Mr. Chairman, when we
closed for the noon recess I was endeavouring to emphasize the fact that conditions, not
only in Canada but throughout the world,
had changed very materially during the past few years, and that I did not consider the criticism which was directed against the previous government or governments, for lack of interest and lack of development in the Department of National Defence, as fair and reasonable criticism. I quote an expression which was used by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie)-an expression which has been repeated many times by other hon. members. I would call the attention of members of this committee to expressions of the sentiment which prevailed, not on the Conservative benches, but on the Liberal benches, between the years 1930 and 1935. For example, when the estimates of this department were discussed in the year 1932, a Liberal member then sitting in opposition was reported as follows:
The budget of this department-
Referring to the Department of Militia and Defence.
-is equivalent to one dollar per capita of the population. More than $260,000 are expended on the League of Nations so as to foster disarmament, while on the other hand millions are expended for military purposes. ... I state that there is no greater waste of money in this country.
The same gentleman in the same debate used words as follows:
At a time of depression, would it not have been more appropriate for the government to leave out this item instead of reducing it?
That is, one of the items in the estimates of the department. Again, another Liberal member, who had been minister of labour in the previous government, used the following words, directed at the Minister of Militia and Defence in the Conservative government:
The government is considering ways and means of saving money, and this vote affords an opportunity to effect a Baving.
The hon. member for Temiscouata used these words in the same debate:
I am pleased indeed to see that this vote has been decreased by three-fourths, but there is still one-fourth left, which might better be nothing. I remember distinctly urging upon the house last year the desirability of giving footballs and baseball bats and boxing gloves to our young boys instead of guns and drums and other militaristic paraphernalia.
No less a person than he who now occupies the position of Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe), criticizing these estimates in 1933, said:
I believe it would be better to use this $300,000-
That was an item to be used particularly,
I believe, for cadet training.
-to provide food and shelter for them than to put arms and weapons in their hands.
Colonel Ralston, who had been Minister of Militia and Defence, at that time made this suggestion:
I submit that in view of our economic and financial position this item should be very substantially reduced.
I use these quotations as illustrations of the attitude of the then opposition during the years 1930 to 1935, and to show hon. members that it is not fair for those on the other side of the house to criticize the government of that day for not having done more towards the provision of defence for the dominion. They were criticized by the Liberals then in opposition for doing too much. So why should those same hon. members, now sitting on the treasury benches, suggest that at that time we were doing too little? I have here a quotation from the debate of 1933 in connection with these estimates in which the leader of the opposition, who is now the Prime Minister, used these words:
Certainly the item now before us might well be reduced, and for a year hence could be omitted altogether.
That was the prevailing attitude. And yet, according to the present Minister of National Defence:
The Conservative party in Canada did more to destroy national defence than has been done by any party since confederation.
I do not think that under the circumstances those words are justified. If we did not do more for national defence between the years 1930 and 1935, the Liberal party of that day were just as much to blame as the Conservative party. I have no doubt that the Conservative party acted as they thought best in the interests of Canada, and, because of the peculiar economic conditions, for one thing, kept the estimates of this department at a minimum. But they did so not only because of the economic conditions which then prevailed, but because of the sentiment, which was general in Canada and throughout the world, in favour of peace and a peaceful solution of all problems, national and international.
The ex-minister of agriculture, speaking in the debate of 1934, used these expressions with regard to the Department of Militia and Defence:
How long are we going to keep up these militia districts with all this paraphernalia in every province? I do not think we are con-
fronted with a war in Canada. . . . Are we going on indefinitely with all this business of war preparations?
Following him, the hon. member for Willow Bunch spoke as follows:
I want to join the hon. member for Melville in objecting to this vote. I am one of those who cannot see why, in times like these, we should not reduce this vote for military purposes.
And the hon. member for St. Johns-Iberville (Mr. Rheaume), following, used these words:
I am amazed at the amounts voted for military purposes.
So it seems to me that if there was laxity from 1930 to 1935 in preparations for the defence of Canada, not only should the Conservative government of that day accept the responsibility, but hon. members representing the Liberal party who sat in opposition, and were so strenuous in their objections to the amount of money which was spent at that time, must accept a greater share of responsibility for the condition in which the minister says he found his department when he took hold of it late in 1935. They criticized what was then spent. How much more should they criticize what is being spent at the present time? But I wish to follow that statement immediately with this, that there should be no criticism of the amount requested in this budget, to judge by world conditions to-day and the general sentiment which exists not only in this dominion but throughout the world.
As I was saying, we must face conditions as we find them. We all desire peace. To my mind the surest guarantee of peace is a well armed and well prepared British empire, and a well prepared system of defence on the part of the democracies of the world. In this system Canada must play a vital part. Our attitude, I think, is influenced from three different directions; there are three different influences and conflicting factors in these developments so far as the Department of National Defence is concerned. First, Canada forms a part of the British empire; second, Canada is a member of the League of Nations; and third, Canada forms a part of the American continent. There you have three apparently conflicting interests and we must guide ourselves by due consideration of them. But I would ask this question: To what extent do these interests really conflict? On the surface they appear to be almost contradictory in relation to our attitude, and yet, when we analyse them, they are not. What should we do as regards our position in the League of Nations? My answer would be that we should maintain our position within the league.
