I move for leave to lay on the Table of the House, compilation of information on the resources of the country between Quebec and Winnipeg, along the line of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
For copies of all correspondence, documents, plans, estimates and cost with regard to the laying of a submarine cable between the north shore of the St. Lawrence river and the Island of Orleans, and of stretching a wire along poles of the government telegraphic system over said island between said cable and the house of the Deputy Minister of Public Works. Also copy of agreement between the Department of Public Works and the Bell Telephone Company for conditions and cost of connection and operation. -Mr. Talbot.
GRAND TRUNK PACIFIC RAILWAY.
Motion agreed to.
The PRIME MINISTER moved that the Order for the second reading of Bill (No. 138) to amend the Pilotage Act be discharged.
Is there going to be no legislation on pilotage this session ?
There will be; there Is a new Bill to be introduced.
Motion agreed to.
NATIONAL TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILWAY.
House again in committee on Bill (No. 235) to provide for the construction of a National Transcontinental Railway.-The Prime Minister. On section 16,
Has the government made up its mind as to what remuneration it wii! pay these commissioners ? Is it the intention to pay them a large salary ?
The commissioners will have to be responsible officers, and they certainly would have to be paid respectable salaries; I would not like to use the word * large.' The government has not determined what the salaries will be.
The government were able to tell us the salaries of the commissioners under the Railway Act, and they should have such information iin connection with these commissioners.
The question is a very fair one, and perhaps before the end of the session we can say, but we are not prepared at present to fix the salaries.
The government have adopted the policy of appointing commissioners for the determination of a great many questions which ought to be determined by the government itself. What is the object of creating a commission, which must be a very expensive machinery, in connection with the construction of this road which is an
attribute of the government We want to know what the expense is going to be. We want to know what will be the status of these commissioners. The object of the creation of a commission ought be to make it independent of the government, but that is not so in this case. These three commissioners hold office during pleasure and their appointment is revokable at the will of the government. They are absolutely under the control of the government, holding no greater measure of independence than any employee of the Railway Department. We have already incurred an expense, which the ex-Minister of Railways and Canals has estimated at $100,000 a year, for the commission under the Railway Act. It will cost us that large sum yearly to carry out the duties which were formerly assigned to the Minister of Railways and Canals and the Railway Committee of the Privy Council, a body immediately responsible to the people or their representatives. And, although, from time to time, we have heard some complaint as to the decisions of the Railway Committee of the Privy Council, yet they created no more dissatisfaction than the decisions of our ordinary tribunals. The government burdened the country with an expense of $100,000 by creating that commission. We have had appointed a transportation commission to solve the transportation problem, which the government say they have now solved by this Grand Trunk Pacific scheme. That is going to cost the country at the very least, $100,000 a year more. I claim that the question of transportation, as well as the question of the building of this railway, should be studied, solved, decided on, and carried out by the government itself.
That is the old constitutional principle, that the government should decide these questions-that their execution should be confided to the cabinet, which is simply an executive committee of the representatives of the people in this House. Here are two important commissions created, contrary, I submit, to the old constitutional traditions, and they are going to cost us $200,000 a year ; and now here is a third commission. Three commissions revocable at will, and what are they going to cost us ? Surely we are entitled to know that, now that we are proceeding on this e%dl policy of confiding to commissioners the carrying out of questions which ought to be in the hands of the government directly responsible to the House. We are creating a third commission, which, I venture to say, will cost the country nearly $100,000 a year more ; and my hon. friend the acting Minister of Railways seems to treat the questions which we have raised under the clauses of this Bill with a little levity. He says the government will consider the question of salaries later. As we were informed with respect to the other commissions, I think we are entitled to know now how much Mr. MONK.
this commission is going to cost, and if it is a body which will hold office during pleasure. My view is that it is better for the government to carry out the construction itself, with proper officers and capable engineers, and that that method, which will conform to the real principles of administration under our constitution, will cost us iufinitely less than this commission, which will be a body entirely under the control of the government, and having no more independence than any other employees. It seems to me that we are entitled to have some information as to the machinery of this commission and its cost.
So far as the hon. gentleman's question relates to the salaries that may be paid to these commissioners, I am not prepared to say that that is not a proper question for consideration before the matter is finally disposed of in this House. With regard to the salaries of the commissioners under the new Railway Act, I would remind him that they were not mentioned in the Bill, but were a subject for consideration, and that at a later stage a resolution was submitted specifying what they should be. I admit that before this Bill goes through the House it may be proper for the government to give some information as to the salaries to be paid to these commissioners though I could understand that circumstances might arise to render it advisable to leave that question to the decision of the government. My hon. friend has dealt with three commissions, and, if I understand him correctly, he objects to the appointment of these commissions for the transaction of public business, claiming that these are matters that should be dealt with by the government in the ordinary ministerial way. Have I understood my hon. friend correctly ? .
Certainly, that is what I said. With regard to the transportation question, I said we were creating a commission of an expensive nature to solve a question which, as my hon. friend contends, is solved by this. Bill ; and as regards the commission provided for by the Railway Act, I said that I thought the attributes of that commission were properly assigned to the Railway Committee of the Privy Council. Commissions have been tried in England and have failed ; they have been tried in several of the United States, and have failed there also ; and I claim, as my own individual opinion, that the time has not arrived in Canada fot burdening the country with that expense.
I was only anxious to understand my hon. friend's position. I understand, then, his position to be that in appointing all these commissions we are burdening the country with unnecessary expense, and are assigning to them duties which should be performed
by tlie ministers. That is a fair question for discussion. When the hon. gentleman says that the government have claimed .by this Bill to solve the question of transportation, he is simply inventing words for his own purpose. Nobody has claimed that the problem of transportation is solved by this Bill. So the hon. gentleman is wrong on that point. He is also wrong in assuming that the appointment of the transportation commission involved the question of another transcontinental railway. It was never intended to refer that question to that commission. The transportation commission was designed for other purposes. Hon. gentlemen opposite, in numerous speeches, and in at least one resolution, took the ground that the appointment of a commission to deal with the question of transportation was pre-eminently the proper way to deal with It. Again and again they presented that view to parliament. Yet we find my hon. friend now taking the ground that all these commissions are needless, and should not be appointed at all.