I have listened with some attention to the remarks of the hon. member for Hamilton (Mr. Barker),
and he seems to complain that some accounts for one year were not charged to that year, but were charged to another year, that the goods purchased in 1902 were charged to 1903. The other complaint is that some accounts for furnishing the Speaker's rooms were charged to the Public Works Department and not to the Speaker's account. I also heard the hon. gentleman say that these accounts had been asked for and delivered to the Public Accounts Committee. It seems to me that that was the proper place to ventilate these questions, if there was anything wrong. It may be there has been something wrong in the book-keeping, there may be something wrong in the fact that an account is charged to one department instead of another. But all these questions, it seems to me, come within the purview of the Public Accounts Committee and should have been examined there rather than here. Here we are, as we hope, in the dying hours of the session. We are asked to vote the amounts required for the Speaker. There is no charge against the present Speaker as far as I understand. Not a word has been said against him, but some charges have been made in regard to the accounts of a former speaker. Would not my hon. friejjd agree with me that these accounts should have been taken before the Public Accounts Committee or should go before that committee next year ? As far as the estimates of this year are concerned it appears to me that the facts which have been brought up by my hon. friend had no relevancy to the appropriation asked for this year.
The relevancy of the discussion arises out of the argument that was used about the increase in the expenditure in these items. I do not mean to say that the articles were not supplied ; I do not charge it for a moment. We could not dispute that in the Public Accounts Committee because we have no doubt that they were supplied. What I am saying here is that for the years 1901 and 1902 the purchases of furnishings for the Speaker's apartments amounted to $8,776. I say that you will not find that in any one item in the books, but you will find'$1,928 put down for the year 1901, you will find $3,292 in 1902, and our attention having been drawn to further accounts by the remark of the Auditor General in his report, upon looking up those accounts we found there were accounts for 1902 which were not paid in that year amounting to $l|255 and another account for $2,300 paid through the Department of Public Works. The total of these makes $S,776. We cannot dispute the accounts ; there is no doubt that the goods were ordered and supplied but what wre complain of is that we have such expenditures for these two years.
years amount to over $8,000. The hon. gentleman Includes in that total money paid for goods ordered by the Speaker and accounts charged to the Department of Public Works. He thinks it ought not to have been and that there ought to be some good reason given to the committee why these accounts have been charged to the Department of Public Works. Well, it so happens that the Minister of Public Works who was then in office is not here to-day. He Cannot be here because of an unfortunate reason. He is not here to give an explanation but it seems to me that if my hon. friend thinks there is something wrong which requires explanation that explanation cannot be given at this late stage of the session, but the explanation could have been sought in the Public Accounts Committee which could have followed this transaction and could have elicited the information which my hon. friend desires. But how can he expect at this moment that we can give him this information when the then Minister of Public Works is absent and the Department of Public Works is charged with a certain part of these accounts't Under such circumstances it seems to me that my hon. friend cannot make anything of this matter at the present time. It may have been that there may have been extravagance-; [DOT]
Mr. BARpER. We are saying that there has been extravagance.
Possibly there has been ; possibly there was not. Possibly there was a good explanation for these expenditures and the only place to give that explanation would be before the Public Accounts Committee.
Yes, that was the case. The Public Accounts Committee sought for these accounts and they were brought down. That was the place to ascertain whether or not the accounts have been properly charged or whether or not there has been an error. That was the place to have ascertained whether or no these accounts should have been charged to the Speaker's apartments or to the Public Works. My hon. friend says that there was extravagance. Tossibly there was ; I do not say that there was not, but possibly there was none. It is not sufficient to make a charge and to say that there was extravagance. That does not constitute an offence. The accounts are open to the committee and there may be a good explanation, as I have no doubt there will eventually be found a good explanation for it.
Two or three years ago I endeavoured to do that very thing, when Mr. Fraser was chairman of the committee.
I endeavoured to trace the accounts for two or three years. The chairman ruled that 1 could not do it, that I could inquire only into the accounts for the one year. The committee upheld the chairman, we appealed to the House, and what did the right hon. leader of the government say when we came here ? He said that for his part he made it a rule to support the decision of the committee.
