March 7, 1901

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

My hon. friend from Cape Breton, who, I believe, represents a good kind of socialism, dissents at once from that. Now, I want to say again that we are not called upon to consider to-night whether this was a good or a bad contract, or what Mr. Blake said, or what anybody else said ; and we are not called upon to consider whether the Northwest has a grievance to-day in this matter. Tlie only thing that we are called upon to consider is whether this is a matter for parliament, or whether this is a matter for the courts of the country, to deal with. I think tlie hon. member for Alberta made a pretty good argument to show what this means. I think if I were chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada I might be disposed to agree with him ; but we are none of us here exercising the functions of the Supreme Court. If there is one thing more than another which we all recognize, it is that the interpretation of contracts shall be determined by the courts and not by parliament. That would be true, even if we had no contract interest ourselves. But when we have, the very fact that we are ourselves a party to a contract, and that we propose to interpret it against the other party-surely. I think the hon. member for Lisgar will not press that matter any further. I agree with all that was said by my colleague, the Minister of the Interior, as to the sacredness of these contracts. Let the idea once get abroad that the parliament of Canada is goiug to undertake to interpret its contracts for itself rather than submit them to the judicial tribunals of the country, and I venture to say from that time forward there would not be the slightest faith in anything this parliament might do upon which a dollar might be required for any public purpose in Canada.

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IND

Robert Lorne Richardson

Independent

Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).

I think the hon. gentleman has furnished, in his brief speech, the strongest possible reason why this Bill should be passed. He has laid down the proposition that tlie courts shall take no cognizance whatever of a debate that may have occurred, or of the understanding that prevailed when a contract was made. Now. this is not a verbal understanding, let me remind the Minister of Finance. There were not certain words passed verbally between members of both sides of tlie House and the syndicate ; but the understanding was taken down in black and white

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

by ' Hansard,' and remains in ' Hansard ' up to the present time. I do not think even the hon. gentleman himself will contend that there is not some doubt at least in that clause itself. He will not contend that it is absolutely sure that the twenty years does not run from the date of the contract. I think the Solicitor General was willing to go that far, and he is the only one, so far as I know, who ever made that admission.

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The SOLICITOR GENERAL.

What admission ?

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IND

Robert Lorne Richardson

Independent

Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).

That the language cannot be interpreted to mean that the twenty years began -with tlie ratification of the contract.

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The SOLICITOR GENERAL.

Undoubtedly.

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IND

Robert Lorne Richardson

Independent

Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).

I claim that you can read into that clause easily, auy layman, at least, can read into that clause, what it did mean ; and certainly the many able members on both sides of tlie House who spoke when that contract went through, understood what it meant, is the Solicitor General, or is any legal man to-day, able to say that they did not so understand it, or can he say that his opinion or tlie opinion of any other man at present, is better than the opinion of the members who sat on both sides of the House when that contract went through, and who clearly declared-because I quoted their utterances- that they understood that the twenty years would date from the ratification of that contract ?

If, therefore, the proposition of the Minister of Finance is correct, that the courts must take no cognizance wnatever of the understanding, not a verbal understanding, but a distinct printed understanding at that time, then why should we not pass an Act to-night and declare what parliament did intend ? I do not propose, so far as I am concerned, as a representative of the Northwest, to take any risk in the matter ; I do not propose to agree to a reference of this point to the courts. I claim, with the hon. member for Alberta, that it is perfectly clear what parliament intended. Parliament is supreme, far above any superior court, or even any judicial committee of the Privy Council, and let parliament say to-night what was intended. Let parliament protect the vested interests of the people. Why, we hear about ' the monstrous proposition of interfering with vested interests of these stockholders.' Let me tell you, Sir. Speaker, that when these bonds were sold, the men who bought them had the right to investigate that contract, and if they were honest men, if they were shrewd men, they had the very clauses of that contract before them, and having bought their bonds after reading the clauses of the contract, then, on their own heads let the consequences rest. The duty of this House is not to pro-

tect the bondholders of Holland and other countries, but the interests of the people, and it is for their interest that we stand up to-night.

I am not afraid of being called a socialist to-night, I am .proud to be a socialist, if socialism is standing up for the interests of the people. I do not think, from what we see here, that many people understand what socialism is. What is socialism ? It is serving the interests of the people as against private or corporate interests ; it is taking hold of public franchises and running them in the interests of the people. Is that a crime ? Is it anything for which any man need be ashamed ? I do not think it is. So far as I am concerned to-night, I am proud to stand here and allow the Prime Minister to call me a socialist, because I stand up for the interests of the people as against corporate interests. The point, however, is this: Why should not these patents be issued at once ?

