Mr. ADOLPHE STEIN (Kamouraska) :
Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to take part in this debate, which has already lasted over two weeks, and especially at this stage it would be impossible for the humble member that I am to throw any light on the matters under discussion. But after reading in the Montreal Gazette of February 28 that the Opposition had failed in this debate to point to any wrong-doing on the part of the Government, I decided to endeavour to show, in as few words as possible, some of the innumerable pieces of mischief that have disgraced the record of this Government, elected in 1911 and reelected, by accident, in 1917. The Gazette challenges the Opposition in the following words :
The debate on the address, as .have all debates for three years, has been remarkable in that there has been no suggestion of wrongdoing or maladministration on the part of the Government. Either the Opposition is too dense to perceive errors, or the Government has given Canada a wonderful example of administrative capacity and probity. The old charges of scandal no longer obtain. Nor are there likely to be any charges. The Government may have made mistakes, but no one has the courage to say that its members permitted the treasury to be plundered by themselves or party friends.
We on this side of the House were profoundly amazed when we read those wofds. We would never have imagined that the Government's friends would be bold enough to challenge the Opposition to reiterate the many scandals and numerous feats of maladministration that stained the Borden Government, and for which- the present Administration rightly admits responsibility. For the sake of Canadian pride, we of the Opposition would have very much preferred to avoid publishing those terrible national misdemeanors, more especially
when it is a well-known fact that in other countries during the war those who dared to indulge in similar mischievous acts were either very severely punished with penalties or imprisonment or very often shot as traitors to their country, while in this country of ours the guilty remained undisturbed, when they were not held in favour for Canadian or Imperial positions of trust. But we accept the challenge and I will, therefore, give a list, though incomplete on account of the late hour at which I am speaking, of some of the very numerous scandals that we have already charged and that we claim to have proved against the Government.
There is a first group, known to the country as " war contract scandals," as investigated by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons in 1915. It was proved before that committee that war contracts were let without any tenders, or any kind of competition whatever, and that the Government's purchasing system was loose, irregular and illegal. The Auditor General, before the committee on March 17, 1915, speaking of purchases, said:
It was worse than that; they were not made in compliance with the Act.
Indeed, war goods amounting to over $1,000,000,000 had been bought without Orders-in-Council, as required by law. It was also brought out in evidence that the Tory patronage system then existing compelled the use of middlemen in all contracts. I shall give a very brief nomenclature of those scandals that the Gazette claims not to exist or to have been forgiven or forgotten: The horse scandal,
which brought about the resignation of a Tory member of this House; the drug scandal which caused the resignation of another Tory member of this House; the binocular scandal and many others that will pass over without mentioning; the nickel scandal, which raised in this House a debate in which several members and especially one on the Government side laid considerable blame on the Government; the shell scandal and the fuse scandal, which alone meant a million dollar rake-off.
In another group not connected with the war, I might mention several other deeds of maladministration, such as, for instance, the padlock scandal, in the Post Office Department; the Carslake scandal in the same department; the Dorval military camp scandal in the Department of Militia, and the extravagant payment of several hundred thousand dollars to foreigners, Arthur Young and Company, and the Griffenha gen
and associates, to perform a so-called civil service re-organization which could only have been properly performed by the heads of departments together with our Civil Service Commission.
Why, Mr. Speaker, the Montreal Gazette reporter has already forgotten all these wrong-doings! Is it not in this very same paper that I read, in an editorial of June 14, 1920, under the title " a con-demnable contract," the following charge against the Cabinet in connection with the above expenditures:
The whole episode reflects ministerial incompetency in a most unusual way, and the Government cannot too soon repair its mistake by terminating a contract repugnant to National pride.
And again, what about the creation, by Order-in-Council, on July 15, 1920, fourteen days after prorogation, of a Central Purchasing Board, a scheme which had encountered during a debate last session, the hostility of the great majority of this House? How many other scandals have there been, Sir, the mention of which would be much too long for my purpose? The gentleman who represents the Montreal Gazette in the press gallery is at liberty now to send again to his home office a despatch stating that we on this side of the House are "too dense to perceive errors."
It has been stated by previous speakers in the course of this debate that the people of Quebec would forgive, but could not forget, the treatment that they received from the Government. Well, I venture to say that the people of Canada at large will neither forget nor forgive those numerous scandals which have been detected and proved against the Government, whether they have been perpetrated with the connivance or through the gross negligence of the Government. In closing my remarks on this point, I wish to give credit to the right hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Meighen) for his frankness in admitting, in a speech delivered in Winnipeg, on October 22, 1917, that he, as a member of the Conservative Government, was bound to share all the responsibilities assumed by the former Government, replaced, in the fall of 1917, by the Union Government.
During the recess and in the course of this debate, much has been said of the feelings of the province of Quebec towards the - present Ministry, and of the very affectionate and touching friendship entertained by the same ministry not only for the province of Quebec, but towards the three million French-speaking citizens of this country.
