WARBURTON (Queens, Prince Edward Island) moved that the Public Accounts for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1909, and volumes I. and III. 'of the report of the Auditor General for the same period, be referred to the Committee on Public Accounts.
Mr. HAUGHTON LENNOX (South Sim-coel. Before that motion is put I wish to direct the attention of this House to the advisability of making some change in our method of procedure in the Public Accounts Committee. There is no member of this House, whether he be a member of the Public Accounts Committee or not, who has not some knowledge of the very great difficulty experienced in getting at the information which the public of this country require in relation to the Public Accounts of Canada. There is no member of this House who. aside from political considerations, would hesitate to admit that in certain cases our investigations are not as full as thev ought to be and that we do not get at the true state of the facts to
the extent we should. The opposition which we who investigate axe met with [DOT]from time to time by certain gentlemen in the House is one conspicuous cause of the failure to elicit the facts. In the years that have gone by it is true we have been able to divulge very startling conditions in reference to the public expenditure of Canada, but I venture to think, and I believe most people in Canada who follow the trend of public affairs think, that we are only on the threshold of all that could be divulged did we have the proper facilities to elicit it. I would be glad to feel-and for the present I will assume, and the subsequent attitude which the government takes will show whether I am justified or not- I would be glad to feel that the government is as anxious as are the members of the opposition that full light should be thrown on the circumstances surrounding the expenditure of public moneys. Following a time honoured precedent the hon. gentleman (Mr. Warburton) has to-day moved that the Public Accounts and 'the Auditor General's Report for the year ending March 31 be referred to the Public Accounts Committee for investigation.
Now, what I propose, Mr. Speaker, is that we 'should have a wider range; that instead of referring the public accounts merely for the year ending the 31st March last and the Auditor General's Report for the same period, we should Tefer at least two ; years of the public accounts to that committee. I do this for various reasons, one of which is that it is the Public Accounts and the Auditor General's Report for the year ending 31st March last which give the true bearing of certain items in the accounts of the year preceding. Therefore as it should be the object of every member of this House to get at the true state of the facts in the most expeditious manner possible, it is important that we should be able, after these accounts have come in, to go back to the preceding year and avail ourselves of the information afforded by the subsequent transactions in connection with the same item. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that many hon. gentlemen who believe they -are acting in the interest of their party set themselves deliberately to block the investigation which is going on, impelled by the belief that if they can prevent it for one year it will be dropped altogether. The matter comes up within a few weeks of prorogation, and they will not allow the investigation to proceed rapidly; they take all the technical and captious objections possible, with the result that very little information is elicited during the balance of the session; and when we come to another session we are confronted with the statement: You cannot go into that, because the only public accounts referred to the committee are those of the year ended the 31st of March last. If the public ac-Mr. LENNOX.
counts of the two years w7ere referred, to the committtee, we would not be met with that difficulty, because these hon. gentlemen would realize, contrary to what they believe now, that we could not be blocked altogether in our investigations. It may be suggested that it would be rather unfortunate if the committee went back to investigate not the public accounts of last year, but those of the year before. To that I reply that no hon. member of this House is going to ask the committee to investigate for two years back, unless there is some good reason for doing it. It is said that there are no birds in last year's nests, and we realize that in the majority of cases our best work is done on the recent accounts; but there are a great many cases in which light can be thrown on a transaction on which the public should be informed if the rule did not confine us to one year's accounts, but gave us liberty to investigate the accounts ot two years. I had intended to move an amendment to this motion, but I have decided not to do so on this occasion. I have listened, not always with approval, to the remarks of hon. gentlemen opposite in regard to long sessions. I have tried to believe, but have not succeeded in believing, that these hon. gentlemen are sincere in the ideas which suggest these remarks. Any one who reads the records of this House will, on a careful study of this matter, come to the conclusion, that the evidence is not strong that the government is sincere in desiring short sessions. If we want to have short sessions combined with efficiency of investigation, we will adopt the suggestion I make. If hon. gentlemen desire to have the time of the Public Accounts Committee used to advantage, and a rule broad enough to enable us to work effectively without having to make special applications to the House, they will agree to the suggestion I make, and say that in years to come, as long at any rate as this government is in power-and I think I can promise that when we get into power in the near future, we shall be quite willing to continue the rule-we shall have the right, without making any special motion in the House, to investigate the public accounts and the Auditor General's Report for at least two years whenever any hon. gentleman of this House deems it in the public interest that such an investigation should be made.