June 3, 1914 (12th Parliament, 3rd Session)

CON

Hugh Boulton Morphy

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MORPHY:

Mr. Speaker, in the
early hours of this morning I was dealing with the endorsements on the writ sent by Mr. Leighton McCarthy to the ex-Minister of Finance. I have not exhausted this phase; but, as the endorsements already appear in the proceedings. I will content myself with saying that they embrace charges of deceit, illegality, unlawful practices, fraudulent conduct, false pretenses, and similar charges against Mr. Travers, the man who was asking the Finance Minister of the day for a certificate to allow him to commence business. There is one feature in the evidence which is worthy of comment, and that is the letter of the hon. member for London (Mr. Beattie) objecting to the unwarrantable use of his name as one of the provisional directors. The Finance Minister of the day had only to take a step across the floor to make inquiries of the hon. member for London, which would have disclosed the facts, but that was not done. I shall endeavour to abridge my remarks on account of the lateness of the session, but there are a few things which I would like, as briefly as possible, to put on the record. In the first place, the evidence states that Mr. Fielding was only suspicious of. this particular bank. He said that he did not like the name, and so forth. At page 456 of the evidence he speaks as follows:
From the beginning I disliked, I do not think the word is too strong, I disliked the movement, because I was afraid a number of farmers were going into a business they did not like and un-

dertaking responsibilities which they did not appreciate.
Again, he says:
I looked upon the application for a further extension as an evidence of weakness.
Again:
I always viewed the incorporation with anxiety, because I understood it was an effort to get farmers, as the name implied, and I thought it was the line of business that probably they were not the best capable of going into.
Again, on page 457:
My mind from the beginning was suspicious; my mind was rather unfriendly to the movement from the beginning; that kind of gossip might emphasize it a little, but from the inception of the movement I looked upon it with a little anxiety.
Again, on page 458 Mr. Fielding is asked the following question:
Q. Under the Act I think the duty is cast on the Treasury Board itself and not on the Minister of Finance individually? A. That is true, though naturally he would have chief responsibility and his colleagues would look to him largely for advice and guidance.
On page 459 he says:
I think no doubt he was to the department before that and saw some of my officials, but I am pretty clear in my recollection that I saw Mr. Travers only once and that was the 30th November, and that was the date the certificate was issued.
After all the warnings and charges of fraud, deceit, false pretenses, and illegal practices that Mr. Fielding had received, it might appear to the casual observer that he should have seen Mr. Travers more than once, and that after the information he got from Sir Edmund Osier, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Leighton McCarthy, it was incumbent on a man in Mr. Fielding's position to see the person charged with these malpractices. According to both Mr. Fielding and Mr. Travers, their interview lasted only twenty minutes, and it is very peculiar that in that interview Mr. Fielding did not tell Travers that he had received this writ from Leighton McCarthy, and the warnings from Mr. Henderson and Sir Edmund Osier. There is no evidence that he mentioned these things, but merely the statement that he told Travers what people were saying about him, and Travers denied it. Then Mr. Fielding said: 'Write me a letter to that effect.' The junior member for Halifax (Mr. A. K. Maclean) has argued that these charges did not sink into the mind of Mr. Fielding. If that is so, how is it he told Travers what the people were saying about him. It is obvious from that, that the charges from Mr. Henderson and Sir Ed-

round Osier and Mr. Leighton McCarthy had sunk into the mind of the Finance Minister, and that he was conscious that they were serious charges which called for inquiry. Mr. E. S. Clouston, then president of the Canadian Bankers' Association, used the following language in a letter to the deputy Minister of Finance, dated November 30, 1906:
Permit me to request that, if only for the protection of the public, the Treasury Board will exercise its right to refuse to issue a certificate if it thinks best so to do, until a thorough investigation has been made into the circumstances stated herein.
That was the language of a man whose word stands as high as that of any man in banking circles in this country, a man well and favourably known to the Finance Minister of that day. The letter was warning the minister against an abuse that might be perpetrated on the public, and asking for the stay of his hand. Mr. Fielding's answer was, ' I gave the certificate yesterday.' He sat back in his chair, folded his arms, and allowed Travers who had been charged with every species of fraud in the calendar to get a certificate and go out like a firebrand into the country armed with the seal of this Dominion. Mr. Fielding took not one step to put himself into possession of the facts supporting the warnings against Travers. Some have said that Mr. Fielding was guilty of an error of judgment, but I say that it was a case of not doing his duty because he did not ascertain the facts which would have enabled him to form judgment upon the charges made. He was Minister of Finance, the master of the Treasury Board, he had had notice of fraud, he had had plenty of warning, and he had had verba1 charges of improper practices against the very man to whom he gave the certificate after an interview of only twenty minutes.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE FARMERS BANK.
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