The trap having been set by Donald Flemming at a meeting of the special committee on broadcasting on May 17, 1955 (see Wilbert Smith – a Pawn in Their Game, Part I), it was sprung two months later, on July 21, 1955, when the Minister of Transport was answering questions unrelated to UFOs in the House of Commons (Canada's Parliament pictured below).
The dramatis personae in this exchange were:
1. George Marler – Liberal M.P. for Saint-Antoine – Westmount (Quebec) from 1954 to 1958; Minister of Transport from 1954 to 1957.
2. Wally Nesbitt - Progressive Conservative M.P. for Oxford (Ontario) from 1953 to 1973; Parliamentary Assistant to the Prime Minister (1957 – 1958), Parliamentary Assistant to the Secretary of State for External Affairs (1958), Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State for External Affairs (1959 – 1961), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Trade and Commerce (1962 – 1963)
3. John Hamilton – Progressive Conservative M.P. from York West (Ontario) from 1954 to 1962; Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (1957 – 1958)
A couple of points. First, Members of Parliament do not simply rise in the House of Commons (which is political theatre at its best, and worst - the United States has nothing like it) and ask questions that have not been carefully prepared, and for which there is a definite purpose. Here, that purpose was twofold - first, to try and ascertain whether the government had spent any money or utilised any resources from the Department of Transport on a project that was outside the Department’s purview, and from which no results were obtained, and second, to determine whether the government had cooperated with the United States with respect to research into the subject of flying saucers. The reason for the former line of questioning is obvious – it is a time honoured opposition tactic to attack the government for wasteful expenditures of public money (indeed, this is the cause of considerable grief for the Liberal government in Canada today), and, as noted in Part I, the Liberal government, which had been in power since 1935, was on its last legs (it would fall two years later), and the Tories were eager to hit it whenever, and wherever, they could.
As to the American angle, well… I’ll save that for Part III.
Finally, for the reference of pro-Smith ufologists, who often seem to “miss” the facts, I have highlighted the sections of the Minister of Transport’s answers to which they should pay particular attention.
And now, without further ado, Part II…
[From the House of Commons Debates, Official Report, 2nd Session, 22nd Parliament, 3-4 Elizabeth, Volume II, 1955, pp. 6562 – 6563]
“Nesbitt: Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask the minister a few questions under this item, and I trust he will not think I am approaching the subject in a sense of levity. There is and has been much public concern about this subject. It would seem that his department has been spending considerable money.
Marler: On what?
Nesbitt: Investigation of this subject. I refer to the subject of flying saucers, so-called. I refer the minister to the minutes of proceedings and evidence of the special committee on broadcasting for Tuesday, May 17, 1955. As reported at page 479, Mr. W. B. Smith, who is senior radio regulations engineer for the department, made one or two statements.
Marler: All I can tell my honourable friend is that we have spent no money whatever on the matter to which he is referring.
Nesbitt: Then I refer the minister to the minutes of proceedings and evidence of the special committee on broadcasting for Tuesday, May 17. As reported at page 479, Mr. Smith said this: “We operated a station for making certain measurements out at Shirley’s Bay from August of 1953 to about the same time in 1954, and on the basis of our measurements, which were nil, we came to the conclusion we had very little data of any nature to go on.” Before I pursue the question any further I ask the minister this question. Was this station operated by the Department of Transport?
Marler: My understanding is that Mr. Smith was allowed to carry out what he did do in a surplus building of the department measuring roughly 10 feet square, with some disused equipment.
Nesbitt: I am very glad to hear that. But was it under the auspices of the Department of Transport?
Hamilton: No wonder he did not get anything.
Marler: He had our permission to do it.
Nesbitt: I am asking the minister whether it was under the auspices of the Department of Transport.
Marler: He had the permission of the department to spend his spare time in this research.
Nesbitt: Since he had permission to spend his spare time on the matter, was the equipment he used departmental equipment or was it privately owned equipment?
Marler: I thought I had made it clear that it was surplus departmental equipment.
Nesbitt: I see that Mr. Smith on that page says he had very little information to go on. Perhaps the minister might answer one or two questions if he is able or cares to do so. What information did the department obtain through these researches?
Marler: Try as the honourable member may, Mr. Chairman, I am afraid he cannot make this molehill any bigger than it is. All I can say is that no useful information whatever was obtained for the department.
Nesbitt: In that case there are only two other questions I wish to ask. Has the department received information in this regard from any other government department?
Marler: Are we still on flying saucers or molehills?
Nesbitt: On flying saucers.
Marler: The answer is no.
Nesbitt: Then I have this final question. Has the government received any information in this regard from any other government, particularly the United States government?
Marler: I am afraid that question is too broad for me to answer. All I can say is that the Department of Transport has received no information of that kind.”
