April 27, 1911 (11th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Victor Geoffrion


Mr. V. GEOFFRION (Verchbres).

The hon. gentleman (Mr. Doherty) who has just taken his seat was very impressive in his opening remarks. I would be glad if I were able to congratulate him on a change in the length of his addresses; because when he was judge in Montreal his judgments were_ as long, and interminable, and as wearisome to the advocates practising before him, as his speeches are in this House. Sir, the reasons given by the hon. member for Welland (Mr. German) why the majority report should be adopted, have been commented upon at great length. The Minister of Justice has treated exhaustively the legal question, and I will make a very few remarks on a point that does not appear to have been touched by hon. members. The only question for me is

whether the charges made by the hon. member for Champlain have been proved. We are not concerned with the question whether any employees of the Department of Marine and Fisheries in Sorel have exceeded their duty. That might form, if necessary, the basis of another inquiry by another committee; but surely the Committee on Privileges and Elections has been instituted only for the purpose of ascertaining whether members sitting in this House are duly qualified to do so. Now I regret that some newspapers in this country have seen fit to try to prejudice opinion, both in the public and in this House, without having had the privilege, as members of the committee have had, of hearing and seeing the witnesses who were being examined. They have discussed the question mostly on hearsay. But lawyers and judges know that it makes a great difference in forming a judgment whether, you have the privilege of seeing the witnesses when they are examined. They seem to make a kind of hero of the hon. member for Champlain (Mr. Blondin) who has made the charges. What were the charges made by the hon. member for Champlain against the hon. member for Richelieu? I shall read a part of them for the sake of my argument. He charged:
That I am credibly informed, and 1 believe that I can establish by satisfactory evidence:-
That in the course of the years 1908, 1909 and 1910, irregularities, abuses, frauds, malversations and robberies have been committed in the shops and stores of the government of Canada at St. Joseph de Sorel and in the city of Sorel, in the electoral district of Richelieu. . .
That said goods

That is the goods sent- to Mr. Lanetot's house.
Were so fraudulently appropriated to, and said work so fraudulently done at the expense of the government of Canada for the benefit of the said Adelard Lanctot, then and now a member of the House as aforesaid, with his knowledge, assent and approval, the said Adelard Lanctot abusively and fraudulently profiting at the public expense and to the public detriment by his position as member of the House.
I submit that these charges have not been proved. I shall briefly review the evidence in the case. Mr. Lanctot, in 1910, at the date mentioned in the report, was building a house in Sorel. A good many people in this House know and many at Sorel knew that Mr. Lanctot's wife was very ill at Saranac lake. This was known by everybody on this side of the House especially, because we had more friendly relations 'with Mr. Lanctot than hon. members opposite. Being obliged to absent himself often, and having need of painters to finish his house which was ready to be painted, Mr. Lanctot went to the govern-Mr. GEOFFRION.
ment workshops to get painters. Hon. members may laugh as they please at the idea that Mr. Lanctot could not get painters at Sorel. Every member of the committee who wants to be fair knows that it has been proved that there were only three painters in the city of Sorel who were not in the employ of the government at the time, and that two of them were unfit to fill the job and the other could not do it. Mr. Lanctot went to the workshops and tried to see Mr. Papineau and Mr. Papineau being absent, He went to Champagne whom he knew well, and asked him if he could let him have some painters to finish bis work. I need not go minutely into the evidence in the case. He was answered that he could have them, and he said that if Champagne would keep the time of the men he would reimburse the government or that he would pay the men iand was ready to pay them himself every week if necessary. Is it extraordinary that a man should go to an extensive workshop like that in Sorel to get workmen when he could not get them anywhere else? It is done in the great cities, in every place where there are large workshops. It is known also that these large shops employ a great number of workmen in certain seasons of the year, that they do not have so much need for these men at other seasons; they sometimes would prefer to see workmen going out and working somewhere else, but they do not want to send them away, and thus he deprived of their services when they need men. This is done every day. Hon. gentlemen opposite may say that the government ought not to do it. It may be so, but anyhow it is not extraordinary that Mr. Lanctot should have gone to those shops, the only place where he could get those workmen, and he got them. He paid them, the evidence is clear on that point; he got (Some material for which he also paid. Where is the proof of robbery charged by the hon. member for Champlain (Mr. Blondin)? I am sorry to say that the hon. member for Champlain in making such grave charges- against .a colleague in this House had not the courage to offer to resign his seat if he could not prove the [DOT]charges which he had made. There is probably no example in this House or in the parliament of any other country of a member making so grave o. charge as that an hon. member or colleague had rendered himself guilty of robbery, of fraudulently obtaining money or merchandise under false pretenses and not having the courage to say: If I am not able to prove those
charges then I will resign my seat. If the hon. member for Chamipiain had simply said: I hear that there are irregularities
committed in the workshops of the government at Sorel and I ask that they be investigated, well and good; hut he charges

