This is rather dangerous legislation. Looking over the total revenue from the wharfs of this country and comparing them with the enormous amount expended on these wharfs since this government has been in power, it seems to me that a considerable amount of carelessness is chargeable to some department. The minister has stated, this afternoon, as he has frequently done on the estimates, that there is no revenue from certain wharfs because they have not been handed over by the Public Works Department to his department. There are cases where the Public Works Department has expended large amounts on wharfs which have not been handed over to the Marine and Fisheries Department, and from which there is no revenue to the country, although completed years ago. My hon. friend does not deny that. Well, if it is the nolicy of the government to spend large amounts on wharfs in the public interest, I am not going to complain, provided the money is well expended and the expenditure required in the public interest. No legislation should be passed that would allow the minister to lease these wharfs to any private individual or corporation. I believe the proper policy is for the government to own the wharf, to fix rates of toll and to appoint their own official to look after the business, thus placing everybody who wishes to use the wharf on the same looting. This Bill will allow the minister to select a friend-I am not speaking from a political standpoint-and give him the absolute power over any given wharf. It is true, the minister says the government will fix the rates. But if they fix the rates, why should not they appoint a wharfinger to collect those rates and let the money come into the public treasury? If this is not done, some one company will get control and will squeeze out other people who wish to do business at the wharf. This is already being done at some wharfs in eastern Canada that I could name. It is the public money that has been spent in these works, and the department go so far as to say that they will not expend a dollar of money upon a wharf that is not owned by the government. I would not complain of that if the government would only carry it out in every case-and I am free to say that they do not carry it out in every case. If it is the policy of the government to own these wharfs, to spend every dollar that is spent upon them in construction and repairs, why
not appoint a public official to take charge and give everybody equal opportunities ?
But, though the municipalities are not ready to lease these wharfs, perhaps we can find steamship companies or railway companies that will do so. And the object of this legislation is to extend the existing power to lease to municipalities so as to authorize the lease to shipping or railway companies. Since 1886, we have had legislation authorizing the lease to munici palities or provincial governments, and, except in two cases, this legislation has not been availed of. If we lease to a private company, the department will be relieved of the necessity of looking after these wharfs as closely as it does to-day. My hon. friend from Peel (Mr. Blain) has drawn attention to the fact that we could continue the existing system
I did not ask the government to continue the existing system, because it is a very bad one; it allows the Public Works Department to keep control of wharfs for many years instead of handing them over to the Marine and Fisheries Department.
Even if handed over to the Marine and Fisheries Department, we might still be in the same position as we are in many cases to-day. In some cases we cannot get anybody to take charge of the wharfs, cannot get wharfingers, because we pay them only a percentage of the receipts.
We have no money provided in the estimates for that purpose, and so these wharfingers are paid by fees. But the amount collected is so small in many cases and the collection involves so much difficulty that we cannot find people to take these positions. The man who occupies the position of wharfinger is obliged practically to quarrel with all the persons in the locality. He has to ask them for small sums of money, it may be ten cents or it may be as much as a dollar, and it is always a great source of trouble for him. That is why we suggest the commutation of rates with shipping and railway companies, they to pay a certain amount and to receive the right to charge the rates which are charged to-day.
It is not so much a question of expense, but because this is a very arduous job and it is very unpleasant for a man living in the locality to be obliged to collect these small sums from his neighbours. Many who have accepted the position of wharfinger have resigned.
I think there can be no possible objection to clause 2 of this Bill, and I think it is absolutely necessary to have such a provision. As the minister tells us, it is much easier to collect an annual rental from a steamship company or an individual desiring to use the wharf than to collect tolls on an amount of freight landed on the wharf.
Does not the hon. gentleman (Mr. A. K. Maclean) see that some person will have to deal with the public? And is he prepared to state that it would be better to have a steamship company deal with the public in an arbitrary way-
Under clause 2, the company will simply have the use of the wharf; it is not leased to them. But instead of paying a toll for each use made of the wharf they pay a fixed sum. They have no control over the wharf, and the arrangement with them does not affect the user of the wharf by other people. So I do not think there can be any possible objection to the second clause of the Bill.