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


Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Carleton, Ont.).

Whenever the right hon. Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) has not a very good answer, he affects to fly into a passion. He is not in nearly so much of a rage to-day as he would have us believe, and he thoroughly understands that he has not a leg to stand upon in his argument with my hon. friend (Mr. Foster). In the first place, he relies upon a measure introduced into this House by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Ayles-worth) on the 9th of March, four weeks exactly before this letter was written by Mr. Justice Cassels, to persuade the House and the country that the reason why he has not complied with Judge Cassels' request is that the opposition has not brought on and passed that Bill. I am bound to say the right hon. gentleman is establishing an extraordinary reversal of the functions of government. I have been in parliament twelve or thirteen sessions, and this is the first time I have learned that the opposition has the right to call government orders and to decide in what precedence government measures shall be ta.^en up. If the right hon. gentleman will confide that duty to us, we will bring on the Exchequer Court Bill the first thing after this debate closes. If he had consulted us, or had made us aware that we possessed this authority, we might have brought on this Bill long ago. But it would have been of no use to do so, for this Bill does not, as it stands, make provision for that which Judge Cassels requires, and the right hon. gentleman knows it and conceded it in his speech. The Bill makes provision for the appointment of a deputy judge in case of the illness of the judge of the Exchequer Court or in case he has leave of absence,

and the right hon. gentleman admits that is the purpose for which it was intended. Why, then, does he talk about the Bill, why does he put forward a Bill which does not provide for the difficulty that has arisen? Or, if he intended to utilize this Bill, why has not he, since the letter of Mr. Justice Cassels was written, submitted to the House the amendments necessary to make it provide for the difficulties referred to by. Judge Cassels, and then ask the House, as a matter of urgency, to pass the Bill at once ? That is all he needed to do. When he desired a Bill put through with regard to immigration and stated that it was an urgent matter, it was put throught the same day and sent to the Senate. If he had called up this Bill and asked that amendments be made-and, by the way, I would; ask if the amendments have yet been drafted ?-I venture to say it would have gone through in half an hour. Have the amendments been drafted, and if so, when were they drafted ? The right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) does not reply. Well, if the amendments have not yet been drafted, is it not delicious to hear the right hon gentleman suggesting that the opposition. gentleman suggesting that the opposi-gress? In the first place, the argument of the right hon. gentleman is that the opposition are responsible for not bringing on this Bill, and then, in the next place, that they are responsible for not passing through the House amendments which the government have not yet drafted. In that way and in that way only is the opposition responsible for the difficulty which has been created.
. So far as the second clause of the Bill is concerned, a very hasty reading of it indicates to me that the jurisdiction proposed by this Bill to be conferred on the registrar of the Exchequer Court is jurisdiction to transact certain business in chambers and is not that jurisdiction which Mr. Justice Cassels proposed in his letter of the 6th of April.
Apart from all this delightful attempt by the right hon. gentleman to put forward an excuse which he at least knows does not exist, let us look at the situation. The situation may be summarized in three or four sentences. The government themselves have realized the necessity of this investigation by Mr. Justice Cassels or some one else, because on the very day on which the report of the Civil Service Commission was laid on the table of this House, the Minister of Marine arose ond made the announcement of the proposed action of the government. Mr. Justice Cassels was consulted and placed his position frankly before the government, declaring that he regarded his judicial duties as his first concern, that he must give his attention, in the first place, to them. He went further, he suggested the amendments (which have not yet been drafted) which would enable the Mr. E. L. BORDEN.
government to deal with the situation as it has not yet been dealt with. So that, apart from the appointment of Mr. Justice Cassels to fulfil duties which the time at his command does not enable him to adequately to discharge, the government have done nothing and the situation is as the hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster) has described it. An investigation is proposed to clear the Department of Marine and Fisheries of certain charges made against it, and to make such an investigation as may be necessary to discover any officers of that department who are worthv of punishment. That investigation is being delayed by reason of the very circumstances pointed out by Mr. Justice Cassels six weeks ago; those circumstances exist to-day and they exist by reason of the inaction of the government. The obvious injury to the public service, the neglect of public interests, cannot be too strongly emphasized and I sincerely trust that steps will be taken by the government immediately to enable that investigation to be carried on promptly and effectually in order that right may be done, those who are innocent may be cleared and those who are guilty, if there be any guilty, may be properly punished.
Motion (Mr. Foster) to adjourn, negatived.

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