The very eloquent member for Beauce (Mr. Beland), in beautiful and forcible, though mild and courteous language, has laid before the House undeniable evidence, showing to what a great extent the friendly words uttered by the right hon. the Prime Minister and by his colleagues are flatly contradicted by their own acts and deeds, when it is up to these same gentlemen to give concrete form to their flirtations with our French-speaking people.
The hon. member for Beauce mentioned several instances of recent injustice done to the French-speaking people by the Government. He particularly inquired from the ministry why not a single representative of the French Canadians had been invited to join in with the ministers who represented, or at least assumed that they held a mandate to represent, Canada at the Peace Conference and at the Assembly of the' League of Nations.
I would go one step further, and ask the Government the reason why, if any, the only French-speaking member of the Cabinet was not invited, and even induced to attend those conferences as the representative of one-third of our population? If the hon. gentleman, who occupies the position of Postmaster General, was not then available, why did they not invite the very distinguished French Canadian who is the present Speaker of the Senate, and who is also, I am told, a member of the Privy Council? Has he not the confidence of the present ministry?-and what about the hon. Senators Beaubien, and Chapais? These also are two very brilliant French Canadian supporters of the present ministry. And, Mr. Speaker, a like courtesy to one-third of our Canadians would not have necessitated an election in Quebec!
May I be permitted to add a few more instances as a sequel to those brought forward by my hon. friend, the member for Beauce? When the late lamented Hon. S. N. Parent, the father of the hon. member for Quebec West, resigned from the National Transcontinental Railway Commission, in October, 1911, he was replaced by Major Leonard, an English Canadian, and the French Canadians were left without representation on this board, which was managing a railroad traversing the province of Quebec for several hundred miles. When the French Canadian head of the Government workshops at Sorel, in the county of Richelieu, Quebec, was compelled to go out of office, he was replaced by one Mr. Jackson, an English Canadian. When the late Thomas Cote was asked to
resign, after September 21, 1911, as secretary of the International Waterways Joint Commission, he was replaced by one Mr. Burpee. Mr. Justice McDougall succeeded the late Judge Champagne in the French judicial district of Hull. Chief Justice Landry, in New Brunswick, was replaced by Mr. Justice Chandly. Mr. Blount succeeded Major Chapleau as clerk of the Senate, although a French Canadian was there available, in the person of the deputy clerk, who had been holding office for many years. Senator Webster succeeded the late Senator Landry in the Senate.
Who sat, may I ask, as a representative of the French Canadians, on the Public Records Commission; on the Board of Grain Commissioners; in the Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; on the War Trade Board; on the Canada Food Board; on the Canada Registration Board; on the Pensions Board?
Is it not a well-known fact that out of thirty "Trade Agents" that we have in foreign countries, the French Canadians are given but one representative? The hon. the Postmaster General recently stated elsewhere that he is representing in the ministry the hundreds of thousands of French Canadians, who, according to him, voted for the Government in 1917.
I beg to submit that it would seem obvious, from the statements which I have made that this hon. gentleman is satisfied with holding a public office for his own self and sake, and that he lacks influence with his colleagues whenever an opportunity arises for him to exact the appointment of a French compatriot to an office of public trust. This failure in the hon. the Postmaster General's duty of procuring for his French fellow-citizens their just share in the public trusteeships reminds me of a statement made in October, 1917, by Sir John Willison, in a letter of appreciation of the Coalition Government to "The New York Tribune." This writer, a stalwart Union supporter, alluding to the present Postmaster General and to his former colleague from Quebec, now politically deceased, wjote as follows:
In the new Cabinet there are only two French ministers, and these are among the least weighty of its members.
Is this statement a reply to our inquiry as to why this French minister was not invited to the Peace Conference or to the League of Nations with his English colleagues ?
And, by the way, Mr. Speaker, while I am taking the liberty of dealing with the
hon. the Postmaster General, who holds this office as a member of the Senate, I would very respectfully suggest to the right hon. the leader of this House that the present vacancy in the county of Yamaska, Quebec, affords a unique and splendid opportunity for the Postmaster General to secure for himself a comfortable seat in this beautiful chamber. Indeed, this constituency of Yamaska happens to be the hon. gentleman's native county; he has even been residing therein as recently as a few months ago. Then why not try his chance there just now?
I will go still further in this connection.
I assume, from the wording of the Electoral Act, as it now stands, and also from the amendment made to the House of Commons Act in the second session of 1919, that it would seem to be your own duty, Mr. Speaker, immediately to issue your warrant for this election. Let me explain myself.
Section 9 of the House of Commons Act, Revised Statutes of Canada, Chapter 11, reads in part as follows:
If any vacancy happens in the House of Commons by the death of any member .... the 'Speaker, on being informed of such vacancy by any member of the House in his place .... shall forthwith address his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery for the issue of a new writ for the election of a member to fill the vacancy; and a new writ shall issue accordingly.
Now, under the new law, as drafted last year, the Clerk of the House of Commons holds the office of the former Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. On the second day of this session, as shown on pages 7 and 8 of Hansard, it -was stated by the right hon. the Prime Minister and by my hon. leader, who were both addressing you, Mr. Speaker, that our regretted colleague, the late member for Yamaska, had passed away during the recess. Hence, I take it for granted, Mr. Speaker, that you have been sufficiently informed, under the Act, as to this vacancy, and I very respectfully submit that it is your duty to issue your warrant accordingly.
