I do not think that any good purpose can be served by insisting on this legislation being passed through in what, I must say, is, under the circumstances, a very hurried way. The hon. member from Ottawa (Mr. Birkett) has told us in a very few words why he thinks this legislation will injuriously affect the city ot Ottawa ; and it seems to me that hon. members of the House might take a hint from that and consider how it will affect the whole Dominion of Canada. In my opinion there is a good deal of private legislation passed without hon. gentlemen, either in the committee or in the House, considering it from the standpoint of its effect upon the Dominion at large, I do not understand that legislation is to be passed simply because those who are interested ask for it and people at the moment do not see reason for objecting to it. I think the onus rests upon every hon. member to look further and consider whether legislation is wise in the interest of Canada as a whole. Unless we have reason to believe that legislation is in the interest of the Dominion, whether public or private, I, for one, until better advised hold that we ought not to pass it. There seems to be a disposition to overlook this point and to pass legislation simply because it is asked for. In passing the Bill in its present form, it seems to me, the committee has run counter to the principle actuating other Select Committees so far as I have knowledge of their proceedings. For instance, in the Railway Committee, when some railway seeks to buy up or amalgamate with other railways that might compete with it, the committee always insists that it shall be upon terms that shall afford due protection to the public interest. Now, in this case we find that the Act of Incorporation of the Ottawa Electric Company, passed in 1804 provides that this company may acquire shares in the capital, stocks, and debentures and securities of other electric Mr. IA VBI.L.
companies or companies possessing powers similar to those of the company as the consideration of goods, wares and merchandise sold to such other companies in the ordinary course of business. It is these final words, 'as the consideration for goods, wares and merchandise sold to such other companies in the ordinary course of business ' that it is proposed to strike out. So, the qualification or limitation, by no means a small one, it is sought deliberately to strike out. And, apparently nobody advocating this Bill pays the House the compliment, or does hon. members the justice, to explain why this limitation is to be removed, and why this Act. passed in 1894, apparently carefully drawn and fully considered and now in force for ten years, is to be thus changed. The principle involved, it seems to me, is a most important one. Under this legislation, passed ten years ago, the city of Ottawa has acted and grown ; under it the people of Ottawa have dealt, apparently supposing that the Dominion parliament would support them In the conclusion, reasonably drawn, that their interest as defined by the Act would not be prejudiced. The people of all Canada, for that matter, have a right to suppose that no legislation will pass this House without due reason given, to change the law in the light of which they have carried on their business and made their arrangements. The city of Ottawa, assists or refuses to assist, deals with or refuses to deal with, certain companies because the legislation of 1894 is on the statute-book. And now, without reason given, it is proposed to strike out these important words that qualify or limit the operation of this company and to allow the company to swallow up unconditionally any other company, in the same business, to which the people might look for competition which would secure for them reasonable prices in such services as this company is authorized to render. The hon. member for North Leeds (Mr. Lavell) very properly, in my opinion, pointed out the provision at the end of section 8 to the effect :
Provided that after any such purchase, lease or other acquirement, working arrangement or amalgamation as aforesaid is entered into, the company shall not, without the consent by bylaw or otherwise of the municipality of the city of Ottawa, or of the city of Hull, respectively, as the case may be, 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 purchase, lease or' other acquirement, working arrangement, or amalgamation is entered into.
That provision, he pointed out, had been carefully drawn in regard to this company launched in 1894. Now, what about the other companies that have sprung up since: for instance, the Metropolitan, brought into existence for the purpose of creating competition with this company ? The Metro-
politan and those people interested in it would have a right to sell out without that restriction to this company, while these other companies, that are equally entitled to consideration, cannot sell out without these restrictions put upon them, and upon their assignees, if they do sell. The effect would he that the Metropolitan would get a franchise unconditionally and without these restrictions, and other companies are not bound by these restrictions-for the companies that are to be allowed to sell out to this company by the statutes of 1894 are all enumerated, and those only that are enumerated are bound by that provision. It would not only practically nullify one section of the Act by another section, but it does more. The company that has come into existence since this, in 1894, not being mentioned in that section, would have a right to sell out to the Ottawa Electric Company its franchises, make all its arrangements, and do it without the Ottawa Electric Company being bound by the same provisions that it is bound by in buying out these other companies. It seems to me to be making special legislation for the benefit of certain people. I do not know or care who the people are that are interested in any of these companies ; but we must not pass legislation in this hasty way that is going to have the effect of giving some people rights that we take great care to see that other people shall not have without certain conditions. I think it is a very wise suggestion that this committee rise in order that the matter may be further considered, in order that what we have pointed out may be met. I think no harm can be done. There will be plenty of time to pass the Act this session, if it is to become law, with the further advantage that many gen tlemeu in this House, who may not belong to the select committee which may be appointed to consider it, like myself, for instance, may become better acquainted with it. I have every respect for the Miscellaneous Privatp Bills Committee, but in a question like this, on which there is such a great difference of opinion, I am bound to raise my voice here to-night and to give effect to my objections, because every member of parliament becomes responsible for this legislation after it goes through the House unless he opposes it. Under the circumstances. I think the committee ought to rise, report progress and ask leave to have this matter referred back. I am influenced by the fact that only nineteen members of the Private Bills Committee have thought that this ought to pass, and only fourteen voted against it. So 195 members of this House have not had an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it, other than the fourteen who voted against it in the committee. Under the circumstances, I hope the premier will consider this as a reasonable request under the circumstances.
Subtopic: PRIVATE BILLS.
Sub-subtopic: OTTAWA ELECTRIC COMPANY.