May 12, 1908

CON

William Humphrey Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT.

Will the minister direct that a copy of the report in English be laid on the table ? The report laid on the table yesterday was in French.

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CON
LIB

Louis-Philippe Brodeur (Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. BRODEUR.

I may explain that the practice with regard to these reports is to bring them down from the department in the language in which they are, and it is for the House of Commons to have them translated if it wishes to do so.

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CON

Joseph Gédéon Horace Bergeron

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BERGERON.

Might I suggest that the translation should be made at the same time as the copy. The report covers 895 pages. It would take to the end of the session to get it copied. If the translation goes on at the same time, we may have the report before us before the session ends.

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LIB

Louis-Philippe Brodeur (Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. BRODEUR.

It is not for the department, but for the House to see that it is translated. I will chll the attention of the clerk to the matter.

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DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT-AMENDMENT.


House resumed adjourned debate on the motion of Mr.. Aylesworth for the second reading of Bill (No. 115) to amend the Dominion Elections Act and the proposed amendment of Mr. W. J. Roche thereto.


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Rt. H@

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend (Mr. R. L. Borden) opposite, in the closing sentences of the address with which he opened the opposition's side o" this debate, appealed to me personally against the provisions of the Bill now before the House which relate to the preparation of lists in the provinces of Manitoba and British Columbia and the unorganized districts of Quebec and Ontario. He appealed to me, as I understood him, in the name of fairness, of natural justice, of broad equity against the Bill which he characterized as an intensely partisan measure.

Sir, to such an appeal it would be, I consider, my duty under all circumstances to give a respectful hearing, but I must say at once to my hon. friend that I hold myself entirely responsible for the Bill which is now before the House. We introduced it for what we considered to be good and sufficient reasons, and I rise at this mctnent to endeavour to show to the House and to my hon. friend what these reasons were ; perhaps before I conclude I may also appeal to my hon. friend, in the name of fairness, in the name of natural justice and broad equity, against certain intensely partisan laws. I do not pretend, Mr. Speaker, that I am better than my fellow men, but I do not believe that I am worse. I am a plain man and deal with a plain question in a plain way. I have no hesitation in saying that I am a partisan, but, in all fairness to myself, I do not believe that I would willingly and consciously strike below the belt in order to take an unfair advantage of an opponent; yet, I repeat, I am a partisan, and I have sufficient experience of political life in this coun-

try to know that very often the judgment of a partisan may be blinded and warped.

I understand fully, I think, the motive of the opposition which has come to this Bill from gentlemen on the other side of the House, and especially from the members from the province of Manitoba. They dread the effect of the law of their own province if it is to be administered not by officers appointed by the government which would be the case if this Bill were to become law. Let me say to my hon. were to become law, let me say to my hon. friends on the other side of the House, -yes, let me appeal at once to their sense [DOT]of fairness, justice and equity, that there [DOT]are men on this side of the House who dread the effect of that law if it is to con-rtinue to be administered, as it has been, -by officers appointed by our opponents as will be the case if this Bill or some other Bill is not passed by this House. Those who oppose this Bill in this House at this moment, dread it in anticipation; those who support it dread the effect of the existing law of Manitoba not in anticipation, but from past experience, and if we are to approach this question without any equivocation, but in justice between -01811 and man, it reduces itself to this that you gentlemen on the other side of the House do not want to go before the country on electoral lists prepared by your opponents and we on this side of the House do not care to go to the country on electoral lists prepared by our opponents. Sir, this seems to me to be the true question, to be the true position and the problem which is now before 11s. The principle which shall regulate and determine the franchise, whether it shall be controlled by Dominion authorities or by provincial authorities, is a question upon which there has always been a deep line of cleavage between the two parties in Canada. We on this side of the House, the Liberal party, have always maintained that unless there be strong reason to the contrary the lists should be prepared by the provincial authorities, whereas gentlemen on the other side of the House have held the unqualified opinion that under all circumstances the lists should be prepared by the parliament to which the members of this House have to be elected. The opinions held respectively by the two parties have been [DOT]more than once set before this House by motions which speak for each party. In 1885, when the Franchise Bill was introduced, I was entrusted by my friends with the duty of moving the first amendment, setting forth the principle under which we thought the franchise ought to be regulated and administered. I moved this motion, which was a party motion, and which spoke our mind upon this subject:

In the opinion of this House it is preferable to continue the plan which has been adopted ever since confederation of utilizing for the elections to this House the provincial franchise and voters' lists.