a colleague with fraud and robbery, and he has not the courage (to put his seat in jeopardy. Mr. Lanctot in this House has answered the charges. He made an honest, fair, straightforward! declaration. Witness after witness has been examined by the member for Champlain and his counsel, and all the evidence which we got from them went exactly to prove that the declarations of the hon. member for Champlain were correct. Mr. Blondin declared that he had been credibly informed, but the evidence has raised some doubt in my mind as to whether he was very credibly informed. He got his information from discontented men who had been dismissed from the department, from blackmailers, from suborners of perjury. This has been proved before the committee. We had a witness there who declared that an affidavit had been obtained from him under false pretenses.
Another of the witnesses had sent a letter to the member for Richelieu trying to blackmail him if he would not get him contracts; others of the witnesses admitted that they had been dismissed from the department, and this is the company in which we find the hon. member for Champlain and by which he was credibly informed that fraudulent acts had been committed. The hon. gentleman from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) dealt with the question of the independence of parliament, and as usual he pretended he was sorry to have to attack an hon. member on this side of the House, although he is generally very unfair when he is dealing with party questions of the kind; the hon. member (Mr. Monk) pretends that the independence of parliament has been infringed by the acts committed by Mr. Lanctot. Well, I believe that the opinion of the Minister of Justice is the true interpretation of the Independence of Parliament Act, and the hon. member for St. Anne himself admitted that there was no infringement of that Act. I believe that to infringe the Independence of Parliament Act one must make a contract by which he derives some pecuniary benefit from the government-. Suppose a member. of parliament-and I understand that members on both sides of the House do it-should go to the King's Printer and have copies of his speeches printed and pay for them, is he not making a contract and violating the Act if we wanted to put a severe interpretation upon it? I do not wish to be personal, but I would like to ask my hon. friend from St. Anne (Mr. Doherty), who has left the Chamber, whether a judge yfho has descended from the bench and who is paid every year a sum of money by the country is not infringing the Independence of Parliament Act when he sits here and votes the money which is paid to himself? The hon. member comes here and 251J
makes tragedian speeches in which he lifts up his hands and calls to his aid a high moral tone, and he sits in this House and votes the money which is paid to him, but he covers his head with ashes at the actions that have been committed by the hon. member for Richelieu. The delicate conscience of my hon. friends opposite was not touched so much some years ago when one of their friends on their side had some work done in the Department of Maxine and Fisheries at Prescott, when he had a boat painted. He made a declaration which, for my part, I accepted in good faith, and from this side of the House no one lifted his voice to blame him because we accepted that he was in good faith, and that he had paid as he declared he had paid. But his actions were exactly the same, if not worse, as those of the hon. member for Richelieu. We did not raise a row about it. But the delicate conscience of hon. members opposite is touched because a member on this side of the House, by an error of judgment perhaps, has committed similar acts to those committed by their own friends, and in whose case they sat there dumb and condoned the action they are actually blaming now. I wish in ' conclusion to say that I agree with the interpretation of the evidence given by the hon. member for Welland (Mr. German) and with the interpretation of the Independence of Parliament Act given by the Minister of Justice. I believe that the majority of the committee having heard the evidence and weighed it, could not come to any other conclusion than that the hon. member for Richelieu had acted in good faith. The work which he had done by employees of the department was paid for, the material which he got was paid for, everything was paid for, and if any blame-I am not going to say that there should be any blame attached-but if there is any blame to attach to any one it must be to the employees of the department who perhaps exceeded their powders. I will vote for the adoption of the majority report.

Topic:   S. BARKER, F. D. MONK.
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