March 6, 1905

FIRST READING.


Bill (No. 98) to incorporate the Imperial Guarantee and Accident Insurance Company of Canada.-Mr. Belcourt.


PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT IN THE NORTHWEST - PERSONAL EXPLANATION.

CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Carleton, Out.).

Before the Orders of the Day are called, I wish to inquire of the government whether or not there are to be any changes made in the Bills that have been introduced by the Prime Minister for the establishment of new provinces in the Northwest Territories ? I venture to mention this because I see in newspapers that are supposed to be in the confidence of the government, rumours-nay more than rumours, direct statements-that there are to be certain changes made in the provisions of these Bills. In connection with this matter, it seems to me that the practice followed by the Prime Minister with regard to these Bills, and also the Grand Trunk Pacific Bill of two years ago. is not a practice supported by any competent authority. I refer to the practice of introducing a Bill with which the House is not at all familiar, and proceeding to debate it in a manner which is usual only upon the second reading. I am aware, of course, that it is not only perfectly proper, but that it is usual to make a succinct statement explanatory of the provisions of a Bill upon its first reading, but I do not find any authority for proceeding to debate a Bill upon its first reading, before the measure is laid before the House in printed form and before the House has had an opportunity of becoming familiar with its provisions. I am well aware that it was the intention of the government to have favoured me personally with a copy of the Bill some little time in advance of its introduction ; but, unfortunately, for reasons which were no doubt beyond the control of the government, that intention was not carried out, and I received the Bill only about the time the Prime Minister rose to introduce it. But even if I had received the Bill say twenty-four hours in advance, as might perhaps have been very Sir WILLIAM MULOCK.

proper under the circumstances, that would not have afforded an opportunity to other members of the House who are equally interested with myself in discussing the measure, if it was to be discussed at that stage, to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the scope and meaning of the provisions of the Bill before proceeding to discuss it. I mention this because it seems to me that if this practice is to be followed by the government in the future in regard to important measures of this kind, it would be well to have each Bill printed two or three days in advance of its introduction, so that, if there is to be a discussion on the first reading, the House can proceed intelligently with that discussion, and can have an opportunity beforehand of giving the Bill that consideration which, of course, is absolutely necessary to a measure of this kind.

Now, I have asked as to changes in the Bill. If they have not come to any conclusion with regard to changes in the Bill ; if they have not come to any conclusion up to the present time, I would very respectfully suggest to the Prime Minister that, if any changes of importance are to be made in the provisions of this Bill before the second reading is reached, it would be highly in the interest of the members who will have to discuss the measure, and indeed would be very much in the interest of the country as a whole, that the Prime Minister should acquaint the House with the nature of those changes a reasonable time before the second reading is brought on. I have no doubt that the right hon. gentleman will assent to this as a reasonable request, and that it will be complied with.

Let me add just one word of personal explanation with regard to myself. I do not usually trouble the House with very much personal explanation about statements with regard to myself in the public press ; but there have been a number of suggestions or statements made as to my recent absence from the House which I think must proceed upon an entire misunderstanding. I quote only one of these, which is not couched perhaps in a very offensive form, but which conveys a suggestion which is absolutely untrue : ,

That the constant factors in our politics are not wholly unknown to some of our Conservative friends the tactful absence of Mr. Borden from Ottawa at this juncture abundantly illustrates.

And so on in other journals, some of the suggestions being couched in a somewhat more impertinent form than that which I have just read. I had no intention of absenting myself from the city of Ottawa up to four o'clock of the afternoon of last Wednesday week, when I received a telegram announcing the sudden death of a very near and dear relative under very distressing circumstances. On the following

morning I left for my home in Halifax for that reason and that reason alone, expecting to return to Ottawa by noon of the following Tuesday. As I have already mentioned in this House, I did not reach Halifax on Friday evening owing to the snow blockade, but 1 reached there on Monday evening, more than seventy-two hours late. I left Halifax on Wednesday morning and arrived at Ottawa on Thursday evening. I think it is due to myself to make this explanation, because X do not think that in my public life I have usually been found wanting in my attendance on parliament; nor do I think that anything has been displayed in my public career which would lead any journalist of even the most suspicious type to suppose that I would have gone to Halifax on this particular occasion if it had not been absolutely necessary, in my judgment, that I should do so. I apologize to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House for having been compelled in self defence to inflict this statement of private and personal affairs upon the House, and I know that under the circumstances the House will pardon me for doing so.

