March 20, 1903

JOINT COMMITTEE ON PRINTING.

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

That a message he sent to the Senate requesting that their Honours will unite with this House in the formation of a joint committee ot both Houses on the subject of the printing of parliament, and that the members of the Select Standing Committee on Printing, namely : Messrs Bennett, Casgrain, Clarke, Davis, Holmes, Hughes (Victoria), Hyman, Johnston (Cape Breton), Johnston (Lambton), LaRiviSre, La-vergne, Loy, Maclean, McColl, Marcil (Bonaven-ture). Oliver, Parmelee, PrSfontaine, Richardson, Scott, Sutherland (Oxford), Taylor, Thompson and Tisdale will act as members on the part of this House on the said joint committee on the printing of parliament.

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Motion agreed to.


LIBRARY OF PARLIAMENT.

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

That a select committee composed of Messrs Borden (Halifax), Bourassa, Brock, Calvert, Casgrain, Clancy, Clark, Demers (St. John and Iberville), Russell, Fraser, Heyd, Hyman, Johnston (Lambton), Laurier (Sir Wilfrid), Monk, Scott and Wade be appointed to assist Mr. Speaker in the direction of the library of parliament so far as the interests of this House are concerned, and to act as members of a joint committee of both Houses on the library ; and that a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their Honours therewith.

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Motion agreed to.


THE RAILWAY COMMISSION.


The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS (Hon. A. G. Blair) moved for leave to introduce Bill (No. 21) to Amend and Consolidate the Law respecting Railways. He said: Mr. Speaker, I made a statement to the House a year ago, when I was introducing a Bill similar to this, which I think was a fairly comprehensive statement of the objects and purposes of the proposed legislation. Inasmuch as I would wish to confirm and be understood as repeating what I then said, I would refer hon. gentlemen who may desire to avail themselves of the reference, to Hansard of


MAKCH 20. 1903


last session, page 2431. I do not wish to extend my explanatory statement to any greater length than is necessary ; hut there are some things which I shall perforce be compelled to repeat.


CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

I think it would he as well for the hon. gentleman ta make a fairly full statement. There are a good many new members in the House, and it may be a little difficult for all of us to refresh our memories in the way he suggests.

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

I wish to convey to the House as complete a view of the general scope of this legislation as I can. The Bill is substantially the same as that which was introduced last session. There have been a few changes, but those changes, I think, are not material and do not essentially affect the main principles of the measure as introduced last year. I think the Bill has been simplified, it has been considerably condensed, and in its general reconstruction a good deal of thought has been given to it in order to perfect it in every possible way. The proposal is, as it then was, to abolish the existing Railway Committee of the Privy Council, and to substitute for that body a railway commission composed of members independent of the government, independent of parliament in a practical sense, though not in the broadest sense, and capable, as we think and hope they will be, by experience and ability, of making thoroughly effective the legislation we are now proposing to place on the statute book.

There are various kinds of railway commissions, as hon. members know. Commissions have been constituted in other countries, not possessing any controlling or executive power, but of a purely advisory character. Other commissions have been created, particularly in some of the colonial dependencies of the Crown, which have had under their management and control the government railways in those colonies. Commissions have also been established-and it is to this type that the one we are proposing to constitute will belong-not for the purpose of operating railways themselves, but for the purpose of exercising control over the operation of railways, in regard to rates, the manner in which the trains shall be equipped, the manner in which crossings shall take place, and generally the manner in which the public shall be protected in the use of the railways.

