It seems to me that the staff should not be large in view of the fact that most of these works have been completed. I do not know exactly what would
be the advantage in discharging the whole staff and engaging a new one, but possibly the minister can explain that. I should imagine the old staff would be familiar with the work being carried on, and the new stafi would not.
I think it might be well if the minister would take the committee into his confidence and say that he just got rid of all the employees as of March 31 in order that he might employ those of his own political faith and thereby find it possible to give some realization to the insistent demands of his supporters that provision should be made for them. I had occasion the other day to give the minister some evidence in that connection. Notices were sent out, but on inquiry it would seem that the pressure was too insistent, and the notice had to be made effective at an earlier date than was expected; the poor unfortunates had to leave employment in order that those who had voted right in October last might find employment. If the minister makes that frank statement to the committee I am sure it will be appreciated, because it happens to be in accordance with the facts.
I am afraid my right hon. friend exaggerates my ability to see things so far in advance. That was not the idea. The idea was to get rid of the staff as of March 31 because we did not want to continue in effect the Public Works Construction Acts of 1934 and 1935; we wanted to have all the items listed in the estimates. I assure my right hon. friend that any request or representation he might make will receive my most careful consideration.
make to the Minister of Public Works are always received with the courtesy which is characteristic of him. He always gives them his best consideration, and the suavity with which he expresses his opinion is equalled only by his ability to forget that consideration does not necessarily mean to-day or to-morrow. It may mean some time in the long, long future. It is amazing how this consideration seems to get lost on the road, but there .is always the most courteous reply, always the greatest possible assurance of consideration. Alas, consideration is so long
delayed that very often the unfortunate person concerned becomes the subject of the funeral sermon of the minister, the parson or the clergyman, and serious consideration becomes a matter of post mortem instead of an interest in the welfare of an individual.
Seriously, however, what happened was that the department gave notice to those who were employed under the Public Works Construction Acts of 1934 and 1935 that inasmuch as probably there would be no money after March 31 their services would be dispensed with at that time. But, alas and alack, some of them had to go at the end of December, 1935. I recall some with two letters, one from their chief giving them notice that their services would not be required after the end of March. They were making their arrangements accordingly, but along about Christmas, as a reminder of the season and of the bounties of providence intended for others, they were told that they would have to leave at the end of the year. When I pressed the minister for the reason he was good enough to explain frankly that their employment by the crown was during pleasure, as I well realized. He said, of course I would know that, and he was quite right; I did. Later on, not in connection with this item but when the main estimates are under consideration, I am going to deal with the matter far more seriously, because I realize that the .minister has to yield to the pressure of those who are insistent that their friends should find employment. I have seen enough of public life to know that this is one of the evils or virtues of public life, that those who are able to secure sufficient assistance from their friends very often find themselves in positions which otherwise would not be given them. But when a member of parliament signs his name to a document saying that of his own personal knowledge he knows that a man has been guilty of partisanship, when he did not know the man at all, and the minister to whom that letter was sent dismissed the man, I think we shall have to have a much more serious discussion of the subject than this pleasant little interlude between the minister and myself. I have seen enough to know that the hardships of life are not much considered when it comes down to a question of yielding to the demands that are made by members of parliament upon their ministers.
I have a few instances which at the appropriate time I propose to give the house. Sometimes the son has suffered for the political sins of the father; sometimes the father has suffered for the sins of the son. The case I have in mind affects a far more
serious principle, one which was discussed in this house some years ago by the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George (Mr. Cahan) and which involved one minister giving effect to a recommendation made by another minister. The Minister of Trade and Commerce of that time felt that he was in duty bound to give effect to the recommendation of his then colleague in the government. This is not the case of a colleague; this is the case of a member of parliament writing a letter-the return has been brought down-in which he pledges his word, which, of course, means a matter of honour, that this man was a partisan. As a matter of fact he is not even acquainted with the man. The person in question has pledged his oath that he has never taken any part in politics. He was appointed in 1915, and he is a man of family. Now he is thrown out on the street, without having an opportunity to be heard or to say a word in his own defence, because a member of parliament has pledged his honour-for that is what is involved-that this man was a partisan. Later on we shall have to discuss that matter, with the names and all details, but I think it would be unfair to discuss it on this item.
