May 14, 1908

LIB

Robert Franklin Sutherland (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

The kon. member applies for leave to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the following matter of urgent importance :

The present condition of the Marine and Fisheries Department, especially under the slow operation of the commission last appointed to examine certain matters therein.

Shall the hon. member have leave ?

And leave being granted.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Mr. Speaker, I desire to call the attention of the House for a short time, as requested in the notice, to the position of the Marine and Fisheries Department as it at present appears. In order to do that it will be necessary very briefly to sum up the preceding circumstances which led up to the appointment of the last commission. The first commission for a number of months pursued its inquiry, mostly with reference to the Civil Service situation, conditions and requirements, and devoted a portion of its time to the investigation of the practical working of one portion of the Marine and Fisheries Department, and then, as the House knows, laid its report before the government ; that report was brought down to this House about the middle of March. The report of that commission was somewhat startling to the House and to the country. In brief it showed a state of things in the department which, to say the least, did not contribute to efficiency or tend to establish public confidence in the department, and seemed to call for vigorous and instant action in order to have the faults which had been shown and the bad conditions which had been described in the report remedied as quickly as possible. It is not necessary to recall the express words of that report and the many pointed allusions which were made to certain specific matters. That commission did not busy itself in the same way with any other department of the government, and in fine it came to the conclusion that the Department of Marine and Fisheries seemed to be without direct guidance, was in fact without a head and lacked a conscience. When that report came before this House it at once received the attention of the House and the government, and it was seen to be so important that full and instant action was necessary. The matter could not be left as it was left by the report of the first commission. The Minister of Marine and Fisheries and I think the leader of the government and others were particularly struck with the idea that under the report of the first commission the officers of the Department of Marine and Fisheries were left more or less under a cloud of suspicion of wrongdoing, and it made itself apparent to the government that it was an improper thing that the officers of one of the great departments of this government should be left in that position. It was destructive of faith and confidence in the department, it hung over the officers of the department and militated against their freedom and efficiency of work ; it was, in fine, a statement of circumstances and inferences which made it absolutely imperative that such steps as were proper should be taken immediately to investigate those matters and to remedy where remedy was necessary, to condemn and reform where condemnation was necessary. The government did not accede to the view of hon. members on this side of the House that it was proper that the se-.cond commission should be allowed to complete in all the departments of the government what the first commission had only in part completed in a small portion of the Department of Marine and Fisheries.

It therefore appointed a second commission with limited power and limited scope, and limited as well in the methods by which it should be conducted. Whilst the other was a public inquiry and in the public interest, this was to be a departmental inquiry simply into what were considered the charges or insinuations or inferences against the officers of the department. On this side of the House we contended for a broad commission against which the door of no department should be shut and which would have unlimited power to carry on the investigations which had been left uncompleted by the first commission. Judge Cassels was appointed as the second commission, and there were given him two lawyers to, I suppose, watch the interests of the government. These two lawyers were, as has been stated in the House, supporters and partisans of the government. They received their instructions from the Minister of Justice and are practically under the direction of the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Marine himself. It seems to be absolutely impossible, and I think it was not otherwise contended, that Judge Cassels should be put to the almost superhuman task of going through the whole records of the department in all its extensions, and therefore these lawyers were appointed into whose hands were entrusted file bringing of such matters before the commissioner as they might think proper and requisite for carrying out the purpose of the commission which was entrusted to him. It was known by the government

anti well. But in what situation are they to do their duty now ? Anonymous writings and whisperings to the commissioner or to the lawyers, saying that papers are being destroyed, that such and such person is trying to do away with evidence ; one man brought up before these lawyers and questioned as to what suspicion he has of A. B., or J. 0., or of some one else, men prompted and pressed, with all the force and ingenuity of these lawyers, to play the spy and the informer upon their companions in office.

