October 7, 1903

SATURDAY SITTINGS OF THE HOUSE.

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The PRIME MINISTER (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier) moved :

That when this House adjourns on Friday next, it stand adjourned to the following day (Saturday) at 11 a.m.; and that the order of proceedings will be the same as the order for Fridays. That this House will sit in the same manner on all subsequent Saturdays to the end of the session.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Halifax).

As we are already sitting from eleven o'clock in the morning until one o'clock the next morning the addition of Saturday to these labours seems rather unusual. Could the right hon. gentleman (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier) say what his proposition is in regard to the hours of sitting on Saturday ? Is it proposed to sit from eleven o'clock in the morning until twelve o'clock at night on the ensuing Saturdays ?

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The PRIME MINISTER.

We are now approaching the conclusion of the seventh month in the session, and I suppose the time lias arrived when we might think of prorogation. Therefore, that is the end we

have in view in following the course of preceding sessions by sitting on Saturdays. To-morrow, probably, I shall be able to make a communication to the House as to the legislation that is still to be brought to the attention of the House, and the orders on the paper that may be dropped. In the meantime it is our intention to sit all day Saturday unless the sentiment of the House is overwhelmingly on the other side.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES (Victoria).

A number of members, not anticipating that Saturdays would be taken inasmuch as we are sitting in the mornings, have oiajle arrangements for leaving town next Saturday. If the right hon. Prime Minister would make it the following Saturday, I think it would better suit the convenience of the House.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

No, I hope that hon. members of the House who have made arrangements to spend Saturday elsewhere will make arrangements to spend one Saturday in Ottawa.

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Motion agreed to.


QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE-PETITIONS AGAINST NATIONAL TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILWAY.

LIB

Onésiphore Ernest Talbot

Liberal

Mr. O. E. TALBOT (Bellecliasse).

Mr. Speaker, before the Orders of the Day are called, I beg leave to rise to a question of privilege. On Wednesday last, Mr. Speaker, I drew your attention to the fact that 1 had serious doubts about the authenticity of the signatures of certain petitions which were presented in this House in opposition to the construction of a new transcontinental railway. You were kind enough to tell me and tell this House that the hon. members who presented these petitions assumed in so doing full responsibility for everything in connection with these petitions. 1 had them published in the newspapers of the district in order to make sure whether my doubts were founded or not. I am now in a position to prove to this House and to the country that a very grave abuse of the honour and dignity of this parliament has been committed, and

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CON

James Clancy

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLANCY.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order.

Mr. TALBOT-the wholesale forgery

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LIB

Lawrence Geoffrey Power (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

Order.

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CON

James Clancy

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLANCY.

The hon. gentleman (Mr.-Talbot) has no right to read anything from newspapers reflecting upon the proceedings of this House or contradicting any statement made by any hon. member.

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LIB

Lawrence Geoffrey Power (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

I do not understand that the hon. gentleman is reading from newspapers.

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LIB

Onésiphore Ernest Talbot

Liberal

Mr. TALBOT.

These are notes of my own written by my own hand-and the wholesale

forgery has been committed by over zealous partisans urged by unscrupulous though important newspapers of Montreal. These petitions contain the names of mere boys, names of people who live in the United States, names of people who have been dead for years, names of people who are in lunatic asylums, names of people, who, owinig to their advanced age, are absolutely irresponsible, names of people who knew nothing of these petitions and names of people who when asked to sign positively refused. In view of these facts which I am in a position to prove, I beg, Mr. Speaker, to submit a motion to the consideration of the House. My reason for doing so is that I consider that the right of petition is sacred, and I do not question for a moment the right of the gentlemen who signed the petitions to present and emphasize their objections to the government policy on this transcontinental railway question in that way if they chose to do so, but for my part, and I feel sure that this honourable House will endorse me, I must enter my most solemn protest against this audacious and monstrous attempt to impose upon the good faith of parliament and the country, by seeking to create the utterly false and erroneous impression that the people in the province of Quebec at least are opposed to this great national undertaking, and I say that it is a screaming farce and a most shameful departure from all principles of honour and dignity due to this parliament to present such petitions.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

I want to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether this is a question of privilege or not. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Talbot) has a right to raise a question of privilege, but I do not understand it is a question of privilege.

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LIB

Lawrence Geoffrey Power (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

If some documents had been brought before the House, which documents were supposed to be petitions, but which turned out to be forgeries. I suppose It would be within the privilege of the House to inquire whether these documents were genuine or not. .

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

It is only an allegation that the hon. gentleman is making.

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LIB

Lawrence Geoffrey Power (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

I understand the hon. gentleman is making a statement, and that he proposes that this statement shall be referred to some committee of the House.

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LIB

Onésiphore Ernest Talbot

Liberal

Mr. TALBOT.

I sincerely hope and trust that a thorough inquiry into this matter will be granted by hon. members on both sides of this House. I beg to move as follows :

Onfisiphore Ernest Talbot, member of the House of Commons for the county of Belle-chasse, having declared from his seat :

1 That a petition of James V. Cote and others, of Cap St. Ignace, county of Mont-magny, in the province of Quebec, has been

presented and deposited by Mr. Alcorn, M.P., in the House of Commons, on the 30th September, 1903, asking that a Bill, now before parliament, concerning the new Transcontinental Railway, shall not become law ;

2. That the said petition was read and received on the 2nd October, instant ;

3. That on the 29th September last a petition of Thomas Coulombe and others, of Ber-thier, in the county of Montmagny, in the province of Quebec, had also been presented and laid on the Table by Mr. Alcorn, M.P., to the same effect ;

4. That this latter petition was read and received on the 1st October instant ;

o. That these two petitions contain false signatures. that several persons, whose names appear on the said petitions, never signed them nor ever authorized any person to sign them and that the said petitions contain the names of persons who have been long since dead ;

6. That by reason of these facts the dignity of the House of Commons has been outrageously offended :

Mr. Talbot moves, seconded by Mr. Carbon-neau, that these petitions be referred to the Committee of Privileges and Elections, for investigation into the validity of the signatures which they contain and the circumstances regarding the preparation, fabrication and presentation of the said petitions ; with power to the said committee to send for persons, papers and records, and to examine witnesses upon oath or affirmation, and that the committee do report in full_ the evidence taken before them, and all their proceedings on the reference and the truth of their inquiries.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Halifax).

If any petitions have been presented to this House, purporting to be signed by persons who have not signed them, I at once agree that it is a matter which must be investigated. I cannot however congratulate the hon. gentleman (Mr. Talbot) who has made the motion, on the judicial spirit in which he has presented the matter to the House. It seems to me that he has not acted as one who is desirous of upholding and maintaining the dignity of this House. His language did not impress me in that way. He has presented it apparently, in the belief that he could obtain some partisan advantage from proving certain facts in connection with these petitions, and he therefore seizes upon this occasion to indulge in very strong and violent language for party ends. With these observations. I desire to say that so far as this side of the House is concerned, we have not the slightest objection-in fact,

I concur heartily in the proposal that this matter should go to the Committee on Privileges and Elections.

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October 7, 1903