ONE OF these days there will be a Royal Commission appointed to investigate the number, cost and value of Royal and other commissions appointed to investigate everything from glass-roofing the Great Lakes to the economic waste caused by the throwing away of the torn stubs of movie-house admission tickets.
During recent years commissions have been costing the country some $400,000 annually. The Duff Commission on Transportation cost more than $100,000 and made a report now completely abandoned. We had the Macmillan Banking Commission, also desperately costly. Then there was the Stamp Wheat Commission, which apparently got nowhere since a new wheat commission has just been appointed.
We’ve had also the Resources commissions for Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Price Spreads commission (cost approximately $350,000), the Parker commission on copyright, the Maritime Rights commission and about a dozen minor enquiries.
Now functioning are the Turgeon textile probe, the Turgeon wheat commission, the Tory coal commission, the farm implement enquiry, the employment commission, the penitentiaries commission and nine partisanship commissions (one for each province).
Pending is a commission to investigate the packing industry in Winnipeg,
For years there has been functioning a Government Fuel Board, with staff. It ought to know all there is to know about the coal situation. Moreover, in the evidence gathered last year and the year before by the Combines Act investigation, a mass of detail pertaining to the coal industry was elicited.
What there is left for another expensive commission to dig up is something of a mystery. One little bird whispers that its object may he to demonstrate the existence of an anthracite combine in Wales and so make trade with Russia politically possible.
The Government cut the tariff on agricultural implements. Then it decided to investigate the implement industry and its prices, thus putting the cart before the horse. Not the Tariff Board, but the Agricultural Committee of the House did the investigating, with, of course, counsel and special auditor appointed at a princely rate of daily remuneration.
Permanent officials of the Government Department of Agriculture could have told the Government all it wanted to know about the price of implements. But it was a fishing expedition that was wanted
Apart from commissions the justification of whose expense is doubtful, governments are showing a tendency to conduct investigations for the purpose of making a political case that will assist the party. In certain industrial investigations, case-making lawyers, employed at ridiculously fat fees, have cross-examined on this basis rather than on the basis of the rules of evidence and the scope of the enquiry.
Party newspapers, not waiting for the findings of a commission, have played up one side of the evidence; discredited an industry before its side was heard.
If there is well-founded belief that any industry is
not playing fair with the consumer or with investors or with workers, investigations must certainly he made. And, if, after impartial enquiry, such an industry is proved guilty, by all means let remedial action he taken.
But the enquiry must be fair. It must not be for political effect. During the course of a hearing, statements made for purposes of political capital should not be tolerated.
Offhand condemnation of any business or industry before charges are definitely proved may result in an unwarranted spreading of suspicion that is meat and drink to radical agitators.
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