April 21, 1936

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

To say nothing of Sorel.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Marine; Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Sorel might object as well, and Three Rivers I am sure would demand pretty fair representation. It might work well at Vancouver. However I do not know that we need to go into this more deeply. I have not spoken at length on the subject of harbours, but I have before me a volume which I compiled with some little trouble, going back over five years of harbour commissions of various ports. To me it shows the most shocking betrayal of public trust I have ever read in my life. I feel in one way that it should be put on Hansard so that the people of this country might learn something about

harbour commissions; on the other hand I dislike to do this because it would certainly give the people a very unfortunate idea of how public affairs are conducted.

However we are out to make progress, and the objections that apply to seven harbour commissions would apply also and in equal measure to three. Without pursuing the matter further I must ask that this amendment be not accepted.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I must rise to -a point of order. The hon. gentleman

who proposed the amendment moved for three different harbour boards. Subsection 5 on page 2 provides that:

Each member shall be paid such sum for his services as the governor in council may from time to time determine.

Obviously it is a matter that affects the revenues of the crown.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Thomas Vien

Liberal

Mr. VIEN:

On the point of order, I do

not believe that the amendment is in conflict with the principle of the bill. The bill proposes to reduce seven commissions to one; the amendment tends to reduce the seven commissions to three. Therefore the underlying principle of the bill is not destroyed but only modified, and the amendment is not at variance therewith.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

That is not the point of order at all. May I repeat it? The point of order is that the bill as such provides for three harbour commissioners, and the amendment provides for three different harbour boards. If hon. members would read subsection 5 of section 3 of the bill they would find that each member is to be paid. I suggest, therefore, that by a private member's amendment we are making provision for a payment of six more commissioners, and thereby we interfere with the duties of the crown.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Thomas Vien

Liberal

Mr. VIEN:

The point of order is not well taken. At the present time there are seven harbour commissions and the bill proposes to reduce the number to one. The amendment does not propose to increase the expenditure of money, but simply tends to reduce the cut which the bill proposes to make in the present expenditure of money. The amendment does not involve an expenditure of money, but simply reduces the cut indicated in the bill, by maintaining three commissions instead of one only, as in the bill. You cannot find in the amendment a proposal to increase the present expenditure of money. The amendment simply reduces the cut effected by the bill. I should like to have a ruling, Mr. Chairman.

National Harbours Board

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I am out of order in speaking again, but with the permission of the committee I should like to say another word. The bill was preceded by an antecedent resolution. Certain expenditures were authorized by resolution from His Excellency the Governor General, and such expenditures cannot be increased on motion of a private member.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Speaking to the point of order may I say that there must be some understanding about money bills. When a bill providing for the expenditure of money is submitted to parliament it must have the consent of the representative of his majesty. In turn the representative in Canada, as does his majesty in England, gives a blank cheque to the government. In such bills on most occasions there are no definite specifications with respect to expenditures. For instance, if the salary of the commissioners and members of the board are mentioned in the bill there must be additional expenditures for the stag. Very seldom in a money bill do we find anything definite regarding amounts of expenditures. For instance, when the bill was submitted to set up the employment commission no definite salaries were mentioned, although there was a provision for expenditure of money. On that occasion His Excellency the Governor General gave a blank cheque to the government for expenditures.

Further, we are in committee, and I suggest that when an hon. member moves an amendment accepted by the committee, the government must stand behind it, even if the ministers have to make an effort to swallow it. When the government introduces legislation providing for the expenditure of money it is the privilege of any hon. member in committee to suggest any changes he may wish, and it is up to the committee to decide whether or not the change shall be accepted. May I point out that what has been said so far is strictly in order. Further, it is the privilege of any hon. member to suggest a curtailment in expenditures. Any hon. member may move an amendment to decrease an expenditure, in which event the yeas and nays are taken and the majority rules. If Such action can be taken to decrease an expenditure it may also be taken to increase it. I have listened to the observations of the Minister of National Defence and I say he has not shown that the amendment of the hon. member for Laurier would have the efiect of increasing an expenditure. He has said nothing to satisfy the minds of hon. members that the amendment would have the efiect of increasing expenditures. I submit,

therefore, that hon. members who have spoken against the amendment were not in order and were all wrong, and I suggest, further, that the amendment is strictly in order and should be accepted by the committee.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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REC

Henry Herbert Stevens

Reconstruction

Mr. STEVENS:

I cannot agree with the point of order raised by the minister, but I believe, nevertheless, that the resolution is not in order. May I draw the attention of the committee to the reading of the resolution which preceded the bill introduced on March 16. Votes and Proceedings record the resolution in this way:

That it is expedient to bring in a measure to provide for the constitution of a board to be known as the national harbours board, with jurisdiction to administer and control public harbours in Canada, and to provide for the salaries of the members of the board and of the officers, clerks-

And so on. Then it goes on to say:

Whereupon Mr. Howe, a member of the King's Privy Council, informed the house that His Excellency the Governor General, having been informed of the subject matter of the proposed resolution, recommends it to the house.

