PRIVILEGE-MR. POULIOT REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MR. RALSTON IN DEBATE ON APRIL 28
Mr. JEAN-FltANQOIS POULIOT (Temis-couata): As a private Liberal member of this hon. house I rise to a question of privilege. On April 28, Colonel the Hon. J. L. Ralston, Minister of National Defence, is reported at page 1968 of Hansard as having spoken as follows: There are a certain number of professional soldiers, and thank heaven there are, because we did not treat our professional soldiers any too well, at least during the period when I was Minister of National Defence previously. I take my share of responsibility for that. From 1926 to 1930 the army and national defence services were nearly starved, and I make that statement now. It seemed to me that perhaps the most popular indoor sport in those days was cutting amounts off the estimates for national defence, and the hon. member for Temiscouata did his share of advocating that this be done. Now I say to my hon. friend that in spite of all that, the men who were professional soldiers did keep on. With regard to the two first above quoted sentences, such a confession of incompetence and incapacity has been delayed for a considerable time indeed, but it had to be made in due course and it is duly acknowledged. The second part of the above quotation is even more absurd than malicious. Who would believe that the then Minister of National Defence did ever substitute for four years or for a minute the advice of the member for Temiscouata for that of all the pompous brass hats that adorn the Department of National Defence? What are the facts? The hon. Minister of National Defence was elected for the first time to the House of Commons in September, 1926.
Order. On a question of privilege the hon. member is of course entitled to refute anything that has been said which he thinks is a breach of the privileges of hon. members, but I would not wish the hon. member to think that he can make an extended argument-
I am not making an argument, Mr. Speaker; I am stating facts.
You certainly are.
My hon. friend should keep quiet and listen to learn what I am doing now. I am not making an argument; I am stating facts, which is the privilege of an hon. member. I do not contend that any hon. member is supposed to withdraw what he said about another hon. member if he does not use unparliamentary language, but when a statement of fact is made in relation to an hon. member, that member unquestionably has the right to state the relevant facts as he sees them, and that is what I am doing now.
Make it short.
Between September 1926 and 1930 there were four sessions of parliament. I have the index of Hansard for each of those sessions, and in those for 1926-27 and 1929 I challenge the minister to find anything that I said1 concerning his department. The only question that I asked him in the session of 1928 was on the estimates and in connection with the establishment of a landing field at Riviere du Loup. The minister answered that he had nothing to do with it. That was all for that year.
With regard to the session of 1930, in order to prepare my speech on Mr. Bennett's amendment to the budget I had asked all the cabinet ministers what they considered their greatest accomplishments, and I assumed personal responsibility for what the Minister of National Defence and his colleagues told me when I included their notes in my speech to boost my party before the general elections of that year.
I have sent the four Hansard indexes of those sessions to the Minister of National Defence, and they are on his desk. I challenge him to prove his erroneous contention that the hon. member for Temiscouata did his share of advocating the most popular indoor sport in those days, cutting amounts off from the estimates for national defence.
With regard to the last sentence of the above quotation, the truth shall never be falsified even by a self-centred miniature navel of the whole world.
Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, the hon.
member has been speaking in the light of the privilege which he has as a member of this house, and he has also been speaking on a question of privilege. In so doing he referred to members of the staff of the Department of National Defence as "pompous brass hats". I submit, Mr. Speaker, that at this time when many of those members are offering their lives on the field of battle this house should not countenance a characterization of the kind in these halls of parliament. I think, Mr. Speaker, you would be justified in asking that those words should be withdrawn by the hon. member.
I did notice with regret that remark made by the hon. member; I thought it was uncalled for and contrary to the sense of the house of which he is a member. I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) that the statement should be withdrawn, not only in justice to the members of the forces but also in justice to the hon. member himself.
I would ask, under what rule?
The ordinary rules which obtain in debates in this house, that persons who are not in a position to defend themselves here should not have a derogatory statement of this kind go out to the country as an expression of the views of this house. I think the hon. member should withdraw.
If that is your ruling, sir, I bow to it.
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
Second report of special committee on reconstruction and reestablishment.-Mr. Turgeon. First report of special committee on land settlement of veterans of the present war.- Mr. Macmillan.
BAIL WAYS AND SHIPPING
Mr. J. P. HOWDEN (St. Boniface) presented the first report of the standing committee on railways and shipping owned, operated and controlled by the government, and moved that the report be concurred in.
Hon. R. B. HANSON (Leader of the Opposition):
I rise not for the purpose of
opposing this motion, which of course is purely pro forma, but to call attention to the fact that a large number of committees are now meeting simultaneously and, as has been represented to me, it is obviously impossible for hon. members who serve on more than one committee to attend the meetings of committees which occur at the same time. I merely ask that some provision be made for staggering the meetings of committees so that hon. members who are on more than one may have the opportunity of attending and taking part in the proceedings of those committees. These reports are illustrative of what I have in mind, and if 3'ou will look at the Votes and Proceedings you will see that many of these committees are meeting at the same time. Members of our party particularly, since we have a limited number, cannot possibly perform their duties when they are members of committees which meet at the same time, and I would ask the minister who is looking after the distribution of the business of the committees, if I may so describe it, to see that the meetings are staggered.
Hon. IAN A. MACKENZIE (Minister of Pensions and National Health): That is
being attended to. The chairmen of the various committees have been asked to meet together and arrange their work accordingly.
Motion agreed to.