May 26, 1904

LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

best, in fact the only effective mode of preventing division of our traffic ; we enable the people as a whole to participate in the growing prosperity of the country and in the advantages; accruing from its increasing commerce. In all these respects our opportunities will be multiplied one hundred fold.

There are those who are alarmed at the prospect of government operation of railways. I am not insensible to the fact that there are certain difficulties, possibly certain disadvantages attending state ownership of railways. But, Sir, we have to choose at the present time when this contract is placed before us, and let us remem-her that even if we build this line there is nothing to prevent us leasing it for a limited period, until public sentiment on this point is more fully developed in Canada. And if we should lease that line, built and owned by the people of this country we should undoubtedly be able to lease it on much better terms than have been secured for the people of this country with respect to the eastern division. If from the eastern division we have secured a rental of three per cent, surely for that splendid profitable western division we could secure a very much higher rental. But, Sir, I believe that by the time we would have this road constructed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the growing sentiment of the people of Canada would have reached the conclusion that that road, constructed by the people of this country should not only be owned, but operated by them. That is the point to which I believe public sentiment will have arrived in this country, even if this road shall be built by the government with all possible expedition.

The government is driving this measure through parliament, not by the aid of a reason or argument, but by the mere force of its submissive majority. Not one man in ten of the government supporters has taken sufficient interest in the measure to make himself thoroughly acquainted with it in all its details. The Grand Trunk has decided what the government must do, and the government has decided what its supporters in parliament must do. The Grand Trunk thus dictates to the government and through the' government to the country.

Before committing the country to an enterprise which will .increase- our national obligations by more than fifty per cent; which will so pledge our future resources as to prevent any great scheme of national transportation for many years, and which will probably destroy the Intercolonial Railway, and will indefinitely retard any advancement in state ownership ; before doing this, constitutional usage demands that the government should submit the question to the people. We have moved an amendment to that effect which has been voted down. The government has no mandate from the people to engage in this enter-Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

prise, nor has it any legitimate authority to deny an appeal to the people. It has no justification to refuse to listen to the voice of the people. It proposes at all cost to force this measure through parliament and upon the people. It proposes then forthwith to enter into binding contracts, and to thus stifle the voice of the people, even if that voice should be raised with no uncertain sound against this measure. I have heard all throughout the country ; I have heard from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia to the western part of Ontario, what the government propose to accomplish by means of this stroke of political genius. I have heard on every hand of what the supporters of the government have been saying as to the resources which would be placed at the disposal of the government in the approaching campaign. These things have not been said in the closet, they have been said upon the house tops ; in every part of the country I have visited I have heard, them. But Sir, considerations of that kind are not sufficient to stifle the voice of the people. No one can tell in advance what the verdict of the people will be. If that verdict should be against the government, the design of the government is nevertheless that the will of the people shall not be regarded, and that the will of the Grand Trunk Pacific magnates shall prevail.

To this, Mr. Speaker, we now enter our strongest demur. Against it we now formulate our most solemn protest. We do not propose that the voice of the people shall be stifled, and we declare that if the Conservative party is returned to power at the next general election, it will enact such legislation as will enable the will of the people to prevail over the will of this corporation, however great and however powerful it may be. The people of Canada, if they realize their own strength, are and will be greater than any corporation-greater than all corporations. They may not have the same organization or the same capacity to combine, but their power when exerted to the full is at all times irresistible. If it is the will of the people of Canada, as declared by their voice at the next ejection, that another railway from ocean to ocean shall be built, owned, controlled by the people of Canada, and not by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company;-if it is the will of the people that we shall assume not only nine-tenths, but ten-tenths of the obligations necessary to construct another transcontinental road and by that means own and control a national railway highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific-the Conservative party if returned to power, is prepared, in accordance with the will of the people so expressed, to place upon the statute-book of Canada such legislation as will enable that result to be accomplished with the least possible delay.

It is for the people to decide. We shall abide, indeed we must abide by their ver-

diet. But let them understand that they have the absolute choice ; let them understand that the door is not yet closed. By expropriation, or by any other fair and just policy we shall carry out the will of the people. Let the people determine whether Canada shall have a government-owned railway, or a railway-owned government.

The sanctity of contracts demands that the legitimate rights of the promoters of this undertaking should be respected. There must be no repudiation. They shall not be put to any loss, but at the same time the country shall not be required to pay to them any prospective or speculative or unreasonable profits. If they see fit to join with the government in driving this measure through parliament by the aid of an obedient majority, they must take that course with their eyes open, and with the understanding that the right of the people of Canada to a voice in so great an enterprise is not to be denied and will not be disregarded.

Against the Grand Trunk Railway we harbour no ill-will. It is entitled to, and it shall receive the fullest justice at our hands. By that justice it shall receive such running rights over the extended government lines as will give it complete and ample access to the Northwest. But these rights must be accompanied by stipulations adequately conserving and protecting the public interests, and especially the interests of our great national ports.

Having said so much, I now move the following resolution, which is designed to express, in connection with those already moved, the policy which the Conservative party will carry out in attempting a solution of the great problem of national transportation. I move, seconded by Mr. Hag-gart-seconded by Mr. Kemp rather-

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Some hon. MEMBERS

Oh, oh.

Other hon. MEMBERS. Explain.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I will explain. My hon. friend the ex-Minister of Railways (Mr. Haggart) will give hearty support to this motion, and as hearty an endorsation fo what I have said, as any hon. gentleman in the House.

