Wanted: Clean Government

The Meighen Government is in power to-day not because of superiority of party tactics or because of the appeal of party shibboleths, but because the demand for clean government could not be hushed. This brief resumé of the inside story of the Customs Investigation is in itself warrant for the assertion that Canadians of all political persuasion should unite in securing safeguards for the future.

H. NAPIER MOORE July 15 1926

Wanted: Clean Government

The Meighen Government is in power to-day not because of superiority of party tactics or because of the appeal of party shibboleths, but because the demand for clean government could not be hushed. This brief resumé of the inside story of the Customs Investigation is in itself warrant for the assertion that Canadians of all political persuasion should unite in securing safeguards for the future.

H. NAPIER MOORE July 15 1926

Wanted: Clean Government

The Meighen Government is in power to-day not because of superiority of party tactics or because of the appeal of party shibboleths, but because the demand for clean government could not be hushed. This brief resumé of the inside story of the Customs Investigation is in itself warrant for the assertion that Canadians of all political persuasion should unite in securing safeguards for the future.


AS THIS issue of MacLean’s goes to press there comes the announcement that the Right Honorable Arthur Meighen has been granted dissolution of Parliament and that there will be a general election before autumn. A fresh state of political pandemonium has been proclaimed. There can be little doubt that the party brass-hats now have their plans well laid to wage strife on the constitutional aspects of the Governor-General’s refusal of dissolution to Mr. King and his grant of dissolution to Mr. Meighen. Here is an issue vital enough to focus on Canada the attention of the whole Empire. And yet it bears no relation whatever to the issue which precipitated the most extraordinary political crisis in the Dominion’s history.

Mr. King was compelled to resign because sufficient Progressives made an emphatic gesture in behalf of wholesome administration. Mr. Meighen’s first and most important vote was obtained on the question of wholesome administration. However much the politicians may clack their tongues about constitutionalities—important in themselves—to the advantage or disadvantage of this or that party, the underlying issue which necessitated a new election was, and still is, that of clean goverment. No amount of hustings ballyhooing, no amount of logicians’ hair-splitting, no amount of frenzied flagwaving can alter that fact.

Parliament, during the few hours of life enjoyed by the Meighen Ministry, unanimously agreed to the appointment of an impartial, non-political commissioner to continue the work of the parliamentary committee which investigated the administration of the Customs Department under the regime of the Right Honorable W. L. Mackenzie King. With a judicial commissioner supplanting a committee which, because of its political constitution, was impotent to carry the investigation to its logical end, there is every reason to believe that maladministrations of the past, immediate or distant, will be laid bare. It remains the individual responsibility of every Canadian to examine dispassionately the basic causes of the recent upheaval and play his part in cementing a unity of public opinion that will ensure for this Dominion clean and honorable government in future, whether such government be Liberal, Conservative or any other denomination.

Stripped of all political camouflage, the sober fact is thát the ship of state piloted by Mr. King foundered on the rocks of corruption. Admitted that the Conservative Board of Strategy forged a political weapon when the gravity of the customs report was apparent, and that the Government countered with other weapons from the same forge, there still remains the fact that maladministration on part of the members of the late Government has been demonstrated beyond all doubt. The plea has been made that the officials of the King Government were no worse than their predecessors. That is for the judicial commission to decide. But even if that be proved it is no justification for the late Cabinet’s tolerance toward wrong doing of which it was cognizant.

The Liberal party would be well rid of the coterie of venial politicians who dragged its good name in the mire, well rid of the puny-fibred politicians who raised not a hand in protest.

Politics, Always Politics

A/Í ACLEAN’S has no axe to grind. In relating part of the inside story of the customs scandal it does not ignore the fact that certain members from the Conservative benches were guilty of conduct questionable in men elected to serve public interest. It believes that had a Liberal of the calibre of the Honorable Mr. Robb been Prime Minister of Canada when the Commercial Protective Association first presented evidence of ministerial failure, he would fearlessly have cut the evil at its root. Knowing what it does of the whole unsavory business, MacLean's is glad to pay tribute to the former Minister of Finance. His attitude toward the men who were trying to save the legitimate industries of this country has been beyond reproach.

