November 6, 1945 (20th Parliament, 1st Session)


James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)


Hon. J. L. ILSLEY (Acting Prime Minister) moved:

That a select committee be appointed to examine the expenditure defrayed out of moneys provided by parliament for national defence and
demobilization, and for other services directly connected with the war, including the disposal of surplus war assets, and to report what, if any, economies consistent with the execution of the policy, decided by the government may be elfeeted therein, and that notwithstanding standing order 65 the committee shall consist of twenty-five members, namely: Messrs. Benidiek-son, Black (Cumberland), Bradette, Cleaver, Cote (Verdun), Dion (Lake St. John-Roberval), G-olding, Homuth, Isnor, Jackman, Knowles, Lalonde, Macdonnell, Marquis, McDonald (Pontiac), McGregor, Mcllraith, McLure, Michaud, Probe, Reid, Shaw, Smith (Calgary West), Stewart (Winnipeg North), Winkler, with power to send for persons, papers and records; to examine witnesses and to report from time to time to the house.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words to this resolution, and a few only. This resolution takes the place of or succeeds similar resolutions in the past few years for the appointment of committees to examine into war expenditures. The phrase "for national defence and demobilization" is substituted for the phrase "for the defence services". This change is in line with the change in the designation of the war appropriation measure. There is also the insertion of the phrase "including the disposal of surplus war assets." This phrase is inserted to remove any doubts about the powers of the committee in that regard. Otherwise the language of the resolution is similar to the language of the resolutions in previous years.
In this committee, as it has existed in the past and as it will operate this year, it is the intention of the government that the emphasis be laid upon the examination of current expenditures and current practices. The purpose of the committee is not the same as the purpose of the public accounts committee, which is to hold the government to account for its expenditure of money in the past and very often is accompanied by a charge by a member of the opposition as to certain wrongdoing in the expenditure of money for which he takes some responsibility- a very large measure of responsibility. This is rather a committee carried on for the purpose of effecting economies, of saving the country money and assisting the government in operating as economically as possible, and *that point should always be present in the minds of the committee. The committee should not be a fishing expedition; it should not be a roving commission with the intention of ranging over the whole field of war expenditures in the past with a view to bringing out some instance of extravagant expenditure. That is the function of the public accounts committee. This committee should rather examine what is going on and what has been going on recently, with a view to correcting
Surplus War Assets

and improving any defects in governmental administration so far as expenditures are concerned.
With regard to whether the committee shall sit in secret or not, that has been a bone of contention over the past years. This year the government has no objection to this committee conducting its sitting in the open. In fact, it favours the committee conducting its proceedings in the open unless in some particular instance the committee itself decides that there is some reason for sitting behind closed doors, which rule applies to every committee of the house. Further than that I do not think the government can go. I am stating as clearly as I can the government's attitude towards the question of sitting in camera or sitting in open.

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