May 19, 1943

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

MOTION FOR CONCURRENCE IN SECOND REPORT

LIB

William Alexander Fraser

Liberal

Mr. W. A. FRASER (Northumberland, Ont.) moved:

That the second report of the standing committee on public accounts, presented to the house on Tuesday, April 6, be concurred in.

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NAT

Howard Charles Green

National Government

Mr. H. C. GREEN (Vancouver South):

Mr. Speaker, we have before us the second report of the committee on public accounts, as presented to the house on April 6. The original reference to that committee was made on March 8, and is found at page 1023 of Hansard in the following words:

That the public accounts and the report of the auditor general for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1942, be referred to the standing committee on public accounts.

The first report of the committee was filed on March 25, in these words:

Your committee recommends that its orders of reference be enlarged to permit the calling of Colonel John Thompson before the committee to give evidence relating to the performance of his duties as director of government office economies control during the fiscal year 19421943.

That report was concurred in on March 31. I would point out to hon. members that concurrence in the report enabled the public accounts committee to question Colonel John Thompson concerning the performance of his duties as director of government office economies control during the fiscal year which ended on March 31 last, whereas the original

reference covered public accounts only for the fiscal year which ended on March 31, 1942.

The division of government office economies control was set up by order in council on August 18, 1942. Among its powers was the power to control publications issued by the various departments of government. The director was charged with the duty of controlling and directing, inter alia, the publication and distribution of all publications issued by the departments of the government of Canada, as set out in the said order.

A few weeks later, on September 9, 1942, a board known as the wartime information board was established. On October 27, 1942, the power of the director of government office economies control to check publications was cancelled in so far as the wartime information board was concerned. That meant that the wartime information board was taken out from under the control of the division of government office economies control. The committee on public accounts was unable, for that reason, to get any information from Colonel Thompson concerning the activities of the wartime information board. The public accounts committee has been unable to complete its investigation into economies that could be practised in the departments of government. I suggest to the members of the house that it should be able to investigate the expenditures by the wartime information board. This committee should be able to investigate expenditures incurred for publicity, or in relation thereto, by various governmental departments and boards, not only prior to March 31, 1942, but subsequent thereto. All the activities of the wartime information board took place during the last fiscal year, in other words after March 31. 1942.

There was a recommendation made to the public accounts committee by the steering committee thereof that the house be asked for power to investigate all expenditures incurred for publicity, or in relation thereto, by various governmental departments and/or boards, subsequent to March 31. 1942. That recommendation was voted down by the committee as a whole with a vote of twenty-one to fourteen. It was voted down by way of an amendment which provided that the consideration of the recommendation of the steering committee should be deferred. In effect, that amendment-approved by the general committee killed the recommendation of the steering committee.

I would point out that returns have been filed during the present session showing quite heavy expenditures by the wartime information board. One return in particular, being sessional paper 176, dated March 2. 1943.

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contains illuminating information with regard to the expenses of the board. Question No. 16 in that return is as follows:

What has been the total expenditure of the wartime information board since its establishment for

(a) Salaries, honoraria and living allowances

(b) Travelling expenses

(c) Printing

(d) Advertising

(e) Radio programmes

(f) Rent of office or other space

(g) All other expenditures?

The answer is as follows:

(a) Salaries, honoraria and living

allowances

$119,209 26(b) Travelling expenses

21,194 76(c) Printing

33,905 54(d) Advertising (e) Radio programmes

11,765 28(f) Rent of office or other space. 1,314 32(g) All other expenditures 391,775 88

The total expenditure was just slightly under $580,000. This occurred in a period of less than six months, because the authority to set up the board was given on September 9, 1942, and the return is dated March 2, 1943. The return also lists the employees of the board and the salaries paid. One can only say that these salaries were not niggardly. One salary which was notable was that paid to a certain Leo Casey, who received $12,000 in United States funds. Press reports of a few days ago state that Mr. Casey has now resigned his position under the board. On April, 3, about a month after the return to which I have referred was tabled. Mr. John Grierson, who in the meantime had been appointed manager of the wartime information board, issued a nine page explanation of the activities and objectives of that board. I quote from a press dispatch of April 3, in which Mr. Grierson is reported as stating in reference to the board:

Its aim was to develop an over-all contact with the public, without which Ottawa "cannot expect to keep adequately in touch with the people and their activities over 4,000 miles of territory".

I think that could be summed up in the one word "propaganda". Then he went on to say:

Each department of government had its own information service issuing material to the public.

Apparently that is in addition to the wartime information board.

Wartime information board is not immediately concerned with these services but has the duty of seeing to it thai, in consultation with the departmental officers concerned, wastage of effort is kept within limits, campaigns are related and contradictions avoided.

We have this very expensive set-up for publicity. One would think that the government could rely upon the press of the country

to handle most of the publicity. They do practically all of it anyway in a thoroughly efficient and unbiased way.

I suggest that this question is of great concern, not only to the members of this house but to the Canadian people as a whole. If the house gives it authority the public accounts committee can do a useful and vital work. It should be permitted to deal with these qustions which are of concern at the moment, such as expenditures for publicity.

At the present time the public accounts committee can deal only with what happened more than a year ago, which in time of war means that it can deal only with old and dead material. I suggest that the businesslike thing to do is to give this committee power to investigate these expenditures for publicity. At the time the first reference was made to the committee the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) led us to believe that he would not restrict the investigations, that he would be only too glad to help the committee investigate the things that were of importance. That attitude should be taken to-day by members of the house; therefore I move, seconded by the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Ross):

That the report of this committee be not now concurred in but that the same be referred back to the committee, with instructions to investigate expenditures incurred for publicity, or in relation thereto, by various governmental departments and/or boards, subsequent to March 31, 1942.

In so moving I would point out that my motion is worded exactly as the recommendation made to the public accounts committee by its steering committee.

Mr. JEAN-FRANCOIS POULIOT (Temis-couata): Mr. Speaker, I will support this

motion on principle because in my view all the publications of the government should be given the widest possible publicity to fill the gap caused by the lack of interest of the English press in dominion politics. In my humble view, sir, all publications of the government should be sent free to the mayor and secretary-treasurer of every municipality in the country. The people would then have an opportunity of securing official information at the city hall or community hall in each city, town or township. But that is upon one condition, and that is that the public accounts committee pay less attention to rugs, which must necessarily be under the table or desk of some officials in Ottawa and pay more attention to matters of much greater importance.

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I find, sir, that until now the work of the official opposition in this house has been done mostly by the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Church), the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. MacNicol), the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker), the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Ross) and a couple of others. So far as the rest of the Conservative members are concerned their opposition has been mostly skin-deep and rose water.

We have often been told that no one should play politics during the war. That rug business is strictly politics. It would be very easy for every member of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition-I speak of the official opposition-to take up matters of much greater importance, especially now, than the travelling and living expenses of the dollar-a-year men. There are so many matters of greater importance than the rugs which we have not had an opportunity to walk on, and which must be kept in good condition because very few members of parliament are visiting the offices of those whose rugs are so thick that one would think alfalfa was growing on the floor.

The expenditures for the current year will amount to approximately five billion dollars. The purchase of rugs costing a thousand dollars each certainly would have been a scandal in ordinary years, in peace time, but now that we * are at war we must first think of the welfare of the armed forces as well as the welfare of our civilian population. There are wrongs to redress now. We cannot wait until to-morrow to redress them. The thing to do is not to think of the errors of the past, if there were any, but to think of betterment in the future so that no such scandals will arise.

I have been blamed and castigated because I have complained of certain officials of the government. Here is one, the son of a former Tory prime minister of Canada, who has been appointed as censor of what is done by members of the government. In his criticism of the Department of Public Works I stand one hundred per cent with the minister of that department. On the other hand, I will say to those of the cabinet who were responsible for the recommendation and appointment of Colonel Thompson that the trouble they got was coming to them. They deserved it and it should be a lesson to them not to appoint a Tory to such a responsible position in the future. This is the language that the government deserves from one of the few remaining true Liberals in the house.

