October 16, 1919

UNION

William Thomas White

Unionist

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

If I understand .ny hon. friend correctly, he asks me if I was opposed to the Dominion Government continuing its subsidies to the Grand Trunk Pacific. I was opposed to that course, because I thought, as I then stated, that public opinion was decidedly against it.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   GRAND- TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Sub-subtopic:   RESOLUTION RESPECTING ITS ACQUISITION 'BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

Emmanuel Berchmans Devlin

Laurier Liberal

Mr. DEVLIN:

Then I want to follow up that answer with this other question. Is not the whole substance of this resolution to give power to the Government to loan money to the Grand Trunk Railway Company out of which they may pay their operating expenses and the interest due upon the Grand Trunk Pacific, and, further, to guarantee the debenture stock and the new stock, to be called guaranteed stock, and nothing else; that there is no acquisition of any property at all, it is simply a loan?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   GRAND- TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Sub-subtopic:   RESOLUTION RESPECTING ITS ACQUISITION 'BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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UNION

William Thomas White

Unionist

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

My hon. friend has for years been so much in the habit of addressing his questions to me that it is difficult for him to get over it. But I am very glad to give him my own view, which is not necessarily the view of the Government at all, because, as I have said, I am now a private member of this House. The Government upon acquiring the Grand Trunk railway's stock will administer the road, will make good any deficits on its operation, and will provide for the taking out from receivership of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company. Now, my hon. friend askedme if I was in favour of making further grants to the Grand Trunk Pacific Company. I said that I was not. I pointed out before that the Grand Trunk Railway Company owned the stock of the Grand Trunk Pacific .Company and were therefore the proprietor. I was unwilling that the Government of Canada in 1914 should guarantee $45,000,000 of stock of the Canadian Northern without getting $40,000,000 or as much more as we could although that was all we were able to get-of common stock. I was unwilling that the Government after 1916 should make any further advances to the Canadian Northern railway while it remained in private hands; but I was not unwilling that the Government should take the railway over and make whatever advances might be necessary to carry it on. I take the same view in regard to the Grand Trunk Pacific. I would assist the Grand Trunk Pacific railway, provided its stock,

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   GRAND- TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Sub-subtopic:   RESOLUTION RESPECTING ITS ACQUISITION 'BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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V072 COMMONS


owned by the Grand Trunk Railway 'Company, would become the property of the Government together with the stock of the .Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada. That would mean that the Government of Canada has taken the place of the shareholders of the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada. I do not believe, iMr. Chairman, that the people of this country putting it on no other basis, will consent to this Government continuing to make large advances to privately owned railways; but they Will agree to make whatever advances are absolutely necessary to railways that are owned by the' Government.


UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Hon. W. S. FIELDING:

Mr. Chairman, in the last part of the very moderate and very interesting speech of my hon. friend ('Sir Thomas White) he gave us a. very pretty picture of a condition which he expects to arise in relation to the management of the public affairs of this country. He gave us the picture of a condition in which the biggest interests of the people of Canada, the subjects of most consequence to them, should be taken absolutely out of their own control. He says that in order to make this great enterprise successful you must keep it out of politics; and he -expects that to be accomplished. Does my Iron, friend not know as well as I do that politics in its proper sense means the business of the people of this country? When you .provide that the great business of the people of this country is going to be taken out of politics, that means that you /are going to take it out of the control of the people and to put it into the hands of irresponsible parties.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNION

William Thomas White

Unionist

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

Would my hon. friend think it 'advisable in connection with .a commission or board administering the Government-owned railways of Canada, the Minister of Railways or the Minister of Finance, or both, should ex-officio have a seat or seats upon that board?

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Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

entirely mistaken. Well, then, suppose you lay aside that question.

