What new light have the government received on this subject this last year which has induced them to appoint four instead of three commissioners ? The only explanation given by the First Minister is that the government desire to have each province represented. That would seem to indicate that they have a greater regard for tlfe distribution of patronage than the fitness of the men, because otherwise there would be no reason why these men should be selected from three or four provinces. I am convinced that the best results would be obtained by selecting men on account of their fitness regardless of where they live.
I stated yesterday that one of the important duties of the commissioners would be to have surveys made and a route located. All parties are anxious to see the railway built from Winnipeg to Moncton, and in order that every section of the country may be served, we have been advised that every province should be represented on the commission.
If parliament orders the road to be built, we have the assurance of the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister that it will be, and that should, at least in the opinion of the government, be sufficient assurance to the country. I wish to ask another question. There will be some intermediary between this commission and the government. Will they do their business through the Railway Department or direct through council.
That is a point that I have not considered at all-whether they should report direct to the Minister of Railways or to council. I suppose they would report to the Minister of Railways, but I must say frankly to my hon. friend that we have not considered that.
I would like to ask the minister if this commission will sit as a board and will have power to decide locations after having had surveys laid before them V And in ease they were divided equally on any matter, what would the result be-how would the matter be finally decided ?
'Sir WILFRID LAURIER. If they are divided, there will be nothing decided. They will have to make a recommendation to the government. They are not to sit as a board ; they simply advise the government. They cannot give a contract above $10,000 unless the contract is sanctioned by the Governor in Council.
Since they must report to the government in some way, I would suggest that they should report direct to council. The evidences we have of the Minister of Railways having lost his voice, or being unable to deal with this important transaction, must lead us to believe that the commission would be more successful if they did business direct with council and entirely ignored the Department of Railways and Canals.
I was surprised to hear the right hon. First Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) make an announcement that was equivalent to expressing a want of confidence in the commissioners. He told us, if I mistake not, that the object of appointing four commissioners was that there might be no difficulty, and that everything might be carried on fairly for all the sections. Does the right hon. gentleman give the committee to understand that any of these commissioners would perform his duty any less in regard to one section than to another V Surely he is not going to appoint any one who would for a moment think of giving one section advantage over the other. I should imagine you could find men who could be depended upon, and I am unable to see that there is any more security in four commissioners than there would be in three. No section of Canada is more interested in this road than another. British Columbia is interested in
having the western section completed, but it is also interested in having the road built across the prairies and so to the Atlantic coast. The same is true of the Northwest Territories, of Manitoba and the other provinces. Why create a sentimental halo over this whole project ? It seems to me there is no reason in that. Surely, if the right hon. gentleman appoints commissioners," they ought to be capable men, and men above suspicion that they will help one section as against another. If they would consider one section above another, they would be corrupt and utterly unworthy of being entrusted with such important 'duties as these commissioners will be expected to perform. While I listened with interest to the reasons the right hon. gentleman has given, yet those reasons seem very extraordinary. They are a sad reflection upon the three commissioners. His reasons for adding a fourth were a statement, in as plain English as could be well used, that the three commissioners are not to be trusted.
The commissioners that we shall appoint. I am glad to say, will be above reproach. More, like Caesar's wife, they will be above suspicion. I cannot be sure, of course, that they will not be suspected by my hon. friend (Mr Clancy), but I am sure there will be more security in four commissioners than in three.
The reason given by the Prime Minister for appointing four commissioners is that he desires to assure the different parts of the Dominion that the government intended to carry this railway project through from the maritime provinces to the Pacific coast. Is it necessary to do this in order to assure the people that the road will be built V Surely the Prime Minister must suppose that every province takes it for granted that he means what he says when he asks parliament to put this Bill through. In that case, it should not be necessary to appoint another commissioner in order to give confidence.
I am sorry to isay that, though we have given our best attention to this measure, and though we have shown that we were very much in earnest, still, sitting near my hon. friend (Mr. J. D. Reid) there are those who tell us that it will not be built. There are some doubting Thomases on the other side of the House.
The only part there was any doubt about was the part from Quebec to Moncton, and I have been trying all evening to get some information with regard to that part of the road : but I am sorry to say the Minister of Railways is still muzzled and is not able to give us
uriy information. I suppose it is to give assurance as to that part of the road that the extra commissioner is to be appointed, and that he will be from the province of New Brunswick.