Mr. Speaker, on Thursday last I entered my protest against this procedure. The First Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) agreed with me that I was right, because he asked the hon. member for South Essex (Mr. Cowan) to withdraw the motion he had made. I think that the conclusion come to then was that it was quite time enough to ask that the committees should have leave to sit during the sessions of the House when the committees made representation that they required such permission. There has been no meeting of tbe Railway Committee since then, and consequently no resolution passed asking permission to sit during the sittings of the House. The hon. member for Victoria, Nova Scotia (Mr. Wm. Ross) made the suggestion that the committees meet at nine o'clock. I assented to that. I am quite willing that that suggestion should be acted upon. But I do protest against standing committees meeting while the business of the House 'is in progress. We want to be here while the House is conducting its business ; and, since the government has thought fit to commence the morning sittings-to-morrow morning they begin, I believe-some provision should be made by which members can attend to their duties. I, for one, do not propose to absent myself from tbe House in order to attend the meetings of the Railway Committee, nor shall I willingly absent myself from the work of the Railway Committee. There are other important committees besides tbe Railway Committee, and, if you insist on these committees meeting while the House is in session, no doubt the .government will expect to get their estimates through in our absence in a very short time. This motion is contrary to precedent-at any rate, it is contrary to common sense. The hon. minister (Mr. Hyman), I trust, will pardon me if I say that his motion is not in accordance with common sense. It is not reasonable to suppose that we can be in two places at tbe same time, or that we are to desert our duties here in order to attend to the duties of the Railway Committee, particularly when the difficulty may be overcome by having the committee meet at nine o'clock, and sit until eleven if necessary. I must again enter my solemn protest against this proceeding.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding that the Railway Committee-as, I think, all will agree-have laboured very assiduously during the session, there still remain some important matters to be dealt witli by that committee. It is true that this motion is not recommended by tbe
committee, but, as the committee has been called to meet to-morrow at eleven o'clock, I took it upon myself to bring in this motion. To-morrow the committee could not meet at nine o'clock, the time having already been fixed and notices sent out. But I have no objection to changing the motion so as to confine it to the meeting of the committee to-morrow.
Unfortunately, the committee has already been called for eleven o'clock, and announcements to that effect have been made. Important matters are to come before the committee, and a number of people are coming from a distance expecting to attend the meeting at that time. This was done in accordance with the wishes of the committee. As I say, I have no objection to changing the motion so as to confine it to the meeting of the committee tomorrow.
There is a very serious objection, of course, to having important committees of the House proceeding with their business while the House is sitting. I understood, when this motion was first suggested that the important committees of the House had finished their business.
Perhaps it would be in order for us to be informed how much more business there is to bring before the Railway Committee. Will it all be cleared off to-morrow ? There are not too many members of the House in their places attending to business under the best conditions; and, if, in addition to other reasons which induce absence, ail important committee such as the Railway Committee, which com-386
prises, I think, about three-fifths of the membership of the House, is sitting, then, either there will be a very inadequate attendance at the Railway Committee, or there will be a very small attendance in this-. House. . ;
The matter came up the other day in the absence of my hon. friend (Mr. R. L. Borden). I am within the judgment of the House when I say that the consensus of opinion then was-that the morning sittings of thq JJons*^ should commence to-morrow7 and that the committees might be requested to sit from nine o'clock until eleven. I think it will be found that all committees are ready, with a view to accelerating the business, to sit at nine o'clock. But to-morrow, as suggested by the hon. member for London, the Railway Committee has been called for eleven o'clock, and the members have been notified and expect to be present at that hour. So that, I think, for to-morrow, the Railway Committee ought to be allowed to meet while the House is in session.
Perhaps the Minister of Justice will explain the provisions of the Bill for the benefit of gentlemen oil this side.
< I I'l'Zl'ATRICK. The Representation Act of last year has made changes in the constitution of the electoral districts which necessitate the amendment of those sections op the Elections Act, 1900, in which special and exceptional provision is madS with respect lO the dates for the returning officer's proclamation and the nomination and polling, in certain extensive and sparsely inhabited districts. The sections in question are sections 24, 27 and 29 of the Act, and the districts to which they now apply are Algoma, in the province of Ontario, Gaspe, and Chicoutimi and Saguenay, in the province of Quebec, and Burrard, and Yale and Cariboo, in the province of British Columbia. The District of Algoma has been divided into two ridings, the east and the west riding, and it is thought that each of these requires exceptional treatment. In that province it is considered expedient also that Nipissing should be placed in this class, partly on
account of its great extent of territory and partly because it may be necessary, under section 9 of the Franchise Act, 1898, as amended, to prepare voters' lists for the purposes of ail election there. No change is proposed in the province of Quebec, the constituencies of Chicoutimi and Saguenay, and Gaspe being still the only electoral districts requiring to be thus provided for. In British Columbia the present electoral district of Burrard will be divided between the new districts of Comox-Atlin and Kootenay, and it is proposed that each of these districts, as well as Yale-Cariboo, shall be included in this special class. The Act, of course, like the Representation Act, will take effect only upon the dissolution of the present parliament.