I have already said .that even if we should feel that this arrangement was more meritorious than I have described it-if we could feel that there was no criticism of the agreement on its merits, we would still have reason to complain that at this late stage of the session it is utterly improper to introduce this legislation. What possible justification can there be? Urgency there is none. The Grand Trunk, in all this transaction, does not appear to have been anxious to have its property taken over. If I have read the correspondence correctly, the Government from beginning to end seems to have been trying to invent a ground for taking it over. Once the negotiations were opened for taking it over ,the Grand Trunk people would naturally desire to get the best price they could, and no blame can be ascribed to them. But no reason of urgency has been shown why this transaction should be undertaken now. Suppose the letter of Mr. Smithers had been written ten days later and we had had to wait until another session, what possible harm could have ensued ? What interest could have suffered? Wherein would the people of Canada have been injured ? Wherein, indeed, would the Grand Trunk or anybody else have suffered ? But for some strange reason the Government seem determined to push this matter through in the face of what I do not hesitate to say is a strong opposition on the part of independent public opinion. I know there are members listening to me, sitting on both sides of the House, who cordially agree with me. I am facing hon. gentlemen who I am sure agree with everything I am saying but who are influenced by party considerations. I am throwing no stones on that score. I used to be a party man years ago, and I shall not quarrel with hon. gentlemen on that score, but I do know that if we could get at the independent thought of the members we should find a strong opinion that this Bill ought not to be passed during the present session. There are various reasons, one of which is the gravity of the financial situation. My hon. friend the ex-Minister of Finance, in his speech today, has said very frankly that the situation is one of great gravity. Indeed, he has stated the same thing in public in another place even more forcibly, and I shall give him the benefit of his more forcible statement, On ia recent occasion-

where or when is of no consequence-the Inn. gentleman said:

I do not want to magnify the seriousness of the position of Canada. In my War Budget speech I aimed to give the exact facts to the House and to the public. I aimed to scrupulously point out the facts as I saw them, without any holding back of the unpleasant side of the situation. I said that an obligation had been incurred which would be a burden for generations to come, but I nevertheless struck, as I have always done during the war, an optimistic note, because I believe that, notwithstanding the heavy burdens which we have incurred, with the policy of retrenchment

they had notice that in four days the road would cease operating, but surely with 14,000 miles of railway now in the hands of the Government, it has a good opportunity of giving the thing a test. It is being tested elsewhere and not with great success. Public ownership was popular in the United1 States three years ago. To-day public ownership is discredited in the United States by the most responsible men. I doubt if the United States to-day could be induced to accept public ownership as they were *willing to but a few months ago. I do not ask the House to condemn public ownership. I do not even ask-apart from the particular transaction that I have been obliged to criticize-the House to pass judgment upon the merits of the scheme, but I know that the most sober minded men in this House, some of whom are sitting on the opposite side, feel that this is a grave and dangerous experiment. I submit that there is no urgency which requires us to put this thing through to-day; that there is no excuse for railroading it through to-day, and that it will be the part of wisdom, over which the Government themselves will later on rejoice, if they agree that this matter should not be proceeded with during the present session.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Mr. Chairman, there is this to be said as to the speech of the hon. member (Mr. Fielding), who has just sat down, that it leaves no doubt as to the attitude of His Majesty's loyal Opposition, or of what is called the Liberal party of Canada to-day, on the proposition now before this House for the acquirement of the Grand Trunk Eailway Company's lines. They are opposed to it, because, first of all, they do not believe in the purpose of this legislation; they do not believe in the acquirement of the Grand Trunk lines and the adding of those lines to the Canadian National railway system. They are opposed to it on every ground that the ingenuity of the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's can devise. According to them, there is nothing right about it; the object is wrong, the method is wrong, the plan is wrong, the principle is wrong, the time is wrong; everything about it is wrong.

And what grounds do they give for their professed belief? First of all, is it in the interest of Canada that the Grand Trunk system should be added to the Canadian National lines? Is that wrong in itself? Is that* not an object to be desired under present conditions? Is that not an object to be desired! aside from the proclivities of

any hon. member as to the principle of government ownership ?

The hon. member (Mr. Fielding) is opposed to any addition to the present Canadian National railway system. He knows, and every member knows, that the Canadian National system as it stands to-day is an incomplete, inchoate system, a system cut in the middle, a system which cannot itself succeed, and which, if left to itself as it stands, must make a failure of government ownership in this country. Consequently any hon. member who does not seek to add to the system, round it out and complete it, seeks the failure of government ownership. That indeed is the primary, the real object of the hon. gentleman.

