I understand it is a very large amount; I won't talk about tons myself. I submit to the minister, very respectfully and kindly, that in connection with the importation of a product which affects as many primary producers as does tinplate, we might be entitled to a little more information than he has given us with regard to the inquiries made, since he has been in office, touching this important commodity. I understand that a newspaper sent up a reporter there and it was found that no one could get into the Sarnia plant; guards were posted and no one was allowed to get in to see how little they were producing and to what extent they were in the preliminary stage. Did the minister see that report?
This discussion has almost confirmed the rumour that has been abroad for several months that there has not been the utmost harmony between the Department of National Revenue and the new tariff board. I have here a report of some remarks made by the Prime Minister in the city of Toronto on the night of February 21. The news item is headed:
Denies friction with tariff body.
Toronto, Feb. 21.-The attitude of the government toward the Tariff Board has been to offer every assistance and co-operation possible, and he has never received a complaint that it had been otherwise, Prime Minister R. B. Bennett declared in the course of the debate on empire preferences, held at Hart House by students of the University of Toronto, here to-night.
Air. Bennett was replying to the remarks of S. F. Rae, one of the undergraduates opposing the resolution that " Canada retain her present preferred position in empire markets."
Mr. Rae had said there had been " constant friction " between the Tariff Board-" child of the empire agreements," and the British government. He charged that Canada had not been living up to the agreement with respect to the Tariff Board, had not stopped the practice of fixing values for duty purposes, and had disregarded the orders of the board with respect to duty values on jute twine.
The young debater referred to press reports of remarks attributed to former Justice George Sedgewiclc, chairman of the board, and the board was entitled to assistance from the law officers of the crown and was not getting it.
"We believe it to be an excellent board and it is entirely wrong to say that we are in variance," Air. Bennett declared. " A question was raised but it was purely a point of law. I do not believe Mr. Justice Sedgewick ever made those observations attributed to him. Certainly he has never communicated them to
me nor suggested we bad not done anything we should have done. The British authorities are entirely satisfied with the board."
The Minister of Justice said to-night, about half an hour ago, that there had not been any friction, if I too may use that word, between the law officers of the crown and the new tariff board, and that what Mr. Justice Sedge-wick is reported in the press to have said was not what he did say. I have read the report and so have many hon. gentlemen in this house and most of the people of Canada; we have all read the remarks attributed to that gentleman, as reported in the next day's press, and I have never seen any correction. Certainly there is a feeling abroad that there has been friction with the tariff board, which was Bet up by this government last year as a tariff board that was to be different in every way from, and superior to, any other tariff body we have ever had in this country. There is a rumour, and this discussion to-night has confirmed it, judging by the remarks of the Secretary of State and the Minister of Justice. I am not criticizing at all the Minister of National Revenue, because I quite appreciate the fact that he has not been very long in the department, and many of the things criticized to-night happened before he assumed the administration of the department. But as minister of the department he must now bear the responsibility. Now, the tariff board set up under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Sedgewiek should not be interfered with by the law officers of the crown or by the Department of National Revenue or any officer of that department. We were told by the Prime Minister last year, and by other members of the government as well, that this board would be above reproach, and I believe that the setup of the board in its chairman was good-I will not go further than that. He should have a free hand to administer the affairs of the board and Should not be interfered with. If there is to be friction between the Department of National Revenue or the law officers of the crown and the tariff board, then the board will be useless in functioning for the benefit of the people of this country, and the sooner this question is cleared up the better.
I hope my hon. friend will allow me to say that there has been no friction whatever at any time between the tariff board and the Department of National Revenue. I wish to emphasize that and to make it clear to the house that since I assumed office there has been no friction whatever between the Department of National Revenue and the tariff board. I consider Mr.
Justice Sedgewiek one of my best personal friends and our relations have been most harmonious in every respect.
When the minister says that to his knowledge there has been no friction between the Department of National Revenue and the tariff board, is he speaking altogether of the time since he became minister of that department? Is he confining his remarks to that time?
Surely the incoming minister has to assume the responsibilities of the office as it was left to him by the former minister. Is there nothing on record of any friction, if we want' to continue to use that word, with the tariff board?