September 14, 1903

CON

James Clancy

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLANCY.

Did the commissioners recommend the changes proposed in this Rill ?

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

Certainly not; they had not this matter before them. I was answering the hon. member for Victoria (Mr. Hughes), who asked me who brought about the change, and I have said that the change is made on the recommendation of the commission.

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. A. C. BELL (Pictou).

It seems to me that it is a very serious matter to interfere at all with the power of the Auditor General, and I think it will be so regarded by the people of Canada. It must be recollected: that, from time to time, there

has always been a certain amount of control exercised by the Auditor General over the government of the day. Some of the members of the government, at times may find this control irksome. At the same time, the people of Canada have learned to repose great confidence in the system under which the power of audit is placed, not in the hands of an officer of the government, but in the hands of an officer of parliament. From all that I have been able to learn, the late Right Hon. Sir John Macdonald, for a long time Prime Minister of this country, was disposed to support to the utmost the position and authority of the Auditor General, even on occasions when the action of the Auditor General was somewhat annoying or embarrassing either to the government of the day or to some department. I have always understood that he insisted on maintaining the action of the Auditor General. That being the case, and this system having worked for a long period of years, and up to this moment, without interference by any legislative enactment whatever, it seems to me the government ought to present to parliament a very strong case indeed before they propose practically to supersede the Auditor General in the exercise of his authority.

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The POSTMASTER GENERAL.

There is no such scheme.

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

As I understand the statement of the Finance Minister, that is the effect of this proposal.

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The MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS.

There is no such proposition.

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

Of course, I am speaking under the disadvantage of not having the Bill before me. But, as I understand what tlhe Finance Minister has said, if, for a space of two days, the Auditor General shall, not do what he is required to do under his authority

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The MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS.

Under the law.

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

The Auditor General's power to control expenditure in any case in which he thinks he should exercise that power is to be limited to two days.

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The MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS.

Should he not obey the law, as other people are required to do?

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

I think there is no question that the Auditor General should obey the law. But when the government of the day undertake to limit the authority exercised: by the Auditor General for the public protection to a period of two days, they are practically superseding him.

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

That is only as respects the issuing of the letter

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

of credit. It does not affect his audit at all.

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

It affects the manner in which he thinks it is advisable to make his audit effective and effectual. ITe has apparently, from time to time, taken tlfis same view of things and has refused the letter of credit, in order to impress his views on the government of the day. And we know, from reading the Auditor General's report, that controversies arise between the government of the day and the Auditor General, which are usually determined by the overruling of the treasury board, the government of the day, as a rule, having its own way after a period of time. Now, the government, under the proposition in this Bill, apparently are going to supersede that mode of overriding the Auditor General, which involves a good deal of delay and discussion, and are going to limit the period in which the Auditor General can assert his views, and hold back the credit of a department, to a period of two days.

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

No, that is inot so, that only applies to the issue of a letter of credit, not with respect to the overrulings of the treasury board at all. In that case we say that if, after a reasonable time, of which the treasury board should be the judges, the Auditor General fails to bring the matter up, then the treasury board may act. The two days apply only to a letter of credit, to a case where men are waiting for their money.

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

Of course there is a distinction, but the difference between us is not material.

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

We do not overrule the Auditor General at present under letters of credit. The question of letters of credit does not come before the trasury board under the present Act at all.

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

The point upon which the Auditor General refuses a letter of credit, the particular ground upon which he differs with the department, that comes before the treasury board ?

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

No. not a letter of credit.

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CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL.

But the point upon which the Auditor General differs with the government, or with the department, and in consequence of which he feels justified in refusing a letter of credit, that comes before the treasury board.

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September 14, 1903