Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Prime Minister):
Before the orders of the day
are proceeded with, I desire to deal with one or two matters that were mentioned last evening as a question of privilege.
First, the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) suggested that in my statement made in the chamber on Friday that there had been a delay in reading certain bills because of the desire of members of the opposition to speak to them, I could not have meant any member of the opposition, and not having spoken myself to any member of the opposition with respect to the matter I at once assumed that I must have been wrong in my memory because the right hon. gentleman was so certain. To my surprise I find that not only was a member of the opposition spoken to, but a member of the opposition spoke to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) and asked that he do not proceed with one of the bills standing in his name until after his return on Wednesday next. That was spoken in the presence, or in the hearing at least, of the Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Ryckman). I, not remembering the source from which I had learned it, made the statement to the house, having first spoken to the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart), who was then leading the opposition, the leader of the opposition not being in his place; but not desiring to assert my memory, with the many matters that have to engage its attention, as against the very positive statement of the right hon. gentleman, I accepted his statement last evening without question. But on investigation I find that not only did a leading member of the opposition make the suggestion and the request, but I find that it was my right hon. friend's own deskmate, the former Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe), who made the request of the present Minister of Justice. So I think I am within the judgment of this house when I say that what I said in the House of Commons on Friday last is abundantly supported by the evidence to which I have now alluded and which can be established not only from the word of the former Minister of Justice himself and the present Minister of Justice, but it was also stated in the hearing of the Minister of National Revenue. I think that disposes of point number one.
The second point raised by the right hon. leader of the opposition is one that I think must have arisen from some misunderstanding on his part of what was said or else a failure to appreciate the statement made by me in the house some few days ago.
I complained, and I think properly, of the language used by the right hon. gentleman in London, Ontario, when he was speaking with reference to the Beauharnois transaction, and at page 141 of Hansard I made this statement, after having read what he had said:
That is what the right hon. gentleman said at London, not Winnipeg-that money had been paid to the representative of the Conservative party and at my instance returned.
My complaint was that the right hon. gentleman alleged that money had been received and returned at my instance. 1 then followed that up on the same page of Hansard by saying:
I am now dealing with the evidence. I say that the right hon. leader of the opposition went to London and made a speech which he either knew was false or he should have known was false, and he therefore was wilfully negligent in the discharge of his duties, for he had the hardihood to say that this sum of money was received and returned at my instance. That was what he said.
Whereupon the right hon. leader of the opposition said:
What I do say is this: what I am speaking of is the contribution-my right hon. friend has just referred to it-being made by Beauharnois, and all along my understanding has been that Beauharnois did make a contribution to a member of the Conservative party, which was to have gone into the funds of the Conservative party and would have gone there but for the fact that the present leader of the government indicated that it should not be done.
That, Mr. Speaker, is not the matter about which I was speaking. In the press report of the speech delivered by the right hon. gentleman at London, and as I understand it there is no question as to the accuracy of the report of his speech, the part about which I particularly complained was that portion in which he alleged in definite and positive terms that a contribution was made to the Conservative party by the Beauharnois company and at my instance returned. Now the evidence was considered in this house. I have the speech of that time of the right hon. gentleman himself, and it was not suggested at any time that any money had been returned at my instance. It was stated that I had declined to accept any contribution from Beauharnois for the general fund of the Conservative party, but no one for a moment who has read that evidence or heard it will say that there was any statement that money
had been received and at my instance returned. I desire again to direct the attention of the right hon. gentleman to his own words. He said:
The next point to note is that contributions were made by those associated with Beauharnois to both political parties, to the Conservative party and members of the party in the federal field, as well as to the party or members of the party in Ontario and Quebec, and that the return of the contribution made to the general fund of the Conservative party was on grounds of party expediency and not of public policy.
"The return of the contribution made to the general fund"-that was the allegation of the right hon. leader of the opposition. He stated in London, Ontario, that that contribution made to the general fund was, at the instance of the now leader of the government, returned. That that is not borne out by the records, of course, it is not necessary for me to do more than mention. But last evening- I really find it difficult to understand the mental attitude of the right hon. gentleman- the right hon. leader of the opposition endeavoured to use illustrations of payments made to General MeCuaig, treasurer in Montreal, it was said, as applying to the general fund as used by him in the language of his speech at London. I said that clearly that was not borne out by the evidence, and the proof of that is what was said in this chamber last evening. In my address the other day I referred to Mr. Sweezey, whose statement I bad not seen until this morning, who, in an interview with the press, denied the correctness of the statement made by the leader of the opposition. Here are his words, taken from the newspaper, dated October 30:
Says Opposition Leader Wrong in Allegation About Tory Funds (From Yesterday's Late Editions)
No contribution whatever was made by the Beauharnois Company to the funds of the federal Conservative party before or during the last election campaign and for this reason no money was returned by the Conservative organization on the grounds of party expediency. The emphatic denial was given to The Star this afternoon by R. 0. Sweezey, President of the Beauharnois Company, in an exclusive interview.
"Absolutely and emphatically no such contribution was made," said President Sweezey. "You may deny it from me finally and completely. Whoever informed Mr. Mackenzie King that such payment was made and it was returned is in error either maliciously or through ignorance."
The article proceeds:
The suggestion was made by Mr. King at the recent Liberal convention at London that a contribution of $200,000 was handed to General
McRae, accepted by him on behalf of the Conservative party organization and subsequently returned to the Beauharnois company. The statement made by Mr. King created some surprise and considerable interest and it was only on the return of General McRae to Ottawa that the matter was put clearly before him. General McRae intimated that Mr. Sweezey was the best source of information on such a point, and it is Mr. Sweezey's emphatic denial which is now published.
I should think, Mr. Speaker, that without in any sense entering into any discussion it would be sufficient for me to direct attention to the record itself, to the statement from which I read, and suggest to the right hon. gentleman that having assumed what he did he should now do as he did the other day, not endeavour to justify his position which is incorrect and unsound, but to say frankly that he built up his case at London upon a statement which is unwarranted by the evidence and untrue in fact. I suggest to him that would be a proper course to pursue in the matter. I think that summarizes the position in a nutshell, and I cannot yet believe that the right hon. gentleman would have taken the course he did take unless there had been some confusion of fact or failure to recall just what he had said at London. I have not taken up the time of the house to read at length his London speech and indicate the argument he made up from that false premise. I made up my mind when I read that report that I would do nothing until this house met, or ask anybody else to make any statement so that those who last year heard the speech from the right hon. gentleman with respect to Beauharnois would be able to recall, or would be in a position to look at Hansard and ascertain, what was then said, to place it in contrast with what was said at London and to realize the extent to which his memory had failed to respond to the demands made upon it or, in the alternative, to conclude that he had made the statement deliberately, knowing if to be untrue.