At all events, in order to remove any possible misunderstanding I, myself, now from my place in this House, beg leave officially to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that the former member for Yamaska, Mr. Oscar Gladu, died over two months ago, and that, therefore, a vacancy has occurred in that electoral district.
It is true that a delay of six months is mentioned in section 11-A of the House of Commons Act. But this is a maximum limit; it was intended to mean that six
months' delay might be allowed during recess. But I humbly submit that, when Parliament is called to meet in session, all the vacancies should have been filled before the opening of the session, in order to give to every constituency the representatives to whom it is entitled. I assume that this is a sound interpretation of this new law.
Now, Mr. Speaker, following again and further the argument made by the hon. member for Beauce (Mr. Beland) in reply to the statement made by the hon. member for Frontenac (Mr. Edwards) in this House, on the 18th of last month, I will quote from the remarks of the member for Frontenac the following, as they appear in Hansard at page 141:
I challenge the leader of the Opposition, or any of those sitting behind him, to quote one single sentence, one single line, one single thought expressed in words by the present Prime Minister of Canada at any time, in this House or out of it, which has indicated the slightest feeling of hostility or unfriendliness to the people of the province of Quebec.
I will make a compromise with the hon. member for Frontenac; I will agree, but only for the sake of argument, that his honourable leader is, towards French-Can-adians and in connection with the treatment that he has afforded to them, a sinner more by way of omission than by commission. But we feel the injustice just the same, whatever may be the artful mode of procedure adopted by the hon. member's leader when dealing with the Quebec people, or with French-Canadians in other provinces.
Before closing, I would call to my aid in this connection,-to prove that my remarks are accurate on this very important subject, which is a vital one for one-third of the people of this country,-a very remarkable , editorial of the Montreal Gazette of May 17, 1920. This editorial, which was headed "French and the Franchise," had regard to the then pending-debate in this House on the new electoral law. I will omit a few sentences, unfortunately, to save time, but I hope that the hon. the Prime Minister and his colleagues, will read this editorial in its entirety and that, in the future, when boasting that they are giving equal and equitable treatment to all races and creeds in Canada, they will sincerely meditate upon the sound and sane principles of justice, as so thoroughly expounded in this article, which reads, in part:
Several hours were devoted in the Commons last week to the discussion of a subject upon which we think there is no room for controversy, namely, the desirability of having the
Proclamation of an election printed in the French language in electoral districts in which there are a considerable number of electors who understand that tongue, but are not familiar with the English language. The matter was brought up by Mr. Turgeon, of Gloucester, New Brunswick, .who, in a temperate speech urged the desirability of giving to the French population communication in their own language of proceedings relating to the very foundation of popular government, the election of members, and, with customary exceptions, the debate was conducted in admirable mood, though not upon a lofty plane. There was much citation of the Constitution to prove where begin the rights of the French people in respect of official use of their language, and where those rights end, and a disposition to place rigid and narrow construction upon the Confederation Act in a matter that fairly transcends the strict letter of the law. Constantly are we reminded that harmony and cordiality between the two great races, which inhabit ICanada rest more upon sentiment and generous feeling than upon the text of a statute.
The editorial in another place says:
Mr. Turgeon told the House that "French people are sentimental; they appreciate anything that is done in their behalf; "but while sentiment must always receive recognition, there is a yet higher motive to move man, that of justice and of regard for the general good.
Finally it says: -
It may not be a great matter that in French districts electoral proclamations should be issued in the French language; but it is of consequence that FrenchJCanadians be not irritated by a sense of injustice, that they be not pin-pricked, and that their great part in forming and fostering Confederation should And expression in equitable legislation.
Now, Mr. Speaker, when the hon. the Prime Minister appeared before the Frenchspeaking people of this country some months ago, did he offer any explanation why he and his colleagues remained mute during the debate in question last year? Did he tender an apology for their refusal to grant, when it was most opportune to do so to the French-speaking minority, "Equitable Legislation," as their organ calls it, and thus to prove in good faith that their legislative acts, if not their administrative deeds, accord with their political performances?
No, Mr. Speaker, the law remained as it was. _ The Prime Minister did not utter one single word of ill-feeling towards the French-speaking people, but he committed another sin of omission. [DOT]
I believe that I have already spoken too long, and I shall close with the following words: I shall vote for the amendment
offered by our distinguished leader. I am sure that if the Hon. Robert Rogers were in this House, he who, as a true Conserva-
tive, organized the 1911 elections for the benefit of a number of our friends opposite, he, too, would vote for an election. Indeed, he stated very recently that the. Government are only anxious for one thing, namely, to maintain themselves in office. What the people mostly need at present to obtain from the Government is not apologies nor promises, but elections.
An election at the present time would have-I dare say, with all due respect- the sanitary effect of a most complete whitewash in Government premises. It would clear the political atmosphere. It would afford every Canadian elector a proper means of expressing his views on the actual political situation.
Topic: R. L. BORDEN.