March 15, 1921

CON

Henry Lumley Drayton (Secretary of State of Canada; Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

I am not

going to say anything as to any personal knowledge I have as to the competency of the staff of the Auditor General. We are relying upon the Auditor General. In the main there have been but very few changes, but so far as the new appointments are concerned, the Government have received no complaint from the Auditor General as to their efficiency. But the publishing of the fourth volume of the Auditor General's report does not depend so much on the size of the staff, as upon whether the necessary information has come to hand. The Auditor General says Jae has not got all the information yet, and that he cannot get it before the end of the month.

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L LIB
CON

Henry Lumley Drayton (Secretary of State of Canada; Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

I do not

know that I can say that he is in default or not. If he has not the information, he cannot very well get on with that work. It must be remembered that the Auditor General is an entirely independent official. There has been no interference with him. On the other hand, he has been urged to get the report out. He reports that some information has not yet been received. He has to-day a task of infinitely greater difficulty than in pre-war days. The volumes are greater, and the weight of the burden is infinitely greater. Bjit even in pre-war days, when there was not quite as much reason for delay as there now is, hon. gentlemen then in charge of affairs thought

it would be a good thing that progress should be made with the Estimates as and when progress could be made. It was thought it would be a good thing that the reports of the Auditor General should be brought down from time to time'when they were ready. I note for example, that the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's is thus reported in Hansard of 1906, at page 6,126. There had been a discussion as to the advisability of bringing down the Auditor General's report in instalments, and this is what my hon. friend said:

In regard to the next session, the circumstances are so exceptional that we can hardly hope to have the ordinary blue books ready for the early part of the session. But, as to our practice generally, I think that the most that can be said is that, where there is a probability of delay in the presentation of the Auditor General's Report, it would be better to have it brought down in instalments.

But if in ordinary sessions there is likely to be delay in presenting the completed volume, and if the business of Parliament is likely to be retarded on that account, I think it would be better to present the report in instalments.

It would seem to me, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps the greatest charge against us is that we have followed not only the action but the advice of the hon. member; and, frankly, I do not think that we have committed any grave offence in doing so. The hon. member went on to say:

I think that an examination of the records will show that there has been little delay ip any case-the Auditor General's Report has been brought down within a few days of the time specified by law

If, in future, there i3 danger of delay which will impede the business of the House, I agree that the report should be brought down in instalments, because it is the basis of much of the business of the House.

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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

Had there been any complaint that the reports were delayed, to which this was a reply? It might be curious to know who was complaining at that time.

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CON

Henry Lumley Drayton (Secretary of State of Canada; Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

I much regret that owing to the fact that we have had somewhat hurriedly to prepare for this discussion I have had no opportunity of reading Hansard myself. I merely give to the House the extract from my hon. friend's remarks with which I have been furnished. Now, Mr. Speaker, what real difficulty is there? The public accounts have been tabled for some time-since the 8th March. We have already got the first three volumes of the * Auditor General's Report and they are very largely complete in themselves. They are not complete in so far as demobilization items are con-

cerned. The demobilization items are contained in volume 4, and it is because of those items that there is a delay in connection with that volume. The demobilization votes refer only to certain items in the Estimates. Militia and Defence, Labour, Justice, Marine and Fisheries, Agriculture and Privy Council, the report of the Soldiers' Settlement Board, and of the Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment Department, are contained in the fourth volume; and as the right hon. leader of the Government (Mr. Meighen) has pointed out, we are not now seeking to go into Supply in connection with any of those matters which are dealt with in volume 4. Almost the whole of the Estimates can be dealt with without the slightest reference to, or the slightest help from volume 4. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the objection is one calculated to delay the proceedings of the House, and it can serve no useful purpose.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

There is a discrepancy between the Prime Minister and myself in regard to some of the statistics given. In quoting for the year 1907, I wish my right hon. friend would mention the dates he has in connection with the presentation of reports that year. I find a difference between his dates and mine:

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CON
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

No, 1907-8.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The House met on November 28, 1907, Volume 1 was presented on November 29; Volume 2, on December 17; Volume 3 on November 28.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

When my right hon. friend spoke before, I did not think he gave November 28.

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CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

That was the date given; I took down the items as he read them.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Then his

figures are correct.

