Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XXXI
Another close victory for the government-- The customs scandal comes into the open-- The barge Tremblay, Chicago Benny, Joseph Bisaillon, and Moses Aziz

NEITHER King nor anyone in his Cabinet yet realized or was ready to admit that smuggling was a really serious question. The Prime Minister was prepared, when confronted with samplings of the unpleasant truth, to make sounds of polite concern, preferably in a low voice. He still had his hands full maintaining his precarious mastery of Parliament, although his hopes were high for the next election. But any suggestion of an underground crime wave, any whisper of scandal or laxity in the government service, would be particularly embarrassing now. Besides, it wasn't warranted--or at least King had himself persuaded so.

When a delegation of prominent businessmen came to urge on him the need of tightened laws and tighter enforcement of the existing laws, he received them with grave attention. He was interested to learn that they had formed themselves into a Commercial Protective Association and were prepared to offer the authorities all possible co-operation.

The meeting did not bestir King as much as his hearers had hoped, but it did, in due course, produce two concrete results. The penalties for smuggling were stiffened and the government offered the Protective Association the services of one of its most efficient private eyes. This was Walter Duncan, an investigator for the Department of Finance. Duncan was authorized to hire a small staff and he himself was given the power to examine witnesses under oath, to break into premises and safes, and to seize books and records.

Duncan chose as his first target one of the most incredible sitting ducks in the annals of public malfeasance. Whatever could be said

-261-

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