There is the disorganization resulting from suspicion, no man feels like trusting his fellow, no one knows what is being carried on in order to save one and injure another, and all the time two partisan defenders of the government and the department are running through the records and the guilty persons in that department, if there are any, have opportunities for doing away with incriminating documents and evidence. And worse than all, during that whole time, this headless and conscienceless department, as it is characterized by the first commission, is spending the money of the country. What more has happened? An investigation has been made into the conduct of an officer down the St. Lawrence. What has been proved? That he has been guilty of padding pay sheets, and that there has been a conspiracy to defraud the government, and that the government have actually been defrauded. If in that single case fraud has been brought to the surface, in how many cases may it not be found that similar frauds have been committed, and so people will say until the commission has finished its report. For all we know, the whole of the river service-an immense and important service- is permeated and saturated by just such abuses and frauds. What is needed is a thorough and a speedy investigation, so that every honest man might have the chance to have the cloud lifted from him and every guilty man be punished. Today the minister does not know but that there are in that department persons in positions of great trust who will be found guilty when this commission has finished its work. Yet these persons cannot be touched. They remain there. The point I make presses the more strongly the absolute necessity for an immediate investigation and the avoidance of the delays which are inevitable if the present commission continues the work. But delay is what the government seem to desire. Events quickly pass into oblivion and the reports of the first commission are being smothered by the lapse of time. Judge Cassels goes on his circuit and then takes his vacation, nobody is particularly at work, the old machine hums on iu the best way it can, and the people become interested in the next thing that turns up and forget this. And all the time the solicitors, the partisan defenders of the government, have Mr. FOSTER.

their wages going on, and 'I suppose are doing their investigation. And in the meanwhile the efficiency of the department is impaired and deteriorated and its officers are under a cloud.

We do not know all that has been brought out by the present commission so far, but some things have been brought out which do not tend to make public confidence greater. What has been brought out ? A carbide company is formed, it sells to the government, sells without competition, and in that carbide company you find a cabinet minister interested, we find that stock in it was given him by the promoter, and we find that same minister at the head of the Marine and Fisheries Department. That does not help us at all to have more confidence iu that department than we had at the start.

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Subtopic:   CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
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Mr. BRODETJR@

The hon. gentleman has said that we get our supply of carbide from a company without any competition. I may inform him that the carbide which is supplied to the department was obtained after public tender.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Does my hon. friend mean that to explain the whole case? Let him go to Mr. Willson's evidence. What does Mr. Willson say? There are three carbide companies in this country. One is at St. Catharines and that is the company consisting of Mr. Willson and the late Mr. Sutherland, up to the time of his decease, and Mr. Little, who has succeeded to Mr. Sutherland's interest. Then there is the company in Ottawa. Who formed that company? Mr. Sutherland. Who sold the stock to the Bronsons? Mr. Sutherland. Who got 10,000 shares of the stock for that and other considerations, as Mr. Willson has sworn? Mr. Sutherland. Who has Mr. Sutherland's stock at present ? Mr. Sutherland's legatee. Then there is the company at Shawinigan, and there is nothing to show that that is an independent company. Then there is another company with a more liberal contract, the International Fog Signal Company, which makes little things that cost $300 and sells them to the department for $4,000, as shown by the testimony of the chief engineer. Does my hon. friend say there is any competition among these companies?

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Mr. BRODETJR@

There is very strong competition among them. In fact they are quarrelling. I know that of my own knowledge.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

We can quite understand Mr. Willson quarrelling with Mr. Willson. We can quite understand Mr. Little quarrelling with Mr. Little. But we all know that the same men control these companies and have the same interest in them. And in any event, up to a very late period no tenders were called for and there was no competition. It is only within a very late