The bill was preceded by the resolution, part of which I have read. It was submitted: to His Excellency the Governor General, received his approval and was submitted to the house. Following that, a bill was introduced to set up one harbour board. As I said before, there may be . a question in my mind as to the advisability of that action, but in so far as the point of order is concerned may I suggest chat it is raised upon the point that the amendment departs from the principle enunciated in the resolution which preceded the bill, and is indeed a definite alteration in the principle of the bill. I do not believe it is advisable for the house always to accept a point of order raised in connection with a money bill, because I believe we are getting too much into the habit of ruling amendments out of order simply because a bill may refer to the expenditure of money. I suggest that a great deal of care should be exercised in curtailing the privileges of a member in that regard. On the other ground however I think the amendment unfortunately is out of order.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Thomas Vien

Liberal

Mr. VIEN:

On the point of order, if the bill purported to create a new harbour commission and did only that, I suggest that the point raised by the hon. gentleman who just preceded me (Mr. Stevens) might be well taken, but that is not the purport of the bill. The bill purports to abolish seven harbour commissions or rather to amalgamate them

National Harbours Board

all into one commission. The purport of the amendment is to reduce these seven commissions to three instead of one, and therefore I believe it is strictly in accordance with the general principle of the bill, except that it does not go as far as the bill itself.

As to the point raised by the hon. minister (Mr. Howe), I suggest that the amendment does not increase the present expenditure of money, but instead of reducing it to the extent involved in maintaining only one harbour commission, it reduces it only to the extent of the expenditure involved in maintaining three harbour commissions. I suggest that in respect of both the expenditure of money and the principle of the bill, the amendment is in order.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Ernest Bertrand

Liberal

Mr. BERTRAND (Laurier):

Furthermore, section 37 of the bill declares that the corporations and the board are hereby declared to be amalgamated, so that the principle of the bill is to amalgamate a certain number of commissions, and we are simply asking that there be three commissions instead of seven.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Alexander MacGillivray Young

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Young):

The

amendment provides for three boards instead of one. Whether the government would pay to the members of three boards what it would pay to the members of a single board is a very difficult point for the Chair to decide, but it does seem to me that inasmuch as three boards are proposed instead of one the expenditure naturally would be increased. Therefore I am inclined to the view, and so rule, that the amendment is not in order.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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CON

William Allen Walsh

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALSH:

Coming back to the point raised by the Minister of Marine, I have already, as this house knows, endorsed the principle of this bill with certain qualifications. I have also intimated to the house the high esteem in which I hold the present Minister of Marine. But during the course of his brief remarks he made a statement to which I must take exception. I do not think it is fair to cast a reflection upon the harbour boards that have displayed considerable efficiency and public zeal over a period of twenty to twenty-five years by a statement such as this, "a shocking betrayal of public trust." That might refer to certain boards in certain localities, or to certain members of certain boards, but I do not think the Minister of Marine would care to make such a sweeping statement in connection with all harbour boards that have been in existence in connection with our national harbours or in respect of all members of those boards. In justice to these men who have so faithfully dis-

charged their duties and in justice to those boards that have displayed considerable efficiency I feel that the minister should, and I hope that he will, qualify his statement and qualify it considerably. I know there are harbour boards and certain individuals against whom we could level such accusations, and probably in some cases they would be well founded, but I must say this: I do know certain members of certain harbour boards; I am conversant with the administration given by certain harbour boards in certain of the larger cities of Canada, and I must say that the minister's statement cannot apply to certain harbour boards and to certain individuals who have served on those boards. I refer particularly, of course, to the harbour board that has just ceased to exist in Montreal. I refer particularly to the chairman of that harbour board. He is a man in whom I have the utmost confidence. There are others that I could name in other cities, and no doubt other hon. members are interested in harbour boards in their own particular cities and could cite numerous examples on whose behalf exception should be taken to the minister's statement. I would ask the minister if he would place on Hansard a qualification of his statement so that all harbour boards will not be included and so that all gentlemen who have served on harbour boards will not be included in such a sweeping and general statement.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Marine; Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I say at once that I did not intend my statement as reflecting on individuals, but I have made a careful study of the record of harbour boards as found in the Department of Marine and I am unable to distinguish between the records of harbour boards. If my hon. friends would care to have me do so, I will give them the history of any one. I may say that it is confined to no particular period and to no particular party. They are all about the same. I shall be very glad to give my hon. friend the record if he doubts my statement. It is not my purpose to dwell on that side of the matter. I think everybody who is familiar with harbour boards knows something about the back-bone of the thing, and that the system of control is wrong. I hope that qualification will suit my hon. friend, but that is as far as I care to go.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The minister has said either too much or too little, one or the other. He has condemned the character of decent Canadians. He has charged them with malfeasance in office, with breach of trust, with dishonourable conduct in the performance of their duties, and he cannot produce sheets of paper ex parte without giving these men a

