June 3, 1904


House in Committee on Bill (No. 110) respecting the Ottawa Electric Company.- Mr. Champagne.


CON

Thomas Birkett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BIRKETT.

Mr. Chairman, I beg to move that the Bill be not now considered but be referred back to the committee for further consideration. He said : My object in doing that, Mr. Chairman, is that the Bill in its present condition

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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LIB

Peter Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER.

If you wish to refer it back to committee again that would be done on the motion for third reading. When the Bill has been considered in committee and reported to the House then on the third reading you could make this motion.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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CON

Thomas Birkett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BIRKETT.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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CON

Edward Frederick Clarke

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. E. F. CLARKE.

TVhat power would that give them ?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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CON

Thomas Birkett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BIRKETT.

That would give them power to control all the electricity we have in the city. If they acquire a controlling power in the other two companies, competition so far as electric light is concerned, is at an end in the city of Ottawa. A great deal has been said about the company not paying any dividends. There are various opinions upon that subject. Personally I am not in a position to express an opinion other than what I have heard. The company to-day stands with a capital of $1,000,000 but it is questionable whether they have received the million dollars or not, whether that million dollars has not been watered to such an extent that the company has received but a very small portion of what it should have received from that amount of capital.

An instance has been brought to my notice to-day ; that is, that when the amalgamation between the Standard and the Ottawa companies took place they paid an annuity, which they have continued to pay, to one gentleman of $15,000 a year. That $15,000 has been paid out of impaired capital, and amounts to one and a half per cent on the gross capital of the company. If the company were deriving any benefit from the paying of that annuity, the shareholders would not be in the position they are in today, of receiving no dividends on their stock. What I would like the committee to do is to consider clause 2, and the advantages which the company wish to derive from striking out the latter portion of it to the detriment, not only of the city, but of every citizen of Ottawa. We all know that it is much easier to create a monopoly than to destroy it after it has been created ; and if this company is allowed to have this enactment, we shall have one of the greatest monopolies in the city of Ottawa to be found in the whole Dominion. I may say that at the present time the price we are paying in Ottawa for electric light is not less than the price paid in other cities. I saw a telegram from Hamilton to-day informing me that the price paid there was about the same as ours, although there is no competition in that city. If hy the passing of this Bill competition is taken away, instead of the Bill being sent back to the committee to have the matter, if possible, adjusted, the result may be to impose a heavy tax upon the citizens of

Ottawa. I would, therefore, ask this committee not to enact this legislation, which would be so detrimental to the citizens. 1 ask it in the spirit of fair-play, as one of the representatives of the city. I am satisfied that the government do not wish to cto less for the city than they would do for a private individual ; and no individual would do or assist in doing to another what this company is asking to be done to the city. I trust that this will not be a case of legislating for a few when the many are interest ed. Let us have legislation for the many where the few are interested. I leave the matter in the hands of the committee, trusting that it will have due consideration. Before sitting down I wish to say that when this matter was before the Private Bills Committee, out of the seventy-nine members of this House of which that committee is composed, there were only thirty-three present, and the Bill was carried by a vote of nineteen in favour of it and fourteen against, a majority of only five. There has been a good deal of comment as to why I, as a member of that committee, was not present on that occasion. I do not suppose that this committee is interested in my private affairs, but I can explain my absence in a very few words. I was not present at the meeting of the committee simply because I was prevented by circumstances over which I had no control. I was not at the House on the evening previous and did not get my mail , hence I did not receive the notice of the meeting, and did not know of it. I was attending to other business when, perhaps, I should have been here. I hope the committee will consider this matter in the light in which I have endeavoured to place it before them.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
Permalink
IND

Arthur W. Puttee

Independent Labour

Mr. PUTTEE.

Is there an amendment moved ?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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LIB

Peter Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER.

We have not yet arrived at a stage when an amendment can be moved.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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IND

Arthur W. Puttee

Independent Labour

Mr. PUTTEE.