I recognize that to-day it is an impotent agent so far as the peace of the world is concerned, and I say that with some degree of regret, because at one time I did have great hopes for the League of Nations. But, I repeat, it is impotent to-day. Nevertheless we as Canadians and as a nation should continue to give it our support, in the hope that at some time in the future the League of Nations will develop some potency and probably become that factor for peace in the world which we all expected when it was first launched in 1918-20. That is our hope, and in order to assist in the realization of that hope Canada should maintain her interest in the league and help it to develop some potency for major use.
The second point is this. We are a part of the British empire; we accept all the rights and privileges of that partnership, and therefore, in my opinion'-and I speak as a responsible member of this house-while we accept the rights, the privileges and the benefits accruing from our association with the other member states of the British commonwealth of nations, we should also assume our share of the responsibility. And our responsibility as a member of the British commonwealth of nations we can carry out in no better way than by preparing an adequate defence for the people and the shores of Canada.
May I here express my approval of the views recently put forward by the Minister of National Defence. Speaking in one of the western cities he took as his theme the present condition in Canada, which he described as a state of defence-consciousness. I quite agree with him that Canada is defence-conscious at the present time. He went on to point out that in successive imperial conferences certain resolutions had been passed, and he epitomized them in these words: First, that each self-governing part of the empire is primarily responsible for its own local defence. I do not think anyone can take any exception to that suggestion. Second, that the security of the empire is a matter of concern to all its governments. There is no exception there. Third, that the protection of our coasts and seaborne trade in time of war is the responsibility of the government. I do not think anyone can take exception to that. And, fourth, that parliament must consider defence preparations in the light of the financial ability of the public treasury.
In my opinion the Minister of National Defence is carrying out that fourth suggestion to the best of his ability and as he thinks the public treasury will bear the expense he is
proposing. These statements from the Minister of National Defence are endorsed, I believe, by most hon. members. Certainly, speaking from this side and for myself personally,
I completely agree with what he said on that occasion. We are defence-conscious, and the four definite suggestions he put forward meet,
I believe, with the general approval of the members of this house.
I suggest that we should endeavour to improve existing conditions in Canada from the point of view of the Department of National Defence. I understand that from 1912 to 1914 we were training a militia of between 34,000 and 40,000 men, equipped with Canadian-made rifles, the artillery having the latest type of weapons similar to those of the British army of that day. Last year we did not train more than 25,000 men. The rifles were not Canadian-made and the artillery equipment was for the most part many years out of date. Apparently our position is worse to-day than it was in 1914 in regard to the number of men trained and the equipment at their disposal. I urge that some attention be given to this situation.
We must also take into account the considerable change that there has been in the last few years in mobility and fire power in warfare. To-day both these elements are very much greater than they were in 1914. I read with some interest a speech reported at page 410 of the debates in another chamber and with the remarks of the person who made that speech I am in entire agreement.
I would bring to the minister's attention certain articles, which no doubt he has had an opportunity of reading, published in an old country magazine called Dejence. Therein we find a considerable amount of useful information that could be of practical value to the Department of National Defence. I was also very much interested in the remarks of the hon. member for Royal (Mr. Brooks) and those of the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green). These hon, gentlemen put forward very clear and apt suggestions, and in this connection I would say to the minister that nothing commended him more to me personally than his attitude towards those suggestions, coming as they did from members on this side of the house. When the minister crossed the floor for the purpose of complimenting the hon. member for Royal at the conclusion of his speech last night, I regarded this gracious act as a tribute not only to the hon. member for Royal but to the minister himself and a recommendation of his readiness to accept any proposals that might be of practical use in the administration of the department. I am encouraged to
believe that under such circumstances a debate of this kind will certainly have some beneficial effects upon the Department of National Defence.
In conclusion I should like to offer one or two suggestions with respect to the items under discussion. We are asked for a vote of a little more than $63,000,000. My view is that under the circumstances this is inadequate for the defence of Canada under our present conditions. We must have speedy action in placing ourselves in a position properly to defend ourselves and our coasts. Sixty-three millions is little enough; it should be closer to $100,000,000, provided it could be productively spent, as it should be, and as I feel it would be after the lengthy discussions we have had from time to time in this house on defence estimates. I feel that under the circumstances $63,000,000 is inadequate, and I should like to see the amount increased in order to speed action towards a more complete defence than we have at the present time. Of course in spending any such amount of money I urge that we get better than good value for it.
I should like the minister to know also that in speaking as I have this afternoon I believe I am speaking for a considerable body of public opinion in this country which feels as I do-that this matter of defence for Canada is urgent.
I should like to close with this one suggestion. I am sometimes accused of being too imperialistic in my views, but I do not think I am the imperialist that some people suggest. I try to be reasonable in my attitude towards the empire, my attitude towards Canada. We are still a part of the British empire; we are still a nation within the British commonwealth of nations. From that we get certain rights and certain privileges, which we are all glad to accept. And I would go a step further and suggest that with these new rights and new privileges we should also accept our new responsibilities as a nation, a nation within the British commonwealth of nations. For that reason I urge more adequate defences for Canada, because in putting forward these defences we are assisting the empire at large and assisting democracies throughout the world.
The quotation I wanted to use was this:
If Britain be attacked Canada will not be neutral. Canada will stand with and for the empire to which she belongs. She will help defend the people who, she feels sure, would help defend her.
That is my position. Canada, if attacked, Canada, if in danger, wrould rightly feel that she should be able to depend on other parts
of the British commonwealth of nations to come to her succour and defence. Other parts of this great empire, the British commonwealth of nations, should have like confidence in Canada.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE