On the orders of the day:
Hon. J L. RALSTON (Minister of National Defence): Mr. Speaker, on a matter of privilege I should like to make reference to a statement which was made by the hon. member for Temiseouata (Mr. Pouliot) last night about a matter to which he had previously referred but to which I had not paid any attention because a return had already been brought down in the house with respect to it.
Some time ago the hon. member indicated that I had met. Sir Edward Peacock in Montreal in June, 1941, and discussed with him the amalgamation of the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways. That reference is at pages 3211 and 3212 of Hansard. The member had also intimated that I had met Sir Edward Peacock on that occasion in my capacity as Acting Minister of Finance. A memorandum from my office was quoted by the hon. member at page 4209 of Hansard indicating that I did not meet Sir Edward Peacock on or about June 25, 1941. Notwithstanding the statement made in the memorandum which he himself read, the hon. member brought up the matter again last night and asked the question:
Why was the Minister of National Defence appointed Acting Minister of Finance? How
is it that the Minister of National Defence has enough spare time to be Acting Minister of Finance?
Later he said:
I do not see why the Minister of National Defence was appointed as his deputy-
That is, deputy to the Minister of Finance. -while Sir Edward Peacock was here.
The implication is that by some kind of skullduggery I was appointed acting Minister of Finance in order that I might discuss with Sir Edward Peacock the amalgamation of the railways. I think it best once and for all to deal with all these matters together.
I want to say to the house that I was not appointed acting Minister of Finance for any purpose connected in the remotest particular with any discussion of the amalgamation of the railways. My appointment as acting Minister of Finance was made in 1940 and took effect automatically in any case in which the minister was absent: that I never saw or had any communication directly or indirectly with Sir Edward Peacock in June, 1941; that I never at any time saw him, or anyone representing him, in my capacity as acting Minister of Finance; and that I never at any time, either as a member of the government or personally, discussed with Sir Edward Peacock, or anybody representing him, the amalgamation of the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific railways or anything relating to the railways.