April 17, 1928

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES


Third report of the select standing committee on railways and shipping owned, operated and controlled by the government-Mr. Goodison. Fourth report of the select standing committee on banking and commerce-Mr. Hay.



Report of the board of audit on the financial affairs of the Quebec harbour commission-Mr. Robb.


ST. LAWRENCE WATERWAY


CORRESPONDENCE, REPORT OF ADVISOR"? COMMITTEE AND REFERENCE TO SUPREME COURT


LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

I beg to lay on the table

correspondence between the governments of Canada and the United States in 1927-28 with respect to the St. Lawrence waterway project; the report of the international advisory committee, dated January, 1928, and observations thereupon by certain of its members, and orders in council referring to the Supreme Court of Canada certain questions as to water-power rights of the Dominion and the provinces. I must express to my hon. friend opposite (Mr. Bennett), and to the house, my regret that owing to the early adjournment last evening I was not in a position to table these papers as I had hoped to do. I fully expected to be present to table the documents, but the adjournment took place earlier than was anticipated. I wish to move, seconded by Mr. Robb:

That 2,500 copies in English and 1,500 copies in French of the St. Lawrence waterway project papers now tabled be printed forthwith, and that standing order 64 be suspended in relation thereto.

St. Lawrence Waterway

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition):

I quite appreciate the statement made by the right hon. the Prime Minister with respect to this matter, but I cannot but think that having regard to the circumstances that must have been present in his mind he might have tabled the documents at six o'clock before the house rose, for the press had them in their possession since the morning, although not to be used until later, as I understood at midnight; and the members of parliament might have been entrusted with the same documents at six o'clock or at eight o'clock at any rate. It is true the house adjourned rather earlier than was expected, but on the other hand the Prime Minister knew of his engagement and I am sure that if he had intimated that he would be absent from the house, they could have been laid on the table by one of his ministers at eight o'clock. I cannot think it is using parliament quite right to have these documents published in the newspapers and widely known to a very considerable number of people before we have any knowledge of them at all. I hardly think that is consistent with the dignity of the house. I do not, however, for a moment think that the Prime Minister wittingly adopted that method of dealing with documents intended for the information of the house.

The motion with respect to the printing of the documents enables me to say something further in connection with another matter of the same kind. Not long since, a document was published in a Toronto paper before it became known at all to the members of this house. I understand that the explanation of it is that the commissioner who made the report gave a copy of it to the newspaper thereby enabling it to be printed. That is, it seems to me, a very reprehensible practice and one that this house should not at all sanction. A report that is to be laid upon the table of the house should not be given to the newspapers until such time as it has been tabled. The adoption of a contrary course is really an insult to members of parliament. I investigated this matter at the time, and my information led me to conclude that the government was not to blame, but rather the commissioner who made the report. I think that principle is quite wrong. Certainly members of parliament should enjoy as much latitude in connection with matters of this kind as the press of the country.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

May I say

that I agree entirely with my hon. friend in all that he has said as to the procedure which should be followed, but I think the house will

see in a moment that it was a pure accident that hon. members did not receive these documents last night as was anticipated. In the first place as to the press having copies of the correspondence, my hon. friend knows that with respect to important documents of any length it is sometimes the practice to give copies in advance to the press on the undertaking that they will not be released until a certain time. In connection with the correspondence between the United States and Canada on the St. Lawrence waterway project the understanding was that the press in both countries should receive the documents on Monday at the latest, and the Canadian Press on Saturday night, but that the press summaries of the documents were only to be released for Tuesday morning's papers-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

After midnight.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Yes, the purpose being to enable the Canadian Press and the Associated Press to send full despatches and obviate the necessity of individual correspondents telegraphing lengthy communications to their respective papers. It was intimated to me by members of the press gallery that in the case of these papers it would not be advisable to confine the copies that were being given out to the Canadian Press, but that they should be given to all the members of the gallery on the understanding that they would not be released in any case until after the adjournment of the house on Monday night. This was agreed to and I have every reason to believe that the members of the press in that particular have kept faith with the government.

As to tabling the papers at six o'clock, Imay say to my hon. friend that I had themin my desk and the thought entered my mind to table them at the hour mentioned when I recalled a conversation I had had with respect to the hour of tabling and mention of the- fact that what would be regarded as an early hour here was still earlier in some parts of the western states and western Canada, and that it would be breaking faithwith others to allow any of the afternoon

papers to receive in advance any intimation at all of what was in the documents. Therefore I deliberately refrained from carrying out the thought I had at the moment of tabling the papers at six o'clock.

Now as to the events of the evening, I fully expected to be in the house not later than half-past nine. As a matter of fact I was in the house by twenty minutes of ten. In the interval, however, the house had adjourned and I had no alternative but to defer tabling the papers until to-day.

Federal District Commission

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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

I should like to ask the. Prime Minister a question. Could he not have intrusted the leader of the opposition and the leader of hon. members to the left of Mr. Speaker with copies of the correspondence on the same terms as in the case of the press?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I should have been very happy to do so, had I thought my hon. friend might have wished to have the documents in advance. Another time I shall perhaps profit by this experience and see that he gets them a little in advance. As a matter of fact the documents were in my desk in the house and had it been anticipated that adjournment was to take place when it did some of my colleagues might readily have opened the desk and tabled the papers before the house adjourned. I think however everyone now has full information in the form in which it will be found most accessible.

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CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHURCH:

Will an opportunity be

given to resume the adjourned debate on this question?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

With respect to debates to be brought up in the house we shall have to follow the rules.

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Motion agreed to.


RAILWAYS AND SHIPPING


On motipn of Mr. W. T. GOODISON (West Lambton), the third report of the select standing committee on railways and shipping owned, operated and controlled by the government, was concurred in.


MILITIA PENSION ACT AMENDMENT


Hon. J. L. RALSTON (Minister of National Defence) moved the third reading of Bill No. 197, to amend the Militia Pension Act. Motion agreed to and bill read the third time and passed. [DOT]


LOWER EAR FALLS STORAGE DAM

April 17, 1928