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L LIB

John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. J. H. SINCLAIR (Antigonish and Guysborough) :

I have listened with a

great deal of interest to the statements of the Minister of Finance and of my right hon. friend the Prime Minister, but no good reason has yet been given to the House why the Auditor General's report should not be on the Table. There is one fact that we must not lose sight of, and that is that owing to the change in the fiscal year all the items to be found in

the Auditor General's report, when presented, will be at least one year old. The Auditor General's report will give us information only up to the thirty-first day of March, 1920, and as it is now bordering on the thirty-first of March, 1921, all the items that will be contained in the Auditor General's report, when we receive it, were expended one year go. Consequently, there can be no fair argument, if the department is awake at all, why the report should not be placed on the table of the House, as required by law, within one week after the opening of the session. In the old days, when Parliament was supposed to meet in the autumn, the case was different. The Auditor General had only six or seven months to prepare his report. Under the present system, when we meet in February, he has practically a year in which to get his report ready. The Auditor General was a witness last year in an investigation before the Public Accounts Committee. He was asked why he delayed so long in preparing his report, and he gave very unsatisfactory answers. One of the questions asked him was this:

When was the first manuscript sent by you for that current year to the King's Printer to be printed?

What do you suppose was his answer? Now, it was his duty to begin the report immediately after the 31st of March of the previous year, and his answer was that it was on the 17th of November, 1919, that he sent in his first copy to the King's Printer. He appears to have slept for eight months after the close of the previous fiscal year before sending a line to the printer. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is unpardonable; it shows, for one thing, that the department is not doing its duty. I appreciate what the Minister of Finance says, that the Auditor General is a responsible officer and that no interference must be made with his duties. That is all right. But for that very reason, my hon. friend will not go so far as to say that he is not accountable to this Parliament. If the Auditor General decided not to send us his report at all, would Parliament stop sitting? Would it discontinue the consideration of expenditures altogether ? Surely that is not the intention of the law. While the Auditor General is a responsible officer and is supposed to look after the details of his own department free from interference, still the head of the department has a duty to perform; and if it is true that the Auditor General delays for six or seven months, or eight months, in sending his copy to the King's Printer to

be printed, until Parliament is to meet, then it is the duty of the Minister of Finance to draw this matter to his attention and to see to it that the department of the Auditor General does its work.

Now, my right hon. friend, if I heard him correctly, stated in his speech-which consisted largely of post mortems-that the details of the Estimates which the Government are now asking the House to deal with had already been presented to Parliament, and that he was not asking the House to deal with any Estimates that are not already detailed in the Auditor General's report. I think that was the substance of what he said. Now I have the Auditor General's report on my desk and I took occasion to look the matter upv From the Hansard report of last night's sitting I And that it was proposed to deal to-day with the Estimates of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice. Taking first the Department of Agriculture and referring to volume 1, of the Auditor General's report of this year, page A2, I find the item: Canada Food Board, $48,656.71. Now the Canada Food Board has always been a contentious matter; members of this House will want to know all the details of the expenditure in connection with it. And yet we are told that those details are set forth in part ZZ of volume 4 of the Auditor General's report. So much for the Department of Agriculture.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

There would be no

need of that item going on, or any expenditure connected with the Food Board, if hon. gentlemen opposite want it deferred.

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L LIB

John Ewen Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Antigonish and Guys-borough) :

I am speaking of the announcement as to the business to be taken up today which is contained in Hansard. According to Hansard my right hon. friend said that the Estimates for the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice were to be dealt with first.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

My point is this: If there is any item in the Auditor General's report which refers to something in the Estimates, and volume 4 of the report is necessary in connection with its discussion, that item can be deferred; there is lots of other work to do until the remainder of the Estimates for the Department of Agriculture.

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L LIB

John Ewen Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Antigonish and Guys-borough) :

I think it will be difficult for

my right hon. friend to find any item with which we can deal in that case.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Then why defer consideration?

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L LIB

John Ewen Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Antigonish and Guys-borough) :

I turn up the Auditor General's report containing items of expenditure in connection with the Department of Justice, which is volume 2, page L2, and at the foot of the page I find the sum of $1,644,168.28 as to which we are told the details are set out in volume 4. These are the two Departments whose estimates we are supposed to deal with to-day. Now I think my right hon. friend could not have been looking up the details of the expenditures when he made the announcement that the Estimates of these two Departments are set forth in the Auditor General's report, because the Estimates for both Departments contain items, and large items, which are detailed in volume 4 of the Auditor General's report. It has already been stated in the discussion which has so far taken place that the practice

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L LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland

Laurier Liberal

Hon. H. S. BELAND (Beauce) :

Will my hon, friend allow me just one word? I merely wish to remark that the consideration of certain items could, of course, be postponed, but last night when the House adjourned the Prime Minister, answering a question as to what business would be taken up to-day, spoke as follows:

Supply: Estimates of the Departments of Agriculture and Justice. If we get beyond that, we shall take up the other Government Orders.

The Prime Minister last night expected that we would pass all the Estimates of the Department of Agriculture to-day.

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March 15, 1921