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LIB

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Mines and Resources)

Liberal

Hon. T. A. CRERAR (Minister of Mines and Resources):

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green) endeavour to give the impression to the house that the work of the wartime information board is now superfluous and might be dispensed with.

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NAT

Howard Charles Green

National Government

Mr. GREEN:

I did not say that at all.

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LIB

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Mines and Resources)

Liberal

Mr. CRERAR:

If my hon. friend did not say that, it was .clearly the implication of his remarks.

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NAT

Howard Charles Green

National Government

Mr. GREEN:

I said it was too expensive.

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LIB

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Mines and Resources)

Liberal

Mr. CRERAR:

He argued that the vehicle of getting information to the public that already existed through the press was quite sufficient to meet the needs of the present. We are all conscious of the excellent publicity work that is done by the press. But I recall that hon. gentlemen opposite in the early months of the war, and particularly in the first two years of the war, frequently criticized the government because of the lack of attention they said it was paying to the dissemination of information to the public with respect to Canada's effort in the war. It was in response not only to that demand in the house, coming largely from hon, gentlemen opposite, but also to criticism in the public press that the government were lax in their duty in not seeing that Canada's effort in the war was properly publicized in this country as well as in others, that that wartime information board was set up in its present form. There is very general recognition I think, if not in the house, at any rate in the country, that the job which has been done in that respect by the board has been an excellent job.

My hon. friend says that parliament should investigate through the public accounts committee the expenditures incurred by the wartime information board. There may an argument in favour of investigation, but I submit to my hon. friend and to the house that if that is to be done the public accounts committee is not the body through which it should be done. We have on the order paper a resolution standing in the name of the Prime Minister to set up the war expenditures committee, a committee which has been set up for the last two shears. As the expenditures of the wartime information board arise solely out of the war I submit that the war expenditures committee, when set up, would be the proper one through which such an inquiry as my hon. friend suggests should be conducted. If his argument is sound that the matter should go to the public accounts committee it would be

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equally sound to argue that all the expenditures of the Department of Munitions and Supply or the defence departments should be surveyed by the public accounts committee. That, I think, will appeal to hon. members as an extraordinary procedure should we endeavour to adopt it.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

There is nothing very extraordinary about it.

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LIB

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Mines and Resources)

Liberal

Mr. CRERAR:

Yes, there- is. It has not been done in Great Britain, where they set up a war expenditures committee to investigate expenditures concerned with the war. The public accounts committee is a committee of long standing in the house-

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

It has been standing too long.

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LIB

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Mines and Resources)

Liberal

Mr. CRERAR :

-set up for the purpose of investigating ordinary peace-time expenditures, the expenditures of government in normal times. It was not devised or intended to deal with extraordinary expenditures such as inevitably arise out of war. For that reason the government cannot accept the amendment offered by the hon. member for Vancouver South. If later on he wishes to raise the point that the expenditures of the wartime information board should be submitted to the committee about to be set up on war expenditures, that, I think, is a question which might well receive the consideration of the house.

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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. J. A. ROSS (Souris):

I believe my colleague the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green) has developed a concrete argument in connection with the amendment which he has proposed, I have followed the remarks of the Minister of Mines and Resources (Mr. Crerar), who I assume is to-day leading the house, and who has stated that the place to investigate the wartime information board would be before the war expenditures committee. I think most hon. members will realize that there has been a consistent attempt to carry on all these investigations in secret; moreover, if that board sat every day in the year it could not properly follow the various war expenditure contracts. Notwithstanding that fact they have not had, I am informed, any sitting for over six months, since early last November. A question was put to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) the other day as to when it might be set up; and, as I read his remarks, he considered there were many much more important matters before us now than the setting up of the war expenditure committee at this time.

