What was the salary paid per day to the day labourers who were employed by Messrs. Pou-pore & Company, in virtue of their contract with the Department of Public Works on the construction of the Sorel wharf ?
Before you leave the chair, Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the government, certain matters which are mentioned in the press in regard to the Auditor General. I observed in the Hamilton ' Times ' the following paragraph :-
The Auditor General is not so anxious for superannuation that he is willing to unconditionally resign. He wants ten years added to his length of service. How does that' square with his Spartan honesty and integrity in the matter of the public accounts ? Does he want pay without performing service ? Perhaps the next Auditor General would refuse to pass his accounts.
I observe a somewhat similar statement in the Toronto ' Globe ' of Saturday last in its Mr. BRUNEAU. '
Ottawa correspondence. The paragraph is as follows :
The Auditor General makes his application for sciperannuation conditional upon adding ten years to his length of service. The government are doubtful whether this can be done.
Outside of the immediate officers of the House, the Auditor General is more than any public servant an officer of this parliament, and if there is any document in the posses-t sion of the government such as is referred to I would think it desirable that it should be laid on tbe table of the House. I rise now for the purpose of inquiring whether it is true that the Auditor General's resignation is made conditional in the manner mentioned in these journals which are supposed to be in tbe confidence of tbe government. I wish also to ask whether or not the government has any objection to laying on the table of the House a copy of the Auditor General's letter of resignation, if such a letter exists? Although the Auditor General is a servant of parliament, he, of course communicates with parliament only through the government, and it is only in this way that we can ask to have placed before us the information to which I think the House is entitled. While I am on my feet I may say that 1 do not think there is anything in the conduct of the Auditor General in the past which justifies the somewhat sneering remarks in one of the paragraphs which I have just read. Whatever else we may say about the Auditor General ; however much we may differ in our appreciation of the attitude which he takes ; I am sure all of us will agree that on all occasions he has endeavoured to do that which he thought right, and to do it regardless of consequences or persons.
I may also say that I believe I myself have come in for a little criticism in regard to this gentleman, because I understand that I as leader of the opposition, have been accused of not offering to the Auditor General that support to which he is undoubtedly entitled from the opposition. I do not regard that criticism as quite merited, because I think that on all occasions on which I have had occasion to discuss the work of the Auditor General in the House, I have been in a position to support him, and I have supported him. I may say that so far as this session is concerned I have taken even more pains than usual to have the work of the Auditor General appreciated by the opposition, because at the commencement of the session I did what I have never done before, viz. :
I divided his report upon the various departments of the public service into about twelve different divisions and I allotted each one of these divisions to a gentleman on this side of the House who was to associate others with him, and in this way to form a committee which would have entrusted to it the duty of paying particular attention to special portions of the Auditor General's Report.
Probably that will be conceded on all sides of the House as no more than a reasonable precaution, because it is the duty of the opposition in performing its work of criticism to have regard to the report which the Auditor General makes upon the finances of the country as a basis for that criticism.
I may also mention in this connection the contract relating to the Cornwall canal, as I see that an animadversion has been made not only with regal'd to the conduct of those on the government side of the House, but also with regard to those on this side of the House. It seems to have been apprehended in some quarters, that there has been an indisposition to discuss that matter. So far as I am concerned that has been furthest from my thoughts, and, I believe, from the thoughts of every gentleman on this side of the House. However. I for one, believe that the proper time to discuss the matter which is involved in the Auditor General's Report with regard to this contract is when the estimates of the Departments of Railways and Canals are reached. It is a matter which cannot be properly and thoroughly discussed without that cross-examination which can only take place in Committee of the Whole House. When the Auditor General's Report was brought to my attention somewhat earlier in the session, I so informed gentlemen who were prepared to discuss it, and who are prepared to discuss it still. Nevertheless, when the matter seemed proper to be mentioned in connection with the resolution of niv hon. friend from Simcoe (Mr. Lennox), and when he suggested to me his proposal to discuss that particular contract in connection with the observations which he desired to make with respect to the proposed amendment of the Audit Act, I suggested to him that while the main discussion could doubtless be more advantageously carried on iu Committee of the Whole House, yet there was not in my view any reason why he should not also discuss it on that particular occasion, although I did not believe, as I then told him that that discussion could be as effective as it could be if carried on at a later stage .upon the estimates. I would simply like to say further, that as we have been engaged very largely during the present session in discussing a very important matter relating to transportation in this country ; a discussion which began shortly after the opening of parliament, and did not terminate until the 30th of May ; and as during that time that particular subject stood first on government orders, there was not in my opinion any very advantageous opportunity of discussing the matter to which I have referred. For that reason it has not been discussed more elaborately than has already been the case on the motion of my hon. friend for South Simcoe. I would like also in this connection to suggest to the Prime Minister that, as the session is advancing-we hope at
least that it is-to a termination, and as the estimates of the Minister of Railways and Canals have not yet been brought before the House, and as it is upon those estimates that we can best discuss that; particular contract, and perhaps one or two other matters, it might not be out of place to ask that at the earliest convenient opportunity the government would be good enough to take up the estimates of the Minister of Railways and Canals, in order that this matter, about which a good deal has been said in the public press, might be discussed, and discussed in a way which I think will be found the most effective.
With regard to the latter part of my hon. friend's remarks, though we are not able to name a particular day, yet I agree with him that we may all regard the session as being pretty well advanced, and the estimates of the Minister of Railways and Canals will be taken up at a very early day. Beyond that, I presume that all he desires is an answer to his question in respect tp the alleged resignation of the Auditor General. The Auditor General has tendered his resignation accompanied by an application for superannuation. He has asked that an additional term of years be added to his period of service, but I do not understand that he makes that conditional to the acceptance of his resignation. His resignation has not been accepted. There is no objection to bringing down his letter of resignation, and I will lay it on the table to-morrow.
Motion agreed to, and House went into Committee of Supply.
Post Office Department-salaries, $307,429.50 ; contingencies, $41,675.
Hon. W. S.@
It will be observed that there is an increase in the item of salaries of $9,603.50, and a reduction in the item of contingencies of $24,339.15. The increase in the item of salaries is made up. as follows : one additional chief clerk, $1,900;
increase in provisional allowance. $1,330; two increases of $78.25 each, $156.50 ; 274 increases of $50 each. $13,700 : making a total increase of $17,0S6.50 ; from which are to be deducted the difference between salaries of clerkships which became vacant and salaries of persons promoted or appointed to vacancies, $1,494 ; and nine vacancies in the packer class, $5,989 ; total deductions, $7,483, making a net increase of $9,603.50. The committee will remember that last year an Act was passed enabling the department to transfer to the permanent list a number of temporary employees. Acting upon that power there were transferred a number of writers from the temporary class to the permanent class. This accounts for the reduction in the contingencies this year of $24,339.15. Nearly all the temporary writers were transferred
from the temporary class to the position of third-class clerks, and therefore their pay is provided for in the item of salaries. Thus there is an increase in the salary outgoings and a reduction in the contingency outgoings.
The amount has not yet been paid. It was found that there was no vote of last year that would cover it, and I would ask my hon. friend to reserve his inquiry until the supplementary estimates are brought down. These are the estimates for next year, and it is not improbable that an item to that effect will appear in the supplementary estimates for the current year.
Mr. BIRKETT-Is it a fact that it will appear ? The promise was made that it would be paid, and that promise obtained a good deal of notoriety.
Immediately after the fire, not being aware that the amount was not covered by the contingencies, I instructed the deputy minister to pay it. The men behaved splendidly. The fire took place in the evening, and although the building was in conflagration and was threatened with destruction, the mails went out at half past ten as usual. There was no interruption of the mail either that night or the next morning. The mails were delivered as if there had been no fire whatever. I felt that my colleagues would warrant me in making that small recognition of the services of the staff, and ^instructed the deputy accordingly. A short time ago he informed me that on account of there being no item in the estimates to cover the payment, it would be necessary to provide for it in the supplementary estimates, and my hon. friend may depend upon it that there will be an item to that effect.