There is one other matter which I forgot to mention. On the introduction of this Bill I brought to the attention of the government the fact that a number of returns which had been moved for had not yet been brought down. I also pointed out that there was certain information which I thought would be necessary for the intelligent discussion of the questions that are to be considered in the House, and that it should be brought down in a shape to be readily available to every member of the House.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Mr. Speaker, I think I voice the feeling of the House when I say to my hon. friend that no apology was needed from him as to his absence from the House. Unfortunately, we are all victims of the press, and if we were *to take very seriously everything that is said of us, our repose would be considerably affected. But I think we can make allowance for the newspaper men in their desire to give the latest news. Everybody knows the painful circumstances under which my hon. friend had to leave this House, and no one, I can assure him, speaking for this side, had any suspicion that his absence was due to any other cause than domestic affliction. With regard to the main question which my hon. friend has put to me, I do not agree with him as to the constitutional practice. I admit that in Canada the discussion generally takes place on the second reading of a Bill. This is so in England also ; but my hon. friend is aware that in England every important measure, I do not say invariably, but as a rule, is explained by the minister in charge of the Bill upon its presentation for the first reading. Thereupon the matter is left for some time for the deliberation of the House and the

country. This practice I have followed on this occasion, and I believe yet that it is the best method. The government have explained their policy, and have left it to the judgment of the House and the country. If the Bill were to be presented without any explanation, the country would be without the real reasons which prompted the government in introducing it. If the first reading were to be followed immediately by a discussion, I think the House, especially the opposition, would be taken at a disadvantage, and the government might be charged with sharp practice ; but if the Bill is left for a reasonable time after being introduced, the opposition have an opportunity to prepare and explain their views upon it. I still think this is the best policy that can be followed.

My hon. friend has asked me if it was the intention of the government to introduce changes into this Bill. I have only to reply that it is open to the party who introduces a Bill to change it at all times. I have seen few Bills introduced into this House or any deliberative assembly which have gone through the third reading without being considerably amended, and the more important the Bill the more likely is it to be amended. Even Bills of a very minor importance are very often amended so as to be hardly recognizable when they leave the committee. Whether or not any changes shall be made will be known as the Bill goes through its various stages; and if any should be made, they shall be made in the ordinary course. With regard to the information asked for by my hon, friend, I shall endeavour to comply with his request.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

It seems to me that in addition to the information already asked, ii would be advisable that a definite summary be furnished of the different changes, dating from confederation, in the financial terms which have taken place to the benefit of the provinces. There has been legislation in various years, adding to the provincial subsidies. If a concise memo, could be made of all these changes with reference to each of the provinces, showing the additions that each one has received to its subsidy and matters of that kind, that would help us very much when we come to discuss Ihe financial clauses of this measure.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

I agree with my hon. friend that a memo, of that character would be useful, and shall endeavour to have it produced before the second reading of the Bill is proceeded with.

Hon. PETER 'WHITE. It would be desirable that in the case of a long speech such as that which was delivered by the right hon. the leader of the government when introducing this Bill, a copy of the Bill should be also at the time, before the House. It would be well hereafter that members of the

House, should be given the opportunity of becoming conversant with the contents of the measures introduced, when the speech explained that measure on its introduction is delivered. Let me quote from Sir John Bourinot :

It is usual on the introduction of a Bill-on the motion for leave-to explain clearly and succinctly its main provisions ; but it is not the practice to debate it at length at that stage, such discussion being more properly and conveniently deferred to the second reading when the Bill is printed and the House in a position to discuss its principle. Sometimes, however, a short discussion may arise on some features of the Bill on the motion for its introduction, as there is no rule to prevent a debate.

