February 1, 1958 (23rd Parliament, 1st Session)


Stanley Howard Knowles

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

-and the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I suppose it is true also of all those who have been doing the applauding from the back benches. There is no question about the desirability of the object for which this money has been obtained. There is no question but that the government followed to the letter^ what is required in the statute, namely that a document be tabled showing a list of governor general's warrants that had been passed. But all previous governments have done that, too.
In this parliament, Mr. Chairman, we are governed not only by the letter of the law, but we are governed by tradition and practices. According to the tradition and practice of this parliament, in addition to the information to be conveyed by means of laying a document on the table, there has been included in subsequent supplementary estimates an appropriate estimate covering the amount passed by the governor general's warrants. It is that that has not been done this time. It is that that is different; it is that that is changed. It is that that has taken us around the corner. It is that that is the whole issue today. All my hon. friends opposite needed to do if they did not want this long debate, which is now longer than the minister thought it would be, was to admit that perhaps the practice of the decades of our history was correct and that they should get back on the track by doing it as it has been done before.
I am not going to take any further time by arguing, in more than a sentence or two, with these repeated assertions that I should have raised this matter earlier. If a wrong is a wrong, Mr. Chairman, a person should raise it as soon as he is aware of it. It was not until yesterday, on the basis of the facts that I obtained, that I was aware of it. This is the first opportunity I have had since then to raise the matter. Then, there is this utterly silly talk about our not being willing to challenge this government. Surely, the hon. member opposite knows that we in this corner have moved several want of confidence motions this session. We have voted for every one of those want of confidence motions we have moved. We have voted also for want of confidence motions moved by some other members of the house. Indeed, the only one for which we did not vote was that one on January 20, which suggested that the Liberals would be better than the Conservatives. This was a silly amendment. We did not vote for it because it was our belief that that decision should be made by the people of Canada. We are glad that chance is going to come soon.

After my hon. friends opposite refused to come to grips with the point and kept wandering off on these irrelevant talks, the Minister of Finance was pulled to his feet by the question the Leader of the Opposition put to him. He made a lengthy speech, in which he did not even refer to the straightforward question that the Leader of the Opposition put to him. The Leader of the Opposition asked the government across the way if they would give an undertaking that, after the forthcoming election, they would see to it that any future governor general's warrants would be made not only the subject of a report laid on the table of the house but the subject of supplementary estimates so that parliament could deal with them. The Minister of Finance did not answer the question, did not respond to the challenge. He did not even refer to it. I submit, Mr. Chairman, that that issue, like some others that have been evaded in recent days, is one to which the people of Canada have a right to have an answer.
I may say that my leader, the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar, is absent from the house today because he has gone to the maritime provinces to fulfil an engagement he made some weeks ago to address meetings of the Canadian Club in Charlottetown and in Halifax. He took this afternoon's train for Montreal to go down to the maritime provinces. Last night, however, I had a discussion with him after I had assembled my material on this issue. He shared to the full my concern over what has happened. I telephoned him at two o'clock today just before he caught the train to go to Charlottetown. I told him that at last we had succeeded in raising this issue this morning-just before lunch-in the light of the information I obtained yesterday.
We do not usually talk about these private discussions, but since my leader is away I feel I should. I do so in the light of what the Leader of the Opposition said earlier today. My leader urged me at two o'clock today to do my best this afternoon to get out of the government the kind of commitment the Leader of the Opposition asked for earlier today, a commitment that during the election period coming up there would not be the use of governor general's warrants without those warrants being made the subject of estimates that could be voted upon by parliament when we reassemble after the election. So, Mr. Chairman, having failed, along with the Leader of the Opposition to get a commitment out of the Minister of Finance, I want to say, as deputy leader of this party and on behalf of my leader as well as all my colleagues, if this party is returned to power after the next election any governor general's warrants that have to be used, will be laid before parliament for parliament to have an opportunity to pass
Supply-Citizenship and Immigration upon them. If it should so happen that, as a result of the next election, we are still on the opposition side of the house, we will do our best to persuade whatever government is then in power to follow that course.
We will use as a method of persuasion the weapons that are open to members of the opposition. No chiding from the other side about not being willing to move motions will change our course of action. My hon. friends can talk all they want to about our not moving a motion on this matter. They know that we do not want to upset the passing of this money. They know what would happen if we did so. If we moved any kind of amendment they and I know what they would do. They would go around the country saying that those people in the opposition were inhumane; that they did not want to spend this money to pay for the expenses of this program of assistance to the Hungarian refugees. They are not going to catch us in that trick of dishonesty, no matter how much they may chide us for not doing so.
As for talking about other ways that are open to us, may I say that they need not lecture us on the vehicles that are open to the opposition in this parliament. We know them. But when they tell us that the method of getting at that order in council is a proper vehicle, may I remind them that the only thing we could do would be to put down a private member's motion-and there are not any on the order paper; they are not allowed six weeks after the debate on the address is over-criticizing the passing of that order in council. If such a motion were passed, it would mean that the order in council should not have been passed. Nobody in this house today has said that that order in council should not have been passed. Nobody has complained about spending that money by governor general's warrant. What we are complaining about is that that money has not subsequently been made the subject of a supplementary estimate brought before the house so that we can have the opportunity not of defeating it but of passing it.
My hon. friends opposite can indulge in all of these irrelevancies, if they wish to do so. This is a clear-cut issue which they have created. I confess that I did not have all the facts on which to reach a conclusion as to the rightness or wrongness of it the day before yesterday. But once I had those full facts and was aware of the wrongness of what is being done, 1 made the decision, in consultation with my colleagues, that it would be raised as vigorously and as strongly as possible at the first opportunity. That is what we have done. We have raised this matter here today on the very first opportunity that it could be done.
Supply-Citizenship and Immigration
I hope hon. members opposite will realize that they have made a mistake; that they have tried to take us around the corner so far as parliamentary history is concerned. I may tell them that some of us will see to it that the people of Canada are reminded during the next few weeks that these are the people who not only fought for the rights of parliament but who said that amongst those rights should be the control of parliament over the purse. That was their line when they were in opposition. That was their line when they were on the hustings in 1957. But they have taken the reverse of that position now that they are in parliament. It is time they were put to the test. By that I mean not just the test of this House of Commons but the test of the people of Canada.

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