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Some hon. MEMBERS

Hear, hear.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Nevertheless, as I placed in his hands a resolution which I have asked him to move, and as he could not move that resolution if he seconded this, I have asked my hon. friend from Toronto (Mr. Kemp) to second this resolution instead of my hon. friend from Lanark (Mr. Haggart).

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CON
CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

That was the observation which I made to my hon. friend from Lanark, when I spoke to him just now in a low tone of voice, and therefore the catcalls which emanated just now from my 113i

hon. friend the Minister of Finance, were quite out of place. I therefore beg to move :

That the Bill be not now read the third time, but that it be resolved :

That the Bill proposes to ratify and confirm agreements imposing upon the country enormous obligations for the construction of a Transcontinental Railway, a large portion of which is to become the property of a railway corporation, to whom the remaining portion is to be leased for fifty years on terms onerous to the country.

That the obligations undertaken by the country under the proposed agreements will provide almost wholly for the cost of constructing the proposed railway, while the obligation assumed by the Grand Trunk Railway Company is comparatively small.

The House is of opinion that instead of ratifying the proposed agreements it would be more in the public interest that the Dominion should assume the whole obligation necessary for extending across the continent the present government system of, railways thereby completing a transcontinental railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific entirely owned by and under the control of the people of Canada.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Minister of Finance).

Mr. Speaker, one year is but a short time in the life of a country, a parliament or a government, but sometimes it happens that within so short a space events occur which have much to do with the making of history. About one year ago it became publicly known that this government had entered into negotiations with some gentlemen of eminence in the railway world for the construction of a second transcontinental railway, and we shall do well if we look back in our mind's eye and recall the manner in which that proposal was first met. True, the matter had not yet been submitted to parliament, but parliament was advised by incidental remarks in this House and in the discussion in the Railway Committee upon the charter of the company which proposed to enter upon this work, and in the public press, of the views of the opponents of the government, and I am justified in saying that the general view of the opposition was against any proposal for the construction of another transcontinental railway. We were asked in the House and in the press, sometimes in triumphant tones, where was the mandate for this government to enter upon these negotiations for the building of another transcontinental railway ? We were told in the Conservative press, and in the committee in this House, that the people who were undertaking to devise means and ways for the construction of another transcontinental railway were simply unscrupulous company promoters whose aim was to make a raid on the public treasury. That was the attitude of the opposition less than a year ago. At that time, it was not a question of details. The bargain had not then been consummated. The contract had not been entered into. We were only at the first stage

of the matter. But the mere idea that the government was prepared to enter into negotiations with eminent railway men for the construction of another transcontinental railway wag met with taunts and jeers and with the statement that we were simply endeavouring to promote the schemes of unscrupulous people. That was the condition then, but what do we see today ? Hon. gentlemen opposite are, metaphorically speaking, tumbling over one another in their eagerness to show their desire for the construction of another line from ocean to ocean. We find them by motions and amendments, by declarations in the public press, at every stage of the discussion, declaring that they are not opposed to the construction of another railway but wish to express their disapproval of this, that or the other feature of the scheme. When the project was brought down to parliament, it was found that the scheme was so bold and comprehensive, so carefully thought out and guarded in the public interest, and entailed so small a charge, comparatively speaking, upon the public treasury, that these hon. gentlemen were amazed that the government should have been able to negotiate such a scheme. From that moment down to this the process of evolution-nay of revolution-in the minds of hon. gentlemen has continued until to-day they are out-bidding each other in their protestations of favouring, by one mode or another, the construction of another transcontinental line. That is the position in which they are now as compared with that which they occupied a few months ago. My hon. friend, the leader of the opposition, felt himself impelled by those conditions to make a change of policy at a very early date. A very short time after the government proposal was brought down, and when it became known that it was going to accomplish great results at a very moderate cost, my hon. friend found it necessary to turn right about face, and brought down a scheme of his own to create something which he called a transcontinental railway.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

The hon. gentleman speaks of my having made a right about face and as having expressed an opinion against another transcontinental line. I am not aware of having expressed any such opinion.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

I am speaking of the general attitude of the opposition.

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Some hon. MEMBERS

Oh, oh.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

And I have the right to assume that the leader of the opposition was in harmony with his followers.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

WTho were those who expressed an opinion against another transcontinental line ?

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

I am speaking of the general attitude of the opposition, and I Mr. FIELDING.

can refer my hon. friend to the discussions of the Railway Committee and in the press of his party. I am speaking, not of any particular utterance, but of the general attitude of the Conservative party on the question at that time. If my hon. friend the leader of the opposition carefully refrained from taking any decided stand, it simply showed that he was waiting to see which way the cat might jump.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. SAM. HUGHES.

Might I ask a question ? Is there any truth in the remark that the Minister 'of Finance was likely to follow the ex-Minister of Railways (Mr. Blair) and leave the cabinet on this question ?

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Some hon. MEMBERS

Oh, oh, and order.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

I have no objection to answering. I rather like this questioning, but I did not quite catch what my hon. friend said.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. SAM. HUGHES.

Is there any truth in the rumour that the Minister of Finance was contemplating leaving the cabinet ?

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

Will my hon. friend tell me who said so ?

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. SAM. HUGHES.

Rumour has it that the hon. minister himself said so.

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May 26, 1904