When we endeavoured to get the direction of the House we were voted down. We do not care to go through that farce again. We had no satisfaction. AVe were simply told by the right hon. gentleman that he was in the habit of standing by the committee, he did stand by the committee and his friends behind him stood by the committee. On this occasion we do not question the accuracy of the accounts. I assert here in my place in this House that these articles, the accounts for which I have here, were purchased for the Speaker's apartment, and I have not heard a word denying it. I would like to know if any hon. gentleman will stand up in his place and deny that for two years, 1901 and 1902, the purchases amount to $8,770, or deny that that is extravagant.
The hon. member for Peel in his comparison not only included a few items which were charged to the Speaker's apartments in the ordinary way, but in the' year 1901 and in 1902 in which the larger amounts appear he has gone into the accounts of the Public Works and I would like to know from the hon. gentleman if lie pursued his researches into these accounts in other years ?
I made inquiry and I was informed that these were the first years in which it occurred and that it occurred in consequence of the dispute which arose between the Speaker and the sergeant-at-arms by reason of which the keeping of the accounts was taken out of the hands of the sergeant-at-arms, as far as the Speaker's apartments were concerned and referred to the Internal Economy Board. That was done as stated by the clerk of the House in his letter of the 13th May, 1902. I am not going to read a long draper's account of furnishings for the Speaker's apartments. I do not want to do it. If any hoh. gentlemen on the opposite side of the House want to read it they can read it for themselves. It is in the Public Accounts Committee room. There cannot be any question about it. To say that the desks in the rooms
upstairs had anything to do with it is absurd. They had nothing to do with it.
As far as the resolution of the Board of Internal Economy is concerned, I think that if my hon. friend will look at that carefully he will come to the conclusion that it is a proper resolution. It was not intended to make any change of the nature described by my hon. friend. In the various departments the minister is the responsible officer and in the House of Commons the Speaker is practically the minister for that purpose. Though I have few supplies to purchase, the commonest purchases of the department outside of the ordinary routine are bought before me by requisition from my deputy which I sign, but I would not purchase the articles. It was proposed in the resolution of the Internal Economy Committee that this principle should apply to the House of Commons, and that the Speaker, standing in the place of a minister, should have the responsibility and control, which, of course, would be exercised, in the same manner as the control of the minister, by his officials. The resolution of the Board of Internal Economy was consistent with a sound administration of the public service.
I do not dispute the position taken by the minister, but I do not wish to have a red herring drawn across the track. I do not dispute that the Internal Economy Committee had the right to change the system.
It had been the rule for years to leave the purchasing and the certifying of the accounts in the hands of the sergeant-at-arms, and when the Auditor General referred to that the clerk of the House wrote :
House of Commons,
Ottawa, October 7, 1903.
Sir,-In reply to your favour of the 5th instant, asking for the accounts referred to in your letters of July 3 and 21, I beg to say that I return the said accounts herewith.
These accounts have all been approved and certified by the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons. As secretary of the board I beg to certify to that fact.
I observe that they are Initialled by His Honour the Speaker and further certified by myself as clerk of the House, and by the superintendent of messenger service and housekeeper.
I communicated to you some time since a resolution of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons, adopted on May 13, 1902, to the effect that in the future the purchase of supplies for the sergeant-at-arms' branch of the House of Commons should be made under the direction of Mr. Speaker and the Internal Economy Committee.
I do not dispute that that was strictly according to law, but the fact is that in
1901-2, there was an expenditure of $8,77(5, and it is the question of extravagance and increased expenditure that we are discussing. I repeat that the expenditure in these: two years was extravagant.
With all due deference-to the Prime Minister he is drawing a red herring across the track, when he says "that this matter should be investigated by the-Public Accounts Committee. 'If we disputed, the accounts that would be so, but for the purposes of the argument we have accepted; the accounts and on these accounts as they stand the member for Hamilton (Mr. Barker) charges the government with extravagance, and the accounts prove the charge.
It is extraordinary that the government should offer no explanation of this extravagance. It is the right of the public to know why this service costs such a largely increased amount over former years and we would fail in our duty if we did not insist upon an explanation. The increase in this expenditure is nothing less than startling.