May 26, 1905

LIB

Joseph Raymond Fournier Préfontaine (Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. PREFONTAINE.

Yes. on account of the shortness of storage at Fort William.

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CON

Haughton Lennox

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LENNOX.

Therefore, it is a thing: that has to he thought of from time to time as necessity arises ?

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LIB

Joseph Raymond Fournier Préfontaine (Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. PREFONTAINE.

Yes.

Some resolutions reported.

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THESSALON, ONT., POSTMASTER.


Hon. Sir WILLIAM MULOCK (Postmaster General) moved for leave to lay on the table of the House certain papers connected with the affairs of the Thessalon post office. He said : In connection with this motion, I. would crave the privilege of the House to make a few very brief observations. When this matter was before the House some days ago I bad not the papers before me, and was not aware they would be referred to by the hon. gentleman who made the motion. I could, therefore, speak only in general terms. Since then I have perused these papers, and would state precisely my connection with the matter and the circumstances under Which I acted. In May, 1904, in the ordinary course of my duties, I found upon my taole the report of the inspector for that monthreporting irregularities at the Thessalon -post office. I considered the statements sufficient to warrant an order for the dismissal of the postmaster, and so directed ; and, in the ordinary course, the report, with my authority or direction upon it, went out to the department to be treated in the ordinary way. One or two communications came to the office during that interval. One is a letter from the postmaster himself, wherein he explains that the shortage was not caused by himself, but by his assistant. Another communication was a private communication from the daughter of the postmaster, wherein she herself states that she is responsible for the trouble that had been brought upon her father. While the matter remained in that position, the postmaster having resigned and the present member for Algoma having been called upon to make a recommendation of a successor, be did not do so, having bis reasons for it, doubtless, one of them "being, as he says in one letter to me, that he did not wish to have to fill the vacancy on the eve of a general election. That seems to be his idea, but lie had no acquiescence or authority from the department to do more than make his nomination. The matter did not come before me In anyway until in the following month of February of this year*. Then, on the opening of this parliament, the member for East Algoma stated to me that X had reached an unjust decision In dismissing the postmaster, and asked me to review the circumstances. I called upon the department to lay before me all the papers, and they then laid before me some papers, and then, for the first time, I had before me the report of tlie month of April from the same inspector. The report upon which I acted was the report of May, 1904. In that report the inspector threw the responsibility upon the postmaster, but in the report for April, which then, for the first time, was laid before me, the inspector did not throw responsibility upon the postmaster. In the report of April the inspector found a shortage of some $500, and that forms part of the shortage no doubt that he again referred to in May. But in dealing with the shortage in April the inspector, referring to the postmaster, said : He admitted that heretofore he had entrusted the verifying of the stamps and the postal notes wholly to his daughter and accepted the figures she gave him as correct. His supervision of the accounts being chiefly in seeing that the debit and credit accounts were correctly made up and the remittances sent to the bank as required by the regulations. Further on, he again says, speaking of the whole matter : I observed when in Thessalon that several members of the postmaster's family are allowed access to the office and there is not the care taken of the office that I considered necessary at an office like Thessalon. I am satisfied the postmaster's statement is absolutely correct, and that he has never used any post office funds and there is no reason to believe the daughter has done so either. I say this report of the month of April, dealing with part of the shortage, inasmuch as it did not throw any moral blame on the ofiicers, was put on the files in the ordinary way ; I suppose the authorities of the department not considering it important, and it was not .called to my attention. Whatever be the reason, that report was not before me until I called for all the papers connected with the history of this affair, and in February last this report came to me, and when I found that the inspector, the same officer, in the month of April, in dealing with part of this shortage, had stated : I am satisfied that the postmaster's statement is absolutely correct and that he never used any post office funds and there is no reason to believe the daughter has done so either. I felt I could not accept his judgment in a case of this kind, and accordingly I gave *the postmaster the .benefit of whatever doubt there was and directed his re-instatement. In the next report of May, 1904. be added that the daughter was * in feeble health and suffering from some internal malady that was likely to involve some serious operation. All those circumstances weighed with me, and when I reviewed the case in February of this year I felt no good purpose would be served, and I did not think public opinion would call upon me to give further publicity to the affair, and I felt a desire to throw a veil of charity over what i supposed to be some shortage or infirmity on the part of the officer realiy responsible, and/or that reason I did not desire to give publicity to the circumstances, inasmuch as the postmaster himself bad made good the Sir WILLIAM MULOfiK. shortage, and, so far as I knew, had borne an unblemished character, was. a man in good standing, and had been for over twenty years in the service of the government, and there never had been a charge of anything against him during his long period as a trustee of public funds. Whether I was justified or not in fact, I had ample precedent for it. If I were to enumerate to this House the many instances that I find on record wherein my predecessors-not one minister alone, but going back for years, many ministers, have taken a charitable view of cases presenting features which, on the surface, would call for apparently the severest treatment-I say if I were to recite to this House instances of this kind, it would be found that I was not the first Postmaster General that had exercised a discretion of this nature in favour of the persons in office. I would be perfectly willing, if any one desired, to discuss the record of previous ministers. If it was considered just to postmasters to have been forgiven by previous ministers, I tbink I would have more than justification for what I have done in this particular case. I would not consider it a justification. Each case must be considered on its merits, and no person can sit in judgment satisfactorily upon another who in cases of this kind exercises a discretion which may at the time seem to him right, but which may perhaps not stand the absolute criticism of those who demand nothing but hard and harsh justice. Accordingly I recommended the reinstatement of this postmaster. He told me first of all in a letter marked confidential that the fault lay with his daughter, and the daughter said that the fault lay with herself. It may have been true ; I do not know whether it was or not. The inspector who in one month declared the postmaster guilty, had said in the previous month that he had not touched those funds. The lion, leader of the opposition thought there should be an inquiry. Perhaps he was right. I am not prepared to challenge the correctness of that view. I would not have laid these papers on the table but that the discussions which took place practically defeated the object I had when I reinstated the postmaster and did not direct any further inquiry. I thought that the trouble was in that family, and that there was no good purpose to be served after the public funds were restored, by my taking proceedings to find out whether or not the daughter was really the guilty party. Accordingly the matter rested as it did, and but for the publicity apparently given to the action of either the daughter or the father, I would not even now have taken the course which I have taken. But since my object was defeated by the discussion in this House, I decided that I would then do what the leader of the opposition said ought to have been done at an earlier date, and 1 directed that the matter be inquired into by the chief super- 0G49 intendent of the Post Office Department, Mr. Ross, and some other inspector along -with him. Mr. Ross is at present in Winnipeg, and on his way back from Winnipeg lie will with some other inspector make an investigation, and see where the fault lay.


CON

Arthur Cyril Boyce

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. A. C. BOYCE.

Mr. Speaker, I was desirous of further discussing this matter with the hon. gentleman before the House, and this morning gave him notice of my intention to mention the matter in the House this afternoon. But it stood over, and I had not any idea that the hon. gentleman would bring the matter up at this late hour of the night. I would ask whether it would be possible to leave the matter open for discussion at some subsequent time ? I cannot reconcile, so far as I have heard them, the remarks which the hon. gentleman has made and the explanations which he has tendered, with the facts as they exist to my knowledge out of the reports on tile and in the reports on file; and the hon. gentleman's former statements and some of the statements he has made to-night are absolutely irreconcilable. If what remarks I have to offer to the House have to be made now, it will be at some considerable inconvenience ; and I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that an arrangement be made so that this matter, which I am anxious indeed to lay before the House, can be fully discussed later on upon the papers which are brought down. While on my feet, I wish to draw the attention of the hon. gentleman to the fact that he has not brought down all the papers on the file. I have looked over the papers which he has brought down, and there are a number of very important letters which are not among them. There are memoranda having a very important bearing upon the financial transactions involved, which are on the file and in respect of which no privilege can be claimed, but which the hon. gentleman lias not brought down ; and there are specific documents which I asked for in the House, and of which I gave the Prime Minister a memorandum, none of which are included in the return. I refer to the very imiiortant documents called salary warrants, which must show, and I think do show, that no excuse can be made such as is offered now, that the postmaster thought he was dealing with funds due to him out of salary warrants. The statement also, for which I asked, and of which I gave a memorandum to the Prime Minister, as to the amount paid to the postmaster for six months preceding the 19th of May, 1904, is not brought down. Then I would ask that an opportunity be afforded me of further mentioning this matter when all the papers are down and when the hon. the Postmaster General is in his place ?

Sir WILLIAM MtlLOCK. The hon. gentleman wilt have every opportunity to discuss any question affecting the public service on any day that a motion is made to go into Committee of Supply. He cannot be deprived of that right. As to the hon. gentleman's statement that I have made some statements which vary from the papers produced, if he will be good enough to state what he refers to, I might address myself to that point.

Mr. BOYCE, i' was hoping that the hon. gentleman would have brought down all the papers, so that the discussion could have been directed to the subject with all the papers before the House. It will be futile for me to continue the discussion now, with only probably one-half the papers before the House. I am quite ready to discuss the matter with the papers that have been brought down. I think possibly I can point out to the hon. gentleman some defects or inconsistencies in the statements which he has made now as contrasted with those which he made when the matter was first mentioned in the House. But I should like to have an opportunity of mentioning the matter later on when the hon. gentleman is in his place in the House.

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LIB

William Mulock (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Sir WILLIAM MULOOK.

The hon. gentleman knows quite well that there will not possibly be an opportunity of discussing the matter again for some time when I shall be here.

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CON

Arthur Cyril Boyce

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOYCE.

Will the hon. gentleman not be here on Tuesday ?

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LIB

William Mulock (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Sir WILLIAM MULOCK.

No, I am leaving town to-morrow night. I may be in town again next week, but I am not sure of my movements after to-day. I am not aware of any papers oil file which have not been brought down. I did not arrange or review the papers. The instructions were to produce the papers, and I am surprised if any of the papers on file are not produced. I do not claim any privilege ; on the contrary, I am most pleased to furnish any papers connected with the matter, and therefore I am surprised to hear that any papers having any bearing on the subject are not brought down. The other day the hon. gentleman (Mr. Boyce) stated that some payments were made to the postmaster after his dismissal. On that point he had superior knowledge, because lie had been examining the papers with a Yiew discussing them and I had not seen the for many months. I said in a general nay that I thought it impossible that moneys had been paid to the postmaster after lie ceased to render service. I asked the secretary of the department to make an explanation and I found that salary warrants had been issued until some day in \vmust The explanation of the secretary is among the papers, and I thought it was very fair.

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CON

Arthur Cyril Boyce

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOYCE.

That is the explanation of three days ago.

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LIB

William Mulock (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Sir WILLIAM MULOCK.

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CON
LIB

William Mulock (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Sir WILLIAM MULOCK.

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LIB

William Mulock (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Sir WILLIAM MULOCK.

I would suggest that the hon. gentleman should go-over the file carefully and send to the department a list of the papers which he thinks or knows to be in existence, or which may be on file, and we will try to meet his wishes.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I think that will be quite satisfactory, and as the Postmaster General says, the matter can be brought up on any day when the House is moved into Committee of Supply ? It is a Pity the Postmaster Genera] did not have an investigation made before the appointment as he now proposes. It would strike me that I would hardly be prepared to correct the report of May by the report of April; I would rather be inclined to correct j the report of April by the subsequent and fuller report of May.

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LIB

William Mulock (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Sir WILLIAM MULOCK.

It is very easy to be wise afterwards.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Further than that, so far as putting the blame on the daughter is concerned, if there is any one consideration in the whole affair that would incline me not to reappoint the father it is the very fact that he endeavours to cast the blame of this upon his own daughter, or upon some one who stands in the relation of daughter to him. That appeals to the Postmaster General in a different way. It would be the last reason in the world why I should reappoint that man, and I do not think I will change my mind after reading the papers. However, we may look at these things from different standpoints.

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Motion agreed to. Mr. FIELDING moved the adjournment of the House.


CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

What government business will be taken up on Monday ?

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

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May 26, 1905