He says we are going about it the wrong way; he says that, first of all, we try to stampedle it through Parliament. That was about the first verb he used. What is the meaning of "stampede"? What are the ear-marks of a stampede? What is the evidence of a stampede in the introduction of this legislation? Will the hon. gentleman be good enough to answer me or to suggest what he has* in *his mind? Has* any. hon. member seen any evidence of stampeding or railroading the project through? We heard talk of stampeding and railroading things through years ago. I know of no railroading through or stampeding in this case. He said we had anticipated the close of the session. That does not close the session. The session is still on. He says that we are not enough of us here, yet only yesterday when a catch vote was brought on at a time when there could be ,no discussion, when it was never anticipated* and no notice given, 38 on one side and! 58 on the other were here and voted upon the question. This week many hon. members are absent taking part in the provincial elections in Ontario, and yesterday many hon. members were attending the j ploughing matches'. But, we are not going to end this thing this week. We will be here next week and we will be here the next week after, if hon. * members want it. Hon. gentlemen are not absolved from the discharge of their duty to remain here, take part in this discussion, and come to an intelligent conclusion upon the question. Can the hon. gentleman suggest any condition more auspicious, fairer, better fitted for deliberation? Can he suggest any other occasion when we tyill have more time than now; can he suggest any other occasion when it will burden the convenience of hon. gentlemen less than it does

now; can he suggest any single constituent part of a situation that would be more favourable for the consideration of this measure than that which is now presented.

Well if he cannot, what excuse does he give this Parliament and this country for endeavouring to throw out the impression that there is a railroading process on, that there is a stampeding going on in the House of Commons of Canada? He knows there is no stampeding, he knows there is no railroading, and no hon. member knows it better than he.

Now he tells us there has been stockjobbing somewhere across the Atlantic ocean with regard, to the stocks of the .Grand Trunk Railway Company. I did not hear him read any evidence of stock-jobbing; I presume he got the report from the hon. member behind him who talked-

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

I did not use the expression "stock-jobbing." However, it is not important. There have been transactions reported in the public press which I mentioned and quoted the price up to 70.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

If the hon. gentleman

used words-*

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNI L
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

If the word is not

wrong I do not know what the purpose of the interruption was. The hon. gentleman says there have been transactions in_ this stock. I do not know what the transactions have been, I do not know what his evidence is that the guaranteed stock has gone to 70. I read yesterday in the Montreal Star-which is not going to put an aspect on this transaction too favourable from the Government side-that the stock was 55. Those were market quotations, there was nothing else quoted by the hon. member, and he gave the stock, I think, at 46 some time in the month of February-a tremendous advance? He says that evidences something wrong, that somebody on the inside has made, or is going to make, some $20,000,000. Now let me inquire. The hon. gentleman told us there was a report in a London paper-some tip had been given there that had reached nowhere else. He made that statement-no one here 'he said knew anything about it., but that a tip had been published in London on September 18 that this stock was going to be valued by arbitration, and! that as a consequence the stock went up-there was a " burst," as he called it, in 'London. Now I want to tell the hon. member that the very same report that had been published in London on that

date was published in the following papers in Canada; in the Montreal Gazette, in the Toronto Globe, in the Toronto World, and in other Canadian papers-simply a press report given out by nobody, published here and open to everybody here just the same as over there. What evidence is there in that that somebody over there-where alone and in New York, as I understand it the stock can be bought-some one over there made a great deal of money out of this transaction? No Government transaction can take place, having to do with acquirement 'by the Government, but the psychological effect of it is .some advance in the stocks of the company concerned. Anything else is an impossibility, and if we understand human nature we know why it is an impossibility. Why, when the hon. member himself-and he was one of the leading men in that great drama that took place in 1003-when the hon. gentleman projected the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and it became known that there was a government transaction on for the building of that line, a government transaction with the Grand Trunk, the stock of the Grand Trunk railway advanced on the markets of New York and London, but did the hon. gentleman tell the House that was evidence of stock-jobbing, that was evidence of some tip being given in order that friends of the Government could make money?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

Excuse me, I made no reference to "friends of the Government." I quoted statements from newspapers. I made no statement from my own knowledge; I quoted the statement from the Canadian Gazette of London and Canada of London; I made no allusion to "friends of the Government-"

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I think the hon. gentleman did make an allusion to "friends, of the Government."

