Yes; an official of the house told me he had received them; he came to my office to tell me. There is nothing mysterious or secret about the matter. These *were three of the many sheets that were sent out by the hon. gentleman to be signed by
people in British Columbia. They were sent back to me, and I read them; that was how I knew what was in them. I saw the names and occupations of the persons who had signed them, and after my hon. friend had referred to the matter in the house I returned to the office and called for the file having to do with that matter. I found them on top of the file.
Oh, no; I immediately sent them where they should have gone in the first place. There was no reason for keeping them; there were hundreds of them forwarded to the house and laid on the table. I sent these sheets to the clerk of the house, or asked that they be sent to him, because that is what should have been done with them when they were first received. Inadvertently they were kept in the office; but they were sent to the clerk at that time, and they must be on file somewhere, because I was told by an official of the house that they had been received.
The minister spoke a true word when he said they must be somewhere. Dealing first with the question of going to the committee, the minister is perfectly aware that neither I nor any other private member has the right to call a committee together. Eurther, the minister knows very well that under the rules no special committee deals with anything that has not been referred to it by the house. The procedure is for the minister or someone acting with his consent to rise in his place and ask that the matter be referred. That is the only way in which any committee can deal with a matter. The minister is just as well aware of that as I am. Let that go; I do not think the situation has been improved by piling on these contradictions which are so obviously unfounded.
With regard to these petitions, the minister says they are on file somewhere. They are not on file here, or I should have noticed them. They remained in the minister's office for four months, and I suggest that there was never the slightest intention of sending them where they should have been presented, where they would have had some weight and effect, where they would have added to the number of petitions presented, until the matter was brought up in the house and I challenged the minister about it. Then he goes to his office, finds them on the file, and tells a clerk to send them somewhere. Apparently they have not been sent to the clerk of the house. If they had been sent to him they would have been presented, and if they had been presented they would have
appeared in the votes and proceedings. I suggest that this is a very serious matter, having to do with the honour, reputation and privileges of this house. I would ask that this item stand over until that return is brought down, so that we may see just how many petitions there are. The minister has a vague idea that there were two or three, or some number. There may have been thirty sheets on which there were certain signatures. I am so dissatisfied with the statements the minister has already made in connection with this matter that I would be much easier in mind if I saw the petitions. Having asked for the return a month ago-or, to be exact, twenty-one days ago-I think I am entitled to have it before this matter is discussed. I think the house is entitled to have it, in order to learn what has been done. This is a petition addressed to the house, and the best explanation the minister can give is that it is on the files somewhere.
I ask for your ruling, Mr. Chairman, or in the alternative I appeal to the Minister of Finance whether this item should not stand until we get the information indicated in the return for which I asked on May 2, which covers the whole situation; or, perhaps, until we get the petitions presented to the house. Apparently they are in some stage in between heaven and hell; the minister says they are not in the department; and they are not in the house. I suggest to the Minister of Finance that it is a very serious matter, and that the situation can be best dealt with by merely adjourning the debate on this item until a later occasion.
My hon. friend seems to me to be dramatizing what would appear to be a very simple matter. If petitions do reach a department through being addressed in some unusual manner, it would not surprise me a bit to find a mail clerk putting them on the file in the department. I do not think there is anything to be so wrought up about in that situation. As to transferring these petitions to the proper place, wherever that may be, the minister states he did so as soon as the matter was brought to his attention by the hon. member. That being so, they must now be in possession of the clerk of the house, and therefore should be available to my hon. friend. With respect to the return I understand that the minister has already forwarded to the Secretary of State the material required from his department by the return. The minister stated that to the hon. member, and the minister cannot say more.
Well, the hon. member must know; he should know. It has been forwarded through the proper channel from our department to the Secretary of State, and we no longer have any control over it. I remember that last Saturday, in the office, it was brought to my attention that the return was ready, and I gave instructions that it be forwarded immediately. I am informed that it was sent to the Secretary of State, which I understand is the proper procedure to follow. The return will be laid on the table in due course by the Secretary of State, and I have no further control over it.
I do not think it would hurt to allow this item to stand. I understand that there is always one item left for further discussion, and if we leave this matter over until we get these petitions, possibly the situation will present itself in a less dangerous light than I have been suggesting. The minister says it is a trivial matter, but I do not think it is. If it turns out to be a matter
of only a few names on a sheet of paper, it may be all right, but I want to see those petitions and I shall not be satisfied until they are presented to the house.
I hope the hon. gentleman does not intend, or does not want, to convey the impression that the petitions, which were in printed form and intended for the house, were opened by me when they were not addressed to me. They were addressed to me by the senders, and after they were opened in due course they were placed on my desk by the clerks of the department. I found that they were for the attention of the house; that they were in exactly the same form as those presented by the hon. gentleman some time ago, and they should have been forwarded to the house immediately.