As it was, what happened?

R. Percy Sparks, the man who gave up his private business for two years to do the work a Government Department should have done without prompting, has made statutory declaration that long before the government was forced to appoint a parliamentary committee, the then prime minister admitted to him that he knew of Honorable Jacques Bureau’s misconduct in office, and that he was helpless to do anything because of Bureau’s political influence!

In short, the First Minister of the Land sacrificed the honor of Canada to political expediency.

Then, when at last he realized that exposure was certain, he “got rid of” a discredited minister by appointing him to the Senate—an insult to that body; an act which placarded the Upper Chamber as a haven for a former minister of the crown who stands charged with debauching his subordinates, a minister who hobnobbed with crooks and despoilers of the treasury, a minister whose conduct is described by investigators as being unspeakable.

There is no need to harp on the tactics of certain of the other members of the King Cabinet. One former minister already has been censured by a vote of the House. The evidence presented to Parliament speaks for itself. The evidence in the investigators’ reports as yet not made public discloses vileness that cannot be referred to in a family magazine.

And yet, scandalous as was the condition of affairs revealed by these reports, strength and steadfastness on the part of William Lyon Mackenzie King could have remedied it. In failing to exhibit one atom of courage he revealed himself as a man whose fitness to lead the Liberal party is open to grave question.

The Octopus

AT THE time this is being written the powers of the judicial commission have not been defined. Presumably they will be wide. But the next administration, with all a government’s resources at its command, must see that full opportunity is presented for the exposure of a menace which must be faced if this country is to have clean management of its affairs.

Behind the customs scandal there lurks a shadow far more sinister than that cast by any Bisaillon or his jackals. It is the shadow of an octopus whose tentacles have fastened upon the Dominion from coast to coast. It is the shadow of the liquor smuggling ring.

In order to gain a little perspective, it is necessary to stand off and look at the smuggling blot in retrospect. When the Commercial Protective Association, through R. P. Sparks, demonstrated its intention of exposing the illegal traffic in silks, cottons, tobacco, jewelry and other similar commodities, the boss runners began to get busy. First they brandished before the eyes of Sparks the big club of “political pull.” Then they tried wheedling and bribery. From Montreal, lawyers were hustled to Ottawa to offer cash settlements to Sparks if he would go easy. Fifteen thousand dollars was the bait dangled by one prominent lawyer in behalf of one of the firms involved in the inquiry. Dozens of other legal lights offered almost as much in attempts to save their clients from jail terms. When these overtures failed, members of parliament were rushed in to plead for this and that “good fellow.”

Sparks went ahead.

Then, as the inquiry broadened, the investigators of the Commercial Protective Association stumbled across the inner workings of the liquor ring. ' Immediately, the thumb-screws were applied. Compared with the venom of the liquor ring’s counter-attacks the threats of the silk and cotton smugglers were words of approbation. First its satellites went after H. H. Stevens and R. P. Sparks. The business files of each were ransacked. So-called “private detectives” were set to work to do their utmost to pin “something on them.” Stevens’ parliamentary files covering a period of fifteen years were examined to the last comma; his private life was raked over from the day of his birth. Sparks was accorded the same treatment.

When these silent methods failed, the screws were tightened. The liquor moguls raised their fingers, and in response to the beckoning, M.P.’s, political ward-heelers, lobbyists, and their ilk came on the run. Members of Parliament from both sides of the House—six Conservatives were numbered among them— moved heaven and earth to forestall the liquor inquiry and shut it off. Political intrigue stripped off its benevolent mask and leered over the shoulders of the committee.

At this time, Mrs. H. H. Stevens, wife of the member for Vancouver, who had undertaken to force the inquiry, received a letter from her husband in which he said that he was convinced that his political career was ended, but that he meant to “see this thing through to the bitter end.” There can be little doubt that the words of some of his own party associates were responsible for that letter.

Why these frantic efforts to thwart exposure?