period that tenders have been asked and there has been any semblance of competition. These things have come out, and they have not added to the confidence of the community in that department. It is too much the habit for this government, either through its members or its closest friends, to be interested in companies which are doing business with the government. I propose to exploit another company just as soon as I can get at it before* this House, and I think I can show that a prominent member of the cabinet at present has taken a special business interest in it. There is, I have said, that state of things brought out so far which leads people to wonder what would a thorough investigation show. This is not a healthy condition of things, but it is a condition* which has been brought on by the government itself. This new and wasteful policy of the acetylene gas buoys and fog signals, these contracts, this division of the department so as to get a favourable report for the purposes of the minister-all this was brought about by Mr. Prefontaine himself. He was the man who, against the report of the chief engineer-a man of worth and through honesty-undertook this wasteful system of expenditure, to say nothing more about it, and laughed at the scruples of his chief engineer. Who was it that appointed the commissioner of lights, a young man-I say nothing against his ability-without experience in the department to any extent, put into a most responsible position in which he carried on things pretty much as he pleased. Who appointed Mr. Fraser? He was appointed by Mr. Pr6fontaine himself and for the very purpose of instituting this acetylene fog signal and gas buoy expenditure which, while good in many particulars, as the first engineer says, was pressed beyond the needs of the country and the requisites of proper economy. The whole plea to-day is that in some way the government is bound, if it can, and it can, to press the matter to speedier conclusions than it is being pressed to-day. That is the whole point of my plea, in the interests of the department, in the interests of the country, and in common justice to the employees of the department, which is historical, and which has been manned in the past by efficient men, and which to-day has within its bounds as honest, painstaking and competent officials as there are in any of the departments of this government. I move that the House do now adjourn.

Right hon. Sir WILFRID LAURIER (Prime Minister). Before I proceed to discuss the motion which my hon. friend has made, and the point which he has taken under it, I think it is my duty to take at once some exception to the manner in which he has discussed the motion. For myself I do not object to it, because I 2G9i

think it involves a point which is worth while clearing up at once. But the objection I take is that my hon. friend was slightly out of order in discussing what takes place before the commission until the commission has reported. I think that the rule which applies to committees of this House should apply for the very same reason to commissions appointed under the authority of the government and of parliament.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Will the hon. gentleman quote the rule ?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

No, I do not quote the rule, because I do not intend to discuss the question to-day, and I did not interrupt my hon. friend. But I think the hon. gentleman was wrong for this reason, that until the matter is ascertained and concluded, the hon. gentleman draws wrong conclusions. One of the reasons which show the force of the rule is this : My hon. friend discussed the composition of the carbide company, and he concluded that all these companies were in the hands of the same parties. What grounds had he to make such an assertion ?

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CON
LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

There is no sworn evidence to that effect, the hon. gentleman will not find any sworn evidence that the companies which are to-day organized in Canada to manufacture carbide are in the hands of the same men and under the same directorate. I say the evidence corroborates the statement made a moment ago by the Minister of Marine and Fisheries, that the company which operates at Shawenegan is altogether separate from the other company.

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Subtopic:   CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

That may be, I did not particularly allude to that.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

But if that may be, why did he venture to make the insinuation ? Did he not a moment ago say that he had reason to believe that all the companies were in the hands of the same parties ? Now he says that he did not do so, that he did not make the assertion. But he did make an insinuation, which is worse than an assertion. The hon. gentleman will have ample opportunity of discussing that later on the point of order. I do not take it to-day.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

I would ask the right hon. gentleman whether there are not some of the same men in the three companies, because I was told that there were.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Speaking subject to correction I have reason to believe that the Shawenegan company is altogether separate from the other companies.

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CON

George Taylor (Whip of the Conservative Party (1867-1942))

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TAYLOR.

Mr. Willson owns the patents.

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Subtopic:   CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Here is a commission that has not yet reported, and already assertions are made and conclusions are drawn. We will have an opportunity of taking up the subject later on. I do not go into it at this moment because, as I say, I am not prepared to discuss the point of order. But it seems to me that if there is any sense in the point of order that we are not allowed here to discuss an investigation by committees of this House, a parity of reasoning would apply to investigations by commissions. Now I come to the point of my hon. friend's motion. He says that because Judge Cassels owes his first duty, as he states himself, to his own court, this investigation has to be put off, and must be put off for some time. Sir, that is a point well taken ; the investigation by Judge Cassels has to be put off because Judge Cassels very properly insists that his first duty is to his court. My answer is this, that if Judge Cassels has not been permitted to proceed with the investigation because his first duty is to his own court, the fault is not with this government, but the fault is with my hon. friend and those who sit around him. Perhaps my statement will cause some wonder among hon. gentlemen opposite, and I see that there are some doubting Thomases on the other side. Let me give the evidence. We have had some correspondence with Judge Cassels on this point, and he pointed out to us at the very outset that he could not undertake to carry on this investigation unless he was provided with assistance to carry on the work of his court. On the 6th of April Judge Cassels addressed to me the following letter :

Ottawa, April G, 1908.