Many similar motions have been passed from time to time, but this one properly and very accurately, I think, describes the position we then took and have maintained ever since. When the repeal of the Fran- . cliise Bill came up for discussion in 1898, a gentleman then a member sitting on the opposite side, Mr. Powell, of Westmoreland, moved this amendment:

That this House, while desirous of reducing the expense of the preparation of the lists, so far as may be practicable, considers that no system of franchise will be satisfactory which does not preserve federal control over both -the basis of the suffrages and the voters' lists.

There, Sir, you see, in concrete form, the respective opinions held by the two parties on this important question. Throughout this debate the members of the opposition have piled quotation upon quotation iu order to prove and maintain, at least to their satisfaction, that in introducing this Bill, which in certain provinces and under certain conditions provides that the franchise shall be regulated by this House, that we are in doing this inconsistent, that we are going back upon our record and departing from the policy we have always maintained. This criticism in view of the attitude which has been taken by those who make it at this moment, seems to me, if I may say so without offence, singularly inane. I could understand this criticism, if those who made it were to maintain the policy which they have always maintained. Their policy was and always has been that this House should keep the control over the franchise and over the lists, and when this Bill was presented, taking the control not over the franchise, but partially over certain lists, I cannot understand that these gentlemen can utter the reproach of inconsistency. If we are inconsistent, what are they themselves? If we are departing from our principles, what are they doing? They have always maintained that this House 'should keep control over the lists. If we were to say that we were going to adopt that principle, I could understand their criticism, but instead of that, their whole claim at this moment is that we are inconsistent. Sir, is it not a fact that in 1885 the Conservative party crammed down our throats a system whereby the lists were taken from independent officers and placed in the hands of officers appointed by themselves, and, therefore, according to the ethics that now prevail, partisans ? Yet, Sir, in 1885, though we fought that measure as effectively, as vigorously as I think a measure ever was fought, we never thought of resorting to a refusal of Supply; we never thought of resorting to disorganization of the public service, and if in such questions there be a reason to refuse Supply, we had then ten times more reason than there is at this.

moment, because in that case the measure which was introduced was to take the preparation of the list from municipal officers and to place in the hands of men appointed by the government of the day.

Now Sir, passing to another view, not far, however, removed from this one, may I be permitted to say that personally I think my vanity is somewhat flattered by the course which the debate has taken. My vanity is somewhat flattered because the debate has shown that my poor utterances, delivered from time to time in this House, have been diligently scanned and scrutinized by hon'. members on the other side of the House. My hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. R. L. Borden) and my Ron. friend from Prince Edward (Mr. Alcorn) have given evidence by their utterances that they have consumed some of the midnight oil in perusing what I may have said on this question from time to time in order to obtain an expression of opinion in favour of the view which they support at this moment. And in the accomplishment of this task, they have, I submit with all humility, but with sincerity, shown more ingenuity than ingenuousness. Everybody knows how misleading it is to take a sentence from a speech or from a writing of any kind without any reference to what precedes or follows, and how the man who is quoted may be thereby made to say the very reverse of what he meant. To give an example, a single example, upon this question, I will recall the speech of my hon. friend the leader of the opposition in which he made this quotation from a speech of mine delivered in 1898. In 1898 I spoke as follows :

But I would not have hesitated to accept the franchise provided by a Conservative legislature in Quebec, because, though there were many things in that franchise, on the whole, to which I would have objected, still as it satisfied the province it would have satisfied tme. It is in the same way as regards other provinces. It is possible that the control of the several provinces may pass into the hands of the Conservative party; still on a question of this kind I am quite disposed for my part, to accept the franchise prepared by the legislature, whether Liberal or Conservative.

There the quotation ended. The same quotation was made the same night by the hon. member for Prince Edward and there also the quotation ended. Now, Sir, if my hon. friend the leader of the opposition had read a little farther he would have found that that sentence was qualified and singularly qualified in view of the present debate. By this quotation the effect is attempted to be produced in the House and to be produced in the country, where thousands of copies of the speech of my hon. friend are sent broadcast, that I affirmed that under all circumstances, without any

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Sir WILFRID I.@

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exception, the provincial lists ought to be adopted. But, if my hon. friend and if the hon. member for Prince Edward had read the sentence immediately' following, the House would have heard this : But, if the day comes when a fraud is committed against this parliament, when legislation of a hostile character is brought forward in the legislatures, then it will be always open for this parliament to resume its own powers, and to enact a franchise law of its own. [DOT] My hon. friend the leader of the opposition and my hon. friend from Prince Edward also quoted extensively from the opinions delivered in that debate by the then Solicitor General, Mr. Fitzpatrick, but as far as I know and as far as I have been able to find in their speeches, I do not see this quotation, I do not see this expression of the Solicitor General. The principle of the whole Act



Said Mr. Fitzpatrick on that occasion. -is that we intend to adopt the provincial franchises ;as the basis of the franchise for the Dominion. That is our intention. It is idle for my hon. friend to assume, or to suppose that we assume, that the provincial franchises existing to-day will continue for all time. I cannot follow the argument of hon. gentlemen on the other side who say that we dispossess ourselves of control over our franchise. We do not do anything- of the sort; we simply adopt for the present the franchises of the provinces. But if at any time the provinces should do anything that we consider detrimental to the interests of the Dominion, we are entirely free, we do not tie our hands for all time, to make any change that we think proper. We do not dispossess ourselves of our control over the franchise.


CON
LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

That is on page 3952 and the preceding quotation is at page 4015. And yet, it is difficult to believe that my bon. friend from Prince Edward and my hon. friend the leader of the opposition did not read these sentences, or did not see them. If they tell us that they did not see them it will be a sad comment upon their diligence, and if they tell us that they saw them it will be a sad comment upon their fairness. Neither did I see any quotation of an expression in the line which I have just stated and which was delivered upon the same occasion. An hon. member of the House, in that same debate, spoke as follows:

My hon. friend (Mr. Fitzpatrick) will suggest to me, I suppose, that if the provincial legislatures alter their enactments from time to time we have the power to correot those enactments so far as they are applicable to elections to this parliament; and I concede that at once to be the case; but what does that amount to? It means simply that we have to keep a watch over the principal legis-

latures and check their enactments from time to time. That simply brings us back to the principle that we ought to deal with this matter ourselves. But even if we do adopt the provincial law I would suggest that we should not go-beyond saying that the provincial enactments, as they exist at present, and the basis on which the voters _ lists are now made up in the different provinces, shall be the basis on which we shall proceed in the future. I do not see why we should pledge ourselves now to the wisdom of what any provincial legislature may pass in the future.

Who was that member of the House ? He was then a member of the House, and is still a member of the House, who spoke in that way. That language was spoken by my hou. friend who was tben tbe senior member for Halifax and who is now the leader of the opposition. I congratulate my hon. friend upon tbe soundness of the principle which he advocated then. I do not find any fault with him for having so spoken. His views were sound ; I wish I could say the same to-day. He recognized a principle which had been affirmed by Mr. Fitzpatrick and which had been affirmed by myself and accepted by this side of the House. We held to the opinion that the preparation of the lists should be left in the hands of the provincial authorities ; still, we had, in the language of my hon. friend the leader of the opposition, to keep watch over the provinces and if we found that conditions arose which would not be fair to this House then it would be our duty to resume our powers and to have the lists prepared by ourselves. Now, having laid down what appears to be the principle held by the two parties which should guide us in any emergency which should occur,

I have to say that at this moment, in my humble opinion, a condition of things has arisen in the province of Manitoba which calls, and imperatively calls, for legislation by this House.

I place myself in the judgment of the House, nay, I place myself in the judgment of those gentlemen on the other side who have spoken in this debate when I assort,-in view of the facts which it shall be my duty to place before the House,- that we would be recreant to the duty we owe to ourselves and to the people of this country if we did not face the situation and pass the legislation which the condition of things now existing in Manitoba imperatively demands. There are, if I mistake not, forty or forty-two local constituencies in the province of Manitoba and the lists are prepared, not as in the east for each municipality in the constituency, but for the whole constituency. There are, therefore, lists for forty or forty-two local constituencies and there are only ten Dominion constituencies, and consequently when an election takes place for this House it becomes imperative to condense these forty-two lists into ten. That

is a serious work, it is work which involves a good deal of consideration but it is work that has to be done. The question is : who should do it ? It has been observed by some members on the other side that there ate not only in the province of Manitoba hut In other provinces local constituencies the boundaries of which overlap the constituencies for the House of Commons. That is true, but it has never presented a serious difficulty elsewhere because in Quebec and Ontario, and also I believe in some of the other provinces, the lists are prepared for each municipality and in many instances for each polling division and under such circumstances there is no difficulty in adjusting the local lists to the federal constituencies. But in the case of Manitoba, under the conditions which prevail there, when the boundaries of the federal and the provincial constituencies overlap, the task of separating the voters' lists becomes one of serious difficulty. We thought we had provided for this in the Act of 1901 when we provided that this duty should be cast upon the returning officers. Section 25, revised statutes of Canada, says :

Where any provincial polling division, as constituted at the time, of the receipt by the returning officer of the writ for an election, lies only partly within the electoral district for which such election is to he held, the part thereof within such electoral district shall, for the purpose of that election form a separate polling division, or it may be attached by the returning officer to an adjoining polling division; and the returning officer shall, as soon as possible after the receipt of the writ, prepare from the existing voters' list a separate voters' list containing the names of the persons entitled to have their names placed on the list for such part of such polling division.

The duty thus entrusted to returning officers proved to be of exceptional magnitude in Manitoba, and if I may use the expression, some of the returning officers shirked the duty and called upon extraneous aid to help and assist them in its performance. Some of them called upon Mr. Leach, who was Liberal organizer for that province. Now, I am free to say that it was certainly injudicious, most injudicious on the part of these returning officers to call for the services of the Liberal organizer of the province, because suspicion would arise at once that the work would be done unfairly. I say it was injudicious but I do not say it was at all criminal. There was nothing wrong in calling on the services of Mr. Leach if the work was properly, fairly, honestly and accurately done. If, on the other hand, the work was not fairly, accurately, or honestly done it mattered not who was called upon, the crime would exist. Now, some gentlemen on the other side of the House have taken the position, and they have ever maintained it in this debate,

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

'The latter did the work; he did the disfranchising.'

Here and now I take complete and absolute issue with the statement of my hon. friend. I deny altogether that he has any proof against Mr. Leach that Mr. Leach disfranchised anybody.

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Some hon. MEMBERS

Oh.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Well, Sir, here and now is the time for both sides to discuss this- matter and discuss it we shall. I do not say that Mr. Leach may not have been guilty of some error. That is quite possible. But to say that Mr. Leach or the returning officers deliberately, wilfully disfranchised hundreds, nay thousands, of electors, there is no evidence of such a charge ; and, Sir, the proof which I have to give of the assertion I now make is that whenever and wherever those who made this charge against Mr. Leach and against the returning officers were called upon to give their evidence, they failed absolutely in the task. There was a committee of this House appointed two years ago to inquire into these matters. On that occasion this House adopted this motion :

That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the operation of the Acts relating to the election of members of this House, and into the practice and procedure in connection with election petitions, and to consider what changes are desirable therein, with power to send for persons, papers and records, to examine witnesses under oath, and to report from time to time.

The members of this committee were : Mr. Aylesworth, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Greenway, Mr. Stockton, Mr. Ingram, Mr. Macdonald, of Pictou, and Mr. Barker. This committee had power to send for persons and papers. Thev sent for persons to investigate what ? To investigate the alleged frauds which were said to have taken place in Manitoba. They sent for whom ? They sent for Mr. Knott, the counsel who had been charged with the prosecution of Mr. Leach and the returning officers. They sent for papers-what papers ? The papers in connection with the electoral lists in Manitoba. In this committee there were some friends of ours who sit on the other side of the House. There was Mr. Ingram, who is no more in this House, who was a very fair man, but a strong partisan and a good fighter. I say to his credit that no fairer man, in mv estimation, ever sat in this House than Mr. Ingram. There was Dr. Stockton, a most honourable man, as everybody knows, and whose loss we certainly deplore. There was my hon. friend from Hamilton-if I may give his name, Mr. Barker, a very fair man and a good fighter, and I think not a man to neglect any advantage that might come to his party. The Conservative members of that committee went into that fight to unearth

something ; and, judging by the eagerness that has been displayed by gentlemen on the other side of the House-I will not say to invent a scandal, but to find a scandal,

I do not think, if there had been a scandal there to be unearthed they would have neglected such a splendid opportunity.

I do ont think my hon. friend from Hamilton would have neglected to show how guilty these Grits could be, and what dishonest acts they could perform. But, Sir, there is more than this, much more-the government of Manitoba prosecuted these men. It indicted Mr. Leach ; it went into the business very eagerly. But time went on, and on, and on ; and as time went on, the courage of those who had been so eager to expose villainy seems to have gone down and down and down until at last it oozed out at the soles of their boots. The accuser had to press for a trial. It was not the accuser who pressed the indictment to a close ; it was the accused who at last peremptorily asked that they should be tried ; and when the time came for the trial, what took place ? This is what took place : the prosecutor, the Attorney General of Manitoba, declined further to prosecute. Now, what reason could there be why the Attorney General of Manitoba should decline to prosecute such a damnable action as the disfranchising of hundreds and thousands of men ? I will give the reason, as stated by my hon. friend from Marquette (Mr. W. J. Roche) ; and certainly, in my humble judgment, no one is more competent to give the reason, because my hon. friend has taken a deep interest in this matter. This is how he spoke, and his language will be found at page 8313 of ' Hansard ' :

Now, I am asked by the hon. member for Pictou, 'Why were these cases dropped?' What have we read in the Liberal press ever since this question arose in 1901? Persecution ! Persecution on the part of the provincial government of Manitoba against these poor officials who had done nothing wrong. So it has been stated, but I do not think they will state it again. We were told that these officials were being persecuted. They were taken from court to court until they were brought to the Court of Appeal. And there it was decided that they were wrong, that they had no right to make these new polling subdivisions, and no right to treat the lists as they did. What was the use of going on when there was a decision of that kind, in the face of which such actions cannot be repeated? Had we gone on, the charge of ' persecution ' would have been hurled still more viciously against the Conservatives. But another reason why these cases were dropped was that the Dominion government had turned this into a political question by sending Mr. E. L. Howard to represent the party in these oases. Would it be possible to get a jury that would not be a political jury with the Dominion government defending the accused? I think this is a sufficient answer to the hon. member for Pictou. Had the cases gone on we should have heard much more from the Liberal representatives and the Liberal press the accusation that we were persecuting these returning officers.

This is all the excuse that was given for not going on with this prosecution. Let me call once more to the attention of the House this salient reason which was given by my hon. friend from Marquette for not prosecuting :

They were taken from court to court until they were brought to the Court of Appeal. And there it was decided that they were wrong, that they had no right to make these new polling subdivisions, and no right to treat the lists as they did. What was the use of going on when there was a decision of that kind, in the face of which such actions cannot be repeated?

