March 20, 1903

LIB

Joseph Israël Tarte

Liberal

Hon. Mr. TARTE.

Would the hon. minister allow me to ask him whether there will be any appeal from the decision of the commission ? I was not here and I did not hear any reference to that point.

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

The hon. gentleman (Mr. Tarte)

was not here when I mentioned that there is an appeal provided for in the Bill from and against any and all decisions of the board to the Governor in Council. That tribunal was thought to be the most useful to which to make an appeal for many obvious reasons. There is an appeal now to the Governor in Council from the Railway Committee. It is perhaps just as well that I should say that in the few years I have been connected with the Railway Committee that power has only been availed of on one occasion, and it is to be hoped that it will not be found very frequently necessary to appeal from the decisions of this board. Perhaps I might as well refer to the other subject just at this moment which I had in my mind and which relates somewhat to the question which the hon. gentleman (Mr. Brock) asked. I had in my mind two questions which we have not undertaken to deal with in this Bill, one as to the exercise of control over the granting of new charters or the location of new railways. That power has been conferred by the legislatures of some of the states-one or two, at least, to my knowledge-but I think it has been rather in the form of an advisory authority. The duty is cast upon the commission to advise the state legislatures in respect of any applications for the construction of new railways, and in other instances the power has been given to the commission to grant or withhold, even after the charter has been granted, a certificate which is called a certificate of public necessity, or something of that kind, without which certificate the company chartered to build the railway cannot proceed with its work. It will appear, of course, upon the surface, that the object of such legislation is to prevent the unnecessary duplication of railways, to prevent their running, perhaps, too close to one another, or running parallel with each other, when the public interest will be best served by there being either no other railway or by its being located elsewhere, at some convenient or sufficient distance from the existing railway.

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L-C

Andrew B. Ingram

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. INGRAM.

Then why should the charter holders, having a time limit in which to commence and complete the railway, be interfered with in that way ? That would affect the time limit to commence and complete the line of railway after it had been chartered. Parliament grants the right to construct a railway and fixes a time limit.

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The MINISTER OP RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

There is much to be said in favour of the proposition, and I am not going to say that there is not a good deal to be said against it. I was merely pointing out, with the view of inviting discussion later upon this subject, that this was one of the powers which have been conferred upon railway commissions in other places but which it is not proposed in the present Bill shall be conferred upon this commission.

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LIB

Andrew George Blair (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Hon. Mr. BLAIR.

Another direction in which legislation has taken place elsewhere is in giving railway commissions power to exercise a very careful supervision and control over the excessive issue of stock and bonds by railway companies. There seems to me, speaking individually only, to be very much in a proposal of that kind to commend itself to parliament. We know perfectly well that in the experience of the past few years, at least, although companies which have charters from parliament and are authorized to issue very large quantities of stock, very rarely indeed has any of the actual money been put into stock or has gone into the construction of these roads. The stock is given, I suppose, perhaps, to enrich the bonds, or distributed as favours among friends or used otherwise than as a means of raising the capital to put into the undertaking, and it seems that it is very desirable, if parliament thinks it well to proceed with this Bill, to consider whether or not there might not be some tribunal, and if so why not the railway commission, to look into, watch carefully and supervise the expenditure upon these railway undertakings, so as to be able to restrict the undue and excessive issue of their bonds or shares of capital stock. These bonds, this stock distributed among the public, received as a gift or bought at perhaps a low rate to-day and sold at a little higher rate to-morrow, as the prospect of the railway may improve financially, get into the hands of the holders at an enhanced price and they become a legitimate charge upon the traffic of the railway, and become sometimes a burden upon such traffic and an unnecessary burden, it seems to me. It is my own opinion that we whould be acting in conformity with public opinion if we turned our eyes in the direction of legislation of that kind.

I have endeavoured to state as fully as I could, without being unduly tedious, the general scope and in some respects the particular details of this Bill. It has been framed in an honest endeavour to put before parliament a Bill which should be effective in its operation. If the country desires, as I believe it does, that there should be a tribunal constituted for the purpose of exercising a large measure of control over the railways of the country, I think we would fail in our duty in responding to that demand if we did not give to the tribunal we are creating, ample power to enable them to carry out the purpose for which they are created. When you come to read some of these clauses it may seem that the powers that are given-if they are pressed to extremity of their literal meaning ; if an interpretation is going to be given to them by the board right up to the limit which their language would bear-it might seem that you are giving to the Railway Commission power which would enable them to crush the railways or to do serious injury to the business in-