Dear Sir Wilfrid,-Your kind letter of April 3 instant was duly received. As mentioned to Mr. Aylesworth, the fact of my not having been consulted prior to my name being mentioned did not in the slightest degree cause me to think that I had been in any way slighted or treated discourteously. Possibly I should feel that some members of the press understood me better than I understand myself, but the fact, however, is as I have stated.

You ask me to give you my views of what provision should be made for the despatch of business in the Exchequer Court.

First. I think statutory provision should be conferred upon me to perform as judge the duties desired by parliament, and that provision should also be made for the disposal of the business before the court.

Second. As to the business of the court, my views are as follows : I would not make any suggestions had you not asked me to do so. During the last three weeks I have had occasion to acquire a fairly accurate notion of the work to be performed. The work of the Exchequer Court is increasing rapidly. At present no summons or order can be made unless signed by me, no cheque can be issued unless countersigned by me. The circuit engagements are necessarilv numerous.

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CON

George Taylor (Whip of the Conservative Party (1867-1942))

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TAYLOR.

I have this morning arranged a circuit commencing in May for the trial of actions in Toronto, Quebec, Charlottetown, St. John and Sydney. In September I must go to Winnipeg, and as far west as Victoria in order to try cases that may be ready for trial. It is obvious that while I am absent all procedure of an interlocutory nature must stand over, much to the annoyance and delay of suitors. I understand that the Minister of Justice proposes an amendment to the statute which will confer upon the registrar of the court authority to deal with chamber applications. This Act, if it becomes law, will help matters. A large number of cases to be tried are actions arising out of the expropriation of land by the government. The registrar of the court, Mr. Audette, has been registrar ever since the reorganization of the court in 1887. In the past few years he has, as referee, been performing judicial duties of a very important character, notably, in the matter of the winding up of the Quebec Southern Railway, and of the Baie des Chaleurs Railway; and it is only necessary to read his voluminous reports to appreciate his work. His work has, I think, been appreciated by the profession.

From his long experienoe in the court, Mr. Audette has acquired a very thorough knowledge of both law and practice. In cases of expropriation of land and numerous other forms of action against the Crown, especially in the province of Quebec, he is probably better qualified than I am, to sit in judgment. It would seem to me the best solution of the whole situation, having regard to the present business of the court and its increasing business, would be to appoint Mr. Audette deputy judge with all the powers I possess, If thought advisable, there could be an appeal in the usual way from his judgment to myself if the suitors so desired instead of going direct to the Supreme Court.

I would not make the suggestions contained in this letter had I not been asked to do so by yourself, but having given the subject a good deal of anxious consideration, and having a great desire to maintain the reputation of the court which under the presidency of the late judge it has obtained, I venture to put my views before you without, however, desiring to do more than make suggestions.

Believe me, dear Sir Wilfrid, Yours faithfully,

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WALTER CASSELS.


Now, Sir, In this letter, Judge Cassels, in answer to an inquiry from me as to the legislation we should enact in order to facilitate the business of the Court of Exchequer as well as the duties he is to discharge as commissioner investigating the Marine Department, made the suggestion that Mr. Audette should be given certain powers, and these powers given him, that is all he asked for. Now, if my hon. friend will look at the Order Paper, Item 12, he will find that that order is Bill (No. 116), which proposes to give even wider powers than is asked for in this letter of Judge Cassels.


CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

When was that Bill introduced ?

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Subtopic:   WALTER CASSELS.
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May 14, 1908