Then, Mr. Chairman, may I say that a country half the size of Canada has a fighter force three times the size of the one that our country has at the moment, and by the end of this year it will have one that is ten times the size of Canada's.
These remarks are all directed toward this thought which was expressed so well by Ovid's "Tristia", where these words are found:
The robber and the wary traveler are both girded with swords; but the one carries his for outrage, the other for self-defence.
I am advocating that Canada be girded with a sword as a wary traveler in order that it will be able to defend itself. I am saying here today that unless this country has a modern fighter force and the organization to back it up, the minister can never make another speech in which he tells the Canadian people that he is defending this country, because it cannot be. We cannot have an effective army, an effective navy, or effective defence unless the first line is held properly, and that with a fighter defence force in Canada.
Yesterday we had under discussion the question of North Star aircraft, and I want
Supply-National Defence to direct a few remarks to this matter, as it is part of the question of future commitments so far as Canada is concerned. There is a question whether the R.C.A.F. ever needed these aircraft. There is a question whether it ever asked for them. There is a question whether more than half of them have ever been in service at the same time. If we were privileged to have in this country a defence committee, I feel that the examination of those three questions would be an important matter; that it would be in the country's interest to have the minister produce the actual requisition from the R.C.A.F. for North Star aircraft, and, against that, the reasons why they were asked for.
We know that at the close of hostilities we had a surplus of various kinds of aircraft in Canada, and suddenly there appeared in their midst twenty to twenty-four new North Star aircraft. I am not discussing the merits of the machine as a passenger aircraft; I hear it is a good one. Although they have had some initial difficulties, I understand those are being overcome. That is not the point, however. The point is that Canada needs a fighter force, and has twenty-four transport passenger aircraft handed to it by the government. It is important for the country to know whether the minister receives aircraft from the Canadian factories for the R.C.A.F., or whether the R.CA.F. pays for these aircraft without a proper requisition being made for them, without actually a need having been shown for that type of machine in the defence of our country.
We also know that six of those North Star aircraft were immediately lent to T.C.A. As soon as they were manufactured they went on loan to T.C.A., and they were placed on the north Atlantic run to the United Kingdom, where I understand they have been flown almost to exhaustion and then handed back to the R.C.A.F. It would be interesting to know whether T.C.A. paid the cost of reconditioning them and putting them back in proper order, or whether the air force had to do this; or whether when they were returned to the air force they were in shape to fly should the air force wish to fly them, or should they be allocated to the active part of the minister's reserve.
I think these are questions that the country should have answered. It is only too easy for these things to get caught between two departments, and we might find that the R.C.A.F. actually paid for those machines which were flown to exhaustion by T.C.A., and possibly they were returned to them unreconditioned. I am merely putting that proposition forward as an example of what
Supply-National Defence could happen under this type of organization, and I would appreciate the minister's comments.
To return to the defence of Canada, which is what we are really talking about when we talk about future commitments: On this continent we are in the same position today as Great Britain was in the thirties. They had a defence problem, and they formed a policy as early as 1935. That policy was the same as the one I am advocating today, namely, that a fighter defence force has to be maintained in order to meet any initial aggression against Canada.
It is interesting to note that back in 1935 and 1936 the air ministry in Great Britain anticipated the battle of Britain and its importance to that country, although that battle was not to be fought for five long years. Their plans were laid. The Spitfire and the Hurricane were then under development, and arrived in time for that battle. Our condition today on the North American continent is exactly similar to the condition in the United Kingdom at that time. I believe that we should take the first essential step, the development of our defence forces, as they did at that time. I have made that suggestion before in the house, and I do it again. I believe that is the first task in Canadian defence.
As recently as a year ago the minister said that Canada must ensure positive security under her own arms. He made that statement in Montreal in February, 1948. I wonder whether we have made any progress. I hope we have.
Again at a meeting of the young men's board of trade on May 4, 1948, the minister said:
Our job will be to supply the minimum quantity of interceptors and the ground forces to deal with local attacks, as well as to develop the staff and personnel to take their place as part of any major striking forces.
He said in that speech in Montreal before the young men's board of trade that we should supply the minimum quantity of interceptors. We certainly have the minimum in Canada; there is no doubt about that. We wonder how many of the seventy-five Vampires which are left are efficient, and how many of them are effective; whether in fact they are not being cannibalized for spare parts, and slowly but surely so handled that they are being reduced to a mere handful. Hon. members know what "cannibalize" means so far as aircraft are concerned. It means that those which are working are living off the others. Those in the hangars are giving their spare parts-new wing sections, tailplanes and the like, to keep them serviceable. That means that if you buy
fifty machines you probably have the use of five of them to produce spare parts, and you really have a force of forty-five instead of the fifty which you paid for.
In Canada we are being asked to trust the government in a great many ways so far as defence is concerned. We are being asked to permit the minister to remain silent on points which we consider to be essential to security. For that reason a committee in camera is absolutely necessary in order that hon. members may be properly informed as to the state of Canada's defences. We know that they are not good.
It is four years since the end of hostilities. We have had all that time to develop, to make an appreciation of what the future will require for this country. We joined the United Nations, which committed our country to joint efforts to resist aggression. We joined the Atlantic pact, but can we do anything about it? Are we just a silent partner of these other nations, or are we to make a contribution? I believe that the people of Canada want our government and parliament to see to it that a proper contribution is made towards collective security against aggression. Unless the minister can so direct his departments, particularly the air department, as to be able to make that contribution, unless he is able to achieve that, he should hand his resignation to the Prime Minister of Canada and let somebody take over who can.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE