April 12, 1901

GREAT NORTHERN TRANSIT COMPANY.

LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. FRANK OLIVER (Alberta) moved :

That that portion of the sixth report of the Select Standing Committee on Railways, Canals and Telegraph Lines reporting the preamble of Bill No. 38, respecting the Hudson's Bay and North-west Railways Company, and to change its

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name to ' Great Northern Transit Company,' not proven, be referred back to the said committee for further consideration.

He said : I have no wish to refer the Bill back to the committee for reconsideration on the merits of the question that has been discussed before the committee. The Bill as originally introduced provided for certain railway connections between the waters of Hudson's Bay and the Mackenzie river. Application was made for an extension of time for the completion of the work, and for the privilege of making a further connection between Lake Superior and Hudson's Bay. In the committee, the discussion was on the application to make connection between Lake Superior and Hudson's Bay, and that application was refused by the committee. We have no wish to renew the application so far as that point is concerned. We merely ask that the Bill in its original shape, providing for connection between the waters of Hudson's Bay and the Mackenzie river be allowed the ordinary extension of time.

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The PRIME MINISTER (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier).

I am sorry to be obliged to say that, for my part, I cannot agree to the hon. gentleman's motion. The question has been brought to the attention of the House, and, in the ordinary course of parliamentary procedure, has been referred to the Railway Committee, where it has been considered, with the result that the proposal has been rejected by the committee. The position that the government have always taken in matters of this kind is to support the decision of the Railway Committee, unless very strong reason is shown to the contrary, unless substantial injustice has been done or gross error has been committed. AVhen the question has been considered in all its aspects in the committee to which it has been referred, and a conclusion has been reached, I have always thought it safest for the House to uphold the decision of the committee. If we review the judgment of the committee in these matters; we are apt to be led into error. Without looking into the merits of the motion, since it revives,' even though in modified form, a question already decided by the committee, I shall feel it my duty to oppose the motion and maintain the decision of the committee.

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CON

Seymour Eugene Gourley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SEYMOUR E. GOURLEY (Colchester).

I have no interest in the Bill whatever, but I took an interest in the discussion of the matter in committee ; and while I would accept the principle laid down by the Prime Minister, that the decision of the committee should be accepted, yet, I understand the hon. member for Alberta (Mr. Oliver) does not seek to conflict with that principle. The discussion in committee was confined to the proposed connection between Lake Superior and James Bay, and the rest of the Bill, providing for an extension from

12, 1901

Hudson's Bay west to the Pacific, was not considered. Now, the hon. gentleman proposes, as the judgment of the committee was given upon that subject, to accept it; but, as the other question was not discussed, to refer it to the committee for a decision. With all deference to the Prime Minister, I think that if he would reconsider the matter, he would not feel it his duty, to disagree with the proposition.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

If the House will bear with me-the report of the committee, as I understand it, was that the preamble of the Bill had not been proven. That being so, the assumption is that the whole question was considered, and the conclusion come to that the charter could not be granted. To adopt this resolution must be to revise the decision of the Railway Committee.

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CON

David Henderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DAVID HENDERSON (Halton).

In general terms I am prepared to assent to what the Prime Minister says, that we ought to be guided by the action of the Railway Committee. But, I think that it will be within the recollection of this House that only a few weeks ago the principle laid down by the First Minister was not recognized. Strong reasons being shown why the action of the Railway Committee should not be sustained, the House felt quite justified in dealing with the subject in a manner different from the manner recommended by the Railway Committee. I have in my recollection one case where private interests and public interests were affected, yet the First Minister himself assisted in pushing that Bill through to a third reading without allowing the parties to be heard. I was present in the Railway Committee when the Bill which is now under discussion was defeated. It was, practically, not defeated ou its merits-I think that might quite fairly be said. It was simply defeated on the ground that the promoter of the Bill had had a former charter over a portion of the same route, and had disposed of it to another man, and now he is seeking for a charter, not over the same ground, but probably 150 or 200 miles away from his former line. Now, I have thought over that matter very carefully since, and I am not sure but that we made a serious mistake, and I for one am always prepared to remedy a mistake when I think I have made one. I think I made a mistake on that occasion, and I am prepared to support the motion of the hon. member for Alberta (Mr. Oliver) to refer this Bill back to the Railway Committee for further consideration. After having told Mr. Harvey, the promoter of the Bill, that we did not believe in charter selling, and warned him in that way, and punished him. I think we should be prepared to deal with this question on its merits.

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LIB

Napoléon Antoine Belcourt

Liberal

Mr. N. A. BELCOURT (Ottawa).

I think the motion made by the member for Alberta

may very well be adopted by this House without any sacrifice of the principle or rule enunciated by the Prime Minister, and If he will give me his attention I will explain my reasons for thinking so. The Bill asks for two things ; it asks for a connection between Hudson Bay and Lake Superior, and it also asks for an extension of time for the construction of the other portion of the charter already possessed by the people who were before the committee, that is, an extension of time for constructing a road partly by water and partly rail from Hudson Bay along the Mackenzie river. That part of the Bill was not considered by the committee. All the committee considered was the granting of a charter for the connection between Hudson Bay and Lake Superior, and that the committee refused to entertain. As I understand the motion of the hon. member for Alberta, he does not ask the committee to reconsider that question, the question which the committee really decided, but simply to grant the other portion of the Bill extending the time for the construction of the rest of the road already chartered. Therefore, in referring the Bill back to the committee, it is not sought for a moment to ask the committee to change its decision in order to reconsider that which it has already decided ; it is simply asking the committee to consider a question involved in the Bill which was not at all considered by the committee on the previous occasion.

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LIB

James Sutherland (Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Hon. JAMBS SUTHERLAND (North Oxford).

