ago estimated his revenue for this year at $382,000,000. With such a large discrepancy between our expected revenue and the amount of money we are expending should we vote this $1,700,000 until we get into a position where our accounts will more evenly balance. I think that is a pertinent question in this discussion.
Again, we have given our adherence to the League of Nations. The whole civilized world is looking with hope to the League for the maintenance of peace in the future. Have we any faith in it? Was there any soundness in the arguments that were advanced when we were asked to take our place among the nations of the world who put their names to that covenant? If there is, why not wait to see what the League of Nations is going to do? That is the real hope of the future and I would like to see the Government of this country give a lead to the Canadian people in support of the League of Nations. We find ministers of the Crown in Great Britain openly advocating the League, educating the people to the necessities of the League and the need for it and we should have some similar propaganda in Canada. I would suggest to the Government and to my hon. friend the President of the Privy Council (Mr. Rowell) who is not here tonight and who, I believe, largely directs the propaganda of the Government in these matters, that he might very well engage in propaganda to educate the Canadian people to the virtue of the League of Nations. Personally I look upon the League of Nations as the great hope of the future. It is true that events have not altogether justified that hope up to the present, but the future peace of the world lies with the League of Nations; and if it cannot be made to function as it was hoped and intended it would, it is perhaps not too much to say that it may not be many years until our whole civilization, at any rate as we know it, is trembling in the balance. These
are all pertinent questions in relation to the vote that we are asked to give here tonight and such being the case, I must say that I am going to support the amendment offered by the leader of the Opposition. If we are to have any naval policy it should be a Canadian naval policy. I commend the Government for the stand they have taken in that respect, but I think we should postpone the consideration of our future policy unitiil after the Imperial Conference has sat and the whole matter has been fully considered.

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