May 13, 1901

LIB
?

The MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR.

My hon. friend- (Mr. Bourassa) has made the argument, that because of the supposed change in the contract, Manitoba has been beaten out of the control of rates for which she bargained. That was his argument, and if that was not his argument it was not anything. There is nothing in it; it is wholly and entirely foundationless and now my hon. friend gets up and tries to switch off to the question of discrimination between the people of one province and another. I say that is another matter and I was not discussing that. I am discussing my hon. friend's contention which he stated to the House with great force and eloquence, that we are leaving out a part of the contract and depriving the province of Manitoba of something for which she bargained. There is no man who would stand up and prevent anything of that kind being done more quickly that I would myself, because, even the influence of political prudence, if no higher motive, would induce me to do it. If it could be shown that we were attempting to trick the province of Manitoba in connection with a matter of this kind by pretending to give it something that we were not giving, nobody would feel that political retribution which would follow more quickly than I would. If I were not absolutely clear in my own mind, I would not suggest to the Committee that it should take the course for which I have been contending. As to the other objection, and it is another objection and an entirely different objection, as to the question of discrimination between the people of Manitoba and the people of Ontario, that point has been raised a number of times, but it has no reference at all to the merits of the contract as between us and the legislature and people of Manitoba. It is a question affecting Dominion railway legislation and it might be necessary for the federal authorities at a future time to say to the railway company : You are discriminating as against the people of Ontario be-

tween the mouth of the Rainy river and Port Arthur, you are not cai'rying their produce as low as you are carrying the produce of Manitoba, and we will compel you to do that. It may very well be that the rate in Manitoba is lower than the rate in Ontario, but that does not affect or apply to the argument against this contract. I do not intend to take up any considerable time of the committee. I generally find that in matters of this kind, if It is desired to get at the real point and to discuss it, that may be done within a reasonable length of time and there is no purpose to be served, in my judgment, by going over at great length the points to which I have referred. It seems to me to be simply and clearly a question as to whether we are going to let the people of the province of Manitoba, who seem to have made up their minds upon the question, settle in their own way a matter which affects their own interests and those of nobody else. I think I have a fairly good knowledge of the electors of Manitoba, and I would be inclined to think that the most effective way of making them all think that this was a good contract, would be for the parliament of Canada to refuse to pass it. I know that a great many of the electors in Manitoba who may not and who do not approve of the provisions of this contract, would resent the idea that the parliament of Canada should not let them do their business as they see fit. Time and again, in connection with matters in this province, this position has been taken by many prominent citizens of Manitoba, and I have no doubt it would be taken all over the province. The merits of this question we will settle for ourselves, and we want the central authority to leave us alone, to let us settle it for ourselves, and the public men whom we elect to positions of trust will be responsible to us. So far as we are permitted to have any evidence given to us on the subject, while I am bound to say that some of my own strong political friends have taken and are taking very strong ground against this contract, there has been nothing to indicate particularly that the legislature of the province does not fairly represent the views of the people. We had a delegation from the city of Winnipeg, a very respectable delegation, headed by Mr. Bole, a personal friend of mine, a political friend, and, I think, president of the board of trade-at all events a member of the board of trade, not appearing, however, for the board of trade, but appearing on behalf and as delegates from certain gentlemen in the city of Winnipeg. Then, we have had a number of resolutions passed at public meetings throughout the province. I need not say to any hon. gentleman who has kept a close watch on the politics of the country for a great many years, that no public man will dream of accepting such demonstrations as representing the people of the province as against the formal action of the

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LIB

Clifford Sifton (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. SIFTON.

legislature of that province. Any such principle as that would be a most unsafe principle to adopt, and I do not fancy, unless they should be of a character which would show that there was an absolute explosion of public opinion, this House would be justified in accepting representations of that kind. It seems to me very clear that the legislature of Manitoba has emphatically made up its mind on that subject. The Bills were passed by a large majority. The opposition did not poll its full strength in the divisions upon which the Bills were passed. The government, I believe, did poll its full strength.

The legislature was importuned by the Liberal press to place in this Bill a provision to the effect that the law should not come into force until it was ratified by legislation at Ottawa, but the legislature would not do it, and the Bill does not contain any such provision. They bound themselves to the contract without condition. As I read that contract at the present time, the government of Manitoba is bound to guarantee these bonds whether this Act is passed here or not. That seems to be the legal effect of it. They have put no suspending clause in it, and it looks very much as though the legal construction of that contract would be that the provincial government would be bound to guarantee these bonds whether this Act is passed or not. They were certainly importuned by the Liberal press of the province to put a suspending clause in the contract, but I do not find it there. They did, however, put in a clause with the opposite tendency. It is a clause which did not seek to limit the executive of the province, but sought to extend the powers of the executive of the province by giving them power to include provision in the mortgage taken in pursuance of the contract, even though that might be inconsistent with the terms of the contract. My hon. friend from La-belle (Mr. Bourassa) pointed out that this Bill did not contain that clause, and the inference from his remarks would be that his view was, that on that ground the province of Manitoba would not receive in the carrying out of the contract the benefit of that clause. That, however, is not the case, because in making the contract between the railway company and the government, the government will be bound to carry out the terms of that provision and to put that particular provision respecting the payment of shortages in the contract. There is no legal effect in it being left out of our Bill here, in so far as the relative rights of the parties are concerned. Another thing which seems to make it stronger and clearer that the government of Manitoba and its followers are clear and decided in their position on this question, is the fact, that the counsel for the province of Manitoba appeared before the Railway Committee. I think I may say that the counsel for the province, Mr. Walter Barwick, of Toronto, is a man well