That is quite true, but; when ou an important Bill, such as that creating new provinces in the Northwest Territories, the main speech of its introducer is made on the mo-t'OJi for leave to introduce, X think the Bill itself should then be in the hands of hon. members, so that they might be seized of its contents before it is introduced.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

So far as my information goes, and I think it is accurate, this is not the English practice.

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CON

Peter White

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE.

I do not know what the English practice is.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

In this country we have been accustomed to explain Bills on their second reading, but in England all important measures are fully exposed and explained on their first reading by the minister in charge.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I do not think there is much difference between the right hon. gentleman and myself regarding the practice, but the question is whether the practice is carried out, and the only difference between us is as to the practice which was pursued in this case.

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PRIVATE BILLS.

NORTHWEST TELEPHONE COMPANY.


House ill committee on Bill (No. 28) to incorporate the Northwest Telephone Company.-Mr. Turriff.


LIB

David Wesley Bole

Liberal

Mr. BOLE.

The point I desire to raise is whether it is advisable we should endorse the principle of incorporating more telephones. A Bill somewhat similar to this was introduced in the Manitoba Legislature a few weeks ago and was opposed by the council of the city of Winnipeg, which I have the honour to represent in this House. They opposed it chiefly on the ground that as the policy of taking over the business of telephone companies by the government was in the air, it would not be advisable to incorporate any more companies, and the Bill was sent back to the committee in order that Mr. WHITE.

they might carefully inquire into the whole question of having telephone business conducted by the government. When the Bill before us was introduced into this House, I regret very much that I was not present and therefore unable to put on record my objection ; and I deem it now my duty to reflect the opinion expressed by the city of Winnipeg, an opinion with which I am in full sympathy and accord. I have in my hands a resolution passed by the city council of Winnipeg on February 20, last, which is as follows :

That as this council have a reasonable hope that the telephone system may in the near future he under government control, they would look with disfavour on the granting of any new telephone charters as complicating the situation, and hereby instruct our solicitors to oppose any such legislation now contemplated at Ottawa.

With the spirit of that resolution I am fully in harmony. A telephone businessf being essentially a monopoly and an important public utility, it is dangerous to have it in the hands of a private corporation. A great many cities throughout the United States, and I think in Canada also, have made thorough inquiries into this subject. The city of San Francisco had an application before it for a charter for a local exchange, but representations were made to the council that the telephone business was essentially a monopoly, and therefore no new telephone company should be chartered and the application was not granted. Instead, the city of San Francisco appointed a commission to inquire into the whole subject, and the commission reported. This is the last clause of its report, as published in the bulletin of the League of American Municipalities in November, 1904 :

Inasmuch as a telephone was essentially a monopoly, that it would simply increase the burden on the -citizens when they increased the number of telephone companies. There is no other public utility with which we come in contact where there are so many objections to competition.

That is the mandate of a commission which has made extensive inquiries, which visited all the important cities on the Pacific coast and examined into the conditions.

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Subtopic:   NORTHWEST TELEPHONE COMPANY.
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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Will the hon. gentleman tell ns exactly what commission that was, I did not quite hear him.

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Subtopic:   NORTHWEST TELEPHONE COMPANY.
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LIB

David Wesley Bole

Liberal

Mr. BOLE.

A commission was appointed by the city of San Francisco to inquire into the whole question of the telephone business. An application was made by certain promoters to the city of San Francisco for permission to construct and operate a rival telephone business in San Francisco. Representations were made to the city council that to multiply telephone lines would be a nuisance, and the city council therefore

appointed a commission to inquire into tlie whole question and they have reported as I stated that the rival telephone company is a nuisance and recommend that the request of the promoters should not be granted.

