May 26, 1908

LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

It would not be proper that my hon. friend who is a member of the government should block either in council or in parliament a proposition to enact a law which is in the interest of the people of Canada. The law in regard to cold storage companies was discussed in this House, it was adopted without opposition and with perfect unanimity in this House. I* supposed therefore that hon. gentlemen opposite were in full concurrence with the spirit and scope of that fact. That Act was to encourage people of Canada to enter into the enterprise of establishing cold storage, a thing which my hon. friend the Alinister of Militia was desirous to encourage just like the rest of us. He was himself advocating that a company should be formed for that purpose. I contend that he was perfectly justified and called upon as the representative of the county which he represents in Nova Scotia, as a representative of the province of Nova Scotia, to aid and help on any such scheme which would be in the interests of the fruit growers and other agriculturists of Nova Scotia as well as the rest of Canada.

Now to come down more particularly to the details of this transaction. As far as Mr. Williams' application to the Department of Marine and Fisheries are concerned, I know nothing, I knew nothing at the time.

I am reminded that Air. Williams came to me and spoke about the cold storage question and that he was told that the cold storage question was going to assume a new phase because the government were preparing a new law in regard to bonuses for cold storage. I remember meeting Mr. Williams and having a talk of that kind. Mr. Williams thereafter made no personal or straight application to me whatever until the letter which has been quoted by the hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster). I received that letter asking for information.

I gave him the information and I wrote identically the same letter to Mr. Williams and to Mr. 'Macoun on the very same date, each of them having written to me asking for information. I sent each of them exactly the same information, being copies of the ' Hansard ' containing the debates in this House on the Cold Storage Bill. They were therefore in exactly the same position as far as I was concerned, treated exactly as I would treat anybody else who would make application to me for information in regard to a matter in my department or with which I was concerned. The hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster) read the letter addressed to Air. Williams but did not read identically the same letter written

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the same day by my secretary and signed by me and addressed to Mr. Macoun. I treated them both in exactly the same way. Mr. Williams some time afterwards wrote me a letter on the 8th of April. The first letter was on the 13th December, 1900. On April 8, 1907, Mr. Williams wrote me a letter in which he gave me a lot of information which I confess I did not value very much because it seemed to me to be tinged with the imputation that he was being badly treated and I confess that I did not know of anything to justify any such implication and I did not feel prepared to treat him any way ^differently from anybody else. That letter was replied to on April 11. In my reply I acknowledged his letter and said : We have not yet made any grant for cold storage warehouses in St. John. Sir Frederick has made application on behalf of a company with which he is connected, and I have viewed hiis application very favourably. None of the applications, however, are in a .position to be passed upon absolutely. I cannot make any promises without definite plans and specifications, and full information as to what the people applying for may be prepared to do. In other words, I gave Mr. Williams the full statement and information on that occasion that no consideration could be given to him unless he gave full plans and specifications. He got just the same information as anybody else. In the meantime I referred to the conversations I had had with Sir Frederick Borden, my colleague, in which he had been talking about the larger scheme and had said that he hoped a company would be formed for the purpose of taking up his cold storage scheme in St. John, Halifax and other places. I confess I used the words rather loosely in saying that he was connected with the company. I meant ' by that a company in which he was interested as a public man and ought to be interested. I say it without hesitation and I say it absolutely sincerely and with truth. At the same time I was prepared to treat Williams fairly and squarely just like anybody else. As the correspondence has been quoted I need not go over it completely. Mr. Graham wrote and spoke about an interview with Williams on the 3rd of June. Mr. Williams wrote me a letter complaining of his treatment and casting aspersions and imputations on me and the government for our treatment of him in comparison with our treatment of Sir Frederick Borden. In that letter he wanted to know whether it would be worth his while to get plans and specifications ready to submit to me. I was away in England when that letter was received and my deputy answered him : In the absence of the minister, I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 3rd instant in reference to cold storage warehouses. If you will submit your application it will receive due consideration. That letter was dated 7th June, 1907. An application was received with full specifications and in full and proper form from Mr. Graham, dated 11th June, 1907. That application was held in my department until September. The contract with him was not signed until November and when I came back from England I asked my deputy minister whether he had received any further communication from Mr. Williams. I waited from June until November-five months for Mr. Williams to take further steps in accordance with the information I had given him of what would be necessary for him to do exactly the same information that I had given to Mr. Macoun and Mr. Graham as to what was necessary for them to do. It was not until after five months, when, having no further communication of any kind from Mr. Williams, 1 eventually signed a contract with Mr. Graham for a cold storage warehouse in St. John. I knew Mr. Graham as a man thoroughly well informed on cold storage questions and as one likely to make a cold' storage plant and building and business a success. I learned that he had transferred his interest to a company called the New Brunswick Cold Storage I-imited, and that he was president of that company. I also learned that Mr. George McAvity, of St. John, the well known and enterprising merchant, was vice-president, that Mr. Macoun was secretary-treasurer, that Mr. Richard Trueman was a director and so was Mr., H. R. Ross, a gentleman well known in business circles in St. John, men upon whom I could depend, if I made a contract with them, to carry out that contract. The directors sent forward a pesolution stating that they took over and accepted the responsibilities Mr. Graham had assumed in making his application. When the Bill was passed in this House to encourage cold storage equipment, it was well understood that a cold storage plant was dependent on business to be obtained from those producing what we call perishable food products, and that it was very important that these plants should be placed so ns to get the business in fruit, meat, eggs, butter, cheese or fish, and that there would be no use in a cold storage equipment unless it had connections or surroundings that would give it business. That is one great reason why St. John was looked upon as a place particularly suitable for a cold storage plant, and it was one reason why I had no hesitation in giving the bonus to a company undertaking to put a cold storage plant there. St. John is situated very favourably not only for the business of the Nova Scotia fruit exporters hut also for the business of the Ontario and Quebec fruit exporters who send a large quantity of their fruit down to the seaboard in the fall so as to allow

