Mr. Speaker, of course the right hon. leader of the Opposition can talk either about sewer gas or angels' wings and impute to me knowledge concerning those things, but it is not fair on his part to say that I claim all knowledge concerning the business of the British Columbia salmon canners. I did not say any such thing, and I am not going to allow him to make any such implication. It is not worthy of him.
If I sit down now and the hon. gentleman sticks to his admission, the government will have to recede. Now, the minister tries to make the House believe that it was some conditional expression oi view that his department made last December; that there was some expression of opinion by officers of his department that, as this report was merely temporary or interim, they would not feel themselves bound by it, and that in the face of such a conditional expression of view they were quite justified in March of this year in declaring that the final report would be put into effect. Have I misstated in the slightest degree, have I coloured in any way, what the minister said? The minister took good care not to read the undertaking given. This was an undertaking given by his department in response to an inquiry by business men in order that they might know how they should address themselves to the task of making their engagements for this year. If it was not of an}' importance, why would they have made the inquiry? Did they make it just for the fun of sending the telegram? It was because it was of business consequence to them; surely every hon. member will admit that-unless he wants to sit above and in judgment over them and declare that he knows their business better than they. The answer given to the inquiry by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, sent from Ottawa on December 23, was as follows:
No action will be taken on commission's report that will affect next season, therefore existing regulations and policy, including reduction in oriental licenses decided upon last June, will govern industry next year.
The minister would lead the House to believe that in the face of that pledge, as direct, as unequivocal, as inescapable a pledge as ever a department gave or ever a man gave, he is free now to tell these people that the regulations will be changed; that there will be not a 10 per cent reduction as fixed for this year, but a 40 per cent reduction, notwithstanding anything they may have done on the faith of that telegram.
long enough to bring the commissioner himself to an understanding of the argument, I am afraid I shall impose upon the House. All my efforts so far have been in vain so far as he is concerned, but perhaps that is a credit to my efforts after all. Well, having received that pledge from the department, they ask for confirmation. Here is what they get in reply to their wire:
Your understanding re reduction oriental licenses including trolling correct. Oriental licenses district 2 are to be attached. Reduction to each cannery to be made on number employed this year, preference being given returned soldiers and residents who are bona fide fishermen.
W. A. Found.
Mr. Found, I understand, is Superintendent of Fisheries in the department. So that two leading officers in this department-for whose words and whose undertakings the minister takes responsibility now, and rightly so; he places himself in the position of having signed these telegrams himself-give that assurance to these people, on the faith of which they act. They now come to the government and say. You declare to us that you are not going to abide by that promise; you declare you are going to put into effect a forty per cent reduction. Does the question as to the rightness of the forty per cent reduction come in? Is that an issue now? No hon. gentleman, except possibly one, would ever suggest it was. The other parties to the contract come and say: As the result of the pledge you gave us we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars; if you break that pledge, we are heavy losers. Now, is it the right of this House to judge whether they are losers or not? Is it the right of the government? I ask the hon. Acting Minister of Railways (Mr. Graham) or any member of the government this: Suppose he made a contract with a second party and after the second party had solemnly agreed to the undertaking the minister went ahead to carry it out. Suppose he got his operations well under way and the other party came and said: I cannot abide by the contract; I am going to break it here and now-would he think he had the right or the other party had the right to say whether he was damaged or not? Let us
British Columbia Fisheries
put the government to the test? Will this government undertake to stand liable for the damages to the British Columbia fisheries if they are established before the Exchequer Court? Will the government in this debate undertake to make themselves liable for any damage these men prove they have suffered as the result of the breach of contract by the administration?
Let them establish it, if they can, before the Exchequer Court of Canada; and if they do, will this government pay the damages? Unless they are ready to make that undertaking, then all the talk they have given us in this debate is just so much froth.
Order. Hon. members must always ask leave of the hon. member who has the floor before interrupting him to put a question. The only interruption provided for in the mass of precedents is sometimes a mild " hear, hear."