February 16, 1932

PRIVILEGE-MR. BENNETT


On the orders of the day:


CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

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.

41761-15i

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

Privilege-Mr. Bennett

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:

Sweezey Denies

King Statement

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.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I

would ask that hon. members of this house give the same attention to what I have to say as they have given to the remarks of my right hon. friend the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett).

At the outset my right hon. friend referred to the statement he made at the time of adjournment on Friday last to the effect that-owing to requests of opposition members bills had not been proceeded with that day. I intimated yesterday that I had not in fact discovered wherein my right hon. friend had

Privilege-Mr. Bennett

made any previous explanations on that point, as the record disclosed he said he had, or where any member of the opposition had requested that bills should stand that afternoon. My right hon. friend now says that he has since discovered that the opposition did make a request, and he says

to come to the point immediately-that it was the late Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) who asked the present Minister of Justice to let a bill stand. The late Minister of Justice was seated beside me in the afternoon as the house was going through the various bills. The bills on the order paper in the name of the Minister of Justice were passed over, every one of them. The late Minister of Justice said to me, "If on Tuesday next a bill having to do with the Quebec judges should be called, would you kindly ask that it stand, as I shall be away that afternoon, and I am interested in it.

I said to Mr. Lapointe, that he had better cross over and make his own arrangements with the present Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) who was in the house. Following my suggestion, the hon. member for Quebec east crossed the floor of the house, had a conversation with the Minister of Justice, came back and told me that if that particular bill were called on Tuesday afternoon it would not be proceeded with. Those are the facts, Mr. Speaker. The postponement had no reference to any measure that was before the house on Friday, because as I have said the ex-Minister of Justice was here hoping that those bills would be called last Friday afternoon so that they might be out of the way before he left for Quebec. Those are the facts and I leave it to hon. members of the house to judge for themselves the truth of the matter referred to.

In regard to the other matter to which my right hon. friend has just referred, namely what was said at London, may I first of all, read to the house the statement I was dealing with at London with respect to campaign funds. It was in reference to what the right hon. Prime Minister had said in this house at the last session of parliament, as set forth in the fourth volume of Hansard for July 31, 1931, at page 4399. After referring to the evidence taken before the select committee on the Beauharnois inquiry the Prime Minister is reported as follows:

All that appears there-and it is correct-is that I did decline to have anything to do -with contributions from the Beauharnois people, so far as my party was concerned. And it is not a matter for which any great credit is to be accorded to me. I never have claimed such credit. I merely took the view' any man should take, that as the matter had been raised in

parliament, and I had said that I thought a judicial investigation should be held, if I succeeded to power I was bound to provide that investigation. How could I do that if I had taken benefactions from them for the purpose of preventing my taking proper action? That is the question.

The point which I was making at London was that the motive of my right hon. friend in-I will not use the -expression "returning contributions," I will say a further word on that later, but let me put it accurately now-in refusing to accept contributions-

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Thanks.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

-was not one of the public interest but was, as therein stated by himself namely, that he expected if returned to power to have an investigation, and in the circumstances he felt it would not be wise for him to take any contributions.

May I direct the attention of hon. members to the statement my right hon. friend made

All that appears there-and it is correct-is that T did decline to have anything to do with contributions. . . .

He does not say "with offers of contributions" but he does say "I did decline to have anything to do with contributions from the Beauharnois people," and adds "so far as my party was concerned."-not "so far as I was concerned, alone," not so far as the Conservative fund, narrowly described, is concerned, but so far as my party was concerned. Those are his words. He said, "I did decline to have anything to do with contributions from the Beauharnois people, so far as my party was concerned." I certainly did not do my right hon. friend an injustice, but, rather, gave him credit for much more than I should have given him credit for. I assumed that his statement that no contributions to the Conservative fund, so far as his party was concerned, had been countenanced by himself, meant that where contributions had been made to the party fund they had been returned. I naturally gave credit to my right hon. friend for a full return when he said, as he stated in other words the other day in the house, that not a "damned cent" had been accepted, that he meant that his party had not received a cent from the Beauharnois people. What I should have said, I am quite free to admit at the moment, is that the Prime Minister had allowed $10,000 to be accepted by General McCuaig in Montreal, a contribution made to the Conservative party, a contribution made-in the terms of Mr. Sweezey who made it-to the Conservative organization and to what he understood

Privilege-Mr. Bennett

was the Conservative fund, and that that was not returned; but that the Prime Minister had refused to allow to be accepted an additional contribution of $200,000 for the reason that was mentioned. If my right hon. friend derives any solace from the fact that I did not confine my remarks simply to one phase, namely, to his refusing to accept only something, and gave him credit for having returned everything, when I should have said that he had not returned the $10,000 and knew that the $10,000 had not been returned, when he said that he had not accepted a cent from Beauharnois or had not permitted his party to accept anything-he may get what solace he likes from that source.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Prime Minister) :

The question, Mr. Speaker, now

becomes one of very acute privilege in view of the observations made by the right hon. gentleman. At page 122 of the proceedings Mr. White put this question to Mr. Sweezey: Q. And then who else if anybody?

