May 3, 1910 (11th Parliament, 2nd Session)

LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LALTRIER.

It is true. Mr. Speaker, that in 1891, Sir Richard Cartwright was 'a prominent member of this House, and when I had the honour of leading Her Majesty's opposition, he introduced the resolution which has been read by my hon. friend, but which I think can bear to be read again. It was in these words:
That the acceptance of gifts or testimonials of any kind on the part of ministers of the Crown or of any members of their families from contractors, government officials or other persons having pecuniary relations with the government, is entirely opposed to sound principles of administration, and is calculated to bring parliamentary government into contempt, and that the example thus given tends to corrupt and demoralize the officials serving under ministers who have accepted or permitted the acceptance of gifts or testimonials as aforesaid.
It is a matter of notoriety that the public men who have served Canada have not
always been blessed with wealth. A prominent example was Sir John A Macdonald, and what Mr. Fielding's friends have done for him, Sir John A. Macdonald's friends did for him, they came to his rescue, and gave him a testimonial accompanied by a large sum of money, which was invested for the benefit of his family. I am not aware that any fault was found by anybody, whether by friend or foe, when the fellow countrymen of Sir John A. Macdonald thus provided for him in his old age and put him above the anxieties of providing for bis family. I am not aware that any fault was found on that account, and I do not think that even the hon. gentleman who has addressed the House finds fault with that. But, there were other testimonials given on a subsequent day; a testimonial was given later to Sir Heetor Langevin. I would prefer not to have to speak of these things. Nothing but good should be spoken of the dead. Sir Hector Langevin is no more, he has been long in his grave, and if I have to speak of his memory in this way the fault is not mine, but the fault is that of the hon. gentleman who has just addressed the House. If the resolution of Sir Richard Cartwright, which I have just read was brought before the House, was accepted by the House without a word of dissent from anybody, wa3 passed unanimously by the House, it was because the charge was made in the newspapers, not in the press of his opponents, not in Liberal newspapers, but in Conservative newspapers, that directors had been permitted to subscribe to that fund. I have before me and I could quote a paragraph from a pamphlet which was issued at that time, and which I read in 1891, in the presence of Sir Hector Langevin, when he was in this House, and which I do not care to read now when he is in his grave. But, that was the reason why the resolution of Sir Richard Cartwright was brought in, it was to prevent matters of this kind taking place, contractors, public officials, men having business with the government, subscribing to a similar fund and under similar circumstances. The resolution of Sir Richard Cartwright was adopted by the House.
Now, Sir, it may happen, and it has happened, that other men than Sir John A. Macdonald have not been careful of their own interests, have given their time, their health, their brains and their life to the public service, and have made no provision for their old age and no provision for their family, and such a man, unfortunately, is my hon. friend the Minister of Finance. But, if there is a man in this House, or if there is a man in this country, whose honour is above reproach, is above the rebuke of the hon. gentleman, it is the Finance Minister. If there is a

man who has a high sense of honour, a most delicate sense of honour, it is my colleague the Minister of Finance, Mr. W. S. Fielding. Does the hon. gentleman who has just addressed the House think that the man who has been at the head of the Department of Finance for the last fourteen years, and against whom there has never been raised even the breath of suspicion, does he believe that that man would consent to take a dollar of money if it came from a contractor, if it came from a man who had anything to do with the government? If my hon. friend holds such an opinion as that, he does not know the Hon. Mr. Fielding as I know him, and as his friends know him. When the friends of Mr. Fielding undertook to lay before him a testimonial and to provide for him and his family in his old age, the committee who had the matter in charge consulted me, and I told them that I approved of what was being done. The letter can be quoted, it was quoted the other day by the gentleman who presided at the meeting where the presentation was made to Mr. Fielding, and in the letter I said ' There is nothing too good for Fielding.' At the same time it was understood and stipulated that not a man would be called upon to subscribe to that testimonial if he was a director, if he was a government official, or if he had anything to do with the government. It was well understood that only men in private life would be allowed to contribute, men who had no connection whatever, directly ot indirectly, with the government, who had no expectation of profiting ever so remotely from any transactions -with the government. I am glad to say that the answer came, not only from the political friends of Mr. Fielding, but from his political opponents as well. I have this to say to the hon. gentleman who has just addressed the House, that not a dollar, not a penny has been contributed to that fund, which I am glad to say has reached a very substantial amount, by anybody except personal friends and admirers of Mr. Fielding; not a dollar has come from public contractors, or government officials, or anybody who could expect to profit therefrom. Now, all sorts of rumours have been circulated in regard to this matter. I read yesterday with deep chagrin, in a respectable newspaper published in this city, the following paragraph:
' Where did the money come from ' ? The answer is that the money came from private sources; that I assert on my honour as a man, on my responsibility as the Prime Minister of Canada. I will read from the article I refer to:
Sir Wilfrid and some other prominent Liberals could, of course, answer this, but so far as the ordinary member of parliament is concerned, the test has not been seen.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   GIFTS TO MINISTERS OF THE CROWN.
Full View