April 25, 1929

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES


Tenth report of select standing committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines.-Mr. Cahill. Sixth report of select standing committee on miscellaneous private bills.-Mr. Parent.


NEW WESTMINSTER POST OFFICE

LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. FERNAND RINFRET (Secretary of State):

I desire to lay on the table of the

house copies of letters, documents, and so on from the file of the Civil Service Commission concerning the appointment of a stenographer at New Westminster.

Topic:   NEW WESTMINSTER POST OFFICE
Permalink

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE


Mr. GEORGE PARENT, Quebec West, (for Mr. Jacobs) presented the second report of the select standing committee on public accounts as follows: The select standing committee on public accounts beg leave to present the following as their second report: Your committee now have under consideration certain items contained in the Auditor General's report for the fiscal year _ ending March 31st, 1928, as referred to the =aid committee. It is deemed advisable by your committee that certain other items which are contained in the Auditor General's report for the previous year also be taken under consideration. Your committee therefore recommend that the Auditor General's report for the fiscal year ending March 31st, 1927, be referred to the said committee.


CON

Charles William Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. C. W. BELL (West Hamilton):

Mr. Speaker, there is an apparent misunderstanding in connection with this report.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB
CON

Leslie Gordon Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL (Hamilton):

I am not opposing the motion, Your Honour. The hon. member for Quebec West (Mr. Parent) is making this motion in place of the chairman of the committee, the hon. member for Cartier (Mr. Jacobs). When the committee was in session yesterday I made two motions, and I think the hon. member for Quebec West has not quite grasped the import of what took place.

The first motion was for the production of material in connection with the Matane dredging contract. This matter dealt with items from the Auditor General's reports of 1924, 1925 and 1926, and it was then suggested that without leave of the house it would not be possible to have the reports for those three years taken up.

The second motion was in relation to the Beauchemin library, and dealt with extracts from the Auditor General's reports for the years 1926, 1927 and 1928.

In view of the fact that information is sought in regard to these matters, and the files relating to entries appearing in the Auditor General's report for those respective years are asked for, it was thought, that the house should be requested to refer to that committee all of the entries and all the files relating to the various years. The hon. member for Cartier undertook to bring that matter up and place it before the house. I am quite satisfied that that was his intention but he has been unexpectedly called away, and I am asking now that the hon. member for Quebec West place the matter before the house.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Under the circumstances,

I think the motion had better stand.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
CON

Leslie Gordon Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BELL (Hamilton):

May I draw this

to your attention, Mr. Speaker: My information from the hon. member for Cartier is that owing to certain religious observances in which he is at present concerned, it will not be possible for him to be present in the house until some time next week. I think the work of the committee should not suffer

Public Accounts Committee

meanwhile, and I am quite sure the hon. member for Quebec West will concur with me that the matter is as I have stated. Therefore I ask that the motion may be so altered as to enable the committee to go on with its very necessary work.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

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

Since the motion has been

called, a rather serious situation has developed. I am not saying at the moment that a deliberate endeavour has been made to prevent investigation, but the fact is that two very prominent members on the opposite side of the house are energetically taking action that, if carried to its finality, would result in the investigations never being completed. I need hardly point out to the house that it has been a rule from time immemorial that when an item is under consideration in the public [DOT] accounts committee, you may trace it back to its origin without any further reference to the house. Unfortunately, however, the contention has been made-and a majority vote in the committee succeeded in carrying the views of that majority, of course-that you cannot investigate an item, the details of which appear in a previous auditor general's report, beyond the year preceding the year just ended. I need hardly say that such a contention, if carried to its finality, would render nugatory any effort made by the public accounts committee.

The rule, as I understand it-and I have asked some of the oldest members of the house-is perfectly clear, that if in the public accounts for the year ended March 31, 1928, there appears an item indicating that payments have been made to A. B. and it becomes necessary to trace the matter back to its origin, even as the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) said, to confederation itself; if it is a continuous series of transactions, then you can trace it back to its origin without referring the matter to the house. That looks on the face of it so sensible as not to require discussion. The hon. gentleman who has made the motion has an entirely different view. He believes the house adopted another rule. I do not find any evidence of the adoption of such a rule. The public accounts are on the motion of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Robb) referred to the public accounts committee. It will be recalled that last year a little conversation took place with respect to that owing to the late date in the session at which the public accounts were referred; and without prejudice to our position. At the

moment, the motion of the hon. member for Quebec West is a motion intended to empower the committee to go back beyond the Auditor General's report for 1928 with respect to a certain related item, and of course the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) will realize just what that means. You cannot carry on your discussion with respect to the final payment of an account unless you can go back to its origin and trace it down, because it is based on a contract either express or implied, a contract in writing or a verbal contract given by one of the departments. That may be five or six years ago. I know of one ten or eleven years back.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
CON
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, the Welland canal

contract was signed in-

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

There are a large number of Welland canal contracts dating back quite a number of years.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I thank the Minister of Railways. They go back at least six or seven years and they are being projected into the future. Suppose in 1929 the public accounts committee is investigating the accounts of March 31, 1928, with respect to any one of those contracts: I think the house has ruled time after time-and the committee has always thought it was so plain it was not necessary to come back to the house-that you can investigate from the origin of the contract down to the date you are then considering, on the assumption, of course, that the matter has not been previously investigated, and if so, the details are available. Payments of public moneys are authorized either under statute or by contract. There may be a written contract or sometimes only a verbal contract and the duty of the public accounts committee is to investigate the soundness of the payments; whether they were warranted or not; whether the prices paid were reasonable; whether tenders were called; whether the moneys voted and paid reached the source indicated by the account or some other source. The public accounts committee is endeavouring to function, not as a party machine, but for the purpose of indicating to the people of Canada whether or not the money is properly expended in accordance with the will of parliament. If it has not been, this committee is going to ascertain that fact. The mere fact that the chairman of the committee is absent to-day or to-morrow should not be a reason for holding up the matter. Summer will come and winter too, if we are going to have only one meeting of the committee a week and then

Public Accounts Committee

have it met by such a motion as that which has been considered during the last few days. For that reason, I think the observations made by the hon. member for West Hamilton, which indicate that a certain resolution was to be submitted to the house because a majority of the committee determined that it would be against all precedent-

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB-PRO
CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I was in the committee and I opposed it throughout.

Topic:   PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Permalink

April 25, 1929