To which Mr. Sweezey answered:

A. Well, still speaking of federal campaign funds, I do not recall of any specific-oh, yes, I contributed to General McCuaig, who, I understood, was the collector for the Conservative campaign fund in Montreal.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The right hon. gentleman at London referred to the general campaign fund and said that money had been accepted and returned. I am not talking of the different funds, I am talking of the facts. I say further I knew nothing of General MoCuaig's receipt of that contribution from Beauharnois, or anything about Beauharnois contributions to any fund, until after this matter came up here. That is the fact, as can be established by General McCuaig. There will be opportunity in another place to have this matter disposed of finally.

_ Let us go a step further-I said, and the right hon. gentleman still slips away from the question-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I said that at London he charged me with having accepted S200.000 from Beauharnois through General McRae, and that at my instance it was directed to be returned.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Will my right hon. friend read from my speech in London where I made any mention of $200,000? My right hon. friend did not do that when he read from my speech; he read those words

in a communication from Mr. Sweezey which statement is not correct. I made no such statement at London with reference to $200,000. My right hon. friend has my London speech in his hand, and I ask him to read it to the house,

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

To show how the right

hon. gentleman is now, as we say in law, hanging himself-

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

-I will read from page 4385 of last year's Hansard what the right hon. gentleman said in his speech on the Beauharnois report:

The following statement is made in the report, as appears on page 634 of votes and proceedings. I read this to bring out the difference between my hon. friend and myself in the way in which I think it should be understood. The report reads:

"There was also a suggestion with reference to a proposed contribution to the Conservative federal campaign fund through its organizer, General McRae. This, however, was not made. Asked if the reason for its not having been made was that Mr. Bennett would not accept it, Mr. Sweezey in his reply said 'I do not know that but I presume that may be so/ "

The evidence upon which that statement in the report is based will be found at page 823. The following are questions asked of Mr. Sweezey:

"Q. Was there any proposal indicating a contribution to the federal campaign fund through its organizer, General McRae?-A. Yes, a proposal came to me at one time to make a contribution.

"Q. Of how much?-A. Of $200,000.

"Q. Was it made?-A. No.

"Q. Why?-A. I do not know what happened.

Q. I understand that Mr. Bennett would not accept it?"

Those are the words read into the record of the proceedings of this chamber by the right hon. gentleman himself on the 30th day of July last. In the face of that knowledge this same gentleman goes up to London and makes a statement to the people of Ontario and to the people of Canada that a contribution was made to the general fund and ait my instance returned. I called him to account for having made that misstatement, and this house and the country have heard his endeavour to slide out of it.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Speaker, I will ask the same privilege as has been accorded to the Prime Minister in replying to this matter of privilege. So that there may be no mistake as to what I said in London, I ask the house to listen to what I did say; I will read the entire text of my speech in this particular. It is in these words:

The next point to note is that contributions were made by those associated with Beauharnois

Privilege

Mr. Bennett

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.

When the general elections came on, Mr. Sweezey made a contribution to the campaign funds of both the Liberal and Conservative parties. Later the contribution given to the treasurer of the Conservative party was returned,-

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Allow me to

continue:

-he, according to Mr. Sweezey's statement of what he had been told, having had instructions from Mr. Bennett to return the contribution. Now what was Mr. Bennett's reason for directing the return of the amount contributed? Was it that contributions would not be accepted from corporations or persons associated with corporations which might be seeking favours from governments? Was it that the Beau-harnois company might be coming to whatever government might be in office after the elections -possibly Mr. Bennett's own-for wider rights and powers, and that it was therefore better not to accept a contribution? Perhaps the answer can best be given by Mr. Bennett himself.

Speaking in the House of Commons on July 31 he said that by his previous utterances in parliament he was committed to a judicial investigation into the affairs of the Beauharnois company, that if he were returned to power he was bound to provide that investigation. What does this mean? It means simply that had a contribution been accepted that fact would have been disclosed. It would have been shown in the investigation which Mr. Bennett said he was bound to provide, which, by the way, he did not provide as he said he would by a judicial inquiry, but by a committee composed mostly of members of his own party in parliament, that the Conservative party had, equally with their opponents, received contributions to their campaign funds from Mr. Sweezey. How differently the whole matter would look if upon investigation it were shown that the Liberal party was the only party to receive contributions from this source. Or even more, if it could be shown in addition that he, Mr. Bennett, had actually refused to allow the acceptance of any contribution from that source. If it could only be shown that the Liberals had received a contribution and that Mr. Bennett had caused to be returned the contribution his own organizer had accepted,-

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Do you hear that?

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February 16, 1932