March 14, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


Jean-François Pouliot



I agree to a certain extent with what my right hon. leader has said. I should like him to understand that I have no vengeance to satisfy. I am much above that. What I endeavour to do, at times, is simply to enlighten the government as to what is going on, for their own good. Of course according to parliamentary practice a minister is responsible for everything that is done by those under his control; but with the new system of things-and this defence board is part of that system-I feel that the ministers will have less and less authority over the civil service.
My understanding of government is the understanding which was held by my great grandfather and my grandfather, who were also privates in the great Liberal army. It is that a member of parliament is entitled to all information concerning the expenditure of public money and that the minister who is in charge of a department is responsible for everything that is done by his department.

Defence Purchasing Board
What I regret, sir, is that to-day there is a strong tendency to lean upon the shoulders of somebody else; it is still the old story, "My little brother broke the glass." No one is responsible for anything. When 'any member of parliament writes to a department for information he is almost always told that he has come to the wrong door. In fact, for your information, Mr. Speaker, as well as that of my right hon. leader and all other hon. members of the house, I would say that out of the sixty letters I have to write daily for my constituents at least half if not two-thirds are due either to the silliness, the stubborness or the great importance of some officials of the civil service. So, instead of having the leisure to read some public papers which I must read I have to w'aste my time dictating useless letters because those to whom I have written did not give satisfactory answers in connection with very ordinary routine matters.
It is not my pleasure to rise to-day and to address the house on this bill. I do not do it for pleasure. I do not do it as a matter of entertainment; in fact I realize that my speech is very dull. I do it from a sense of duty and, in the best possible spirit and as a good Liberal, I give warning to the government. I want the principle of ministerial responsibility reestablished as it was at the time of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as it was at the time of Blake, Baldwin, Lafontaine, Cartier and all the others. Those people may have made mistakes, but they were true imitators of the British parliamentary system.
Of course, I cannot understand a department which is not complete, like the human body. The Department of National Defence is one which requires quick action. At its head there is a minister. Then there is one deputy minister, and other branches of the department operate under each of the head officials. If this bill is adopted the Department of National Defence will be like a body deprived of its arms. It will have no ammunition, unless there is agreement by the Department of Finance. Who are the experts in armoury and gun making in the Department of Finance?

Full View