In constructing this Bill, we have naturally availed ourselves of the experience of those countries in which railway commissions of this kind have been established. In Great Britain a railway commission was established first as far back as 1873. Some material and important changes took place in the constitution of that commission, in the direction of enlarging and extending its powers, in 1888, and it practically exists to-day as it was then constituted. In preparing this Bill, we have availed ourselves of the experience of that railway commission. We have also turned our attention to the legislation which has been adopted in the various states of the union, as well as the general legislation of Congress. We have also, as the House knows, availed ourselves of the results of the inquiries which were made by a special commissioner appointed by us for the purpose, Mr. McLean, who made to the government two reports upon his inquiries in the United States and his investigation of the existing railway troubles in Canada. We have based some of the provisions of the Bill upon the results at which he arrived -we think correctly-in his study of these various problems, and we have sought generally to turn to useful account the best features of the legislation of Great Britain and the United States. It has been found in the mother country that the operation of the railway commission, though not removing all troubles, and though not a complete and effective remedy for all difficulties, has been on the whole fairly satisfactory. Mr. McLean points out that it has exercised a useful influence for the prevention of arbitrary exactions by railways, that it has been recognized as an unbiased arbiter in railway disputes, and that it has much improved the position of shippers. The defects generally recognized are defects which are incidental to the legislation and the lack of hearty co-operation on the part of the judiciary of the country. In the United States similar defects and others have been discovered, which he points out. He says that there political considerations play a great part in the choice of commissioners, even when they are not elective, and they are elective in a great many cases. He says the term for which the commissioners are appointed is too short ; in none of the states it it more than five years, while in many it is less. Another defect admitted by thoughtful men is that the salaries paid to the commissioners are too low, and in consequence it has not been found possible to secure men of the quality required, by training, experience and general fitness, for the successful operation of these commissions. He says-and this is a question which has attracted a great deal of attention in the United States, and has been discussed in a great many works treating of the subject-that frequent appeals and the enormous amount of litigation arises in connection with the working out of their scheme, been most detrimental to the successful operation of the measure. Litigation springs up on all sides and in respect of all questions. The judicial interpretations of the various clauses of the law and the judicial decisions in respect of the findings of the commission upon the question of facts, have been so conflicting that practically the powers of the commissioners are absolutely

nullified. In this connection, an eminent judge of the United States Supreme Court, Judge Harlan, says : ' The Inter-State Commission has been shorn by judicial interpretations of the authority to do anything of an effective character.' It has also been pointed out that the American legislation respecting the inter-state law was arrived at by a compromise between the transportation interests on the one hand and the producing interests on the other, and apparently there was no fixed aim in view in the establishment of these tribunals. One side probably contended that there was no need at all for such tribunals, and the other side insisted that it was imperative in the public interest that they should be established, and between the two a compromise was reached whereby, while these tribunals were established, they were not endowed with powers which all agree are imperatively necessary if they are to do effective work. But notwithstanding the defects admittedly existing under the system in force in the various states of the union and the United States as a whole, many men who have studied railway questions believe that these railway commissions have done much good. Mr. Blanchard, a well-known authority on railway matters, points out that the foi-lowing good results have been achieved through this legislation :

1. It has secured more publicity of rates.

2. It has lessened open rate wars.

3. It has tended to equalize long and short haul rates.

4. It has exercised beneficial warning or police powers.

Meaning by that, that the provisions incorporated in the different railway bills imposing penalties for the omission to do or for the doing of certain acts has had a most salutary effect, by acting as a warning to companies that if they violated these conditions they might be made suffer the consequences.

5. It has silenced much unjust clamor against the railways.

6. It has been mutually educational.

7. It has been judiciously administered.

8. It has benefited the smaller shipper.

9. By obtaining a better classification it has afforded a more uniform basis for rate making.

10. Its statistical work has been of great value.

11. It has exercised important supervisory functions in regard to the application of automatic couplers and safety appliances.

Now, Mr. Speaker, all these objects are aimed at in the present Bill, and in order that we may if possible successfully achieve them, in the face of difficulties which will constantly arise, we have strengthened the hands of the commission we are constituting. We are investing it with larger powers, we are giving it more executive authority, and we have in this respect perhaps gone beyond any legislation which has been passed in any other country up to the present day. The commission, under

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LIB

Andrew George Blair (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Hon. Mr. BLAIR.

