September 15, 1903

CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

Certainly (luring the progress of the Bill through the House.

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Xlie MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS.

It was on a resolution fixing the salaries.

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

Introduced at a later stage.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

The hon. gentleman's memory may be better than mine, hut my impression is that it was during the progress of the Bill. My hon. friend, the Minister of Finance, in referring to the transportation commission, seems to think that the object of that commission does not involve to any extent matters which are dealt with in this measure. He is absolutely mistaken. The terms of the Order in Council provide for a transportation commission of the widest possible character, sufficiently comprehensive to include the very measure we are dealing with to-day. There cannot be any doubt about that. The words themselves havp been read so frequently that it would be wearisome to read them again, but I have them here under my hand. The criticism of my hon. friend from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) is this, that while you are proposing to spend a large amount on this transportation commission, you are, without waiting for the report of that commission, going to deal with one of the most important questions with which it can be concerned. In other words, you are spending an enormous sum for the purpose of getting certain information on a subject of the most vital importance, and at the same time you are going to deal in advance with certain matters as to which the report of the commission will be most valuable, if it is a fair criticism, and I do not think my hon. friend the Minister of Finance understood it exactly in the way it was intended, if he put any different meaning upon it. ,

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

With regard to the suggestion which I made a moment ago, I would like to say, as my hon. friend the leader of the opposition has explained, that if this was to be a commission, whose tenure of office was similar to the tenure of office, for instance, of the Auditor General, if the members of that commission would hold office until the end of the construction work, and could not in the meantime be removed, except as our judges are, on an address to both houses of pai'liament, I would say that we had a guarantee of independence which costs dear, but which is worth paying for, because we will have a body, not as my hon. friend the Finance Minister says, independent of the people, but independent of the executive.

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

The executive and the people are one.

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

Independent of the .executive but absolutely dependent upon parliament, but we have not that. We have simply a body of special servants of the government revocable at will. They can he removed, and will be removed, whenever

the government experience any dissatisfaction with them. How much are they going to cost ? Well, judging from the salaries that have been proposed for other commissioners, they will cost $6,000 a year apiece. That would be $18,000 for the salaries of the commissioners. And, when you defray their travelling expenses, and the salaries and expenses of their secretaries, assistant secretaries and the whole organization of this body distinct from the department of Railways, the yearly expense will not be far from $50,000 or $00,000. And yet, these men will not be more independent of the power of the government than a clerk in any of the departments.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

Does my hon. friend (Mr. Monk) object to the creation of this commission ?

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

I do, surely, with the proposed tenure of office. Make the commissioners independent so that, during the period of construction, they shall be removable only as the judges are removable or as the Auditor General is removable, on joint address of both houses and that would be folly ; for then they will be able to act independently, and will be subject only to the control of parliament. And instead of spending $50,000 or $75,000 or $100,000 for a commission that will not be independent of the government, it would be better to organize less expensive machinery. Let three, four, or, if necessary, five, competent employees he appointed, who will have charge of the work and will report to the government. The expense would not be one-third of what it would cost under this proposal.

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CON

Albert Edward Kemp

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. KEMP.

The Finance Minister, in answer to the hon. member from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) claimed that the creation of the transportation commission was not for the purpose of dealing with this railway. The hon. member for Jacques Cartier said- or at least I inferred from what lie said- that the government had claimed to solve the transportation question by the building of this transcontinental railway. And I think it is fair to hold that the government did, really and in effect, claim to have solved the transportation problem by the building of this road. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Bill in this House said : We consider that It is the duty of all those who sit within these walls by the will of the people, to provide immediate means whereby the products of the new .settlers may find an exit to the ocean at the least possible cost.

It seems to me that if this transportation commission are able to report other routes as available through which the traffic of the North-west can be transported more cheaply than by the all-rail route to St. John or Quebec, the government null find themselves in a very awkward position. The Minute of the Privy Council, as the leader of the

opposition has said, was very broad. It said :

If necessary, new surveys should be^ made to determine whether any more economical and satisfactory channels of transportation by land or water can be opened up.

Why do not the government wait until they get the reports of this commission as to whether it would be practicable to carry the produce of the west to the sea-hoard by the all-rail route ? I do not think that any explanations have been given that make that clear to this House or to the country. It seems to me that, even now, the government should look into the question, and wait until they have found what is believed to be the most feasible route before proceeding with this construction.

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IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. MACLEAN.

We have had the statement made here to-day that this transcontinental railway project is not a solution of the transportation problem. The acting Minister of Railways (Hon. Mr. Fielding) lias made that statement here to-day, if I understood him aright. On what ground, then, do the Prime Minister and the government justify the commitment of this country to an expenditure of $100,000,000 or $150,000,000 on this project ? Under the doctrine of responsible government, they must justify it. But they are seeking here to provide a commission behind which they will entrench themselves, and so evade the responsibility which properly belongs to them. If we have a ministry of railways which costs us a good many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, why are we spending that money ? Why have we a responsible Minister of Railways, if not to advise parliament and the government as to how transportation problems ought to be dealt with ? But in this single session, we have three commissions created and the corollary of what is said to-day is that ai fourth commission should be created to administer the Intercolonial Railway. If we have it in connection with this branch 'of the Department of Railways why should we not have it in the others ?

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE.

Does the hon. gentleman (Mr. Maclean) forget that the commission was appointed to construct the Intercolonial ? And this deals with construction.

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IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. MACLEAN.

