Right Hon. J. G. Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture):
Mr. Speaker, before motions are proceeded with, and in view of the discussion we had yesterday, I should like to make a suggestion to the house. I have before me a motion moved by the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) which was passed on March 12 and referred to yesterday. This reads as follows:
For a copy of all communications that passed between veterinary officials either provincial or federal and the federal Department of Agriculture, together with all records since the 17th day of November, 1951, relative to the cattle epidemic of vesicular stomatitis or foot-and-mouth disease in Saskatchewan, also all certificates or statements of analysis showing the results of the chemical examination of suspected specimens of either of said cattle diseases.
I should like to say to the house, through you, Mr. Speaker, that the first part of the motion, "for a copy of all communications that passed between veterinary officials either provincial or federal and the federal Department of Agriculture", cannot be acceded to because I have not been able to find any such documents on the record. Then the motion goes on:
. . . together with all records since the 17th day of November, 1951, relative to the cattle epidemic of vesicular stomatitis or foot-and-mouth disease in Saskatchewan . . .
There is some doubt in my mind as to whether there is very much in the way of records in connection with this matter. There are on the files of the department, either here or at Regina, but mostly here, communications between the officials of the department. That is to say, one official would say to another, "we are doing so and so," and suggest to him 55704-107
what he should do. I submit that that kind of record has always been considered to be privileged, provided that the minister desires it should be privileged. This has been the general practice, and I think one can easily understand why it should be so. I am not going to refer to Beauchesne or Bourinot in connection with the matter, further than to say it is indicated in many places that unless that were the general rule it would be difficult to carry on government as a government should be carried on. I quite agree with that.
That has been the general practice. As a matter of fact, shortly after I came into this house no less a parliamentarian than the late Lord Bennett gave me a lecture on it which I have never forgotten. I think it has been generally admitted that kind of thing is privileged.
I realize that this is a rather unusual situation in that everybody has been more or less stirred up over the fighting of foot-and-mouth disease and is naturally interested in it. If the house agrees, I am quite prepared to table what is looked upon as privileged- that is, to table all the communications which are on the file. There is nothing in any of them that the government need be concerned about making available. They are the usual communications that pass back and forth between officials when they are administering anything in any department. I am quite prepared to table them all, but I should like to suggest to the house that it might approve a motion which I should like to move without notice. I know that the rules of the house require that I give two days' notice.
Sub-subtopic: TABLING OF CORRESPONDENCE