July 1, 1931

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

What nonsense.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It is not nonsense; I take distinct issue with my right hon. friend, and I think we might as well have the difference understood at once.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, let us talk it right

out.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I think I

approached this matter in a courteous way; I hope to proceed in the same manner, and I ask the Prime Minister to extend a like courtesy to me during my statement. I say, on behalf of the civil service of Canada, that the Prime Minister of any country has no right to bring in, by way of excuse for any action of the government, the name of any member of the civil service. That is a fundamental rule of, parliamentary practice and

procedure, and if the Prime Minister has not known it up to the present he had better follow it hereafter. The public service is entitled to all the protection parliament can throw around its members; if individual members seek to do their duty faithfully and well they are entitled to the protection of every hon. member of this house, of the government, and most of all of the Prime Minister. I say it is an entire breach of what is right and proper that Mr. Pearson's name should have been mentioned at all by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should have taken full responsibility and should have said quite frankly, as he is quite capable of doing, that the fault was that of the department of which he is the head and for which he is responsible. He must take responsibility if an error is committed, and he has no right, by way of escape of censure, to bring the name of a public servant into the discussion at all.

May I say that I do not think this error of mentioning the name of a civil servant and holding him responsible would have been committed if my right hon. friend had taken the true view of his responsibility as a minister of the crown. He is responsible for every act of the department over which he presides, just as other ministers are responsible for the acts of their departments. A minister cannot escape responsibility, and it is not at all necessary for a minister to lay any document on the table of the house without so much as having read it or of having others read it in the first instance. The first duty of the government is to peruse every document coming before it and decide whether or not the document is to be made public. If there is an order of the house calling for the production of documents the ministry exercise the right, which in fact its members have been exercising all along this session, of saying documents are not in a form in which they cam be presented to parliament, and that they cannot be produced except on an order of the house. I do submit that my right hon. friend should be more careful about bringing in the names of members of the public service. I am not saying this in a critical way, but I do feel it my duty to the public service of Canada to assert the principle I have, so that an error of this kind may not be repeated.

Mr. B'ENNETT: Mr. Chairman, the name of Mr. Pearson was brought into this matter in consequence of a colleague of the right hon. gentleman, the ex-Minister of Agriculture, asking who was the secretary of the commission.

Supply-Royal Grain Commission

To that question an answer was given, and Mr. Pearson's name appears as the secretary of the commission. Further questions were asked by the hon. member for North Battle-ford and by the hon. member for Melville, the former Minister of Agriculture, to which replies have been made indicating the circumstances to which I have alluded.

The doctrine now propounded by the right hon. gentleman opposite is novel, and if I were not moderate in my language I might say worse. Only a few months ago in England, where they have due regard to the public service and not a spasmodic solicitude for the interests of its members, there was a case in the foreign office which most hon. members will recall. In that case it was at once realized that the person concerned should leave the service, and he resigned. The discussion was very considerable with respect to what had transpired in connection with certain matters which need not be referred to here. It would indeed be a strange doctrine, would it not, if a public servant who acts as secretary to a commission is to be precluded from having his minister state to the house the circumstances under which a document was included in the report of the commission of which he was secretary? What is meant by it? Is he to be dumb; is there to be no method by which he can make known the facts? Should not his minister take his word for it? Is he not to communicate to the House of Commons the circumstances of the case? That is all that has been done, and the department has not endeavoured to escape in any shape or form its responsibility with respect to it. I told the hon. member for Humboldt, when he asked me, some days before it was brought down, whether the report would be presented to parliament, that as soon as it was received it would be submitted. For I take the view that when a public commission is appointed, whether it finds adversely or favourably to the administration or to individuals, it is the duty of the government to which the report of that commission is directed, to table such report. Nor have I the right to question the contents of that document. I have no right to be concerned about the contents of the commission's report. It was directed to me as head of the department; and if I asked that any change be made in it, that the language be so amended as to alter its meaning, I should be recreant in my duty, because I should have altered the meaning which the commissioners intended to convey.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I certainly did not.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

They did.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The hon. member

apparently knows much more about it than anyone else. I have no reason to believe that the secretary's report tabled in this house is not an accurate statement of the proceedings, and the report has been tabled in response to a question-

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

May I ask the right hon. gentleman whether the return asked for by the hon. member for South Battleford (Mr. Vallance) has been tabled.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Which report-the cor-respodence?

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I have stated that it will not be brought down, and I have indicated why. It is correspondence over which the ministry has no control-correspondence between the secretary and members of the commission, which is a matter of commission return. I do not know about it; I am not concerned about it. But my duty was to table that report. It has been suggested that I should ascertain what the contents of the report were, and that if I did not like them I should not bring them in.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

What does it mean? Either one of two things: if I did not like it I should be warranted in not bringing it in; or if I did like it I should bring it in.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Has my right hon. friend received any protests from one of the members of the commission, Chief Justice Brown, against the insertion of appendix 12?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No. Chief Justice Brown sent a telegram in which he said that it was not brought to the attention of the commission except that it was put in evidence, and he became a party to leaving the final preparation of the report to Mr. Commissioner Evans and the secretary.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

If there was a protest from one of the members of the commission, paid or otherwise, under the control of parliament, is not parliament entitled to see such a telegram?

Supply-Royal Grain Commission

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; Minister of Finance and Receiver General; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, certainly.

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July 1, 1931