I understand that quite well, Aquila Walsh, I think, was the secretary in the old commission. But if we are to have so much of this government by commission, there is no reason why it should not be extended to other departments as well. Probably the Minister of Customs (Hon. Mr. Paterson) would like a commission to assist him. Terhaps the Minister of Justice (Hon. Mr. Fitzpatrick) would like a commission

he has several now.

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CON

Edward Cochrane

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COCHRANE.

There ought to be one to assist the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Cartwright).

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CON
IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. MACLEAN.

No doubt, the Minister of Trade and Commerce would like to have such assistance. But if we believe in responsible government in this country, if we give ministers positions and pay them to advise parliament how we ought to transact the public business, let us carry out that system ; but if we intend to abandon it and establish government by commission, we ought to have a clear statement to that effect, an announcement to the people that responsible government has ceased to exist, and that government by commission has taken its place. Here in one department- and I repeat this because I desire to impress it upon the House and the Prime Minister-we have appointed three commissions this session. That is not responsible government ; that is not what the Liberal party in this country have been upholding. They have condemned this form of government again and again and have advocated responsible government. Now they are advocates, by legislation and by example, of government by commission. I understand that a commission is all right to ascertain facts. I understand that a commission is constitutional, in its way and in its place. But there is a constitutional limitation to the appointment of commissions, and I say that that limitation has been exceeded in this case, and that we ought to have more government by responsible ministers. The proposition before the House ought to be, as it certainly is not, the solution of the transportation problem, based on the fullest inquiry and the collection of the greatest amount of information ; and, that information having been collected it should be laid before parliament and a measure based upon it prepared. But, instead of that, we have commissions appointed to do something after the country is committed to enormous expenditure. That cannot be justified. It may be carried through this House, but that will not justify it in the eyes of the people. What I contend is that there should be less commission and more responsible government, and there should be full information laid before parliament in connection with a proposal of this kind.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

If our hon. friends on the other side object to the commission being appointed why do not they act according to their words ? Why should their opposition be confined to words ? Who on that side of the House has objected to the appointment of the railway commission to take the place of the Railway Committee of the Privy Council ? The appointment of that commission has been advocated by my hon. friend (Mr. Maclean) for years and years ; and when the Bill under which it was to he appointed, was before the House, the hon. gentleman did not object. If the hon. gentleman does not like government by commission, why did he advocate the appointment of that commission on this floor year after year ? What sense is there,

after tlie Bill has been passed, largely at his own suggestion, in objecting to this as government by commission ? The whole country, if we are to believe the Toronto * World ' was clamouring for this commission. And, now that we are satisfying the whole country, the hon. gentleman is not pleased, and says that this is government by commission. A man .must have some sense after all. Now, as regards the commission which is now under discussion, are hon. gentlemen opposite for it or against it ? If they are for it, let them say so ; if they are against it, let them say so. But they dare not say either. I understand the position of my hon. friend from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk). I can foresee the speeches that he will make in the province of Quebec by and by-' Commissions which are going to cost lots of money, and the ministers are not doing their work.'

Here Is a commission which has been appointed and created largely at the instigation of the opposition, represented by the hon. member for East York (Mr. Maclean), and it is going to cost a lot of money. But if we had not appointed that commission we would have had the same gentleman from East York now blaming us for not appointing a commission ; while now that we have created it, he is still blaming us. Evidently we cannot satisfy him. Now, the hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) is condemning our policy of controlling the commission contemplated in this Bill. He says he wants them to be independent, as the judges and the Auditor General are, for the reason, he says, that the judges are responsible to parliament. This is a new doctrine for a gentleman to teach who, I understand, is a professor in Laval University, a professor, if I mistake not, of constitutional law. It is a strange doctrine for him to preach that the judges are responsible to parliament. Where is that responsibility ? I have always understood that the judges were responsible only to their own conscience, and parliament has no power over them. True, they can be removed, but only on an address of both Houses of parliament. That law has been adopted to make them absolutely independent of parliament, and they are only responsible to parliament in extreme cases of malfeasance, which cases are determined and settled by an address of both houses of parliament. My hon. friend now asks-I am sure he will not move in that direction-but he puts forward the idea that these commissioners which we are going to appoint should be responsible the same as judges are, that is to say, should be removable only by an address voted by the Senate and House of Commons. Here are commissioners which will have the spending of $30,000,000 or $40,000,000 perhaps, who will be absolutely independent. They might make a vicious contract, and yet parliament cannot pass a vote of censure upon them ; all that parliament can do is to remove them by a vote of the Senate and House of Commons. Well, if my hon. friend is serious in that proposition, let him move an amendment, but until he moves such an amendment, he will permit me to say that we cannot take his proposition seriously.

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Mr. MONIC@

I have endeavoured to teach constitutional law as well as I could in the university for some twelve years, and I And out now for the first time from the speech of my hon. friend that our judges are entirely independent of parliament. I taught differently, but it seems that I taught a heretical doctrine.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

I am afraid so.

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

But I am afraid I will have to continue teaching that there is a power in this land which controls even the judges, and that is the parliament of this country ; and until my right hon. friend can demonstrate to me a little more clearly than he has done that that is not the case, I shall continue to believe that under the old Settlement Act of 1701, passed under the reign of Queen Anne, and under our own Confederation Act, and a special clause therein, which I will show to my right hon. friend if he has never seen it-our judges are responsible to parliament and can be removed under an address of both Houses.

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September 15, 1903