On the subject of this report, there is an article, from which I should like to quote, which appeared on April 7 last in the Globe and

Mr. Crerar.]

Mail, a newspaper which, I know, is not favoured by some members of the government but nevertheless has a wide circulation. I do not intend to read the entire editorial, but I wish to clear up one point which appears in the article, in relation to the calling of Colonel Thompson. I shall not read the first two paragraphs, but continuing, the article states:

Even while the colonel waited to be heard, economy was tossed in the can. The committee considered the recommendation of its own steering committee, calling for inquiry into the publicity expenditures of various government departments. According to Mr. G. (Gerry) G. McGeer, one of five Liberals in favour, the recommendation had passed the steering committee without question. Such unanimity was erroneous.

On the word from Mr. W. H. Golding (Huron-Perth) the government majority in the P.A.C. reformed its line behind a flanking assault- an amendment which would hoist any inquiry into W.I.B. and its satellites until "substantial progress" is made with study of the auditor general's report for the year ending March 31, 1942.

All the oratory and logic of Mr. McGeer, his Liberal supporters and the combined opposition members was powerless to appeal to mind or conscience. It mattered not that the proposed inquiry was on all fours with the Thompson case; that it concerned a matter before parliament and subject of "severe criticism" throughout the nation; that it was necessary, on the eve of a billion-dollar war loan drive, to assure the public there was a committee ready and willing to face charges of extravagance.

Forgotten were a Prime Minister's assurances that the P.A.C. was free to search where it chose; that his government, first before all people, was determined to root out waste. Some one had cried: "Havoc." The Fulfords, the Winklers, the Wards, the Dechenes, the Purdys, the Rosses and the Tripps, the McNivens, the Cotes, the Rheaumes and the Mulocks-all the little storm troopers took^ a bite on their tongues and shouted: "Heil."

That was all. No more was needed. The lid was safely on. If someone should meddle again the storm troopers will be there. It might even be possible by them to shunt the whole business of governmental economy into the safety and secrecy of the war expenditures committee.

That is the suggestion we have from the leader of the government to-day.

For the present the P.A.C. can go back to picking the bones of the auditor general's corpse where waste and extravagance seldom, if ever, show. Who would say ill of the dead?

I just wish, as one of "the Rosses" who were members of that committee, to dissociate myself from the action of "the Rosses" as described in this article. I mentioned that I was one of those members; I should not want it to be supposed across this country that I am regarded in the light of a rubber stamp on such a committee.

Public Accounts

I believe there is a good deal of discussion concerning this wartime information board which was set up last fall and' which, as my colleague has pointed out, has so far cost this country just under $580,000 for publicity expenses in connection with its activities. If the argument of the leader of the government to-day is sound, that this is all to the good, why is there this concerted effort to prevent investigation of its accounts?

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LIB

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Mines and Resources)

Liberal

Mr. CRERAR:

I take exception to that. There is no concerted effort to avoid investigation. My hon. friend has no right to make that statement. What I said was that the public accounts committee is not the body to investigate these accounts.

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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

I am not referring entirely to the hon. member himself; but, as a new member coming to this parliament it has been amazing to me to see, I repeat, concerted efforts by certain hon. members to prevent investigation. I saw a couple of hon. members in action, concerting all their efforts before the war expenditures committee to which the hon. member has referred. One of them is a member of the public accounts committee, and one is not, although he could not contain himself, and only yesterday he burst out in committee, without even asking permission to appear before the committee or to say a word. I say that that is a deliberate effort on the part of these members, and it has been repeated, and when you get these reports they will speak for themselves and to some extent establish this fact. I certainly believe that this amendment should be carried in the interests of the taxpayers; and if there is no extravagant waste or misspending of public money it will be all to the good so far as the government are concerned.

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NAT

Thomas Langton Church

National Government

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):

I was a member of this public accounts committee for a great many years. I attended the first meeting as one of its members. I was present this year at their first meeting when the report of the chairman was adopted and concurrence moved on April 6. I can tell you this, that as long as I sat on this committee I never saw them fulfil the functions of the committee as set out in the manual.