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IND
IND

Robert Lorne Richardson

Independent

Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).

I have a resolution in my desk, written a week ago, that I propose to bring up when the House is moved into Supply, declaring that the patents issue at once. I want these patents issued. I listened with pride to my hon. friend from Alberta when he said that the proposition of the right hon. premier was a monstrous one, that the twenty years period must date from the issue of the patents.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

I never said that.

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IND

Robert Lorne Richardson

Independent

Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).

I will read from the hon. gentleman's speech of last session.

I am not prepared to say that the argument of my hon. friend is right or that it is wrong. It may be right, I do not think it is. I think it is only from the date of the issue of the patents from the Crown that the grant is to be construed.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

Hear, hear.

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IND

Robert Lorne Richardson

Independent

Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).

The patents have not been issued up to the present time, and it may go on for ever.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

I said I would not undertake an expression of opinion. I did not say my own view was clear, that is a question for the courts.

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IND

Robert Lorne Richardson

Independent

Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).

I would not put the Premier in any position that lie does not occupy, but surely the English language is plain and understandable. He said it was his own opinion that the twenty years period would date from the issue of the patents. Up to the present time not one patent for a single acre of land which has not been sold by the company has been issued. What position is the hon. gentleman in, according to the hon. member for Alberta (Mr. Oliver) ? The government have been in * 37* I

power for five years, and these patents have not been issued. Even, if you accept the explanation of the Prime Minister they have allowed five years to go, and if the patents are issued, now at least five years have been added to the burdens of the people in that country. That is the consideration that I want to place before parliament. My hon. friend the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Fielding) is not disposed to sympathize with me, and the hon. Solicitor General intimates that he thinks I am not sincere. I say that the hon. Minister of Finance is not disposed to sympathize with me, because I have been designated as a socialist.

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

I found no fault with you.

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IND

Robert Lorne Richardson

Independent

Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).

I think I am entitled to this credit, that I have stood up here session after session in this House and have done what I could. What personal axe can I have to grind? Is my position right or is it wrong? When the fact exists that the taxpayers in that country are paying (and if the interpretation of the Prime Minister is allowed to go and if they are not to issue these patents, they will be obliged to pay for all time to come) double taxes that they should not pay for school-houses, roads, bridges and other considerations, is it right that such a condition of things should be permitted to continue ? I want to say it now, and I am glad the House is listening to me, that this is a question which we cannot afford to dally with. The people are not going to be fooled any longer. It is idle to say that it shall be referred to the courts. I am not willing to agree that it shall be referred to the courts. I suppose that makes no difference, as the government will do as it likes anyway. I am here as the representative of 50,000 or 60,000 constituents, and a representative man from Manitoba and the North-west Territories, to say that the people are watching the government and watching parliament very closely on this matter, that they will hold this parliament responsible if they are going to be obliged to pay double taxes for all time to come in order that this great corporation, into whose lap we have poured our millions, into whose lap we have poured $75,000,000 worth of land, in order that they shall go on for all time to come to take toll from the people of the country as they have been tolling the people, and as they will continue to toll the people unless parliament does something. This is a serious question, and I most earnestly hope the government will reconsider the proposition to give this Bill the six months' hoist.

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IND

Jabel Robinson

Independent

Mr. JABEL ROBINSON (West Elgin).

Mr. Speaker. I am fully in accord with the Bill before the House. If it is understood, here, to-night, that the people of the Northwest Territories settle and perform the duties of settlement while the rich corpora-

tions which own railways and lands around them escaped taxation, I think the best thing we can do is to recall our immigration agents in Europe, because I am satisfied that we will get very few emigrants to come in and settle, and perform all the statute labour and all the settlement duties in that country while allowing the wealthy corporations to get the benefit of it. I think it is time that this was fully understood. I think the government, instead of throwing this question over by giving it the six months' hoist, ought to take it into their serious consideration and see whether there is not something in the Bill. I think there is, and I shall therefore support the Bill.

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IND

Leighton Goldie McCarthy

Independent

Mr. LEIGHTON G. MCCARTHY (North Simeoe).

