Mr. A. B. COPP (Westmorland):
Mr. Speaker, I concur in- the opinion expressed by the hon. member for London (Mr. Cronyn) on Friday evening, when he said that this measure had been so thoroughly discussed in committee and on the second reading that it was almost impossible to advance any new arguments or reasons for or against it.
Fully realizing this, I feel that I would not be doing justice to my constituents
whom I have the honour to represent, if I did not take up a few moments of the time of the House in discussing the measure that is now before us. I do so more because during the discussion of this measure so far, I was, along with a number of other members, unable to attend the sittings of this House, being engaged on the work of an important committee that was sitting while the House was in session. Otherwise, I might, during the progress of the Bill through committee, have had an opportunity of discussing it more or less, and in that ease I would not have to take up the time of the House on the motion for the third reading.
It has often been said that it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose. I do not quite concur in that statement; but I feel it is the duty of an Opposition, when a measure of great importance is being considered by Parliament, to endeavour to elicit all information possible from the Government who are standing sponsors for the Bill, not only in order to enable themselves to consider properly the advisability of the acceptance or non-acceptance of the measure, but to give through Parliament an opportunity to the people of the country, who are interested in all Parliamentary measures and particularly , in this one, to consider wisely and carefully, after all the information has been gleaned from all sources possible, whether or not the measure is in the best interest of the country. While, during the progress of this measure until it has reached this stage, wre have, by questioning in committee, received at least some information of importance to Parliament and the country, some of the information that we have received reminds me of what I once heard one brother attorney say of another. Some one remarked that a certain attorney had a great fund of information, and the reply was: "Yes, he has a great fund of inaccurate law." While, during the course of this debate, we have had a great deal of information, both accurate and inaccurate, there is some information which we have not yet received and which the people of this country are demanding. I would first ask the Government if they have sufficient and proper information upon which 'they can reasonably ask this Parliament to endorse this measure and to assume the obligations that will have to be assumed if we take over the Grand Trunk Railway system, to be operated in future under governmental control. If they have that information, have they given all the information they have to this Parliament? Have we on this side of the
[(Mr. Copp. ]
House, have hon. members on the other side of the House who are supporting the Government all the information in the possession of the Government so as to enable us to decide whether we will assume the responsibility of putting this measure through Parliament? I think we all agree that unless it is shown absolutely and conclusively by the Government who are pressing this measure through the House that it is for the general advantage of the people of Canada, it should not he proceeded with. The responsibility for bringing before us all the reasons and giving satisfactory evidence rests entirely upon the shoulders of the Government who are now forcing this measure through Parliament. That leads me to inquire what reasons have really been given by the Government for the course which they are pursuing and which will place upon the people of the Dominion of Canada this added financial burden and responsibility. Some reasons have been given, I am prepared to admit, and one of the first reasons came quite early in the discussion of this proposition when the resolution upon which this Bill is founded was in committee. The Minister of Railways (Mr. J. D. Reid), who introduced the resolution and the Bill and who must assume the responsibility of bringing this measure before Parliament and of seeing it through, stated that he purposed laying all the facts before Parliament and asking a complete investigation and a thorough examination and discussion of all its details, and he wanted to be very frank and in all candour to lay the facts before Parliament. At the very outset of his remarks he gave a reason why this measure should be proceeded with, and as he continued with his address on that occasion, he gave a reason that I believe is the real reason why this measure is being brought before this House at the present time. As he stood there, surrounded by the officials of his department and other members of the Government, he made a statement to which I wish to refer if I may, and to my mind that was the first reason that was in his mind and that he gave to Parliament why this measure was being introduced and why the Government sought to have it adopted at the present time. I do not purpose reading the whole of his remarks; but speaking of the different bond issues and the guaranteed stock of the Grand Trunk system, he wound up by saying:
Surely it is to the advantage of the shareholders and debenture holders in England to be able from this time on, without any worry or anxiety, to know they will receive annual
dividends they have enjoyed for so many years in the past.
He made that statement, and he was about to let the proverbial cat out of the bag; the string was untied. But some of his prompters on his side seized his coat tail, and he pulled the string again and the bag was tied. That, however, was the statement made by the minister and expressed the feeling in his mind. He had in mind, not the people of this Dominion whose guardians and trustees the Government are, but the shareholders and others who have money invested in bonds and stocks of the Grand Trunk Railway Company. Shortly after this, the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) drew attention to the fact that, because of the action of the Government, the value of these stocks had been enhanced! in value on the London market at a probable cost to the people of this country of $25,000,000 to $30,000,000. When you come to consider and realize and figure that out, you will find that his statement was a very conservative one. What reply was made to -the remarks of my hon. friend? The hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. M. Clark), who is not in his seat at present, arose and said: Oh, what difference does it make, if it does cost $25,000,000 or $30,000,000 or even one hundred -and twenty millions, to the people of Canada; these bonds and stocks are held by the people of old England, and a number of them by widows and orphans of the old land?
Subtopic: GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Sub-subtopic: BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.