I do not think the hon. member for Halton (Mr. Henderson) has fairly presented the case to the House. The case he quoted is not analogous to this. In that paiticulai case a Bill was reported by the committee, and on strong statements being made that other parties wished to be heard, it was referred back to the committee. To the principle now advocated by the Prime Minister, there was an exception made in that case, and when the Bill was reported and came before the House for the third reading the members of the House were divided on the question as to whether it should be read the third time or laid over. The present case is altogether different. I would say to my hon. friend from Alberta that it would seriously inconvenience the business of the House if we adopted the custom of referring Bills back after they had been thoroughly threshed out in committee, except, as the Prime Minister said, very good cause were shown therefor. In this case I am free to say there is no such cause. There was a very long debate in the committee, nearly the" whole day was spent in the discussion, and the Bill was thrown out by a large majority indeed. Evidently there was very little difference of opinion in the committee as to whether the legislation should be granted. I would be the last member of this House to refuse an opportunity of reconsidering a Bill if good cause were shown,

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LIB

Napoléon Antoine Belcourt

Liberal

Mr. BELCOURT.

and I would myself move such a motion ; but if, every time a Bill is defeated, we are to have a motion in the House to refer it back again and open up the whole question, I say the business of the House would be seriously interfered with. In this particular ease I do not think a good case has been made at all for referring the Bill back to the committee.

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Liberal

Mr. R. LEMIEUX (Gasp6).

I may add to the remarks made by the hon. gentleman who is chairman of the Committee on Railways and Canals (Hon. Mr. Sutherland), that I voted for the Bill in question when it was discussed in the committee. I must say it was discussed on its merits, and although several amendments were suggested, the committee persistently refused to adopt the Bill. I think it would be simply a waste of time to send the Bill back to the committee. We discussed it nearly two hours, and a great many suggestions were made by the promoters, but the committee would not accept them, and rejected the Bill.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER.

The question for consideration by the House turns on whether good reasons have or have not been shown for a reference back to the committee.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

Will the hon. member state the reasons,-as I did not quite catch them at first.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER.

I am going to do so. The chairman of the committee has said that it is perfectly legitimate to refer a Bill back to that committee if there is just cause therefor. Now, the cause we allege in this case is that the powers asked for by the Bill were divided distinctly into two parts. One of those parts was fully considered by the committee, all the amendments suggested were refused by the committee, and the Bill as a whole was rejected on the ground of objections made to that part of the Bill. The chief objection was that the line paralleled another line for which a charter had been granted between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay, that it was entering into a territory about to be provided for by another charter. Now, we have no desire to raise that question again, we accept the judgment of the committee in that particular.

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The MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR (Hon. Clifford Sifton).

What part of the Bill do you wish to have reconsidered ?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER.

The part which allows the construction of a railway connection between the waters of the Hudson Bay and the waters of the Mackenzie river. The first charter that was granted provided for a railway connection between the waters of the Hudson Bay and the waters of the Mackenzie river.

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LIB

James Sutherland (Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Hon. Mr. SUTHERLAND.

Would it cover the same ground ?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER.

No, it was not discussed on those lines. There was no connection whatever with the alleged sale of the charter. I hear the hon. chairman of the committee say the whole thing was sold. Now allow me to say that the charter that was sold was an Ontario charter and not a Dominion charter. The Ontario charter covered the ground between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay and did not cover any part of the ground that was covered by the original charter of this Hudson Bay and Northwest Railway, because the Ontario government has no power over that region. Pour years ago a charter was granted to the Hudson Bay and North-west Railway Company to make a railway connection between the waters of the Hudson Bay and the waters of Mackenzie Basin by way of Chesterfield Inlet and Great Slave Lake. The term allowed for the commencement of the work under that charter either had expired or was about to expire. The company come before parliament and asked for a revival of that part of the charter, and for a new charter, or a new extension, to cover the line between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay. It was that part of the charter which the committee objected to, and we have no desire to ask the committee to revise its decison on that point. All we ask is that the House refer back the Bill to the committee so that the company may get the usual extension of time that has repeatedly been granted to railway enterprises in new parts of the country, where they do not compete with anybody, and where they cannot stand in the way of any other enterprise. I am willing to accept the judgment of the committee that the granting of that part of the charter between Hudson Bay and Lake Superior might have interfered with another charter, and therefore the committee were justified in refusing that charter. I cannot agree that to continue a charter which covers ground no less than 700 or 1,000 miles distant,"which is not in that part of the country at all, in which no man is asking for any authority or power, can in any way prejudice any existing interest, and therefore there can be no harm in giving the extension of time asked for.

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The MINISTER OP THE INTERIOR.

Mr. Speaker, I think the remarks which my hon. friend (Mr. Oliver) has made are worthy of this consideration at least, that the question as to whether the extension of time which is asked for in respect' to the other railway lines is a different matter altogether from that which the committee discussed and decided should be again considered by the committee. I would suggest to my hon. friend that he withdraw his motion now and renew it in a couple of days. In the meantime the hon. Minister of Railways and Canals (Hon. Mr. Blair) and the Chairman of the Railway Committee may confer with him and look into the question so that when it comes before the House

again we will know the exact position of the matter.

Motion withdrawn.

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POST OFFICE ACT AMENDMENT.


Hon. JAMES SUTHERLAND (Oxford) moved for leave to introduce Bill (No. 121) to amend the Post Office Act. He said : Mr. Speaker, I may say that this is principally a departmental Bill. The first clause is suggested by the Department of Justice as being a necessary amendment to the Post Office Act to make clear the meaning of the words 'post letter.' I believe this has become necessary in view of some cases that have come before the courts, and that it is desirable to amend the Act. The second clause is to provide for the establishment of dead letter offices in some places not now provided for.


April 12, 1901