The house resumed from Wednesday, February 8, consideration of the motion of Mr. MacNeil:
That the agreement between the government and the John Inglis Company, of Toronto, for the manufacture of Bren machine guns, the report of the royal commission dealing with said agreement, and all related documents, evidence, vouchers and exhibits, be referred to the standing committee on public accounts; and the amendment thereto of Mr. Stevens.
Mr. A. MacG. YOUNG (Saskatoon): Mr. Speaker, when the house rose at six o'clock last evening I was discussing the Bren gun contract and pointing out the very strange tactics of the opposition. I should like in the few minutes I have left to sum up the argument I was making.
The motion before the house is to refer to the public accounts committee the Bren gun ;ontract and the report of the royal commission in regard thereto, so that it may be fully investigated, if further investigation be necessary. The Conservative party has very strenuously opposed the motion. Why, then, do they not accept the verdict of Mr. Justice Davis, the commissioner, who said that he could not find any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the minister, his deputy, or any other official, or any member of the House of Commons or of the Senate? The commissioner went further and said-this is the limit to which any man could go-that there was not even a suspicion of any wrongdoing. This is the finest testimonial of character and high purpose which any man could receive.
As to form and substance of the contract the commissioner did say, "upon the whole
evidence, that is a question for the government and parliament to pass upon." Let us accept that view. Then what should we do? What has always been the practice in this house when a particular matter had to be investigated? Send it to a committee, of course, where all the evidence given before the commission could be studied and, in this case, in addition the further evidence which is now available. From press reports which I read carefully I noted that the commissioner did not think it necessary to admit evidence to say how good the contract was. I most certainly have no criticism to offer on that account. His conception of his duty was to find out if there was any wrongdoing on the part of anyone, not to find out how good the contract was. He found there was no wrongdoing or suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of the minister, his officials or any member of the House of Commons or of the Senate.
There is much evidence to be submitted to show this contract to be an excellent contract, and this is the reason why the leader of the opposition and his party do not wish this whole matter to go before the committee. They know that after all the evidence is heard the public will brand their speeches in this house this week, filled as they were with insinuations and veiled accusations, as being of a type used by cheap Tammany ward politicians. If there is honesty of purpose in their actions they should all vote to send this to the committee where the whole facts can be reviewed and where witnesses will have the right and the opportunity to be heard. Their tactics will be condemned not only by this house but by the people of this country.
Many references have been made to the fact that there was no competitive bidding on the contract. What did government counsel propose doing before the commission about this? They wished to bring contractors from this country and the United States to prove that in a contract such as the Bren gun contract competitive bidding would be impossible of accomplishment. The witnesses were all present and ready to give evidence. After considering this proposal the commissioner decided against calling such witnesses, and so did Colonel Drew. The experience of Great Britain for over a hundred years demonstrates clearly that in such cases competitive bids are impossible.
In conclusion let me say to the leader of the opposition and to his party: In the interests of this country, stop this petty quibbling, these unwarranted insinuations. After all, the Conservative party in the past has had a noble tradition. The hon.
Bren Gun-Mr. Howe
gentleman is a new leader; let me suggest to him that he start on a high plane, and not in cheap ward politics. His party is really worthy of a better effort than is now being displayed.