Mr. Speaker, owing to the heated deliverances of the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Richardson), I feel it necessary that I should make some remarks in regard to this Bill. If the subject before the House had been to the effect that freight rates should be lowered, that some grievance which existed in the North-west Territories should be remedied as against the Canadian Pacific Railway, I would be inclined to agree with what the hon. gentleman has said, but, how, in the name of common sense, applying the ordinary interpretation of the English language to the Bill which he has introduced, he can apply his last remarks made in this House, I am entirely at a loss to understand. The question is whether we, as the parliament of Canada, shall interpret an Act which was merely an Act of ratification and which, in effect, is not an interpretation of an Act as he and the hon. member for Alberta (Mr. Oliver) would have us believe, but is in reality an interpretation of the contract which was entered into between the government of Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway, which contract required the ratification of parliament to make it effective and operative. Now, the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Richardson), and this is the part which struck me as being the most irrelevant and erroneous, said that hon. members on both sides of the House stated what in their opinion, was the meaning of that clause in the contract. What has that got to do with the judicial, or proper, or fair interpretation of that clause ? We have not before us, we cannot have before us, what took place in the negotiations between the government and the other contracting parties, which, in this case, was the Canadian Pacific Railway. Is it fair, therefore, for us to interpret the. meaning of the contract pursuant to a discussion which took place in the House, when we are not in a position to know what the other contracting party has to say. It is manifestly unfair, because, they cannot be said, although perhaps it is alleged that they have representatives on the floor of parliament occasionally, that they were in that

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IND

Jabel Robinson

Independent

Mr. ROBINSON (West Elgin).

sense represented so as to say or put before the people of the country what their contentions were in arriving at the conclusion which was embodied in the words of that clause of the contract. Looking at it as au abstract proposition, as the hon. member for Lisgar put it in his last remarks, is it fair that we should sit down here and interpret that contract according to a discussion which took place between the respective leaders or members of one party or the other ? I go a long way with the hon. member for Lisgar. I commend him in many instances for the effort he has made on behalf of the people of the Northwest Territories. I think they have grievances, that they have grievances in regard to freight rates, and they may have a grievance in regard to this very question, which has been thrown into this discussion, that the Canadian Pacific Railway should be made to pay taxes upon these lauds which were granted to them twenty-one years ago and upon which, I dare say, they may have raised money; but the question is : Is a contract which was made between these two parties, namely, the government of Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway, to be interpreted by one of the contracting parties without the other being present at all, on what we may call, in legal phraseology, an ex-parte application ? We are not, as the hon. member for Alberta says, asked to amend a statute, because that is not the case that the hon. member for Lisgar presents, or could present. If it were the amendment of a statute it might be different. What he asks us to do is to interpret a contract which was ratified by parliament twenty years ago. That puts it in an entirely different light and makes it an entirely different case which is presented to parliament in this Bill. I therefore feel myself absolutely constrained, speaking as a lawyer, to say that 1 would not be one to interpret the Act, either as between a corporation and the government, or as between two parties in the absence of one.

I am furthermore constrained to that conclusion by reason of the offer which is made by the government to pay the cost of interpreting that Act in the courts. It may be said that naturally a lawyer would do that because it brings grist to his mill, but although we lawyers have to live, that is not my reason for supporting the proposition on this occasion. My hon. friend (Mr. Maclean) says : That may be a lawyer's

position, but that is not the position of a statesman whose aim is to right the grievances of the people. I think there is a good deal in what the hon. gentleman says, but is this an opportune time to do what he suggests ? Can we with credit to ourselves as the parliament of Canada enact the legislation which the hon. gentleman (Mr. Richardson) proposes ; can we interpret that contract to be in our favour in

the absence of the other contracting' parties ? A proper tribunal is given to us before which that contract shall be construed, and if we were to assume to interfere with it ourselves, it would be something that no British legislature has ever done before. As the hon. member for South Norfolk (Mr. Tisdale) has said, it makes it awkward to discuss this question when so many erroneous ideas are imported into the consideration of a plain proposition, namely : Whether or not we shall interpret a contract which was made twenty years ago and ratified by the parliament of Canada. We hear of the loss of money which has to be made up by reason of this contract, and we are told it was a bad contract and ought never to have been entered into. What has that got to do with the question at issue ? I say, Sir, that viewing the Bill as it stands and apart from all the erroneous and irrelevant discussion regarding it, I am constrained to support the motion to give the Bill the six months' hoist. I do so because I do not believe that with credit to ourselves and with respect to the country to which we belong, we can take upon ourselves to interpret any contract which has been entered into, we being one of the contracting parties.

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March 7, 1901