Of course, pro-Smith ufologists contend that this was some sort of cover-up of the true nature of Smith’s work – a dodge, if you will, by the Minister. However, the Minister’s statements in the House on 21 July, 1955, as well as Smith’s statement to the special committee on broadcasting on 17 May, 1955, are both consistent with Smith’s original proposal to the Department, as detailed in his infamous “Top Secret” memo back in 1950. I have discussed this before (see www.redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/03/oh-canada-wilbert-smith-ufos.html). The key related passage from that article is:
"First, one has to examine what resulted in Canada because of this supposedly "amazing" memo. Contrary to what some ufologists have claimed, there has never been any evidence put forward of a Top Secret UFO study program created under the auspices of the Canadian government as a result of the Smith memo. Instead we have Project Magnet, a part-time project, which was undertaken by Smith from 1951 until 1954. A few resources were provided by the Canadian government, but it was not given much serious consideration by Smith’s superiors, and was shut down when its existence was revealed to the public and became an embarrassment for the government... [Grant] Cameron and others have claimed that Project Magnet was far more than a "part-time endeavor" by Smith, and implied that [Dr. Omond] Solandt and others were just part of a cover-up, but this assertion is undermined by Smith’s own words. In his 1950 memo he suggested that "... a PROJECT be set up within the frame work [sic] of this section to study this problem and that the work be carried on a part time basis until such time as sufficient tangible results can be seen to warrant more definitive action." [emphasis added] Further, the "problem" that Smith refers to was not flying saucers, per se, but geo-magnetic energy, which Smith theorized was related to flying saucers (hence his initial interest in Behind the Flying Saucers). This is made clear by the following passage from the memo: "Doctor Solandt agreed that work on geo-magnetic energy should go forward." [Emphasis added] In 1961 Smith re-confirmed the true nature of Project Magnet. In a presentation to the Vancouver Area UFO Club, Smith stated:"May I point out that the Project Magnet I was associated with, which received much publicity, was not an official Government project. It was a project that I talked the Deputy Minister into letting me carry out, making use of the extensive field organization of the Department of Transport. No funds were spent on it and we merely had access to the very large field organization and opened a number of files." [emphasis added] That Project Magnet never moved beyond part-time status is understandable, given that the results were less than impressive. In a 1952 draft status report Smith wrote that, "The results to date have hardly been spectacular." Further, he noted that, "The initial group was quite small to start with and was further depleted during the year by two resignations in favour of more lucrative positions elsewhere." This latter comment is particularly revealing: presumably, if Project Magnet had been cutting edge research, people would have been trying to get involved with the project, not leaving it. Dr. Solandt elaborated on the failures of Project Magnet and Wilbert Smith decades later: "The Defence Research Board... gave Smith some facilities on DRB property for his [UFO] radio watch and offered to have some experts repeat his experiments which were the basis of his claim to have found a mechanism for the magnetic propulsion of UFOs. Frank Dawes, head of our telecommunications research Lab and an authority on terrestrial and other magnetism repeated the experiments with Smith and showed that the results obtained by Smith were due to sloppy measurements with uncalibrated equipment. There was nothing in the theory." [emphasis added] Smith, concluded Solandt, was "not a good scientist." His experiments with geo-magnetic energy, which is what would have been of interest to someone like Dr. Solandt, who was a strong proponent of applied science, came to nothing, and so were of no interest to the Canadian Defence Research Board. Finally, if Project Magnet had really been important, the government would have provided appropriate levels of funding for it. The fact that it did not is further evidence that the Project was not accorded a high level of priority. In fact, Smith, in his memo seeking support for the Project, stated explicitly that it would only cost a few hundred dollars initially, but also that this money would not be new money, but would come from the Department of Transport’s existing appropriation. Without being facetious, this may be the first time in the history of the Canadian government when a civil servant did not ask for new money - no doubt because Smith knew he would not get it."
The answers from Smith and Marler were not a cover, nor were they changed from what Smith and the Department had been saying all along - that Smith’s work was:
(a) part-time (which clearly meant the same thing as Marler's "spare time" characterisation in his reply to Nesbitt's questions about Shirley's Bay, ie. it was conducted by Smith and others outside the scope of their official duties);
(b) conducted with the permission of the Department (which is a far different proposition than saying it was done under the auspices of the Department); and
(c) it led to no useful information.
Pro-Smith ufologists can dispute this all they want, but you’ll notice that they don’t reference the evidence, which is clear and consistent, when they do it. This should tell you all you need to know about the true nature of their position.
By 1955, Smith's "work" - whether Project Magnet or Shirley's Bay - had become nothing more than a tool for the Tories to use as an attack on the Liberal government. As it turned out, the nature of the work (part-time, no money spent, etc), meant that it was an attack that failed to amount to anything (which is why it was not repeated) - just as Smith's "work" itself had failed to amount to anything.
But what of the American angle, you might ask? The answer to that portion of Nesbitt’s inquiry, alas, has nothing to do with the UFO phenomenon, and everything to do with domestic Canadian politics, as shall be explained in Part III.
To be continued…