May 7, 1902

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE.

CON

Albert Edward Kemp

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. KEMP moved :

That the evidence taken before the Public Accounts Committee regarding certain purchases by the government from flaudry, be Hon. Mr. FIELDING.

printed, and that -rule 94 be suspended in relation thereto.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE.
Permalink

Motion agreed to.


FIRST READINGS.


Bill (No. 159) to incorporate the Maritime Stock Breeders' Association-The Minister of Agriculture. Bill (No. 163) for the relief of Samuel Nelson Chipman.-Mr. Flint.


CITY OF OTTAWA.


The MINISTER OF FINANCE (Hon. W. S. Fielding) moved for leave to introduce Bill (No. 164) to amend the Act of 1S99, respecting the city of Ottawa. He said : Mr. Speaker, I thought at one time of making a proposal with the view of consolidating the work of the Ottawa Improvement Commission and the Ottawa Parks Committee, a body under the control of the city of Ottawa, or, a body that has recently been abolished, and its powers transferred to the city of Ottawa by an Ontario Act. However, I realize that at the present stage of the session we would hardly have time to deliberate upon a measure of that kind. The amendment I propose now is merely to enlarge the number of the commission, without in any way changing its powers or responsibilities. It is proposed that there shall be added four commissioners to those already appointed. The object is to broaden the scope of the commission. It is not intended that all these gentlemen shall be from the city of Ottawa, but the design is to take some gentlemen from outside the city of Ottawa, and perhaps some hon. gentlemen sitting in parliament, who have an interest in the national capital, and who will have sufficient leisure to enable them to assist in its improvement. I do not anticipate tuat there will be any objection. If there is, I quite realize that any Bill at this stage will not get through.


CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

Is it the Governor in Council who appoints the additional number of commissioners ?

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
?

The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

Yes.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
L-C

Andrew B. Ingram

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. INGRAM.

Before this motion is carried, I would like to draw the attention of the government to the fact that on the 14th day of this session there was supposed to have been a detailed statement brought down to this House concerning the expenditure of this Improvement Commission. It does strike me that the section of the Act requiring this return has not been complied with. I have here a statement as brought down by the commission, and it is not a detailed statement at all. It is not a detailed statement, as the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Fielding) will see, by comparing it with the re-

quirements of section 11 of the Act. This section reads :

The commission shall render to the Minister of Finance and Receiver General and to the corporation, on or before the first day of September in each year, detailed statements of aJll their receipts and expenditures up to the last day of June in such year ; and copies of such statements shall be laid before parliament by the Minister of Finance and Receiver General within the first fourteen days of the next following session thereof.

I have the statement here, and although it involves something like $92,000, it does not give the names of the streets that the money has been expended upon. I will read the list that it gives.

Princess Terrace, King street, printing and advertising, Concession and other streets, stationery and office supplies, telephone, rent and storage, Rideau River bridges, road machinery, Ri-deau canal driveway and parks, Rideau street, Keefer property, tools, implements, &c., Wellington street, Bank street, McKay and other streets.

It is due to this. parliament that we should know upon what streets the money is being expended. I did take occasion, when the estimates were before this House, to make some inquiries in connection with this expenditure, and I find that I have been greatly misunderstood. The ' Journal,' of this city, which seems to take great interest in the few remarks I made on that occasion, accuses me of having been loaded up by some disgruntled Liberals of this city, but to clear the mind of the editor of the ' Journal,' let me say that I have not had any conversation with any disgruntled Liberal in this city or outside of this city regarding this question. I have had. no conversation with any of them in connection with this matter, and I am not here for the purpose of cleaning the decks of hon. gentlemen opposite.

It is the duty of the members of this parliament to inquire into an expenditure involving $00,000 a year. If we desire to make this the Washington of the North, it is just as much our duty to consider a matter of this kind as it is the duty of the ' Journal ' newspaper of the city of Ottawa. What I did on that occasion I believe was my duty. I for one am not opposing this expenditure, but I am opposed to this Star Chamber method of doing business. I believe this money should be expended in a business-like manner, as all public money should be expended, and it was for that reason I rose to object to certain things being done by this Improvement Commission. I have been here for a number of years, and I have watched carefully some of the improvements made in the streets of Ottawa, and I wish to say I believe this expenditure could be put to better uses. I have heard rumours going around this city in connection with this expenditure, and one would have to be deaf if he did not hear them. For my part, should I occupy a seat in the House, I intend to pay a little more

attention to this expenditure in years to come. I ask that a more detailed statement of the expenditure of that money be laid before parliament, in order that we may have a chance of sizing up exactly how it is expended. We can criticise the general estimates submitted to parliament, but we have no opportunity in this case of criticising the expenditure unless an amendment is made to the Act. A detailed statement is brought down within the first fourteen days of the session, and that is the only statement upon which we can hope to give the matter fair criticism. I wish to point out that in giving the expenditure a fair criticism, I do so not for the purpose of opposing it, but in order to ensure that the money is not improperly expended.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. S. SPROULE (East Grey).

