June 6, 1919

UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

Substantial supplies

were purchased for the Department of Militia and Defence having regard to the war continuing for a longer period, but the supplies were purchased at the current market prices-at the best prices that could be secured at the time the purchases were made. When my hon. friend's correspondent speaks of supplies having been purchased by " amateurs," he evidently had not heard what the hon. member for Maisonneuve had to say about the chairman of that commission.

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L LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

But he was not doing

the buying.

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

The chairman of the

commission and his associates have devoted their personal attention to all these matters, and there is not a more careful business man that I know of anywhere than the chairman of that commission, Sir Hor-misdas Laporte. I never met him until I came in contact with him in connection with the work of the commission, but I have formed the highest opinion of his efficiency as well as integrity in dealing with these matters. I can assure my hon. friend that so far as the purchase of supplies is concerned the work has been thoroughly done. The actual work, of course, was done by the officers of the department.

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L LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

In view of the marvellous capacity of these men, what does

the minister say about the investigation we had into the purchase of horses in Annapolis county, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were thrown away, or albout the purchase of boots and shoes and clothing which turned out to be absolutely worthless? Where does the wonderful efficiency of the commission come in?

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

My hon. friend's question illustrates the value of the commission. These purchases were made before the commission was appointed, and no better proof of the efficiency of the commission could be found than that since their appointment all these criticisms have disappeared.

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Section agreed to. On section 12-requisition necessary:


?

Albert James Smith Copp

Mr. OOPP:

Under subsection (2) of this section have the commissioners authority to refuse to fill a requisition?

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

No. If they think a department is requisitioning for supplies it does not need, their duty, instead of undertaking to out the requisition down, is to draw it to the attention of the Prime Minister for submission to Council. That preserves governmental responsibility. The Government muslt then take the responsibility of saying whether the quantity requisitioned shall be purchased or not.

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?

Albert James Smith Copp

Mr. OOPP:

Under what clause has the

Governor in Council that Authority?

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

The Prime Minister would take it up with the minister of the department concerned.

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?

Albert James Smith Copp

Mr. OOPP:

Under what section of this Act has he that authority? The commission have authority to purchase supplies, and this section says that they have no authority to change the requisition, but that they can do certain things. Suppose my hon. friend, desiring to keep up the style of his office, wanted mahognay furniture or a mahogany waste paper basket in his office, and requisitioned accordingly, I understand the commission would have no authority to change that requisition. If that is so, must they supply the goods?

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

They are not bound to

supply them. They cannot change the requisition, hut they can report direct to the Prime Minister.

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L LIB
UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

He has all the power that the Prime Minister has. Tt puts the respon-

32.38

sibility directly back upon the Government. If he thinks one of his colleagues is requisitioning for supplies which are not required he has all the remedies necessary for dealing with the situation.

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L LIB
UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

I do not think it is necessary to suggest any remedies. If the Prime Minister thinks one of his colleagues is embarking on an expenditure he should not make, the Prime Minister has all the remedies in his hands.

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L LIB

John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. J. H. SINCLAIR:

Is it not restricting the powers of the commission very much to say that they cannot vary a requisition? Suppose the Postmaster General wants a padlock, and mentions a certain make to the commission. He asks for a thousand of one particular make, we will say. The commissiftn know that that is not the best make of padlock-it is their .business to know which is the best padlock, 'because they are experts, but apparently they have no power to say to the Postmaster General that the padlock he has requisitioned is not the best and that they will buy another one in its stead. As I understand it, they must report to the Prime Minister. That seems a very roundabout way, and I think it is restricting the powers of the commission altogether too much.

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

Some hon. members have argued that we were giving the commission too much power. On the other hand, it is suggested that we are not giving them power enough. This is the view underlying the Bill. The department must take the responsibility for the quantity and the general character of the goods it desires to have purchased. The minister of the department is responsible to Parliament. He must requisition the supply, and must finally pay the account; he must ask Parliament to vote the money. As the law now stands, he can go out and buy the supplies, but. when this commission is appointed he will have to make a requisition to the commission. If the commission had the power to change the requisition of. their own motion the minister might come to Parliament and say, " I have no responsibility." We do not think it is desirable that he should have that escape or that the commission should exercise that power. If the commission is satisfied that the requisition is not wise they report direct to the minister to whom they are responsible. They lay the facts before the

Prime Minister, that a certain department is asking for too much or for something that is not in the public interest. It appears to me that this provision maintains ministerial responsibility and ensures the best results in the purchase of supplies.

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L LIB

John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. J. H. SINCLAIR:

The objection taken was not with regard to the powers of the commission but with regard to the responsibility of the minister. The Secretary of State (Mr. Burrell) laid down very emphatically to-night the doctrine that the establishment of this commission does not affect in the slightest degree the responsibility of the minister and the Government in regard to purchases. I want to know if my hon. friend agrees with the doctrine of the Secretary of State in that connection.

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

Substantially so. My hon. friend is speaking in a very general way but, as applied to this Bill, I agree. That is one of the objects of this provision. The minister must take responsibility for the requisition. The commission cannot change it by its own action. The commission can report to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister and Council, having the report of the commission, will decide if the requisition is all right and, if so, the commission will have to go ahead and' purchase. But if, upon the report of the' Prime Minister, that requisition should be reconsidered, the minister reconsiders it, and submits some other requisition and the purchase is made on that basis.

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June 6, 1919