April 4, 1952

ABSENCE OF MINISTERS DURING CONSIDERATION OF THEIR ESTIMATES


On the orders of the day:


PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. Yesterday, following the requests which had been made on different occasions, a debate on national defence, for which in excess of $2 billion is to be appropriated, was opened by a statement by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton). Following him, the speaker was the military spokesman of the Conservative party in this house, and he was known to be speaking in that place in this particular debate, the importance of which is emphasized not only by the money involved but also by the general circumstances under which this debate comes before us following the recent meeting in Lisbon.

Inquiries of the Ministry

When the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) had been speaking for only a very short time the minister left the house and did not return until shortly before his speech was completed. I would point out that this is not the first time we have had a similar experience. A week ago today, ministers whose estimates, involving more than $200 million, were coming before the house were not in their places. That made it impossible to deal with those estimates as they should have been dealt with, and, I might say, resulted in delay in the consideration of certain estimates until a time when it was not likely that they would be given adequate consideration.

I would point out that on this particular occasion the presence of the minister was not only a courtesy due to a member of this house in a debate, which is not a debate on estimates, not a debate in regard to any particular detail, but a debate to inform the house, and also to inform the minister as to what members of the house think about what is taking place. The absence of the minister in a case of this kind immediately after he had made his own speech indicates a lack of regard for the importance of the debate which must of necessity communicate itself to everyone in the house.

We had yesterday as excellent speeches as have ever been made in the house on national defence-presented, however, in an atmosphere from which the reality had been drawn by the fact that the minister responsible for introducing the debate was not present.

If this stood by itself, perhaps one might overlook it; but for the minister to leave the house after his own speech, at a time when a member with the unique experience of the hon. member for Nanaimo was speaking-a man who served in every rank from private to general and who has won decorations for valour not won by any other living infantry officer-to disregard the importance of a speech by such a man can only be regarded as the greatest discourtesy to him as well as to members of the house.

In referring to this matter I am dealing with something that goes to the very root of the privilege of every member who is recognized as the representative of the people who have chosen him, no matter to which party he may belong. When a subject as important as this is under debate, either the minister responsible should remain in the house, or *the government should regard it as advisable to adjourn the debate until he can con-, veniently return.

Topic:   ABSENCE OF MINISTERS DURING CONSIDERATION OF THEIR ESTIMATES
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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. Brooke Claxion (Minister of National Defence):

I think everyone wanted to

hear what the leader of the opposition (Mr.;

1120 HOUSE OF

Inquiries of the Ministry Drew) had to say, though I think all hon. members recognize that everything he said was totally out of order. But since he has said it, I submit I am in a position where I have now a question of privilege to raise.

The hon. member has spoken about the attendance in the house of ministers. I can remember an occasion when I introduced a defence debate in the house at eight o'clock one evening, upon which occasion Your Honour had the bell rung until 8.09. The first Conservative to come in was the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) at 8.19. The leader of the opposition and the rest of the Conservatives who attended that sitting at all dropped in about 8.35 or later.

I can remember another occasion, on October 22, 1951, when, in consequence of repeated representations made by the leader of the opposition to the Prime Minister (Mr. St Laurent) for a debate on external affairs and defence, the Prime Minister discussed with the leaders of the opposition parties when it would be convenient to have the debate. He suggested to them the next day, but it was finally decided that it should take place on Monday, October 22. That debate, I suggest, was the most important ever to be held in this house in peacetime. It was to discuss the motion put forward by the Prime Minister that I read yesterday, that the house approve the action of Canada with regard to supporting United Nations action in Korea, and the North Atlantic treaty. We had a very interesting debate-very interesting indeed. It was brought on at the request of, pressed and pressed again by the leader of the opposition. It resulted in acceptance of the motion without a division. But the debate was not participated in by the leader of the opposition,because he was not here throughout the

whole of the debate.

Now, the hon. member has referred to the matter of courtesy as between members. I think I made my position clear to the hon. member for Nanaimo yesterday, in the presence of the leader of the opposition,immediately at the close of the afternoon session-and the leader of the opposition

heard me-when I apologized to the hon. member for Nanaimo because I had to leave for fifteen minutes in order to attend to some most urgent business concerning which my presence had been required in a message sent to the house.