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

I made no allusion to "friends of the Government."

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

-but in view of what was said last night in the House, the ordin-. ary listener would take it 'to mean that the hon. gentleman this afternoon was lending colour to the assertion made last night, " that friends of the Government had made a profit out of this transaction."

Mr. . FIELDING: I made no such statement.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
Permalink
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Nothing whatever was known in London because it was not known here. It was not even expected here ten days ago, otherwise the leader of the Gov-

We would have preferred to have had everything made the subject of arbitration, but we could not secure that result. We told the Grand Trunk representatives to accept one offer or the other. We allowed them to wait. We told Parliament that we had-made an alternative off er, and every hon. member understood that that was a ^continuing offer, for no other inference could possibly be drawn from the speech of the hon. member for Leeds (Sir Thomas White) who was then Minister of Finance. Further, Parliament understood from the date that that letter of the 11th of July, 1918, was read, and long before that date, that negotiations were going on; and ever since the writing of that letter that negotiations were continuing, with intermissions a't times it is true, but that the negotiations had never been closed with the Grand Trunk Company. Why, in the early part of this session the Prime Minister told this House that negotiations with the company were going on. Last session, more than once, members of the Government told the House that negotiations were continuing. Hon. members opposite knew quite well that those negotiations were continuing and that a basic foundation offer had -been made the company on the part of this Government, whiqh offer was the basis of the negotiations. If they objected to that offer, if they thought it was unjust to Canada, what was their duty? The letter was read in this House and they knew every line of i't. Their duty was to move [DOT]a resolutionj asking the Government to withdraw the proposals- made to the Grand Trunk Company. Does any hon. member suggest that that course was not open to the Opposition? Well, I heard one hon. member say last night that such a course was out of order. I know a little about the rules of procedure, and I am certain that no hon. member knoks so very little as [DOT]to think for even a minute that such a motion would be out of order. He could have moved such a resolution any day of the week ever since that letter was read. It-was open to any hon. gentleman opposite to have moved in this House that the duty of the Government was to withdraw those proposals, or either of them, as being unfair to Canada and over-generous to the Grand Trunk Company. But that was not done. They say: "We wonldl have been told 'by the Government that the negotiations were closed when our offer was not accepted." How do they know they would have told [DOT]any such thing? We never told the House or the Country any such thing; on the .

contrary, we had been constantly telling them the negotiations were on. Even if they hadi secured a .statement from the Government that the negotiations were [DOT]closed, would not the resolution have been worth while then? There was no reason in the world for hon. gentlemen opposite,-if they objected to any phase of the offer made to the Grand Trunk,-not having moved this House and asked Parliament whether the Government were taking the right and the just course in making the offer they did 'to the Grand Trunk Railway Company. Having sat here through two sessions and come to this hour with that offer unobjected to on the part of hon, gentlemen opposite, and unobjected to by the press of this country, with no evidence whatever of objection on the part of the people, what position are hon. gentlemen opposite in to come now to Parliament and say: "Your proposals having been accepted, it is your duty now to back down."

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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L LIB

Emmanuel Berchmans Devlin

Laurier Liberal

Mr. DEVLIN:

Would the minister permit me to call his attention to the fact that the letter of which he speaks is not under consideration at the present moment, because the company did not accept the conditions offered by the Government? The sole question is contained in the resolution which comprises an absolutely new proposal, not at all contained in the letter, not one word.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I am glad I have got the hon. gentleman to that point, because it shows that he realizes that as long as we are proceeding on the basis of the letter, we are not only justified in proceeding, but bound in honour to proceed.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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October 16, 1919