Before the Orders of the Day are called I wish to again refer to a matter which I took the liberty of referring to on Monday, January 30, and to again call the attention of the government to the ice jam in the St. Lawrence near Woodland in the county of Stormont. The jam extends from that town westward for about seven miles, completely fills up the open current and the water has' risen to such an extent that it has driven people from their habitations and that they have been obliged to remove their cattle from Mr. EMMERSON. r \
their stables although the banks are high. The water at Morrlsburg which is 12 miles from the commencement of the ice bridge is within 16 or IS inches of running over the lock gates, up current. I call the attention of the government to this condition of things hoping that they will see fit to send some expert there to see whether it will be possible to alleviate the difficulty. The officials who are there, no matter what their ability might be, have no appliances to deal with the situation, and it seems to me that the matter is so serious and threatens such danger to a considerable number of people living adjacent to the river, that some cognizance should be taken of the condition of affairs ; the winter is so cold and the ice bridge has formed so early in the winter that it is a very serious matter, because if this weather continues much longer it will prove disastrous. During the past 18 years there have been four ice bridges formed in the river. The ice bridge 18 years ago did a good deal of damage, but tile difference between the previous ice bridge and the present is that the previous bridges formed later in the year, and the spring coming shortly afterwards broke them up. But this bridge has formed six weeks earlier than in previous years and it is certainly a very serious condition of things. The people are very much alarmed at the conditions and are looking to the government for some cognizance to be taken of the conditions. I h6pe the Minister of Railways and Canals will send an expert to see if something cannot be done. I know that it is a difficult matter to deal with and I understand from those who have had some experience that it is not possible to dynamite the ice owing to the formation of what is called anchor ice, the ice and the snow particularly going under the surface forms a bottom that is not solid enough to permit the use of dynamite. But I think the government should take some action.
Hon. H. R. EMMERSON (Minister of Railways and Canals).
The difficulty referred to by my hon. friend (Mr. Broder) has certainly been receiving the attention of the officers of the Department of Railways and Canals. The chief engineer, at tile very outset, took steps to remedy as far as possible any difficulty that might arise. He has, however, brought to my attention a question as to whether the difficulty is not due very largely to those who have developed water-powers along the canal. There is a suspicion among the officials of the department that possibly if the power developers were to take proper steps-and of course it would put them to some expense-the difficulty might very largely be obviated. How far this may be true I know not, but it is thought that possibly a good deal of the difficulty arises from that cause. Whatever the difficulties may be, they are receiving the attention of the chief engineer, and
the department is attempting to do whatever lies within their scope. Injuries to the canal and to adjacent properties are being guarded against as far as possible.
I think the difficulty is not caused by any people having to do with the water-powers. From what I learn from local people the ice forms in the bay, anci then, when a wind storm blows from the east for any length of time, it lowers the water in the bay by a foot or two and the ice breaks loose from the. bay, swings around, catches on the opposite side and the bridge is formed In that way. I was told by a gentleman in the locality that he was told by a man in the employ of the American company developing power at Messina, on the opposite shore, that they cut the ice loose and floated it out to avoid trouble. I am telling this only on the authority of a reliable man who had it from a man who said that he was engaged in the work. If this statement is true it is a matter that no one but the government can deal with. Those who know the situation say that if piers were built in the bay to hold the ice and prevent it from floating out, the dangers would be altogether avoided. It seems to me that the engineers of the department could easily look into that matter although it is a question that would be of an international character, because the bay is on American soil.
I had the honour last session, and I think a previous session also, of drawing the attention of the first minister to the fact that owing to the cutting of the Hay Lake channel approaching Sault Ste. Marie, the water in the natural international channel has been lowered two feet and the water on the sills of the canal had been lowered to the same degree. The government last session, promised to take action in the matter. Has anything been done ?
I had not the advantage of being present when this Bill received its second reading ; but I think it would be desirable to have some intimation from the Prime Minister as to the view the government takes of the Bill. It is one involving rather important provisions, and I would like to bring to his attention what, of course, is already familiar to him, that on all important matters of legislation, it is not only the duty of the government to have a policy, but in modern constitutional practice it is the duty of the government to originate such legislation and place it before the House. In ' Anson on the Law and Custom of the Constitution,' second edition, at page 139, it is laid down that ' every important measure of legislation is now brought forward upon the responsibility of the cabinet.' In ' Todd's Parliamentary Government in England,' second volume, at page 367, the practice is also laid down as follows:-
By modern constitutional practice, ministers of the Crown are held responsible for recommending to parliament whatsoever laws are required to advance the national welfare, or to promote the political or social interest of any class or interest in the commonwealth.