There is an amendment standing in my name to be moved on the third leading of the Bill ; but there was an understanding that it would be preferable to have the Bill sent back to the Private Bills Committee without any instructions except for further consideration. If that can be done, that is far the best thing to do.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
Permalink
LIB

Peter Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER.

The committee has no power to refer a Bill back. The House can do that.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
Permalink
CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

I move that the committee rise and report progress for the purpose of having the Bill referred back to the Private Bills Committee. I do so for what I regard as a very good reason. It is quite clear what the aim of the promoters of the Bill is. I remember very distinctly the fight that took place in this House and in the Private Bills Committee over the new com-Mr. BIRKETT.

pany that was chartered some years ago lor the purpose of giving permanent competition in furnishing electric light and power to Ottawa. That was the special plea put forward for the granting of that charter, and the promoters of the Bill were quite content to have the clause put in which we are asked to throw out to-day. that is, that the company should not be allowed to buy the stock of other companies except on special lines, so that amalgamation would be prevented. There was no objection to that on the part of the promoters of the Bill, and the city of Ottawa, through its council, represented that that was its desire as well. All that was wanted was to secure permanent competition. The committee was content with that explanation, and passed the Bill. That competition has gone on for years, and now an effort is made to increase the stock of the company. The promoters of this Bill do not disclose the real object of increasing the stock. They represent that it is for the purpose of increasing the water power of the company, whereas it turns out that the object is to enable the company to get control of other companies in the same line. If the committee had understood this. I do not think it would have granted it, and I am quite sure that if the House understands it, it will not consent to the passage of this Bill for the purpose of forcing what would be a monopoly for all time to come on the city of Ottawa.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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?

Mr. CLARICE@

I am not a member of the Private Bills Committee, consequently I was not present at the meeting in question.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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LIB

Mahlon K. Cowan

Liberal

Mr. COWAN.

The matter was discussed very fully on both sides for about an hour and a quarter, and the attendance was probably the largest that I have seen at the Private Bills Committee.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
Permalink
CON

Edward Arthur Lancaster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LANCASTER.

How many were present and voted for it in the committee ?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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LIB

Mahlon K. Cowan

Liberal

Mr. COWAN.

Thirty-three voted-19 for the Bill and 14 against it.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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CON

Edward Frederick Clarke

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLARKE.

I do not think this committee should be guided entirely by the fact that there were thirty-three present in the Private Bills Committee when this measure was before it and that nineteen voted one way and fourteen the other. The substantial fact is that the representative of the city of Ottawa and our colleague in the House (Mr. Birkett) enters a protest against the passage of the Bill in its present form for reasons he has given. I am sure that those who are promoting the Bill and those who are opposing it could, if the opportunity were given, come together and arrive at some compromise. I think this measure should be held over, in view of the strong protest made against it, and the parties given an opportunity to come to an understanding.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
Permalink
CON

Haughton Lennox

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LENNOX.

I hope that this measure will uot be pressed through to-night and that an endeavour will he made to reach a compromise. We are all interested in it to a greater degree than we are in any ordinary Bill. For a large portion of the year, and for an Increasing portion every year, we are spending our lives in Ottawa and are doing a good deal to improve the city. I understand that it is the ambition of the right hon. gentleman who leads the House- a very laudable ambition-to make Ottawa the Washington of the north. And I think therefore, we should be very careful not to do anything that will embarrass the citizens in advancing the interests of their city. 1 do not know anything about what took place in the Private Bills Committee, but the hon. member for Ottawa (Mr. Birkett) has certainly made a very strong plea for reconsideration of the matter, and I think no harm, but good will result by our not adopting the Bill to-day.

Mr. G-ALLIHER. I was present in the Committee on Private Bills during a considerable portion of the time this Bill was being discussed. My hon. friend from West Toronto (Mr. Clarke) wants that Bill to go back again in order that some compromise may be arrived at. The difference between the two parties is simply this: The Ottawa Electric Company, in their charter, are restricted from purchasing the stock of other companies except in payment for supplies, and they want to be allowed to purchase the stock without any restriction. On the other hand, the city of Ottawa wants to except from such power the stock in the two other companies, the Consumers and the Metropolitan.

