Hon. HUGH GUTHRIE (South Wellington) :
Mr. Speaker, in the first place may I be permitted to congratulate the house on the fact that the new forty minute rule is in operation for the first time during the course of a budget debate. I am one of those who had an opportunity of listening to a great many budget debates in this house, and I express it as my opinion that the new rule is working well, and that taking the general average, the quality of the speeches delivered since this debate began has been higher than that observable in previous debates. There has been more of concentration on the part of hon. members; they have been far more concise in their remarks, and I think the speeches which have been delivered from every quarter of the house have produced a better effect generally than those which we have been accustomed to hear in former sessions. I heartily support the new rule in every respect, Sir.
Since time is limited one cannot attempt to do more than touch lightly upon some of the many aspects of the budget as presented to parliament this session. I think in some ways the method of presenting the budget in this house is open to objection; there is room for a good deal of improvement. The nop-disclosure of so many important matters by the Minister of Finance may lead, in many instances, and does lead, to improper conclusions being drawn in regard to the actual financial position of the Dominion of Canada at present. No one could gather from the budget speech or from the public accounts which have been laid on
the table that the most important financial commitment of this country to-day is in respect of the Canadian National Railways. It far transcends in magnitude and importance all other conditions or circumstances in connection with our national finances. Yet in the budget speech offered by my hon. friend the Minister of Finance a few days ago, only one brief paragraph is devoted to matters pertaining to the finances of the Canadian National Railways. It is true that in a single sentence the minister announced that during the past year there had been an issue of guaranteed bonds by the railway company to the amount of $65,000,000. Apart from that brief announcement there is nothing to lead either the members of this house or the people of Canada to realize that the most important financial commitments of Canada to-day are in respect to the railway system owned by the Dominion. Now my suggestion is that a financial statement of Canada should furnish fuller information in regard to the financial position of the national railway system than anything we have before us at the present time. The Minister of Finance contents himself with producing a general balance sheet of the Dominion, but that is only one page of the ledger. Side by side with that general annual balance sheet should be a balance sheet, in concise form if necessary, of the Canadian National railway system; and if both pages of the ledger were produced side by side the people of Canada, as well as the members of this house, could form a better conclusion as to the real condition of our finances than is to be derived either from the budget speech or the public accounts which was laid on the table a few days ago. I do not suggest that the Minister of Finance is either the author or the originator of the present system. My suggestion to my hon. friend the minister is simply that on the next occasion on which he is called upon to make a financial statement in this house he will see to it that the most important financial commitments of this country be not disregarded, but be laid, with some elaboration, before parliament in order that hon. members may be able to realize the exact situation. After all. we all understand that this Dominion constitutes but a single political entity. There is but one government. It is true there are many departments of that government, but the departments of government are all intimately corelated and all thoroughly interdependent. There is but one common head, one common fund, one common liability, and one common responsibility. Indeed I think I might say in the language of the Apostle Paul: While there are many members there
The Budget-Mr. Guthrie
is but one body. " The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee. Nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. And whether one member suffer all the members suffer with it." So it is with the government of Canada, responsibility of every public department finally rests in the body politic, which is the government itself.
Now this year's budget contains, perhaps, one notable feature. Since the last session of parliament the Minister of Finance has undertaken to have an audit of his departmental accounts by a firm of chartered accountants, and for the first time, I think, we find in the public accounts to-day a certificate from a firm of chartered accountants to say, that for the years 1924, 1925, 1926 and 1927 they have examined the public accounts of Canada and have found them to be correct. But
there is in that same certificate an express reservation in regard to the railroad liabilities of the Dominion. That is to be noted, Mr. Speaker, and it is likewise to be noted that the audit is only extended over four years. Now during the course of the present debate the Minister of Finance was asked as to how he came to have an audit of his accounts made^ by chartered accountants, and in reply he said that he had seen a speech of mine in the newspapers, and had sent that speech to a firm of chartered accountants in Montreal and asked them for an audit-I do not know whether it was an audit of my speech or of the public accounts of Canada. Well I want to tell the Minister of Finance that 1 have no complaint against the public accounts of Canada. I have no quarrel with this audit even. I have always accepted the public accounts as genuine and correct and I have never challenged them. What I have challenged on more than one occasion are ministerial statements made in this house and in the country in respect of those public accounts. And when ministerial statements do not agree with the public accounts I have always sided with the Auditor General and submitted that the public accounts were correct and the ministerial statements which disagreed with them were incorrect. Now if my hon, friend the Minister of Finance desires to send speeches to a firm of chartered accountants, I would suggest to him that instead of sending my speeches he send some speeches of his own and ask the accountants to make a report upon them. I refer specifically, for the information of the Minister of
Finance who is now in his seat, to the speech which he delivered in this chamber on April 10, 1924 and in which he made this statement :
These two amounts, totalling $9,622,760.37, together with $20,786,349 surplus of revenue over total expenditures, reduce our net public
$30 409 109^37IarC^ hy the amount of
That statement was made in this house. It appears in unrevised Hansard in these words, it apears in revised Hansard in the same words, and in a special edition of his speech prepared at the instance of the Minister of Finance and sent broadcast through the Dominion. I maintain the minister's statement is not correct, and if the minister will read his own statement and turn to the public accounts of his own department he will find that instead of having a surplus of 830,000,000 odd on March 31, 1923, the public accounts disclose that there was a deficit of approximately $31,000,000. Now let him send his speech to the chartered accountants and let them report upon it. I will grant you it is probably a mistake on the part of the Minister of Finance; he has probably made a slip.
Subtopic: DEBATE ON ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF FINANCE