March 27, 1924 (14th Parliament, 3rd Session)


William Irvine



I would like to ask whether the minister has assured the depositors that in the case of the finding of negligence on the part of some minister the government has decided to reimburse the Home Bank depositors? If that is the ground upon which the commission was appointed, I think my question is a reasonable one. If they are not prepared to do that, what is the use of going to the expense of appointing a royal commission in the matter? But I find, on the contrary, that the government has very carefully safeguarded itself against making any such allowance. The order in council says: .
The petition alleges that, for reasons of a public and national character, owing to the state of war
Home Bank Investigation
then existing the then Minister of Finance may not have deemed it advisable to exercise the power-
And so on; then it says:
In view of the foregoing allegations the Committee of the Privy Council, without in any way accepting the view that in the circumstances mentioned it is proper for the government to expend moneys in the relief of the depositors of the said bank, are nevertheless of the opinion that it is expedient that an investigation should be made
And so on. Now, if the government are not prepared to carry out the findings of the royal commission should negligence be found on the part of a government official, why put the public to all this expense? So we will wait, and I hope that the government, if they are not going to adopt my resolution, will definitely make this promise to parliament to-day. Otherwise we shall have to charge them with spending money foolishly.
I am in hopes, however, that they will make that promise.
Frankly I have not much faith in royal commissions in matters of this kind. Royal commissions have in one or two outstanding historic instances been of some service, although I do not recall those instances myself. I will not be so sweeping in my criticism as to say that a royal commission never did any good. But I think perhaps I could put it better by quoting a paragraph from a correspondent in the Ottawa Citizen of yesterday. Now, this correspondent is a very prominent Canadian; perhaps you will recognize the writer from the tone of his letter. He says:
A government fears to face a question-a problem to be conveniently shelved-political friends in need of a job; and so your royal commission is set up, and with the usual benedictions, references-and expense money-goes on its costly way. What happens then is told chiefly in the auditor-general's report. Huge travelling expenses, private secretaries for commissioners, clerks, stenographers, prolonged hearings- and finally a report which nobody reads, much less acts upon, and which serves chiefly as additional printing contracts for others of the hungry faithful.
I have sat in the parliament press gallery for twelve years. During that time I have seen countless royal commissions come, take their toll, and go; yet offhand I cannot recall a single report of a royal commission being translated into law. Not a single one.
I am not suggesting that any of these things apply to the government's intention in appointing a royal commission in this case -not in the slightest degree. But I am arguing that the public has just about as little faith in a royal commission as this man has. That is a fair and accurate representation, to my mind, of what the general public thinks of royal commissions, and it is a fair and accurate statement ias to the results of royal commissions in the past. So that I have very little faith in the royal commission in this case doing very much.
revised edition
Home Bank Investigation

But that is not the only reason why I press this resolution notwithstanding the appointment of a royal commission. We want action, and the royal commission proposes no action. The government did not say they will do this, that or the other thing; all they say is that they will get some information. Now, that information may be a dangerous thing so far as getting right action is concerned, because the royal commission is going to land the whole thing into a political squabble. How, you say? Well, I imagine it will be very good political propaganda. If it can be shown, on one hand, that Sir Thomas White committed any act of negligence whatsoever, I would imagine that the opposition, true to their past and standing on the dignity of their party, would naturally come to the defence of one of their party. Then, on the other hand, according to the public press the name of the hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. Murdock) has been associated with the Home Bank, and it would be in the interests of the party to my extreme right to make as much political capital out of that as possible, and in the interests of the other party to smooth it over, if anything was to be smoothed over; and even the party to my immediate right the Progressives, have some interest, because the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Crerar) had some dealings with the Home Bank in its earlier stages and this investigation is going to cover the whole field. So the three major parties in this House are interested in a political sense in the findings of that commission. Only the Labour party has no clothes to wash in this matter.

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