So Sir, if these men were not prosecuted, it was simply because of the magnanimity of the Conservative party. These men were told not to sin again. What ?-the men who had been guilty of disfranchising thousands of electors ? But, Sir, that is not the charge against these men now. It is not pretended by my hon. friend from Marquette that these returning officers acted dishonestly ; but still, though they were simply innocent victims, they were brought to the bar of a criminal court, and had to defend themselves. But what about Leach. Is it also through magnanimity that Leach has not been prosecuted ? My hon. frieud said there was no use of having a prosecution, you could not get a verdict before a jury. It would have been difficult, I admit, to have got a verdict before-a jury if the charge had been reduced to the statement that the returning officers had acted not dishonestly but simply in an improper conception of the law. But are we to be told that there is a jury iu the province of Manitoba who would acquit any man who was guilty of stealing the franchise from his fellow men ? I do not believe that. I am sure that the plea that it would have been useless to go before a jury because the Dominion government had retained the services of Mr. Howard to defend the accused, does not apply to Mr. Leach. Did the Dominion government secure the services of anybody to defend Mr. Leach ? Did the Dominion government secure the services of Mr. Howard to defend its own officers-the returning officers who, according to the expression of my hon. friend, had acted unwisely but not criminally ? But if no charge was made against Mr. Leach, I conclude it was because none could be made. If Mr. Leach had been guilty of having disfranchised thousands of electors, it would have been the duty of every citizen of Manitoba to bring a charge against him in order to punish him for such practices and prevent them in the future. It would have been the duty of the government of Manitoba and of the Conservative party, and. I may add, it would have been still more their pleasure. If therefore

Mr. Leach was not brought to trial, if the Attorney General of Manitoba filed against him a nolle prosequi, if the Attorney General said he would not proceed against him, the only conclusion we can draw is that Mr. Leach was absolutely innocent of the infamous accusation brought against him.

In the face of such a condition of things, it is at least unfair, and, if it were not for my hon. friend from Marquette, I would say unmanly to try to fasten such epithets on Mr. Leach as are heaped daily upon his head, when those who accuse him had not the courage to make good their accusations. But even though this is the case, Mr. Leach is daily assailed and even in this House every day his name is held up to obloquy. And when, some time ago, he was appointed by this government to superintend the distribution of seed grain, my hon. friend from North Toronto (Mr. Foster) said that if he had known that Mr. Leach was to be appointed to such a duty, he would have hesitated before voting the money for the seed grain.

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CON
LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

When I am shown that Mr. Leach did anything wrong, I shall not approve it; but up to this time this has not been shown. Hon. gentlemen opposite cannot escape by this tangent. Assertions have been made against Mr. Leach ; but when Mr. Leach asked for the proof and when the opportunity was given to make the proof, neither my hon. friend nor any of his, friends brought the proof against him.

May I say something personal to myself. When I heard the statement made by my hon. friend from North Toronto (Mr. Foster) -who, I know, is a strong partisan just as I am, and perhaps a little more-I could not believe that he could make such a statement unless, in his own heart and conscience, he thought he had cause to make it.

I acquitted him altogether of any intention of consciously doing that man any wrong. Nevertheless he was accusing him ; and when I heard so strong a statement from my hon. friend, I thought I would make some personal inquiry to ascertain what was the character of Mr. Leach.

I took some pains to ascertain what was his character, and I must say that the opinion given me by everybody-at least by those with whom I communicated-was that he was a perfectly respectable man. But Mr. Leach has since been acting in the capacity to which he was appointed a few weeks ago in connection with the distribution of grain. There have been some complaints that the grain was not, every part of it, of good quality. I may say that it was not purchased by Mr. Leach but by Mr. Castle-a man.. I understand, who is. absolutely above reproach. I was given communication of a newspaper in connection with my in-

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

quiries, and in that newspaper I read the following :

After a few weeks, however, the farmers from various points in the province began to raise objections to the seed which was delivered to them, and for which they were compelled to sign a lien on their next year's crop before they could examine it. Mr. Leach in a prompt way, arranged for an exchange in several cases and consequently much publicity has been avoided. The fact remains, however, that Mr. Cassels has not been doing what is right by the farmers, and if they had been forced by Mr. Leach to accept the grain given them it would have been a very bad thing for the country.

What is this newspaper which thus speaks of the work done by Mr. Leach, whose nomination was assailed by my hon. friend? It is a Conservative newspaper published in the city of Regina.

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May 12, 1908