July 23, 1917

CON
LIB
CON
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

In that case, are we to understand that the principle of direct responsibility for the actions, and the results of the actions of the grain supervisors-, is accepted?

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

Absolutely. My hon. friend has argued in a queer circle. He makes himself, in the first place, one of the farmers of the country, for the sake of argument. Suppose there are a thousand farmers in our country who are effected, the Crown has the property of that thousand farmers. The farmers are interested in knowing that they get a reasonable price and that their interests are protected. By what method could you put that thousand farmers into any room, and keep them there, where they could see everything that was done and ascertain whether or not their interests were protected? The farmers select representatives, and the representatives come to this House, and the representatives have their powers. They put Governments in, and put Governments out. The Governments have certain executive things to do. They undertake an executive action. It is impossible to have 224 members of this House in any room, in any place, at any time, and at all times where the Government is carrying out that executive action? It would be just as impossible for the farmers to be in attendance. There is only one way, under representative democratic government: that is that the farmers should hold their representatives responsible, and the representatives hold the Government responsible, and the Government cannot break its chain of responsibility by appointing a body of men and saying to them with reference to this particular work: go ahead and do it. Of course, the Government is responsible. As to the common sense of the thing, does my hon. friend think that 14, 16 or 18 members of this Government, or of any Government that you might have at Ottawa, is the proper party, around the council table, to

decide and carry out such action as that contemplated here? The most abstruse questions come before council for investigation. Difficult questions have to be studied continuously, and must be studied by men who understand the questions, who will stay with the job, and who understand how to carry out the job. Therefore, when this question was taken up by the Government, it was clearly impossible that they could sit round the Council table and decide these matters, and keep themselves, day by* day and hour by hour, possessed of the information which would enable them to act wisely and properly. They did the best they could. They selected a body of men who they thought, possessed the knowledge, the honesty, and the probity, and they appointed them to do that work. My hon. friend would find greater cause for criticism if he came into the House and elicited from me the information that these men could fix no price and take no action whatever unless they first secured the approval of the Government. But my hon. friend has on hundreds of occasions in the House said that he has not the least bit of faith in this Government or any member of it. He thinks they would jew the country, jew the Liberal party, do anything at all under God's heaven in order to get ahead of the poor, beleaguered Opposition.

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LIB
CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

What a splendid chance it would be for my hon. friend if we had tied up that commission, saying to them: Before you pull a string you must come to Ottawa and consult us as to whether you shall pull it or not; there is a chap out there by the name of Frank Oliver; you wind him up by taking his grain, some way or other. That is what my hon. friend, because of his view of the calibre and quality of this Government, would think that we would be disposed to do. We did not want to do that. We want my hon. friend s grain to get just as good a chance as , anybody else's. Therefore, we get the men, tell them to do the work-and we keep our hands, off them. If they act in such a way that it is a scandal and a harm to the country, we can cut the strings and their powers instantly cease. That ought to satisfy my hon. friend; indeed, I believe that it does satisfy him, but he will not admit that it does.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I am satisfied that the position taken by the minister in the earlier stages of this discussion has been definitely

abandoned by him. We are now given to understand that the Government is responsible for the acts of the board of grain supervisors.

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

I never said any-* thing else, did I?

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LIB
CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

I expressed myself badly if the hon. member got that idea from my remarks.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Then it was because of my misunderstanding my hon. friend that I have taken up so much of the time of the committee in securing from him the very clear statement that he has just made. I suggest the importance of having the_ position definitely stated. This board can commandeer all the grain in Canada at any price they like.

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CON
LIB
CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

They can do just what they have power to do under this order in council. They can go as far as the place of storage, but they cannot go into a farmer's yard, grain bin, or anything of the kind. Unless the farmer who raises the grain gets it into the elevator the board are not, under these powers, in possession of any string on it. That is quite different from being able to commandeer all the grain in Canada.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I misstated the case when I said all the grain. But all the grain in storage in Canada they can sell at any price they please, and the owner must accept that price. I recall that a couple of years ago, at the direct instance of the Government, some 15,000,000 bushels of grain * were commandeered in the terminal elevators at Fort William. I recall the difficulties that arose out of that commandeering, and I wanted to have absolutely fixed the responsibility for whatever may take place when similar action is taken, if it ever is taken, by the board of grain supervisors. Let us not make any mistake; we are giving our assent here to power that is of the most extraordinary and far-reaching character. While we agree that under certain circumstances and conditions it may be proper to exercise that power, there may be very wide differences of opinion as to its merit at the time it is exercised. I wanted, therefore, at this time and in this place to have fixed absolutely the respon-2354

sibility which my hon. friend has officially and in express terms assumed.

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CON
CON
CON

Samuel Francis Glass

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GLASS:

The despatch says that the Food Administration Bill of the United States passed on Saturday last-

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CON

July 23, 1917