Mr: CLARKE. They are the only other electric light companies in Ottawa.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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LIB

William Alfred Galliher

Liberal

Mr. GALLIHER.

Will the hon. gentleman suggest any possible way by which they could arrive at a compromise ?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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CON

Edward Frederick Clarke

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLARKE.

Yes, if I am correctly informed. there is a limitation in the charters of the other two companies-the Metropolitan and the Consumers-as to the maximum price they can charge for light, but there is no such limitation in the charter of the Ottawa Electric Company. While I am not authorized to speak on anybody's behalf, it seems to me that a compromise might be reached whereby the maximum price which the Ottawa Company can charge would be limited to the price fixed in the charters of the other two companies.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
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CON

John Reeve Lavell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EAYELL.

The original Bill suggests a method by which a compromise might be reached. Under the original Bill, paragrapn 8, provision is made by this parliament whereby the company may purchase the franchises of certain electric light and power companies, but there is a proviso which limits the right of purchase, and when they do acquire the franchises of those

other companies named in the original Act, they take them subject to a very important proviso. I gather from what has been said by the hon. member for Ottawa that that is the point which most affects the city. The proviso subject to which the Ottawa Electric Company may take possession of the franchises and rights of the companies named in its charter is this :

Provided that after any such purchase, lease, or other acquirements, working arrangement or amalgamation as aforesaid, is entered into, the company shall not, without the consent by by-law or otherwise of the municipality of the city of Ottawa, or of the city of Hull, respectively, as the case may he, increase the ordinary prices or rates charged by any of the said other companies for electric light in the city of Ottawa or in the city of Hull, respectively, at the time such lease, purchase or other acquirement, working arrangement or amalgamation is entered into.

That is a very important proviso. In 1894 when this charter was asked for. the Private Bills Committee would not permit the Ottawa Company to acquire the franchises of the companies definitely named without some precaution to protect the two municipalities. I know not what may be in the minds of the city council of Ottawa or the hon. member for Ottawa, with respect to a possible compromise, but in addition to the suggestion thrown out by my hon. friend from West Toronto, there is this suggestion in the original Act itself. I think there is considerable more in this Act than the private interests of either the Ottawa Electric Company or the Ottawa city,- because the second clause touches on a principle which will be very far-reaching in its effects, if it is going to be accepted as a precedent by this House. I do not want to go into the merits now. although if the Bill goes so far as the third reading, I shall consider myself bound to do so, but I call attention to this point, that that section of the Bill, if passed in the form in which it is now, practically recognizes the principle that an electric light company can hold the stocks and control the interests of any other similar company. That, if carried out to its full extent, would warrant the most complete merger that can be devised and be of great assistance to the formation of large trusts. Hon. members will remember the late dispute and litigation over the Northern Securities Company, which after all was only what is asked for in this Bill. If parliament is prepared to recognize a principle which leads to the formation of great tiusts without the interference of legislative authority, it will be perfectly safe to pass this particular clause, but I draw attention to the point as affecting the general interests of Canada. As to whether some form of compromise may be arrived at between the city and the Ottawa Electric Company, it seems to me that there is a basis for compromise in the

charter itself, and that some understanding might be reached which would enable the company to do this business and yet prevent the citizens of Ottawa from feeling that they are in the clutches of a great monopoly. I would call attention to the fact that the Bill itself, in every one of its clauses, very plainly points to the machinery for creating such a monopoly, for not only is the capital to be increased- against which I have not the slightest objection-but clause 3 of the Bill increases its borrowing powers by fifty per cent. That is, the original Act allows them to borrow up to fifty per cent of the paid up stock, while this amending Act makes provision for borrowing up to seventy-five per cent. The first and third clauses. I would be personally willing to support, but, taken in connection with the second clause the whole Bill points in the direction of an attempt to create a huge monopoly.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic:   OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.
Permalink

June 3, 1904