May 23, 1938


Departmental administration-further amount required, $7,350.


CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

On Friday evening I asked the Minister of Finance what the business for to-day would be, and his reply was:

On Monday we might he prepared to take any bills on the order paper, and supply, Fisheries, Pensions and National Health, National Revenue and Finance.

Mr. Neill: In that order?

Mr. Dunning: If possible, in that order, but I am not sure about some of the ministers.

Now apparently it is proposed to take up a department which is not named here- agriculture. The situation is this, that some of the hon. members on this side of the house who are responsible for intelligently discussing these estimates and getting them through in the shortest space of time because of the knowledge they have of the subject, are not here to-day. I suggest to the minister that we should probably make more rapid progress if we took some of the departments which he mentioned. I know that as regards some of these agriculture items there are hon. members who are not here to-day who desire to discuss them at some length.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

I really cannot complain of the criticism of my hon. friend opposite. I remember that on Friday night I was pretty tired and was somewhat embarrassed to answer the usual question with respect to what items would be taken up, and I did not mention agriculture. As a matter of honour, when one does not indicate a department in supply on the previous evening it should not be taken up if there is objection from the other side. Would there

be any objection to going on with agriculture this evening? Possibly some of the hon. members to whom my hon. friend is referring will be here on the afternoon train. We should like to make progress on some of these more important supplementaries having to do with works which it is intended to get under way as speedily as possible, and perhaps this evening we could take up agriculture. At any rate I ask my hon. friend to give consideration to the matter between now and then.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

We wish to facilitate as far as possible, of course, the transaction of the business of the house, and certainly I shall give the matter consideration. But if the government proposes to go into supply again to-morrow I think we should be in a better position to facilitate the passing of these estimates then and would probably make just as much progress.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

There is some doubt

about going into supply to-morrow.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

If there are any items

which are not controversial, perhaps they could be dealt with.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

If it would be satisfactory to go on to-night and there are any items in the agriculture estimates which it is desired to have held over, I would be quite prepared to let those particular items stand.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

I shall be pleased to

look into the situation in the light of what the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Agriculture have said and see what we can do to facilitate the work of the house.

Item stands.

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DEPARTMENT OP FISHERIES


Fisheries inspection, including fishery officers and guardians, fisheries patrol and fisheries protection services, $1,000,000.


IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

When this estimate was before the committee on the last occasion there was some discussion of fish traps in British Columbia, and I would refer again briefly to that matter. I do not propose to rehash the whole subject. It would take hours and the matter would be unsuitable for a committee of this size. That is why a special committee was instituted for the discussion of all such matters. To-day I simply want, so to speak, to begin where the committee left off. The committee submitted a report, the first recommendation of which reads:

That no more trap licences be granted in British Columbia waters except in the so called Sooke area, and concerning which we are unable to come to a decision as to whether they should be continued or not, without the opportunity of securing further information.

Supply-Fisheries

There were some other recommendations, and the last one indicates that a check should be made on fish caught and the details carefully collected. I maintain that the report in its essence, although the word was not used, was an interim report. It was so regarded by the committee. It stated that the committee were unable to come to a decision as to whether the whole matter referred to them should be decided or not without opportunity of securing further information, and they recommended that the department should secure that additional information. Some of that information has been obtained and I have it here now. Speaking on this subject, the minister made a statement which I wish to quote. I asked that the data which the committee had recommended should be collected, and which had been collected, should be referred to the committee, and the minister made this statement:

Mr. Michaud: That is a matter which my

hon. friend should refer either to the house or to the committee. As far as the department is concerned, the recommendations made last year by the committee were carried out. I feel that is all that should be expected of the minister or the department.

Dealing with the first sentence, I would point out that it was impossible for me to refer the matter to the committee because a private member cannot refer a matter to a committee without the consent of the minister concerned, and that was lacking. I had written and asked him whether he would refer it to the committee and he refused. To say that I can refer it to the house means that I can bring it up only now when conditions are not favourable for a detailed debate. I would call attention especially to the remarkable sentence in which the minister says that all that can be expected of the minister of a department is to carry out the recommendations made. That, to my mind, illustrates a distinct failure to appreciate the purpose of the investigation, which was to decide whether we should continue the use of fish traps in British Columbia, and we decided in our wisdom that we could not make that decision for lack of further information. The minister now proposes to rest on his oars and say that he has done all that he was asked to do and will not do any more. At page 2297 of Hansard it will be seen that I sent the minister a letter asking him whether he would refer the matter to the committee or stop the traps, and he replied that he would do neither. I think it is very much up to the minister to inform this committee to-day why he refused to comply with the terms of a numerously signed petition presented to the house, or, 51952-199

failing that, if he deemed that the matter was not thoroughly threshed out, why he did not refer it again to the committee. Why did he refuse to have the matter referred to the committee and in that way close it out entirely from further debate? I would ask him for an explanation.

