March 4, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Albert Edward Kemp (Minister Without Portfolio)



I quite understand that, but that, to my mind, is rather a technical argument. A man publicly has his name on his letter head or bill head or

whatever you like as a director of the company in which he is interested; he then becomes a member of a government, and he removes his name as director, and if he is asked across the floor of this House, if he is a director of this company, he says: "No," but practically his position is the same as it was before; he does not sell out; he cannot dispossess himself; he cannot sacrifice his rights; it is not likely that he would sacrifice his rights, and yet he may be in a position to be of great service to the government of whatever party it may be. My hon. friend probably did not have that matter which I have outlined as much in mind as he had what he termed interlocking directorates. If you stand several individuals up in line, all of them in different occupations and professions, how is it possible to say who is best qualified for Cabinet rank? A man might be a director in one or two or more financial corporations-let us get away from the smaller businesses- a government might be formed, and his services, because of his wider experience in the affairs of this country might be thought to be better than those of another man whose name is not connected with any corporation. The men whose names appear as directors of corporations are generally understood to be men who understand the affairs of this country as well as and, in most cases, have wider experiences in our country's affairs than other men, and consequently they would be more useful to this country. I cannot, therefore, see how you can pass a law to debar such men from becoming members of government in this country any more than you can pass a law saying who shall be members of government, and what occupations they shall hold in order to be members. My hon. friend gave some precedents in England, but the situation there is very different from what it is in Canada. Ninety per cent of the members of this House, whether they are in professions or in business, have risen from the ranks, and everybody, if he is looked upon generally in the community in which he resides, as a man of sufficient experience to become a member of a government, is supposed to be qualified in one sense or another for such a position. As I said when I rose, I did not intend to say more than a few words on this question, and I have not covered the subject at all; but it seems to me, notwithstanding the fact that the hon. member for Brome has approached the subject in what appears to be a very impartial way, his argument is full of inconsistencies.

Mr. JOHN H. SINCLAIR (Antigonish and Guysborough) : Mr. Speaker, I was struck with the speech of the hon. member for Toronto East (Sir Edward Kemp), but I think he has forgotten the fact that Parliament has already taken the step that he thinks is a hardship. Parliament has provided that a member of this House must not do any business with the Government. We have gone so far as to debar every member of the House of Commons in this respect. If my hon. friend will refer to the provisions of Chapter 10, cf the Revised Statutes, he will see that the most drastic provision to this, effect is made. My hon. friend's illustration of John Smith in his personal capacity, and John Smith Limited, does not apply, because even now if John Smith is not Limited he cannot be a minister and do business with the Government. He cannot be a member of this House and do business with the Government.
My hon. friend points out how difficult it would be to find a man to accept a position as minister of the Crown if he was prohibited from engaging in business. But we prohibit them already, because if John Smith is in business and becomes a member of this House, or a minister of the Crown, in his personal capacity he must not do any business with the Government. If he does, he becomes disqualified as a member of the House and as a minister of the Crown. So we have that prohibition already. Why should we make any distinction between John Smith in his personal capacity and . John Smith Limited? Why should we prohibit John Smith in his personal capacity from doing business with the Government, if we are not at the same time going to prohibit him as John Smith Limited? The same principle is involved in both cases. If my hon. friend is not willing to pass this Bill, I think he ought to be willing to repeal Chapter 10, of the Revised Statutes, which provides that John Smith must not do any business with the Government. I think, Mr. Speaker, that the proposal of my hon. friend from Brome (Mr. Me-Master) is sound. Shareholders are excepted under the law because, of course, it would be a hardship for a man of any means to have to dispose of his shares; that would be throwing away his property. But a director is in a much different position. My hon. friend from Brome has pointed out very clearly that it is the
duty of a director acting in a fiduciary capacity to try and get a contract from the Government for his firm; it is his duty to do everything he can to make money for the shareholders that he represents. On the other hand, it is his duty as a minister of the Crown probably to give the contract to somebody else. These are two conflicting duties, and I can see no great hardship in compelling a man who accepts a position as minister of the Crown to resign his directorship in any company he is interested in. My hon. friend from Brome has pointed out that that is the practice already with some members of this Government. Very recently my hon. friend the Minister of Public Works (Mr. McCurdy) after joining the Government resigned his position in the firm in Nova Scotia with which he was formerly connected. Similar instances have been pointed out by my hon. friend from Brome. The practice exists now. I think it is a good practice, and that it would be a good thing to have it embodied in the statutes.

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