August 29, 1917

LIB
CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

I would net like to take the responsibility of striking out this item. The money is being voted to make the building fire-proof. This question was brought up during the time my hon. friend from Russell (Mr. Murphy) was Secretary of State.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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LIB
LIB

William Manley German

Liberal

Mr. GERMAN:

Will that amount of money be sufficient to make the building fireproof? My opinion is it will not cover more than one-quarter of the cost.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

Those are the figures supplied by the architects, and I have full confidence in them.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

Is the building any less fireproof this year than it has been for the last fifty years?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

No, it is not, but there have been times when it was in danger of fire. I was going to say to the hon. member for St. John (Mr. Pugsley) that I would like the committee to let this item pass, so that I might move that the committee rise and report progress. I want to go on with another Bill which is on the Order Paper, in regard to which we have been waiting for the hon. member from St. John.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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LIB
CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

The Canadian Northern Railway Bill.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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LIB
CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

No. We have been waiting for my hon. friend.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

If the hon. gentleman wishes to let it stand, I am willing to let it stand. Is there any objection to letting it go through to-night?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

My hon. friend has made no case for the passing of the item. He is asking us to take this money which has been raised by taxation, divert it from the war and use it to make some repairs upon a building which has been in existence for many years, on the ground that the Postmaster General would like to see those repairs made.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

That was not the reason at all. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Blondin) was Secretary of State at the time, and he recommended that this work should be done. I am quite satisfied the work is necessary, and my hon. friend from Russell (Mr. Murphy), who at one time occupied the office of Secretary of State, knows the danger of those buildings. I have no doubt he fully appreciates the necessity of making them fireproof. My hon. friends know that since the beginning of this war the East Block has been used more than ever for holding the most valuable securities.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

But, those valuable securities are in a new part of the East Block, which is absolutely fireporof.

Progress reported.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   $233.40 COMMONS
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CANADIAN RAILWAY SITUATION.


Sir THOMAS WHITE moved the third reading of Bill No. 125, providing for the acquisition by His Majesty of the capital stock of the Canadian Northern Railway Company.


LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY (St. John):

Mr. Speaker, I am going to invite the attention of my hon. friend the Minister of Finance (Sir Thomas White) and the House to an amendment which I desire to have made to this Bill. Before proceeding with what I may have to say, I move:

That the Bill he not now read a third time, but that it be referred hack to the Committee of the Whole with instructions that they have power to amend the same by inserting between the words "may" and "acquire" in line 1 of section 1 the words "subject to the approval by Parliament of the award hereafter provided for."

It seems to me that every one who is disposed to take a fair view of the rights of the people of this country, no matter what view he may entertain as to the undesirability of proceeding in this way, will agree that if it is determined to acquire the stock of the Canadian Northern Railway Company and to submit the question to arbitration, as proposed, before Parliament is finally committed to any payment the award of the arbitrators should be submitted to Parliament and should be approved of.

Before I proceed to present the few arguments which I intend to present to the House in favour of the amendment, I desire to say that I regret that the matter is coming up this evening, because, before recess, I rather supposed that it was to stand over until to-morrow. I know that my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) was desirous of being present .and an intimation to that effect was conveyed to the Minister of Finance (Sir Thomas White). I was informed by my hon. friend from Three Rivers (Mr. Bureau) that the matter -would stand until to-morrow if there was any assurance that the debate would be likely to be finished to-morrow. I can assure my hon. friend the Minister of Finance that there is no disposition on this side of the House to prolong the discussion beyond what is absolutely necessary in order to get our views fairly 'before the country. There was some misapprehension on the part of the Government ias to the intention of the Opposition in connection with the discussion while the Bill was in committee. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that there was no desire and no intention to obstruct the Bill. I will tell you why. This is, from the financial standpoint, the most important measure that this or any previous

Parliament has ever had to deal with. Taking the amount which may have to be paid under the arbitration and adding it to the liabilities which this country will assume if it takes the stock, this measure involves a sum in the vicinity of $650,000,000, an enormous burden for the people of Canada. It involves the adoption of a principle which has never been submitted to the people, and this Parliament, whose life has been prolonged by our own votes and at our own request with a view of enabling the Government to do the most effective work possible ini carrying on the war, has no mandate, no authority, to commit the people to that principle. The people never dreamed that during its extended life Parliament would undertake to deal with a matter of such vast importance.