it to be exported! in the winter when the prices are better and they can gain greater profits than they would if they were compelled to place their fruit on the market in the fall of the year. The people who undertook to provide the cold storage equipment at St. John were in a position to carry on the work, having the necessary connections and being men of substantial means and the highest character. Therefore, I had no hesitation in granting them the subsidy.

The contract was signed and the building was put up. My cold storage commissioner examined the plant carefully and reported to me favourably on the construction and equipment. Over and above his official report, he stated to me that those who own the building got good value for their money and that he was surprised that they were able to put up such a building and equip it so well for the amount of the contract.; on which they were getting the bonus. My hon. friend from fit John (Mr. Daniel) asked if the company got an additional bonus or made an additional contract. They did not; the original contract was the only one.

I have been told by Mr. Macoun that they were going to make application for an additional amount because the building and equipment had cost more than the sum on which the bonus was given, but I received no official communication concerning it and no additional contract has been made. If an application comes in, it will be dealt with in the ordinary way of business; if the company shows cause for the additional demand I shall feel justified in conceding it; if they cannot show cause, if they cannot show that they have expended the money and that the expenditure was necessary for the equipment and the building in order to carry on the business in St. John, there will not be an additional contract or additional subvention. The hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster) said that a greater contract was given than had been usual in the Department of Marine and Fisheiies. I do not know in what sense he meant that. Under the old system of the Department of Marine and Fisheries the contractors get half the cost of their building and a bonus of $2,000 a year for three years. Under the present contract and under the present Act. the New Brunswick Cold Storage Company receive only thirty per cent of the cost of their building and no yeaily bonus. I think it is a very much better contract for the country therefore, and I am glad of it and proud of it. I want to add just one word. I do not know, nor does it matter from my point of view as administrator of the Cold Storage Act, whether this company is getting a bonus from the city of St. John or the provincial government of New Brunswick or not. The Act does not say who shall supply the money or contemplate any investigation into how the people who build and equip

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHRR.