I desire, however, to point out that it would foe much better if the minister would say frankly: This sum for salaries is the pork barrel provided for our friends who will take the places of your friends, and we trust there will be an extended program and a greater demand for services and more people employed than at present, and we hope that this summer this $200,000 odd will be sufficient to recompense them for their toil and the services they render to the state in their new status.
I was profoundly touched and very much pleased by the kind words of the leader of the opposition in the first part of his observations, but he has been spoiling my pleasure and satisfaction in the latter part. I would not like to ask the right hon. gentleman for any details-
but as far as I am concerned in regard to the projected accusation that he has just mentioned I can plead not guilty. As far as giving some consideration to the claims which are being put up to me by friends of mine or of my party, well, I have been long enough in politics and I know enough of humanity, I think, to say that, if this is a fault, to a certain extent I am guilty, but I am not alone.
We all try to do the best that we can. Speaking personally, I think that if my humble record were searched no injustice would be found to have been perpetrated on account of my political partisanship. In my own locality I am known-
-and I receive the very opposite criticism from that which has just been made by the leader of the opposition. I am criticized for not being severe enough to those who may have offended the feelings and sentiments of my partisans. At all events I repeat that if there is any case which my right hon. friend can make against me for any injustice I stand ready to correct it, because I understand the sufferings of poor people and I have always done all I can to help anybody, whatever his party spirit. But I plead guilty that, like all other politicians on both sides of the house, I am a little more sympathetic, when the law permits it, to those who have been working for my party.
The statement made by the minister is an eminently fair one. He says that he is doing the best he can for everyone but he cannot overlook the claims of his partisans. That is a fair statement and one which I suggest he might have made at the very start, as to what is really covered by this item. That is the real truth about it; it is a pork barrel item and has to be taken care of. I will say this, that the hon. gentleman has a most sympathetic heart and his feelings find expression in the writing of the most courteous and kindly letters it would be possible for anyone to write, and that the action which is sometimes harsh and the subject of criticism is taken never by himself but by others. It would be impossible for him; his feelings would be so harassed and upset by such a thing that he could not contemplate it without emotion.
In regard to the nice words spoken by the leader of the opposition of the Minister of Public Works, I read in the paper yesterday that the leader of the opposition was the most distinguished looking man in the house. I must say that this is the first time I have seen him smile continuously for a minute or two, but seeing him smile it seems to me that he is not only the most distinguished but the most handsome man.
It is a serious matter for a member of parliament to say that to his personal knowledge an officer has been guilty of political partisanship. My constituency is over three hundred miles long. I know that some of the office holders there were active in politics;
I am sure of it, but I cannot say it of my own personal knowledge. While I do not wish to say anything here to discredit my predecessor, I may tell the committee that on one sheet of paper he placed the names of twenty-seven office holders who, he declared, were guilty of political partisanship, and they were beheaded forthwith. I do not want to follow that up at all, but the party on my immediate left really ought to practise what they now preach. I am not a bit averse to the Minister of Public Works starting now to scrutinize very carefully the representations of members of parliament who say that they know of their personal knowledge that dozens and dozens of office holders are active partisans. I assure him and this committee that when I say that an office holder has been active in politics when he should not be, I shall be very sure of my ground and I shall not submit any names to him except those that I am sure of from personal knowledge.
I think the minister ought to give the committee information in connection with these items, because they are new. The observation that I wish to make about the items which follow is this: They would appear to be of a class which should appear in the regular estimates. I see no reason why they should be in special supplementary estimates. With equal propriety they might have been included in the main estimates of the department or the supplementary estimates.
As regards the first item, for Guysboro public building, this amount is required for alterations and improvements to the postal facilities in the public building there, requested by Mr. Underwood, chief superintendent of post office services.
The second item is for repairs and improvements in the Halifax customs building, asked by the commissioner of customs. Whether these items should have been in the main estimates or in these supplementary estimates is a matter of opinion, but I suppose that on a number of the - items designated "other projects" the information was not complete in the department when the main estimates were prepared. There is no doubt
that a certain number of items which we shall find on going through the list could very properly have been included in the main estimates, but at the time we had not all the details necessary.