Now with respect to rates, it is very true that nearly all independent companies start out with low rates; that is the experience throughout Canada and the United States, but the same authority that I have just quoted states that the editor has made extensive inquiries into the whole subject, and I shall read his observation with respect to the question of rates. He said -

During the past' decade hundreds of independent telephone companies have been started in all parts of the country and although their rates are much lower than those charged by the Bell companies the competition does not usually result in any saving to the telephone users generally. The Bell companies have almost invariably refused to meet the cut rates of their new competitors for the very good reason, perhaps, that while they may temporarily suffer a falling oft in patronage, they soon recover and finally increase the number of their subscribers in the face of the competition. In the various cities of all sizes and conditions, where we have investigated the subject of telephone competition, we find the Bell companies have been able to maintain their rates, and at the same time greatly increase the number of their subscribers. This fact must be taken as evidence that the Bell service is considered by telephone users to be worth the price asked for it. The fact is that in every city where there are two telephone companies in operation the business and professional men find it necessary to have the service of both companies, and where the Bell rates are not reduced by the competition these users have forced upon them an additional expense for telephone service.

It will be seen from this that while the rates are invariably lower when they start because of their short connections and because the new company is first connected with business houses, still it appears to be the result of the subsequent extension of their lines that the cost of operation is increased proportionately beyond their income. Nearly all companies, as nearly as I can learn have got into difficulties ; there are some companies that have succeeded in Canada and some in the United States, hut I find that the almost invariable rule is that competing companies have failed and gone into insolvency. I might also quote another extract from the same authority. They say :

In practically every city where we have investigated the financial history and status of independent telephone companies, we find the receipts have been inadequate to cover the charges against the business, and this general condition may safely be attributed to the low rates at which the Independent companies undertake to furnish service.

I am not here as the special advocate of the Bell Telephone Company. On the con-I

trary I believe that the Bell Telephone Company have by nature a monopoly and I believe that a monopoly of an important public utility should not he in the hands of any private corporation, and I think therefore that we could verj properly consider at this time the policy of having the telephone business conducted by the government. As time goes on these applications for telephone charters will increase in number and as they increase they will become a nuisance to telephone users. It is well known to every person who has lived in a city where there is a duplicate telephone service that business men are obliged to put in two sets, and the result is that while the introduction of a new company may reduce the rates, at the same time at the end of the year it is found that the citizens are paying more for telephone rates than before. I therefore feel it is my duty to move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Subtopic:   NORTHWEST TELEPHONE COMPANY.
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LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF.

I must ask you not to rise and report progress now. This Bill has been through the Railway Committee and has passed there with some stringent amendments. Every precaution has been taken to make the Bill a satisfactory one in every respect, and I do not see any reason why this House should throw the Bill out at this stage simply because the member for Winnipeg (Mr. Bole) asks to have it done. Under clause 19 of the present Bill the city of Winnipeg does not need to use this telephone company's service if they do not want to. Provision is made that the company cannot exercise rights in any municipality whatever without the consent of that municipality, except for the purpose of running one through line through the municipality. Because the city of Winnipeg may be acting in the interests of the Bell Telephone Company, and no one can object to their doing so, to my mind that is not a reason why all the other portions of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories and that portion of Ontario to the east of Winnipeg down to the great lakes, should be left without competition if they desire competition. The Bill has been carefully considered in committee, several amendments have been added and in fact everything has been done to make it as wide as possible ; there is nothing whatever in the way of monopoly. It was provided in the Bill that any other telephone company or any individual having a private system could connect wires with the wires of this company when established, so there is no reason whatever for throwing out the Bill at the request of the hon. member for Winnipeg (Mr. Bole).

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Subtopic:   NORTHWEST TELEPHONE COMPANY.
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LIB

Duncan Ross

Liberal

Mr. D. ROSS.

I would ask the hon. member for Winnipeg whether he can give the committee any information as to the time when the provincial government of Mani-

toba is going to adopt the policy of government ownership of telephone lines ?

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Subtopic:   NORTHWEST TELEPHONE COMPANY.
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LIB

David Wesley Bole

Liberal

Mr. BOLE.

I did not state that the provincial government of Manitoba were going to adopt that policy. I think that the government which should adopt that policy is the Dominion government.

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Subtopic:   NORTHWEST TELEPHONE COMPANY.
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March 6, 1905