I would call your attention, Mr. Speaker, . to the fact that the committee first began to consider this Bill on the 16th August and that it went out of the committee yesterday or only thirteen days from the time that it was first referred to the committee. If you bear in mind that during that time the Soldiers' Voting Bill was also considered and passed, and that a considerable portion of the Estimates was also passed, I think you will agree with me that there was no undue amount of time taken up with the consideration of this Bill. When you consider further that there were some sixty members upon this side of the House who had not had an opportunity of speaking upon the Bill, I think you will see that the view I present that there was no undue prolongation of the discussion is amply warranted. True, the closure was applied by the Minister of Finance and some bitterness was created which I think came largely from the undue desire to press the matter without having proper consideration for the rights of the minority. I think the Government would get along very much better and *could greatly facilitate the carrying on of the business if they had a greater regard for the rights of the minority than they have shown in this case.

This Parliament has been in session since January last, upwards of eight months. Before the recess there was ample time to introduce this Bill and there was a great deal of time after recess to introduce it before it was actually introduced. During the three months that some members of the Government were in England, the members of the Government and of Parliament who were at home might very well have had their time occupied in the consideration of this and other important mea-3234

sures. But it all comes down to this, that only thirteen days elapsed from the time the Bill was put into the committee until it was reported out of the committee. However, 1 have no doubt whatever that, as mentioned to the Minister of Finance before recess, in one day the discussion upon the third reading would be entirely completed. I do not know if the minister wants to bring the third reading on tonight with a view to giving notice of the closure. He may decide to do so, but I think he is hardly well advised to give the country the impression that by means of the power that is vested in the majority-by the votes of the majority-they intend to force through this Bill without an opportunity for discussion. I think hon. gentlemen opposite would jbe very badly advised if they took that course.

Now, with regard to the amendment, I contend it is. not fair to the people of this country to impose on them the obligation of paying to Mackenzie and Mann and the interests allied with them, who are the pledgees or holders of this $60,000,000 of stock, this vast sum of money without the matter again being presented to Parliament after it has been investigated by these arbitrators and without having their report, because their award would be in the nature of a report. This position is enormously *strengthened by the fact that in 1914 there was a statutory agreement made between Mackenzie and Mann, the Canadian Northern Railway Company and the Government, by which statutory agreement it was provided that if Parliament would authorize the Government to grant further assistance to the extent of $45,000,000 Parliament would have the right, if it chose to do so, to authorize the Governor in Council by order, to foreclose the equity of redemption in this property.

Since that time, although the default which is provided for by that statute has occurred, this Government has given further assistance to the Canadian Northern Railway to the extent of $15,000,000. To-day, instead of the country being placed in the fairly advantageous position in which it would be placed if the provisions of the Act of 1914 were carried out, under this legislation the question is to be submitted to arbitrators, not from the standpoint of the Canadian Northern Railway Company being in default, not from the standpoint that they are obliged to sell, not from the standpoint that the country has lent them vast sums of money and aided them by guarantees and they are in default; but, I think any

Bill, it might make the advances. The arbitration then goes on, and it could be provided that,, unless, at the session of Parliament succeeding the award, Parliament did not approve of it, and did not authorize the Government to take the property over under the award, then all the stock would be returned to the parties entitled to it and any money which the Government might advance with interest would form a statutory lien upon the property of the Canadian Northern railway. The Government could provide that the cost to which Mackenzie and Mann and their associates had been put in connection with the matter might be paid by the Government. If it is decided to send it back to the committee for the purpose of making the change as specified in my amendment, it could be worked out so as to do no injustice to the Canadian Northern interest, but it should also leave Parliament and the people of this country free to act upon the award and free, if deemed in the public interest, to acquire the property in that way. I submit this amendment with all confidence, believing that it will commend itself to every one who is desirous of seeing the Canadian Northern taken over and made a government-owned system, and at the same time of doing what is fair towards the people of this country. We ought not to forget that it is not our money tnat is to be paid for this property. We are sitting here merely as trustees for the people of Canada, and we ought to give the people every reasonable opportunity of knowing what they will be called upon to pay for the property which, it is alleged, it is in the interests of the country to purchase. That opportunity will be afforded to the people if the amendment which I propose is carried into effect, and there will be no delay that will be injurious. The Government can assist the road, if it wants to, in the meantime, just in the same way as if they had taken the property over; and after the valuation placed upon the property by the arbitrator is known, if the people, with their eyes open, and Parliament acting for the people with its eyes open, decide it is not in the interest of the country to pay the award, then no one can complain But to-day, if the Bill passes unamended, without a provision such as I have asked the House to adopt, the country without being consulted, without ihe question having been submitted to them, without the electors at large having had an opportunity to pass judgment at all, will be committed