The Acting Prime Minister is going very far afield to justify to the farmers of this country the closed stand he has taken to-day. Remember that there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the public accounts. The figures are now up in the sky,-$660,000,000 in 1943 for civilian estimates as compared with

836.000,000 when the last Conservative government went out in 1936. We are now spending

as much in four or five days as was formerly spent' in the whole year. We have had an example of the workings of a public accounts committee in the province of Ontario, which in investigating the expenditure of the farmers' government were shown that the premier's office had bought a $100 coal scuttle,-which caused more discussion among the farmers of the province than all the rest of the budget put together. [DOT]

If the amendment does not carry for an open inquiry of all departments and boards, the committee might as well wind up its business. We might as well put a padlock on the door of the House of Commons and admit that we have no control whatever over one cent of public expenditures. They are doing things differently in England. There they have a committee of the house go into every item with auditors who can 'summon witnesses and take active steps to protect the taxpayers. If the motion proposed by the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green) is rejected by the house, and if public affairs are to continue as they are, then I submit that the government is only destroying the principles of liberalism itself and any semblance of public control over accounts. After all, liberalism came into being through the efforts of certain men" to safeguard the rights of the public. In the mother country for over one hundred years a civil war was fought to gain for the House of Commons, in a vigorous fight, control over public expenditures. I regret to say that we have lost that control in this war and the result has been the decay of parliament and the decline of the House of Commons in popular opinion. You can go into any constituency and you will find that there are complaints from the businessmen of Canada. No one knows what is going on.

I asked the Minister of Finance what some of these war boards were costing, how many officials there were, and comparisons before the war, and so on. I wanted to get some idea of the cost from day to day, from week to week. Apparently he did not know; he could not inform me. At any rate, it took me nearly six months to get the information that I was seeking and I did not get it until September of last year, long after the session had closed. The very appointment of these publicity boards has shown that the government has lost confidence in the press and in its ability to disseminate information, which has been the function of the press from time immemorial. May I quote from certain remarks of mine as reported at page 2630 of Hansard:

Why not give the public the real picture. It is the function of a democratic government to support a democratic press, so that the taxpayers may obtain, through the medium of that

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press, information in regard to the expenditure of public moneys 6uch as is contemplated -here. After all, the taxpayer is the man who is going to foot the bill; the cost will not be paid by a committee of the cabinet or by this committee. It is the taxpayers of Capada who will have to pay it. They will get it in their income tax and in other ways. I submit therefore that it is the duty of the government to make it possible for the people to get all the information they can. I do not blame the press for not publicizing the matter when the government has Bhown such a lack of confidence in the press of Canada by appointing an information bureau to discharge the functions that should properly be discharged by our newspapers. It should be the function of the press to obtain the necessary information from the government in regard to Bill 76 and to give a real picture of what is going on. not only in our domestic affairs but in regard to foreign questions as well, and to stimulate interest in public affairs.

For that reason I opposed the information and the publicity bureaus. What do these people do? They simply duplicate the work of the radio and the press. Every department has its publicity and liaison press officers and now we find such numerous officers in almost every military district. They constitute a small standing army in themselves. They receive $150 for uniforms, though they are only glorified civilians and just wear an armlet; civilians could do the work just as well. Indeed, they have even gone to the United States and tried to convert the people there to their ideas and convert America from isolation. There is an official Casey at the bat in New York, or Mr. Casey of the publicity board; he is there apparently to tell the people of the United States something about Canada's publicity department. In conclusion, I may say that the auditor general-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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NAT

Thomas Langton Church

National Government

Mr. CHURCH:

Well, it needs someone to say something. We cannot all be like hon. gentlemen opposite, yes men and nodders, banging desks and shouting. I raised this very question in 1941 and again in 1942 and 1943 and I suggest that there is not a member of parliament who can go home to his constituency and convince the people that we have control over one cent of war expenditures.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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May 19, 1943