I crossed the floor of the house and apologized to the hon. member for Nanaimo. He understood it, but apparently the leader of the opposition does not understand it- although he heard it. Now, every hon. member knows that when a debate is arranged

sometimes in advance and does not take place-four and a half days, for example, on external affairs-it is inevitable that we must keep engagements outside the house. This house is quite different from Westminster, which the leader of the opposition wishes us to follow in all respects except in respect of those important elements which might control debate. There it is well recognized that when a minister makes a statement he does not usually sit throughout the debate. Even the reply is usually made by his parliamentary under-secretary. However, yesterday I heard every word uttered by the hon. member for Nanaimo, with the exception of the fifteen minutes I mentioned, and I apologized to him at the time for my absence. He said, "That's all right," and I hope other hon. members of this house think that that is all right.

Topic:   ABSENCE OF MINISTERS DURING CONSIDERATION OF THEIR ESTIMATES
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LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

The charge and countercharge have been made. I doubt whether the discussion was in order. There is nothing before the house. Perhaps the matter could be adjourned until the debate on the budget, at which time it could be settled. It is not in order to continue the discussion now.

Topic:   ABSENCE OF MINISTERS DURING CONSIDERATION OF THEIR ESTIMATES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker-

Topic:   ABSENCE OF MINISTERS DURING CONSIDERATION OF THEIR ESTIMATES
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?

Some hon. Members:

Order.

Topic:   ABSENCE OF MINISTERS DURING CONSIDERATION OF THEIR ESTIMATES
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. Cruickshank:

See Connie Smythe.

Topic:   ABSENCE OF MINISTERS DURING CONSIDERATION OF THEIR ESTIMATES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

It will not be necessary to adjourn the matter until the debate on the budget. I hope to deal with the inaccurate statements just made, but I shall be able to do so in the debate which we are about to resume.

Topic:   ABSENCE OF MINISTERS DURING CONSIDERATION OF THEIR ESTIMATES
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CRIMINAL CODE

REQUEST FOR TABLING OF AMENDMENTS


On the orders of the day:


PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Lake Centre):

Has

the Minister of Justice given consideration to the tabling of suggested amendments to the Criminal Code before the Easter recess so that they may be in the hands of hon. members, particularly the lawyer members, who could place them before the various law societies of the provinces?

Topic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic:   REQUEST FOR TABLING OF AMENDMENTS
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. Stuart S. Garson (Minister of Justice):

As I indicated in my answer to a question put by the hon. member on March 5 last, it is the intention of the government to table the report of the commission, and of the draft Criminal Code consolidation which is an integral part of the report, before the house adjourns for the Easter recess. The last check which I made on the matter was made this morning, and I was told that there is a reasonable prospect of the report being available on Monday next.

Topic:   CRIMINAL CODE
Subtopic:   REQUEST FOR TABLING OF AMENDMENTS
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FLOOD CONDITIONS

ALBERTA-QUESTION OF FEDERAL ASSISTANCE


On the orders of the day:


SC

William Duncan McKay Wylie

Social Credit

Mr. W. D. Wylie (Medicine Hat):

Mr. Speaker, before the orders of the day are called I should like to ask a question, but I am not just sure to which minister I should direct it. I am sorry that I have not sent notice of this question. I have received two telegrams today about the flood situation in Alberta, and I should like to know if any department of the government has been set up to assist the people who have had to leave their homes.

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime

Minister): I think the hon. member is under a misapprehension as to the distribution of responsibilities by the Canadian constitution. If I understood him correctly, he is referring to a flood which has occurred in different localities in the province from which he comes. This, in the first instance, is the responsibility of the local authorities. The only responsibility that has been assumed by the federal government in dealing with such matters arises when the situation is such that it means a catastrophe which it is beyond the financial power of the local authorities to handle. That is usually represented to the government by the provincial government concerned. It is not within my knowledge that any such representations have been made to us in connection with the matter referred to by the hon. gentleman.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   ALBERTA-QUESTION OF FEDERAL ASSISTANCE
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NATIONAL DEFENCE


The house resumed, from Thursday, April 3, consideration of the motion of Mr. Claxton for committee of supply.


April 4, 1952