and favourably known all over the Dominion of Canada, as a very able, and very competent and reliable solicitor. Mr. Banvick appeared before tbe Railway Committee and declared that tbe Bill was perfectly satisfactory to his clients, the province of Manitoba. Well, if the Bill Is perfectly satisfactory to the government of Manitoba, if they can find no indication, if their counsel can find no indication that they are not getting what they bargained for, I should think that is pretty fair evidence that the apprehensions of our friends who are raising these points are without foundation. We have the application of the two railway companies ; we have the application of the legislature and of the government of the province, and we have the counsel of the government coming before us to say that the Bill is what they want. I can only conclude that the position in which we find ourselves is this : That the people of the province of Manitoba have fairly well made up their minds that they are going to have a railway connection to Lake Superior under their own control and able to compete with the Canadian Pacific Railway so that the Manitoba government can control the rates at which the produce of the province will be carried to the lake. That is the evident determination of the people of that province and they have been of that mind so clearly for the last four or five years, that successive premiers of the province, three in succession, have attempted to carry out some such plan as this. We are called upon to decide whether we will allow them to do that in their own way and upon their own responsibility, or whether we will say to them ; No ; you will stop at the boundary line of the province of Manitoba ; you cannot connect with any Dominion railway, and you have to take whatever rates these railway companies give you, under our supervision. That is the position we would have to take if we refuse this Bill. The best conclusion I can come to in reference to the matter is, that with regard to Manitoba or any other province under similar circumstances, we should allow the responsibility to rest where the power rests, and that we should endeavour to carry out as far as we can what are the well understood and very clearly defined wishes of the legislature of the province.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

I only intend to offer a few remarks on this question and particularly in reply to the statements made by the Minister of the Interior, because I think this is a very interesting question. I believe that the position each party occupies upon it should be fairly stated to the House. With a great many of the remarks of the Minister of the Interior I perfectly agree ; from some of them I differ entirely. I believe that the Manitoba government are perfectly empowered to enter into an arrangement of this kind. I do not see any reason why the province should not enter into an 157*

arrangement with railway companies, even outside of the province, for the purpose of obtaining better rates. But as to the liabilities of the two parties, and as to what we undertake when we pass this legislation I differ a great deal from the minister (Hon. Mr. Sifton). He says that this is merely an empowering Act to enable two corporations which have their entity from this Dominion to enter into an arrangement with the province of Manitoba. I take a different view. I am of the opinion of the member for Labelle that this is a ratifying Act, and not an empowering Act. As to what we do when we ratify the agreement, I also differ from the Minister of the Interior. The merits of the question enter into the ratification, and we are responsible for the merits of the agreement when we ratify It. When two corporations come to this parliament for the purpose of amalgamating, we need not particularly inquire as to the terms of the amalgamation, because that is a domestic matter, but if the minority comes before this parliament and protests that the majority are exercising powersi in the amalgamation which is detrimental to the minority, then when we grant them the powers of amalgamation we confirm the merits of the agreement. Therefore, I say that we are not merely empowering the parties to enter into this agreement, but when we confirm the bargain we confirm likewise the merits of it. I suppose the government have entered fully into the merits of this question. According to the statement of the Minister of the Interior, the province of Manitoba have fully entered into it. He tells us that one premier after the other has resolved upon it, and that it is part of the policy of the party to which he belongs to have railway communication from Winnipeg to Lake Superior for the purpose of competing with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He* says that policy has been adopted again and again by the province. Then as to the merits. So far as the province is concerned, they seem to have considered the matter fully and' to be favourable to it. As to the position of the government in reference to empowering or confirmatory legislation of this kind, the hon. gentleman says that in financial matters we ought to allow the province to go to ruin if it likes. That is not the policy of the Confederation Act. The power of disallowance was specially retained to the Dominion government, above all things, for the purpose of controlling the financial affairs of a province-to protect a province from going to financial ruin. I have heard statements and arguments to that effect by the promoters of the Confederation Act again and again when the question has come before this House. I have heard it again and again argued by Finance Ministers in this House that that was one of the principal reasons for the exercise of the power of disallowance, because the financial ruin of a pro-

vince would react on the Dominion, and therefore we ought carefully protect the financial position of the provinces. I have heard the present Minister of Trade and Commerce again and again in this House express the opinion that tlieir powers of borrowing ought to he limited, that they were exercising borrowing powers which they ought not to possess, and that we ought to exert a paternal influence over them in order to protect their credit, although there might be no immediate prospect of their financial ruin.