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LIB

Joseph Enoil Michaud (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Hon. J. E. MICHAUD (Minister of Fisheries) :

There are two aspects of this question in which my hon. friend is interested. The first is the question of the petitions which he laid on the table of the house shortly after the opening of parliament, and the second is the report of the special committee which sat during last session. The reason why the department did not take the initiative and refer again to the committee the whole question of the advisability of discontinuing the issuing of licences for fish traps in the Sooke area of British Columbia, and the matter of the petitions, is that since last session no new facts have been brought to my attention, no new evidence which would have justified me in asking for the committee to sit again this year to consider the matter. It is true that we had petitions; but in those petitions there were no new facts disclosed which had not been brought to the attention of the department some years ago and which have not, from year to year since, been submitted to us. The facts which were gathered by the department during the recess, at the request of the committee, were brought to my notice, and I did not think they disclosed anything different from what had been submitted to the committee last year and had been discussed for a considerable time, forming the basis of the committee's report. So that if the hon. member was in possession of some new evidence, I think it was up to him either to bring it to the attention of the house or to ask that the committee be called together

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IND
LIB

Joseph Enoil Michaud (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. MICHAUD:

and the matter brought before the committee. My hon. friend says he did. If I remember rightly, he asked me in a letter whether the petitions which were submitted by him to the house would be referred to a committee, and I replied that in view of the fact that the petitions disclosed no new facts I did not think it my business to call the committee again to deal with a matter that had been dealt with last year.

As to the data collected by the department during the recess, I never understood that my hon. friend asked me to refer it to the fisheries committee, and this is the first time that I understand he intended to have this

Supply-Fisheries

data, passed on to him at his own request, referred to the committee, because, as I said before, in my opinion it did not seem to disclose any new facts upon which the committee would be justified in changing the recommendations they made last year.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

The minister says that he did not refer the matter to the committee because there was not new evidence which in his opinion justified its being referred to them. But I humbly submit that there was new evidence, and I have it under my hand. One of the main questions brought up in the committee was as to the number of fish caught, the varieties and so on. The contention on both sides centred repeatedly on that point- exactly what was caught in those traps-and we recommended that information should be obtained as to what was caught, And that information was obtained, because I have it before me, and in my humble opinion it constitutes new evidence if anything could be called new evidence, because it was something that was not before the committee previously. The minister says that no new evidence was disclosed-in his opinion. But the matter has gone beyond the question of his opinion. A committee was appointed to consider the matter, and that committee was entitled to go on and conclude it. The minister says that I did not ask that the matter be referred.

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LIB

Joseph Enoil Michaud (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. MICHAUD:

I did not make that

statement. I said that I did not understand my hon. friend to request that this particular evidence should be referred to the committee.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

Not this particular evidence, but all of it. I have here the letter I wrote, and I have what the minister said. He guards himself by a general statement-he is not sure. Well, he knew that the estimates were coming down to-day and that the matter would be brought up. I venture to say that my letter is before him at this moment. Then he makes statements that give a wrong impression of my letter. This is my letter, dated February 28-long enough ago: Honourable J. E. Michaud,

Minister of Fisheries,

Ottawa, Ont.

Dear Mr. Michaud:

With reference to the question of fish traps at Sooke, _ you will recall that the report of the committee last year stated that we leave the question of traps at Sooke open for further consideration.

Since then, I presented a petition the other day containing nearly 10,000 names, and I still have petitions coming in asking for their abolition.

Might I inquire what your policy in the matter is? Are you disposed to give them notice-

That is, the trap owners.

-that they will not be allowed any for or beyond this year, or do you propose to refer it again to the fisheries committee of the house?

The minister replied that he was not going to do either one or the other. How I could have put it more plainly I cannot conceive, or how he could have stated more definitely that he was not going to do it. The fact remains that the minister has not allowed the matter to go to the committee. There was new evidence, evidence that was not before us before. Did we have any evidence before- I ask any member of the committee-that whales had been caught in the traps last year or ratfish or porpoises? We had this new information, and the totals of salmon caught, and it should have been submitted to the committee. There the matter ends so far as I am concerned at the moment. I am not going to prolong this debate indefinitely, and the committee would not be interested. But I charge the Department of Fisheries with straight neglect of duty in this matter, and there I leave it, for the issue to go before a higher tribunal, perhaps.

