April 21, 1904

CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Does WrWjtlm friend (Sir Wilfrid Launer) say that tne bringing down of private, papers depends on the accident of their being put on file by an mo officer of the department .

r WILFRID LAURIER. I did not say , were placed there by accident. My friendP(Mr. Borden) will understand : although a letter is marked private it r be necessary to have it become ps i nublic record because if that letter is included, the record will not be com-

plete, the transaction will not be intelligible.

X assume that these papers were brought down upon a motion.

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CON
LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

If they were not brought down upon a motion, I snail have to correct myself. I assume they were brought down in the ordinary course or business and if I was wrong I shall have to say that I was in error. I shall look at the record however, as to how they were brought down.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I would like to ask what justification there was for their production if there was not an order for a return ? '

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LIB
CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I would 1^e1t0coU-if there is not something further " iniiig sidered besides Mr. Blair and the re par-members of the government. Are 0wliament and the country interested m 0f

ing the exact causes and all the cau Mr. Blair's resignation ?

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LIB
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Some hon. MEMBERS

No.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HAGGART.

Before you can accuse a person of being the receiver of stolen goods, you must first prove that the goods have been stolen. Nobody has charged that the document was stolen, except the Finance Minister. There are a hundred ways in which the leader of the opposition might have got it, and when he has it in his possession, he is the judge of his own honour, and he is the person to say whether the seal of 1 confidential ' should be removed or not. This is a document that it was in the public interests to publish ; it is a document that should be published. But the First Minister says that the ' tu quoque ' argument should not be applied. These gentlemen opposite are very fond of giving advice and lectures on the rules of propriety. It is so nice to think that such great authorities on honour are kind enough to draw attention to subjects of this kind. But let us look at some of their own little lapses. What do they think of the confidential documents that were published by the Postmaster General in his report ? The excuse of the First Minister is, that the House ordered these documents to be brought down, and that the Postmaster General had no option. AI-though this publication by the Postmaster General was undignified and dishonourable and in the worst possible taste, it was justified by the right hon. gentleman.

Now, as a matter of fact, these papers were published without a motion of the House to bring them down. Let us see what the Postmaster General himself says about it ? Here it is published in his report:

In explanation of the supplementary report, it may be proper to state the circumstances which call for, it.

That is all off his own bat.

Shortly after entering upon my duties as Postmaster General information reached me from persons who had tendered for mail services hut who had not been awarded the contracts to the effect that their lower tenders had been passed over, and the contracts awarded at higher prices, and I accordingly called uoon the officers of the department to produce and enter in a register all tenders so passed

over. This was accordingly done, when it appeared that tenders for 330 services had not been considered when the contracts were awarded, and in upwards of 100 instances the department, at the time of awarding the contracts, had received tenders to perform the services at lower rates than those at which the contracts had been awarded.

The Postmaster General goes on in that style, and he winds up tor the information of. parliament:

I heg to submit the foregoing statements and certain correspondence in connection with various contracts referred to, as a supplement to the Departmental Report for the fiscal year 1895-96.

These are the reasons which induced the Postmaster General to bring down letters marked ' private ' ; bearing the impress of privacy upon them, and addressed to myself and to Sir Adolphe Caron. I did not know that I had left one of them in the department. My instructions were that every private document and letter was to be taken off the file, and a memo, placed there instead. Here we have it announced that Mr. Ingram says that he recommends a postmaster for a certain place, and adds that he is a good friend of ours, and a strong supporter of his. Letters in that direction writen by Col. Tisdale and others were published, and they even went to the private file of the Deputy Minister, and his private copy book must have been ransacked for the purpose of publishing private letters which were addressed to the minister by different members of parliament. Not only that, but in the debate that took place, the right hon. gentleman who talks to the leader of the opposition about propriety, justified the course of his Postmaster General. And the Finance Minister, who has been reading a lecture to the leader of the opposition ; we all know what he did. A confidential memo, prepared for my colleagues containing an estimate, based on all the applications, no matter from whom, that had been made for subsidies for different railways and sent by me to council, was used openly in the House, and the statement was added, that I had submitted to my colleagues a certain estimate for financial requirements which was greatly in excess of that brought down by the Finance Minister himself. Not only did they make use of a private memo, which was prepared for council, but they justified it and falsified it too. I hope we will hear the last of this from such gentlemen. The correct principle is, that if a person is in possession of a document which appertains^ to the public interest, he can make it public without committing any impropriety, and the person in possession is the best judge of whether he ought to do it or not. The principle is well known, and it has been done a hundred times in England by ministers of the Crown. The responsibility is with the person who reads the document, without him being open Mr. HAGGART.