Further on it is said :
But' it has only been by degrees, and principally since the passing of the Reform Acts of 1832, that it has come to be an established principle, that all important Acts of legislation should be originated, and their passage through parliament facilitated, by the advisers of the Crown.
Again, on the same page :
But the growing interest which, of late years, has been exhibited by the constituent bodies upon all public questions, and the consequent necessity for systematic and enlightened legislation for the improvement of our political and social institutions, and for the amelioration of the laws, in accordance with the wants of an advancing civilization, together with the difficulty experienced by private members in carrying bills through parliament, have led to the imposition of additional burthens upon the ministers of the Crown, by requiring them to prepare and submit to parliament whatever measures of this description may he needed for the public good ; and also to take the lead in advising parliament to amend or reject all crude, imperfect, or otherwise objectionable measures which may at any time be introduced by private members.
Further on :
Bearing this in mind, it must be admitted that the rule that all great and important public measures should emanate from the executive has of late years obtained increasing acceptance. ' [DOT]
I make these references, which are uo doubt quite familiar to the right hon. gentle-
man, not so much for tlie purpose of emphasizing the point which I might make, that a measure of this great importance ought to he introduced, if at all, and put through parliament by the government, but more especially for the purpose of pressing the somewhat subordinate point, that when a measure of this kind is introduced by a private member-a measure which has already on at least one occasion, if not two, passed the House of Commons and been defeated in the upper chamber-we should at least have some declaration of the policy of the government in order that we may have the benefit of the experience and wisdom of the gentlemen who sit on the treasury benches in regard to a measure of so much very great importance.
I have no exception to take to the principle which has been enunciated by my hon. friend, that all important measures in this age should be introduced and carried on the initiative of the government, the government taking the responsibility of them. But there are measures which may be of importance to some persons, but which the government do not feel called upon to take charge of, because they do not, as a government, share the views held by the supporters of those measures. As to this measure, while the government recognizes its importance, it is not one of those on which they feel called upon to take the initiative or to introduce as a ministerial measure. As to the second principle laid down by my hon. friend, that when a measure of this importance is introduced the government should state what their policy is upon it, I have to observe that measures are often introduced into this House on which the government, as a government, does not feel called upon to exercise any action of their own. There may be measures, as often happens, on which members of the government have independent opinions ; some may favour the measure and others may not. Of course, if the measure is of such importance that public opinion absolutely requires the government to take action upon it, the government must take the responsibility of accepting or refusing to accept the measure. As to this particular measure, the course of the government is perfectly clear, because it does not come before the House for the first time. If my recollection is right, it comes for the third time, certainly for the second, and it has been passed by this House before under exactly similar circumstances to those under which it now comes before it ; that is to say, introduced by a private member. On this measure the government do not feel called upon to take action, but they leave it to each individual member to deal with according to his own judgment.
That seems a very extraordinary course for a government to take, because the government must be respon-Mr. R. L. BORDEN.
sible for every measure that passes this House. They are there for that purpose. The very fact that a measure is allowed to pass the House is an evidence that the government are in favour of the principle of the measure. That is the only interpretation that could be reasonably put upon the government's action. If the government are not in favour of the principle of the measure, they may allow it to pass if they have not the moral courage to say so, and then have it killed in the Senate. If the government are in favour of the principle of this measure under these circumstances, the government are responsible for the measure, because they certainly could bring the upper and lower Houses into accord, or else they ought to abandon it. So that the government must be equally responsible for the measure, whether it goes through or is killed. [DOT]
If the government must be held responsible for the measure, I suppose it must ; I cannot help that. My hon. friend says we are responsible. I have no objection to my hon. friend saying so ; that is his right ; but even if it be the right of my hon. friend to think that we are derelict in our duty in not accepting or rejecting this measure, that is a point on which I must take issue with him. But I have to say to my hon. friend, whether he thinks we are wanting in moral courage or not, that we are disposed not to affirm this measure or to oppose it, but to say to those who support us generally that on this question we have no advice to offer them. Ij; my hon. friend says that in taking that position we are wanting in moral courage, we cannot help that ; but he has to show his moral courage by saying whether he will support or oppose this measure.