There is another matter in connection with fish traps which is more important and which touches to a certain degree the honour of this house. My information is not simply something I have heard, but what the minister himself says. Speaking in the house on April 26 last, he referred to these petitions about which I spoke, and then he said, as reported at page 2296 of Hansard :

Some petitions containing the same heading were forwarded to my office, I suppose inadvertently. These contained the post office addresses and occupations of the people who signed them and I found that they contained the signatures of more chicken farmers than fishermen.

And I replied:

Certainly.

The reason is that the population of British Columbia was much greater than that of the fishermen, and the people who would sign the petition would naturally be more numerous than the numbers of the fishermen because the petition was signed by the residents of British Columbia. The point I draw to the attention of the committee is this, and I would draw it to the attention of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning), who is leading the government. The hon. Minister of Fisheries admitted the receipt of some of the petitions with the same heading. I have the petition here. It is addressed, "To the Honourable House of Commons in Parliament Assembled." That is, it is addressed to only one body, and that is the body sitting here.

S upply-Fishe ries

It is the law, is it not, Mr. Chairman, that when letters are inadvertently delivered to the wrong person they shall be immediately handed over to the person to whom they were addressed? There are three members of this house with names very similar: O'Neill, Mac-Neil and Neill, and in the course of time, perhaps through the carelessness of clerks or because of the letters being wrongly directed, we get each other's mail. But I would be astonished if anyone suggested that we did not, all three of us, immediately turn such letters over to the person for whom they were intended and who owned them. Postal rule 244, I think it is, lays down that a letter once posted is the property of the person to whom it is addressed. The minister says himself that he got a number of these petitions. I do not know how many but I did have a kind of sneaking suspicion that something of that kind had happened because copies of some of the petitions I had sent out seemed to be missing. The matter was brought to his attention evidently, because he investigated and inquired into the occupation of the signatories. This is the point, and I think I shall raise it as a matter of privilege in the house: What did he

do with these petitions which were addressed to the House of Commons, which came into his possession, and which he did not deliver to the House of Commons? The situation is very simple, and he is self-condemned. I ask for an explanation. The dignity of the house is concerned. What did he do with these petitions?

I immediately asked in the house for a return to be brought down that would indicate the facts. I asked for the return on May 2, and it was simply a matter of bringing down these papers which were entirely within the bounds of the Department of Fisheries. There was no going around to other departments to collect information. That was on May 2; this is May 23, and the return has not been brought down yet. Therefore I do not know how many petitions there were or how many signatories, and the house does not know what has become of its property, which is its property because the petitions were addressed to the house. I suppose the return will not be brought down until the day after this estimate has gone through. I asked the minister how many petitions he received, how many signatories were on them, and just what he did with the petitions.

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LIB

Joseph Enoil Michaud (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. MICHAUD:

Mr. Chairman, first regarding the advisability of turning over to the fisheries committee the facts that had been gathered by the Department of Fisheries, I must repeat that I did not consider it worth 51952-1991

while to turn over to the committee these facts, which did not disclose anything new beyond what had been brought to the attention of the committee last year. It is true that this statement shows that during the recess there was one whale caught in the fish traps which was later sent to a museum, but I did not think it a matter of such vital importance that it should be drawn to the attention of the fisheries committee. There might have been some facts disclosed in this statement; there may have been facts brought to the attention of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni that would have warranted the sending of this statement and these facts-to the committee. But the hon. member had the right and the privilege, if he was not satisfied with my attitude, to call the matter to the attention of the chairman of that committee and to some of the members of it, and to have the committee called together, or he could have brought my attention to the fact that he wanted this information disclosed to the committee. The committee would then have been summoned, and he would have had every chance to bring before the committee facts which he thought of importance. But he did not do that. He simply wrote me a letter. I replied to him, but he did not show me any facts which, in his opinion, were of sufficient importance or vital enough to be brought to the attention of the committee.

As to these petitions which were received by me, and possibly inadvertently forwarded to me by some of the people to whom they had been sent for signature by the hon. member, I recall that there were two or three of these printed sheets of paper, with the heading printed on, on which names had been signed. They were put on my desk some time prior to the time I addressed the house, because I mentioned the matter. I looked at them and they were addressed to the house. They were filed away in the office, and when I had occasion again to refer to that file I saw them and immediately forwarded them to the clerk of the house, to whom they were addressed.

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IND
LIB

Joseph Enoil Michaud (Minister of Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. MICHAUD:

Some time after the matter was mentioned in the house.

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May 23, 1938