this Bill, will exercise all the powers which are now vested in the railway commission of the Privy Council. We propose to constitute a court to consist of three or five members. I confess to a personal preference for three, but I do not assume that my judgment is necessarily sounder than that of others, and I invite an expression of opinion from hon. members on both sides on this point when we come to discuss the subject in detail. Therefore we leave the number in blank for the present. It is proposed that the commission shall be constituted a court of record. The tenure of office is to be a term of ten years, and each member is eligible to re-appointment. We have fixed an age limit of 75 years, beyond which no person can remain a member of the board. The Bill which we submitted last year contained, and the present Bill, when printed, will be found to contain a clause providing that the members of the commission are only removable on an address of both Houses of parliament to the Governor General. This, on full consideration, we concluded to change, and although the Bill when it is distributed will contain such a clause, it is an oversight which will be remedied in committee. We propose that the members of the commission shall be removable in the same manner as the lieutenant governors of the provinces, namely, by the Governor General in Council, for cause.

We confer upon the majority of the board the power of deciding any question, but one member of the commission may make' an order, jiroviding the case or the matter is not one of a contentious character and is not opposed. We propose also that the meetings of the 'board may be migratory. The board may move from place to place, provided, however, that such meetings can only take place with the approval of the Minister of Railways for the time being.

We leave the salaries of the commission open for the present, and will make a proposal to the committee when we reach that stage in the consideration of the Bill.

I now come to an important feature of the Bill, the importance of which you will have 1'ecognized in view of what I said a moment ago as to the unsatisfactory experience in the United States by reason of the facilities for litigation on all sorts of questions under their system. We propose that the commission shall be the absolute judges of both law and fact, subject to two exceptions. The commission will be absolute judges as to the facts, only subject to appeal to the Governor General in Council. They will be absolute judges of the law, except when a question of jurisdiction arises, which of course it would be quite impossible to restrict in any way, but they may state a case to the Supreme Court in the event of any question of legal importance arising.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

At whose instance is the submission to be prepared, at the in-

stance of the litigants, or at that of the board ?

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

It would be prepared by the board-the board would submit the legal question.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

I think the hon. minister does not understand the object of my hon. friend's (Hon. Mr. Haggart's) question. Will either litigant or both litigants have the right to have a case submitted, or will that be done only in the discretion of the board and on its own initiative ?

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

In the discretion of the board, just as it is in the discretion of the Railway Committee of the Privy Council to-day ; we have made no change in that respect.

Following the clauses I have just referred to you will find a variety of sections, very much in the order in which they appear in the existing Railway Act, dealing, first, with the construction of railways. These clauses will be found between 116 and 205 ; and, except where, we think, they have been improved somewhat, are very much the same as the existing legislation. We have made the usual provision in this Bill for the inspection of railways, and have made similar provision, with immaterial amendments, as respects the operations of railways. We now come to the question of tolls, in respect of which there has been a material change. The provisions that we incorporate in this Bill with regard to the control, supervision and regulation of tolls are, in large measure, adapted from similar provisions in the English and American enactments on the subject, so far, of course as the provisions would be applicable to this country. We carefully provide against undue discrimination, undue preference and advantages of any kind. We have incorporated here provisions regarding the long and the short haul. We think we have adequately and completely protected shippers, and all those who use the railways, in the enjoyment of equal facilities. We have directed attention in the Bill to the question of through traffic, both within Canada and from Canada to and from other countries. We provide for a uniform freight classification. The powers we give to the board include power to alter the freight classifications, so that they may be not only uniform, but that they may be more equitable and just to the shipper. In framing the clauses with regard to tolls, we have exercised all possible care. The provisions have been drawn up after consultation with men who have had long practical experience with respect to railway tolls. And, while we have endeavoured in a proper way to protect the rights of the transportation companies, we have assumed absolute and complete control with regard to what their rates shall be.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

That is a very important statement, and this provision seems to be the principle one of the Bill. Does the Bill give the commissioners absolute power of determining and fixing tolls ?

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

Yes. Short of that, we do not see how the commission can be successfully worked. That is one of the things which has occasioned no end of trouble in the United States, and we think that in any other way it would be quite impossible to avoid the same experience in this country.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

If there is no objection on the part of the hon. minister to the asking of questions at this stage, I would be glad if he would say whether this would apply to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the government railways ?

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March 20, 1903