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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CON

George William Fowler

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOWLER.

I propose to address a few remarks to the House.

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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CON

Haughton Lennox

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LENNOX.

The hon. gentleman could talk until six o'clock, and then move the adjournment of the debate.

that1' 1 have no objection to

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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CON

George William Fowler

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOWLER.

I understood the Minister of Agriculture to say that the only way in which the Minister of Militia and Defence was interested in this matter was from his public position, he was interested as a public man in anything that would make for the general welfare of the trade of the country. Is that correct ?

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

I said that so far as the Minister of Militia had undertaken to start a large company, the name of which I mentioned, in Nova Scotia, a company that was in the public interest, and that would incidentally require cold storage accommodation, the Minister of Militia was in that way interested in the cold storage accommodation.

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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CON

George William Fowler

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOWLER.

I propose to call the attention of the minister to the particular letter which he wrote, the contents of which he must have forgotten, or he would not have said what he did with respect to the interest of the Minister of Militia. This letter of his is dated the 11th of April, 1907, and is addressed to Mr. Williams, who was a rival applicant with the Minister of Militia for the subsidy to the cold storage plant in St. John. He says :

I may say that we have not yet made any grant for a cold storage warehouse in St. John. Sir Frederick Borden has made an application on behalf of a company which he is connected-

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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LIB

Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. FISHER.

I read that-not in which he is interested.

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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CON

George William Fowler

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOWLER.

' With which he is connected.' Surely that' would imply something more than a mere interest which a public man takes in anything that is going to advance the trade of the country. If the construction of the Minister of Agriculture be correct, that it was merely the interest which he as a public man was taking in all matters relating to trade, then it would apply to every member of this House, because we are all supposed to take an interest, I think most of us do take an interest in anything which pertains to the welfare of the country.

-and I have viewed his application very favourably.

So I think that even on the correspondence and on the statement of the Minister of Militia himself, we must conclude that the interest which he had in this particular transaction was much more intimate and much more individual than the interest which he took as a public man in that which pertained to the well being of the country. Now it may be said that there was no particular objection to that, it may be said that no particular advantage was obtained by the Minister of Militia on account of his position in relation to the Minister of Agriculture as a colleague, the Minister of Agriculture having the granting of this subsidy. We had two rival applicants. We had an application by a man named Williams, of St. John, a man who was in the meat and produce business, a man of high standing in St. John, doing a large business, an influential Liberal, too, a man of the same political stripe as the Minister of Militia and the Minister of Agriculture. He had therefore, from a business standpoint, quite as good a standing as had the Minister of Militia and the friends by whom he was surrounded. From a party standpoint, one would think that he would have pretty nearly as good standing. He would have not quite so good opportunities of getting the ear of the Minister of Agriculture, perhaps, as the Minister of Militia would have. Naturally there would be things that the

Minister of Agriculture would want in the Department of Militia, and the Minister of Militia could very well say to the Minister of Agriculture, If you want certain things done-we will say with reference to that regiment down in the eastern townships for which the Minister of Agriculture stands as godfather, the 13th Dragoons, I think it is, the Dundonald regiment-it might very well be that certain privileges, certain advantages that this particular regiment belonging to the Minister of Agriculture would require, might be more easily got provided the Minister of Agriculture was willing to make concessions to the Minister of Militia for things which he required. So from the necessities of the Minister of Agriculture; and remembering the opportunity that the Minister of Militia had for taking advantage of these necessities, poor Mr. Williams, of St. John, deserving Liberal though he might be, is naturally turned down, and the concession is granted to the company in which the Minister of Militia, and a very close relative of his, are the moving spirits.

I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.

Topic:   SUPPLY-AMENDMENTS TO THE CRIMINAL CODE.
Subtopic:   R. J. GRAHAM.
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Motion agreed to. House adjourned at six o'clock.



Friday, May 29, 1908.


May 26, 1908