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?

The MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR.

Would my hon. friend cite a case in which an Act has been disallowed 011 account of the financial proposals contained in it ?

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

None whatever, for this reason, that perhaps we have not exercised the power properly, or perhaps the emergency has never arisen.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

That ground was taken in this House in the case of the Jesuits Estates Bill.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

What I am arguing is this, that the founders of confederation held the view that the prerogative of disallowance should be exercised for the purpose of controlling the financial position of a province in such a way as to prevent it going to financial disaster.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES (Victoria).

May I ask the hon. ex-Minister of Railways if the power of disallowance was intended to be exercised by the parliament of Canada or by the government of Canada ?

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

By the government of Canada. I contend that the power of disallowance is vested in the government of the Dominion to be exercised when occasion requires. How much more, then, should it be exercised when we are asked to pass legislation which, according to some gentlemen who have spoken, would enable the province to effect its own financial ruin. I am not arguing as to the merits of the arrangement at all. I do not know but what it may be a most meritorious one, enitrely in the interests of the province. But what I contend is that when we pass legislation of this kind, we are not merely empowering the provincial legislature to do a thing into the merits of which we are not required to look at all, but we are actually approving of the merits of their action. I say that the government and the House, in passing this legislation, will be perfectly responsible as to the merits of the amalgamation and the whole transaction. The Bill is not merely an empowering Bill; it is a ratifying Bill which gives us a right to look into the merits of the arrangement. That is the question I rose for the purpose of discussing.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HAGGART.

We have heard some discussion as to the powers of the province to enter into a bargain of that kind. I am fully of the opinion that it has power to enter into such an arrangement to secure lower rates; but 1 agree with the hon. Minister of the Interior that the power given to the provincial government in this agreement is only to fix rates within the maximum rate fixed by the Railway Committee of the Privy Council. There is something in the argument of the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) that under this arrangement a rate might be made which would discriminate against another province. The Manitoba government might fix a rate from Winnipeg to Port Arthur which would be less than the rate from the boundary line of Manitoba to Port Arthur, thereby discriminating against an individual living in the province of Ontario. After we ratify this arrangement I do not see how we could correct that by any action on the part of the Dominion government. It could not say that the railway company should not discriminate against individuals or against places.

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The MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR.

I think my hon. friend forgets that this company, in addition to being under the general Railway Act, so far as the fixing of a maximum rate is concerned, is in a special position as a contracting party with the Dominion under the Act which gave it its subsidy, and which gives the Dominion government the right from time to time to revise and control the rates.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

The Dominion government can only revise and control the maximum rate.

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?

The MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR.

It has power from time to time to revise the rates, not only to fix the maximum rate.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

That is, the Dominion government has power from time to time to revise and fix the maximum rates. Within the maximum rates the Manitoba government can under this contract make any arrangement they please in favour of Manitoba. They can make a rate from Winnipeg to Port Arthur, which shall be less than the rate from the boundary of Manitoba to Port Arthur.

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The MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR.

The point I wanted to make was that in that event the central authority would have the right, if it saw fit, to reduce the rate from the Manitoba boundary to Port Arthur to correspond with the other rate.

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CON
L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES (Victoria).

I would like to ask the ex-Minister of Railways also, has not the Railway Committee of the Privy

Council to-day the authority, if they find the Grand Trunk Railway taking goods from Sarnia to Montreal at a certain rate, and similar goods from Toronto to Montreal at a higher rate, to step in and say that the Toronto rate shall not exceed the Sarnia rate ?

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

Yes. They have the right to say that a railway shall not discriminate against individuals or against places. I was going on to say that; hut when you ratify an agreement with the Manitoba government the principal part of which is that the Manitoba people shall have special rates, you are giving the Manitoba government the right to fix differential rates in favour of the province. Can you afterwards take away that right by saying, although the rate you are charging from Winnipeg to Port Arthur is far less than our maximum rate, you must give a like rate in Ontario from the boundary to Port Arthur ? That would be doing away with the agreement altogether. The main object of the agreement between the Manitoba government and the two railway companies is that the people of Manitoba shall have the advantage of exceptional rates, to be fixed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. An arrangement of that kind, the Manitoba government have a perfect right to make.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES (Victoria).

The contract says that they shall have certain rates agreed on, and if these rates are exceptional, then it will be for the Railway Committee of the Privy Council to declare that the Ontario rates shall be lowered.

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May 13, 1901