Although it is not usual to debate the question on the introduction of a Bill, yet I wish to make a few remarks. I have heard it said on thoroughly good authority that this commission transacted business behind closed doors. I regard that as entirely wrong. If there is nothing done which is improper, then they need not be ashamed to have their proceedings open to the public. I agree with the proposition to increase the number of the commissioners, because if the information we have is anything like correct, the whole work is done by one or two individuals, and the disclosures which took place under the late mayor showed a state of things which is anything but proper. My memory is, that one of the commissioners who is largely controlling the business was furnishing the supplies himself ; that practically the money was expended where ever he desired ; that it was expended upon streets where it was in the interests of himself and others that it should be expended, and that in reality the money which parliament voted for the purpose of improving the streets of Ottawa was practically put in the pockets of the commissioners by dealing with themselves through fictitious names. The statement is made that they were enabled to do this largely because of the smallness of the commission. It is, therefore, important that the commission should be enlarged and that some one outside of the corporation should have the authority to appoint the additional commissioner that it is proposed to put on that board.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
?

The MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR (Hon. Clifford Sifton).

I may say that when the gentlemen upon this Ottawa Improvement Commission were appointed I did not know a single one of them personally, and I am not sure that I have known any of them since except that I have once or twice spoken to Mr. Bate and Mr. Cunningham. I have no special acquaintance with the details of their work, but I think I can say that if hon. gentlemen made an examination of it and drove over the work which

has been done, they would say that it would be impossible to do better work or more work for the amount of money expended. That, after all, is the purpose that the government and parliament have in view in the constitution of the commission and its appointment. I am quite satisfied that 1 can safely say that the government and parliament can congratulate themselves upon the fact, that the work undertaken by the commission has been most successfully and most efficiently done. There has been no waste of any kind whatever. There was some discussion in the local press, but if my hon. friend fallows that discussion 1 think they will find that it arose largely from the jealousy between different municipal bodies, which under the circumstances may readily be understood. A close examination of the matter will, I think, show my hon. friends that there is no doubt but that the Ottawa Improvement Commission got first-class value for every dollar of money it expended, and that it would be quite impossible for anybody however constituted to get any better value than they got.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

May I have the consent of the House to say one or two words more. It was brought out in that examination that load after load of stones was brought around the streets of the city time after time, and the same load weighed and charged to that account and paid for. It was also brought out that materials which went on the streets belonged to one of the commissioners, was taken out of a storehouse of his own under another name, and that it was traced back that it was really sold by the commissioner himself.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
?

The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

I do not sympathize with the view that the public press should be admitted to every meeting of every public body. There are hundreds of cases where the admission of the press, even to meetings of bodies of a public character, may not be advantageous to the public, and I believe that the best journalists of the country will approve of that view. There is no use generalizing in this matter ; we must take each case as it comes up. Let me point out to the hon. member (Mr. Ingram) that if there was any exception to be taken to the details which were furnished in the statement required by the statute, if the hon. gentleman had called attention to it at an earlier stage of the session I would have been very glad to look into it and see if there was any cause for complaint.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
L-C

Andrew B. Ingram

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. A. B. INGRAM (East Elgin).

When we were discussing the estimates for the Maria street bridge I called the hon. gentleman's attention to it, and the hon. gentleman said: We had better allow that to stand over as I propose to amend the Bill, and when that comes up it will be the proper time to discuss this question.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
LIB
?

The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

Certainly it is the proper time, but if the hon. gentleman wanted to complain that any information brought down was defective, the proper time to complain was at an earlier stage of the session when we could make it good, which we cannot do now. In the Act respecting the Ottawa Improvement Commission it is required that the accounts should be audited in the same manner as the accounts of any public department. Every item of the expenditure of that commission is fully set forth in the report of the Auditor-General-as fully as it could have been if it had been the direct expenditure of any department of the government. If the hon. gentleman turns to page G-31 of the Auditor General's report he will find six pages filled with all the details of the expenditure of the Ottawa Improvement Commission down to the last cent.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
L-C

Andrew B. Ingram

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. INGRAM.

Then, I would like to point out to the hon. gentleman that the statement which he is supposed to receive from that commission is required to be laid before this House.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
?

The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

I had great pleasure in placing that statement before the House as contained within the four corners of this admirable blue-book on almost the first day of the session, and if my hon. friend has not had his attention drawn to it, it only goes to show that he does not value this book as highly as I do. I do not object to any fair criticism ; but I do regret that at this stage of the session observations are made reflecting on the good faith of the members of the commission. I have no special knowledge of the work of the commission other than that which I get from the public reports ; and, while I have a great admiration for the press, and while as an old journalist I should be the last to speak disparagingly of the press, yet I do not think my hon. friend should accept everything that appears in the press as absolutely certain. As the whole matter involved in this Bill is a mere addition to the number of the commissioners, t admit that the discussion upon it might as well take place on the first reading ; and if objection is not to be taken to the Bill itself, I hope lion, gentlemen will not too hastily assume that statements which appear in the public press reflecting on the commission are correct until we can have an opportunity of inquiring into them before the Public Accounts Committee.

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink
CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

Is the hon. minister in favour of keeping the press excluded from the meetings of that commission ?

Topic:   CITY OF OTTAWA.
Permalink

May 7, 1902