The Devil in the Machine

IT IS easily explained. Here was an illegitimate traffic with the proportions of a vast industry, completely organized, working in concert with a bevy of corrupt officials, mulcting the nation’s treasure of millions of dollars each year, and fattening on stupendous illicit profits. Its operations were not confined to Quebec and the Maritimes. It was a sinister force in Winnipeg, in Regina, in Moose Jaw and in Vancouver. It was hooked up with rings in the United States. One company with a Canadian charter was operating stills in Detroit. Distilleries in Ontario, reported by honest officers to be working in collusion with law-breakers, were able to “fix” things at Ottawa and laugh up their sleeves at public opinion. And then, suddenly, there bobbed up a politician and a business man who refused to be fixed!

From under the avalanche of political pullers Sparks crawled unshaken. And Stevens, too. Stevens may be a politician. He may not have ignored the political advantages arising from the customs inquiry, but this fact stands out—when his political career was in danger of extinction, he stuck to his guns. Clean government meant more to him than personal preferment.

The political squeeze came to naught. Then other tactics were resorted to. Whereas the silk and cotton smugglers had threatened with “influence,” wheedled with money and whined for mercy, the liquor ring went one better. It threatened to kill ! Sparks was shadowed. Delicate intimations were made that he had better “lay off or be bumped off.” Bluff, maybe. But Sparks, who is no craven, felt constrained to double his life assurance and increase fire protection on his factory.

The Fight in Committee

IT W'AS at this stage of the game that the famous Duncan report was submitted to the investigating committee. Within the committee’s councils there followed a bitter fight to keep out that report. Ultimately, fear of public opinion outweighed fear for those whose political lives were endangered. The report was admitted. It was tabled in the Commons.

A similar fight was staged when certain witnesses threatened to “spill the beans” and announce the names of those to whom liquor from government warehouses had been given. There were Conservative as well as Liberal names. From behind the scenes Conservatives as well as Liberals whispered “Hush! Hush!” As a matter of record it is fair to Mr. Meighen to state that he refused to move a finger to assist in the suppression of any information. The names came out.

One by one, objections and deliberately raised obstacles were beaten down. The customs committee did lift a corner of the record of the liquor ring machinations.

How far did they get? Not very far. The reports of the committee’s auditors, Messrs. Clarkson, Gordon and Dilworth show how hopeless was their task in examining the books of various distilleries. But sufficient evidence was uncovered to reveal that one of the most pernicious influences in the political life of Cañada was the Dominion Distilleries. After one examination on the stand Gregory George, president of this amazing company, skipped out of the country taking with him to Ireland, where he now is, all its vital records. Before he went he admitted that one man alone (Cooper, of Windsor), had handled 100,000 cases of one brand of whiskey in one year, a deal involving $3,000,000. That was one man with one brand! Think of the magnitude of the operations as a whole! With millions upon millions at stake was it any wonder that this Oligarchy of Bootleggers were able to summon to their aid members of parliament, were able to wangle defence even from Cabinet Ministers? And is it reasonable to suppose that so widespread an organization was built up solely on the genius of the Georges and the Hushions whose names adorn its directorate list? Could they have functioned as they did without benevolent neutrality, to put it mildly, on the part of men in positions more responsible than those filled by the Bisaillons and the Clerks?

MacLean's believes that the rank and file of those employed in our government services are honest and faithful. The corrupt officials who have been beheaded were not representative, nor could they have existed had the contamination not fallen on them from above.

It can be left to an independent judicial commission to use every resource to get to the bottom of the Dominion Distilleries business, to drag into the limelight the real manipulators; to ascertain who, in high places, aided and abetted them. Quebec’s skeleton has been partly exposed. There are still skeletons in Ontario, where at least one brewery license was obtained under circumstances not above suspicion, in Winnipeg, in Regina, in Moose Jaw and in Vancouver, where the dope barons have worked hand in hand with the liquor runners in debauching Canadian youth.

There is one thing the next government can do without the aid of a judicial commission. No matter what its complexion may be, it must take care that those of its supporters who in any way endeavored to side-track the liquor end of the customs investigations, shall have no place in its councils or in the administration of its departments. Mr. Meighen wrested power from Mr. King, not because of superiority as a party tactician or because of the appeal of party shibboleths, but because the demand for clean government could not be hushed.

Until that demand is satisfied the public of Canada will not rest its case.