June 1, 1908 (10th Parliament, 4th Session)


George William Fowler

Conservative (1867-1942)


Sometimes the sting is in the tail, and perhaps the minister thought so in this case. Anyway it is just as well not to be too thin skinned. This is a matter of great public interest and my hon. friend (Mr. Foster) had a perfect right to bring it to the attention of parliament, and because he did so was no reason why the Minister of Militia should have fallen upon him in such a savage, fierce and vindictive manner. Well, I do not intend to follow that line of debate ; I dont be lieve in it. I dont think we should make these personal attacks on members of the House, and I shall therefore discuss this 'question from the information before us, and from the knowledge we have of the circumstances of the case leaving personalities aside as they should be left aside in discussing public matters. The facts of this case are: Some time in the latter part of the year 1905 Mr. F. E. Williams of St. John, who is a merchant of considerable prominence and not the kind of person the Minister of Militia would lead us to believe, took an interest in cold storage matters in his city. By the way I was surprised to hear the Minister of Militia speak of Mr. Williams as he did; I was more surprised at that than I was at his references to the member for North Toronto. The member for North Toronto was in the House able and willing to defend himself, but Mr. Williams was absent, and so it is the more regrettable that the minister should have made disparaging statements about him. I quote from the speech of the Minister of Militia:
As to this particular cold storage establishment, we have been told a great deal about a man named Williams.
Now, Mr. Williams is a prominent merchant of the city of St. John and a prominent Liberal as well, and it was quite unnecessary for the Minister of Militia to refer to him as ' a man named Williams.' True, he is a man, and true he is named Williams, but we all understand the idea the minister wished to convey; we all know he wished to underrate Mr. Williams and to minimize his importance, and so he spoke of him not as Mr. F. E. Williams, a prominent merchant of St. John, but he designated him in a curt and disparaging way as ' a man named Williams.' I quote further from the Minister of Militia in referring to Mr. Williams:
He says he was engaged an the fish business though it turned out he was engaged in the pork business.
I defy the minister to point, in the letters of Mr. Williams to the department, to any statement of his that he was in the fish business. The Minister of Militia has gone out of his way to attack the veracity of Mr. Williams, and that attack was unwarranted and unsupported by facts. The minister further says:
He wished to get from the Department of Marine and Fisheries a grant not of 30 per cent but of 50 per cent in order to enable him to freeze bait and carry on his own line of business.
Now, if he was not in the fish business he would not be carrying on his own line of business in freezing bait. The minister seems to have attributed some evil motive to Mr. Williams in trying to get 50 per cent, but Mr. Williams in his letters points out that in every case the bait freezing establishments iu Nova Scotia receive 50 per cent of the cost of their plant, and so when Mr. Williams was asking 50 per cent for a bait freezing plant to serve the fishermen of the Bay of Fundy, he was asking exactly for the same terms they were getting in Nova Scotia. Is there anything unfair or improper in that. Is there any reason in it why the Minister of Militia should sneer at this gentleman and insinuate that he was grasping enough to try and get something he was not entitled to ? I think this is very unfair on the part of the Minister of Militia. It says in other words, he wished to be given a system of cold storage which would subsidize directly his own line of business and not a system of cold storage on a large scale which would be of great advantage to the foreign export as well as the local business. As a matter of fact Mr. Williams was not engaged in the fish business. He wished to establish a bait freezing plant in the city of St. John, and asked for assistance to that freezing plant

on exactly tlie same terms as had been given by the Department of Marine and Fisheries to similar establishments In Nova Scotia. Supposing that he had advanced his own business by getting cold storage in St. John. The Minister of Militia states that he started into this because he was largely interested in fruit culture in his own district, therefore he would be equally blamable in desiring to get some special benefit for himself on account of the business in which he was engaged. The minister said:
Mr. Williams wanted something which would particularly benefit his own line of business and he made certain applications and had certain negotiations with the Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Mr. Brodeur). But owing to a change of policy in the Department of Marine and Fisheries, Mr. Williams failed to get what he wanted; and not being pleased, he endeavoured to solace himself by abusing me. Seeing that even he could not get something for nothing.
He could not get something for nothing. Did he ask for something for nothing? Did the industry with which the Minister of Militia was connected get something for nothing? Is that the inference we are to draw? It seems to me that is the only inference we can draw if we are to take for granted the statement of the Minister of Militia that Mr. Williams, in asking for this subsidy which the Department of Agriculture had already been authorized to give, was trying to get something for nothing and therefore guilty of reprehensible conduct. What are we to say of a cabinet minister who is asking for exactly the same thing ? Is his conduct to be all right while that of Williams, who does not have the advantage of a seat in this House, is to be all wrong? Yet that is the only fault the minister can find with Williams, that he was trying to get something for nothing, and because he could not get it was abusing the minister. Surely the minister, having been successful in obtaining what he was after and Mr. Williams having been turned down in trying to get what he was after, should have just a little of the milk of human kindness in him and should have said that Williams was a little sore and so should not be blamed so much. I think that Mr. Williams* conduct has been reasonable and proper. I do not think he can be blamed much for having lost his temper under the circumstances. He had all his life been an active Liberal worker in St. John, he was prominent in the councils of the Liberal party there, he was only asking what every one had the right to receive if they came within the conditions laid down in the grant and be found himself up against an influence he did not expect to have to butt against, he found, even although he had engaged the services of the Minister of Railways and Canals and sup- 1 Mr. FOWLER.
posed that minister was going to be powerful enough to gain what he wanted, that that minister was powerless in the fact of another minister who had greater influence over the Minister of Agriculture, and it was perhaps natural that Mr. Williams should feel a little sore on the subject. It would not be necessary to speak of the history of this case had not the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Fisher) denied that the Minister of Militia (Sir Frederick Borden) has any direct or indirect interest in this business. It does seem to me that the Minister of Militia stated in so many words in his speech that he was interested in this business.

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