May 14, 1908 (10th Parliament, 4th Session)


George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)


We can quite understand Mr. Willson quarrelling with Mr. Willson. We can quite understand Mr. Little quarrelling with Mr. Little. But we all know that the same men control these companies and have the same interest in them. And in any event, up to a very late period no tenders were called for and there was no competition. It is only within a very late

period that tenders have been asked and there has been any semblance of competition. These things have come out, and they have not added to the confidence of the community in that department. It is too much the habit for this government, either through its members or its closest friends, to be interested in companies which are doing business with the government. I propose to exploit another company just as soon as I can get at it before* this House, and I think I can show that a prominent member of the cabinet at present has taken a special business interest in it. There is, I have said, that state of things brought out so far which leads people to wonder what would a thorough investigation show. This is not a healthy condition of things, but it is a condition* which has been brought on by the government itself. This new and wasteful policy of the acetylene gas buoys and fog signals, these contracts, this division of the department so as to get a favourable report for the purposes of the minister-all this was brought about by Mr. Prefontaine himself. He was the man who, against the report of the chief engineer-a man of worth and through honesty-undertook this wasteful system of expenditure, to say nothing more about it, and laughed at the scruples of his chief engineer. Who was it that appointed the commissioner of lights, a young man-I say nothing against his ability-without experience in the department to any extent, put into a most responsible position in which he carried on things pretty much as he pleased. Who appointed Mr. Fraser? He was appointed by Mr. Pr6fontaine himself and for the very purpose of instituting this acetylene fog signal and gas buoy expenditure which, while good in many particulars, as the first engineer says, was pressed beyond the needs of the country and the requisites of proper economy. The whole plea to-day is that in some way the government is bound, if it can, and it can, to press the matter to speedier conclusions than it is being pressed to-day. That is the whole point of my plea, in the interests of the department, in the interests of the country, and in common justice to the employees of the department, which is historical, and which has been manned in the past by efficient men, and which to-day has within its bounds as honest, painstaking and competent officials as there are in any of the departments of this government. I move that the House do now adjourn.
Right hon. Sir WILFRID LAURIER (Prime Minister). Before I proceed to discuss the motion which my hon. friend has made, and the point which he has taken under it, I think it is my duty to take at once some exception to the manner in which he has discussed the motion. For myself I do not object to it, because I 2G9i
think it involves a point which is worth while clearing up at once. But the objection I take is that my hon. friend was slightly out of order in discussing what takes place before the commission until the commission has reported. I think that the rule which applies to committees of this House should apply for the very same reason to commissions appointed under the authority of the government and of parliament.

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