National Harbours Board

chance to be heard. What is he proposing to do? To read certain documents he takes from certain papers with reference to harbour boards and members of harbour boards scattered all over this country from Halifax to Vancouver, men who have given their lives to the service of their country? Does he assail Professor Brock, whose life is gone? He assails him. He assails decent men in Montreal, Halifax, Saint John, men who have given their very best to their country. He now says that this is the most shameless breach of trust that has ever happened in the Dominion of Canada. He has said too much or too little, and if he makes that statement he cannot read from a document without these men having a chance to be heard and offering any explanation they desire. These men cannot be charged ex parte. There must be an opportunity afforded by a parliamentary committee for these men to appear and make their explanation. The minister says that his remark applies to no period and to no particular board. Therefore it is universal. It covers all the harbours we have in Canada. It covers their administration for years before he was in Canada. His statement refers to men who value their reputation just as much as he values his, men who are as honourable and have as decent a record as business men as he has, men whose reputation will stand the closest investigation that may be brought to bear upon it by any tribunal. These men have a right to be heard. I thought when the minister rose that I would hear a decent explanation with regard to his statement, but he not only repeats it but emphasizes it. Now it is quite clear that these men must have a chance to be heard. It is no good to say: I have here a lot of information. That is not under oath. What importance can one attach to that?

We have had cases of this kind before in this country and we know perfectly well that opportunity for defence must be given. During the last parliament charges were made with respect to the Montreal harbour. Charges were made in the press with respect to the guaranteeing of securities amounting to $19,000,000 for the building of a bridge in that harbour. One of the first things we did after coming into office was to appoint a firm of auditors, Price, Waterhouse and Company, to make an investigation. They did investigate and made a report which was tabled in this house and which contained a detailed history of the expenditures for the construction of that bridge. It was alleged by an hon. member who sat for a western constituency that there were improper things in connection with it, but we satisfied ourselves from facts that were produced to the auditors that we would have to go entirely beyond Canada in order to deal with what was alleged, and we had no jurisdiction.

In connection with the harbour at Halifax there was an investigation that was partly completed. This was carried on under Mr. Justice Orde, who has since died. I notice an item in the estimates providing for the payment of certain accounts which were incurred. These men and their successors are now suffering under that charge. The men at Saint John and their successors are in the same position, and the same applies to the men at Three Rivers, Chicoutimi and Quebec and their successors. Is that fair? I do not think there is any harm in saying to the minister that he is inexperienced. No minister would ever think of making a charge of that kind against men who cannot be heard, who are not here, who have not an opportunity to appear, who have wives and families, whose honour and good names are just^ as valuable as the hon. gentleman's Their children are proud of their fathers and no one has a right to make a charge of that kind without giving them a chance to be heard. There is only one way in which this matter can be dealt with; it should be referred to a proper committee for the purpose of investigating the charges which he makes against these men during the years they have administered these harbours as commissioners.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

How many children of

these men have been affected by the words of the minister?

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Marine; Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I made it quite clear when

replying to the hon. member for Outremont (Mr. Vien) that I was not mentioning any names. The documents I referred to are public documents, the files of the harbour commissions. I simply say that the system is not one that should be perpetuated. I do not know that I went any further than that, and I do not think the right hon. gentleman was called upon to go just as far as he did go in his last statement.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

How could I do anything else?

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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LIB

Thomas Vien

Liberal

Mr. VIEN:

On the second reading of this bill I expressed my opinion as to the merits and demerits of the principle involved therein. I suggested then to the government that every section of the country should retain as much local autonomy as possible. Very little good can accrue to Canada from the centralization of the control of our harbours in the hands of three government officers sitting in Ottawa. No matter how

National Harbours Board

distinguished, how alert or how efficient they might be, these gentlemen could not accomplish as much as three local boards, one on the Pacific, one on the Atlantic and one on the St. Lawrence river. The minister suggested difficulties which might arise in the appointment of the commissioners. He suggested that in the maritime provinces a difficulty might arise as between Saint John and Halifax and on the St. Lawrence, between Quebec, Three Rivers, Montreal, Sorel and Chicoutimi. These difficulties, in my opinion, are insignificant as compared with the discontent which will certainly arise in these various cities over the loss of the autonomous government of their harbours

There is much colour and substance in the statement made by the minister as regards certain things needing correction. The harbour boards were not infallible and I am free to admit that mistakes were committed. As long as we shall have to rely upon human beings to administer our harbours, mistakes will be committed. The three men to be selected by the government, no matter how carefully selected, will not be infallible and they will make mistakes. But I submit that well selected men, conversant with local conditions, would be of greater service than three government officials sitting in Ottawa. No matter how devoted these men might be in the discharge of their duties, they could not possibly be as efficient as men chosen in the locality.

Progress reported.

Topic:   NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL OF PUBLIC HARBOURS
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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order.


April 21, 1936