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terests of the country. While that may be so, it must be borne in mind, that you must give in the language that you employ, larger powers than you intend to have exercised in order that you may insure a sufficient measure of power to the body which you are investing with these responsibilities. It is because of this, that it is of the first importance when we come to constitute the tribunal itself ; when we come to determine upon the qualifications which are necessary in order that the measure generally may be successfully worked out; that we shall exercise extreme care in making these selections. It would not be possible for me, and it would not be perhaps becoming for me at this stage, before parliament "says there shall be such a tribunal constituted, to undertake to state in any definite way just what the ideas of the government are as to the personnel of the board itself. We are fully conscious that it will be necessary that there should be represented on that board a man of large legal experience who has had some knowledge of the trend and bearing of railway questions, who has followed railway legislation generally. There should be a man who should have technical knowledge of the working of railways and railway tariffs also upon the board. This is very important. It is regarded as very important in the United States, and after the long experience they have had in that country I presume their judgment may be taken as fairly sound. Outside of these two qualifications I apprehend that a wide latitude might be exercised by the government in its choice. I have noticed recently in the public press that some opinions have been attributed to me with regard to what the constitution of the board ought to be and what ought to be the avocations, of the men who are appointed on it. 1 must say that I have been quite misunderstood in these reports. If any person has had any conversation with me in respect to the subject I have not gone any further than to state in the most general way anything with regard to the technical and legal training required. Beyond that, I think the general business interests of the country should be represented ; and chiefly and prominently among these must always come the interests of the great farming community of Canada; an industry which in its importance far surpasses that of any other industry ; far surpasses the manufacturing and commercial interests great as they are and great as they will continue to be. But while that is the case it is at the same time absolutely true that the farming interests and the manufacturing and industrial and general commercial interests are a common interest after all. A man, no matter what his particular occupation might be who had a business experience might well be taken to be qualified to fill a place upon this board provided that he has a sound judgment and a calm and independent mind. In consider-9 ing this, bearing in mind that it is the strength and pressure of the public opinion which has been aroused by what the farmers of the country have felt to be their particular grievance ; having regard to the enormous extent of these interests not only in eastern Canada, but growing with such tremendous rapidity in our great west, I am satisfied that I speak with the approval of all my colleagues when I say, that the selection which we will make to occupy a place on this board, particularly in respect to the business interests of this country which are connected with transportation, will be such a selection as will commend itself heartily to the approval of the farming community, and will insure, as far as possible, the promotion and protection of their interests.


CON

William Rees Brock

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BROCK.

I notice that the hon. minister has not stated that the commission is to have any power to deal with labour difficulties and strikes which affect railways very materially. Is it intended that these are to be dealt with in the compulsory arbitration Bill which I understand is to be introduced ?

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

We have not incorporated any provisions of that kind in this Bill. There would be difficulty in doing so. I can point out one, which however I do not consider to be by any means the most considerable. You are constituting a commission which will impose very onerous and responsible duties on the gentlemen who compose that tribunal. They will have no sinecure, I can assure you. The duties they will have to discharge will be multifarious, and I think, at all events in the inception, whatever it may be found possible to do later, it would not be wise to hamper the action of the commission by attaching to it such duties as the hon. gentleman alludes to. Then there is another reason. It has not been found practicable so far, under the conflict which exists between provincial and federal legislation, to do very much, if anything, in the direction of compulsory arbitration ; and if you are to rely, as I think you will have to rely, almost entirely upon the friendly intervention of a conciliatory board, for the solution of these labour difficulties, it would not be well to ask the commission to assume duties of that character. Such a board should always have upon it a direct representative of the labour elements themselves ; if they are to have confidence in its decisions, they must have some choice in the composition of the board. Another reason, and perhaps the conclusive one, is that my hon. friend the Minister of Labour has a Bill which he proposes to submit to parliament this session touching that very question. '

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IND

Jabel Robinson

Independent

Mr. JABEL ROBINSON (West Elgin).

I would like to ask the Minister of Railways if he has made provision in the Bill to give

the commissioners power to deal with all questions relative to water which is necessarily carried beneath the railways ?

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

Yes.

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IND

Jabel Robinson

Independent

Mr. ROBINSON (West Elgin).

Will they have power also to deal with railway crossings in towns and villages, and all matters of that kind ?

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

Yes.

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IND
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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

Yes.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Halifax).

I would like to ask one question. I did not care to interrupt the hon. minister as he was proceeding with his speech. He spoke of appeals to the Governor in Council on some questions of fact.

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

On all questions of fact. All orders of any kind made by the board may be appealed.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

Is it to be in the nature of an appeal pure and simple or in the nature of a re-hearing ?

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

I take it that would be very much as the Governor in Council himself would determine. The Governor in Council under this Bill would have complete and absolute jurisdiction to revise any order or decision of the board. We have hitherto had, I think, only one instance in which an appeal was carried to the Governor in Council, and in that instance we forwarded from the Railway Committee of the Privy Council the shorthand notes, which contained a statement of everything that had been said, the arguments addressed to the committee and the evidence taken ; and I think some of the gentlemen wished to supplement that evidence, and they were permitted to do so. The same thing would be done In the case of an appeal from a decision of this board.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

I should have thought there would be a necessity for some specific provision in the Bill with regard to that. I would like to ask the hon. gentleman one more question. Apparently the p:>wer to control rates does not extend to the Canadian Pacific Railway, at least to a very considerable portion of the system of that company. Under the circumstances referred to by the hon. member for Selkirk (Mr. McCreary), the same thing might be said of the Canadian Northern, which stands in very much {he same position as the portions of the Canadian Pacific Railway referred to by the hon. minister. Then, there is the Intercolonial Railway as well. So that we have Mr. ROBINSON (West Elgin).

three great railways in Canada as to which there will be no control of rates by this commission ; and will not the fact that there is no control over the rates on these three railways hamper the commission very much in its dealing with the rates on other railways ? I do not profess to have any great practical knowledge of railway matters ; but it occurred to me that the control of rates would not be nearly so effective under these circumstances as It might otherwise be, because how will this commission be able to control the rates effectively on one railway when it has no power whatever to deal with the rates on another and a competing railway ? It seems to me, with due regard to what the hon. minister may say on the subject, that will be a great handicap on the commission in regard to the control of rates, which, as the ex-Minister of Railways and Canals says, is one of the most important features of the Bill. However, I do not propose to discuss the Bill at this stage, and I merely make this suggestion for the purpose of asking the hon. minister to direct his attention to that particular point when he comes to move the second reading.

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March 20, 1903