to the accusation of his being a thief 01 receiver of stolen goods.

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Some hon. MEMBERS

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Ul OC Kf


the Post Office Department - a y*- * ;he file, and when they come act blBit ite and confidential letter, to' ^ Tk :o the House. I deny'that statem prlT; **705 [DOT]____ : has never been done during the time I have been a member of this House, unless h may have been under an order of the fl°use that some member of the opposi-*ut obtained. If hon. gentlemen opposite ®ould take advantage of hon. gentlemen on *his side they were not very particular, so as they could serve the party interests, out I deny that any private letter written by a Conservative member to the Conservative -government was ever brought down to this Wouse during the time of that government. Ihey reserved to themselves the right to say Miether they would produce such a document or not. Now, I wish to call attention to *he debate which occurred the other day, "'lien the Finance Minister got livid and h'hite in the face with rage on account of Jhe hon. leader of the opposition submit-this memorandum to the House. But I expected that the ex-Minister of Rail-mays was going to speak on that occasion, 1 Would have referred to the very incident to J-lUch the exiMinister of Railways has re-;'eH'ed to-day. I was going to point out that llle Finance Minister himself was guilty of a Worse charge than the leader of the opposition. il have been long enough in .this Mouse to know that when hon. gentlemen °fiPosite howl about purity and morality, all that sort of thing, that is the time to veeP an eye on them.


CON
LIB
L-C
LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Ireland ; which letter was read in the House of Commons by Mr. Hume and other members. The unauthorized publication of this letter was stigmatized as ' a most foul and scandalous breach of confidence.'

There can be no doubt that whatever passes between members of an administration in the conduct of the affiairs of government, is privileged and sacred, covered even by the oath of secrecy, which oath cannot be removed except with the sanction of the representative of the sovereign himself.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

What difficulty would there have been in getting permission of the Crown to bring down this memorandum and make it a part of this correspondence ? The same permission of the Crown would have been granted with regard to this which was already granted with regard to the correspondence produced by Mr. Blair. But my right hon. friend, who is to-day so punctilious, has not given us any justification for the printing of the private correspondence of the Postmaster General of the late Conservative administration, which was ordered by his successor in the present government. Let us have my right hon. friend's views with regard to that, since we are going into the question of ethics. The reason my right hon. friend first gave why this correspondence was brought down was that the House had ordered it. I do not think that that would have justified the publishing of that correspondence in the eyes of my right hon. friend, if it had consisted of letters from his own followers, but it evidently was complete justification in his eyes when the correspondence was from hon. gentlemen on this side of the House. But the right hon. gentleman finds now that the correspondence was brought down by his honourable colleague the Postmaster General of his own motion-private and confidential correspondence. The only ground, therefore, which he offered to the House in extenuation of the conduct of his own colleague and himself, for he is equally responsible, is one which has now disappeared. If we are to have a discussion of the ethics of this matter, if we are to go into this question exhaustively so as to guide our conduct in the future, let us have some justification for this extraordinary conduct in 1897. Let my right hon. friend state his view of the action of the Postmaster General and his own on that occasion, when the Postmaster General brought down this secret and private correspondence.

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CON
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Frederick Luther Fowke

Mr. GEO. W. FOWME.

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April 21, 1904