to a transaction which, as has been stated already, will run into an enormous sum of money. I think that will be most unjust and most unfair to the public. By adopting this amendment which I suggest, no injustice will be done to anybody; the course taken will be fair to the people of Canada, who will have to foot the bill and upon whom great responsibility in connection with the purchase of this system will rest.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   CANADIAN RAILWAY SITUATION.
Sub-subtopic:   CANADIAN NORTHERN RAILWAY BILL-THIRD READING.
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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

Mr. Speaker,

the member for St. John (Mr. Pugsley) labours under a great many misapprehensions about the measure now under consideration. Among other things, he is suffering from a very serious misapprehension as to the length of time during which the Bill has been before Parliament. On the first day of August, just four weeks ago to-dlay, notice was given of the resolution upon which this Bill was founded, and considerable discussion took place. The Bill has on many occasions since that time been under consideration, and my hon. friend will admit that whatever may be said1 about other members of the House, there has not been any lack of opportunity on his part to discuss the Bill very thoroughly and on all occasions. He very suavely informs us that there was never any intention on the part of hon. gentlemen on the 'other side of the House to obstruct the measure. I think he is in a position to speak in that respect for a good many hon. members on the other side, but not for himself. My hon. friend seems to be under another extraordinary misapprehension. He observes that this Bill ought to have been introduced before the recess which began early in February and continued, I think, until April 19. Does the hon. gentleman know that during that period the Commission which had been appointed to investigate the whole railway situation was continuing its deliberations, and that the report of that Commission was not presented to the Government, until sometime in April? The astonishing suggestion of my hon. friend is that, while a number of eminent gentlemen who had been appointed by the Government to make this investigation were still continuing their inquiries, the 'Government should have come before Parliament and introduced this Bill.

My hon. friend makes reference to various supposed occurrences of an unfortunate character, in his estimation, which will take place if an arbitration is proceeded with. May I call his attention to the fact that he evidently overlooked those possibili-

ties when he himself, in 1914 and again in 1916, strongly urged on this House that the property should be acquired through the acquisition of the stock and that the value of the stock should be determined by arbitration?

-Mr. PUGSL'EY: I dislike to interrupt

my right hon. friend, hut he is entirely in error when he say-s that I strongly urged upon the House the desirability of taking over the property by arbitration. What I did say in 1914 was this: I urged that as a condition of guaranteeing the $45,000,000, the stock should be reduced to $30,000,000 and placed in trust for a period of five years so that if there was default the Govemr ment could at once take control of the property. If, on the other hand, the company pulled through for five years, then Parliament would have the right, if it chose to do so, to take the property at a valuation not exceeding $30,000,000. That is a very different thing.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   CANADIAN RAILWAY SITUATION.
Sub-subtopic:   CANADIAN NORTHERN RAILWAY BILL-THIRD READING.
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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

That is only

another of the remarkable misapprehensions under which my hon. friend is labouring in regard to this Bill. I am really at a loss to account for them. On the second day of June, 1914, as I have already pointed out to this House, my hon. friend seconded this, resolution and spoke strongly in favour of it:

That the said Bill he not now read a third time, hut that it be resolved that under existing circumstances no assistance should be given to the Canadian Northern, Railway company unless at the same time it is provided that the Government have power, within a reasonable time to acquire the ownership of the entire stock of the company at a price to be fixed by arbitration, but not to exceed thirty million dollars.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   CANADIAN RAILWAY SITUATION.
Sub-subtopic:   CANADIAN NORTHERN RAILWAY BILL-THIRD READING.
Permalink

August 29, 1917