November 4, 1919

L LIB

Joseph Archambault

Laurier Liberal

Mr. ARCHAMBAULT:

I may have been misled, but I remember quite well that while we were discussing this Bill in committee the hon. member for Lunenburg (Mr. Duff) started to read the resolution passed by the Halifax Board of Trade when my hon. friend from Halifax got up and said that but for him the hon. member for Lunenburg would never have got that information.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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UNION

Alexander Kenneth Maclean (Minister Without Portfolio)

Unionist

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

I understand that a committee, or part of a committee, of the Halifax Board of Trade informally met one day and passed a resolution. I do not know the exact purport of it but it neither approved nor disapproved. I understand that the resolution, whatever it was, met with the condemnation of the Board of Trade later on. In fact, it was not a resolution at all.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

Joseph Archambault

Laurier Liberal

Mr. ARCHAMBAULT:

It might be interesting to have this resolution or whatever my hon. friend chooses to call it read in the House. At. all events hon. gentlemen opposite cannot deny the fact that newspapers, erstwhile strong supporters of the Government are opposed to this legislation, and, of course, these papers represent the opinion of the districts where they are published, to say the least. They are branding the Bill as an impending calamity to the state. The Government, however, pays no heed to these protests and has decided to pass the Bill even if it is necessary to name new senators. Is it possible that this Government does not see the writing on the wall? Is it possible that they are blind to the unrest in Canada and deaf to the voice of the people? I trust not. I sincerely hope that the far-seeing members on your right, Mr. Speaker, will join with us in staying the project with all its dire consequences. My appeal may be unsuccessful, but I shall at least have the satisfaction of having performed a duty inherent to my mandate in giving a plain warning to the Government of an impending disaster.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. D. A. LAFORTUNE (Jacques-Cartier) (Translation):

Mr. Speaker, I had not expected to be called upon, in the course of this session, to speak in this House. First of all, I had been expressly forbidden so to do by my physician, owing to the bad condition of my health; but in spite of this, 1 shall yield to the requirements of my duty, as I have always done, turning away, thereby, from obedience to that medical injunction and to the request of my family.

-Mr. Speaker, I should like to see many members go out while I am addressing the Chair, I should then undergo a strain somewhat lighter, I would feel more at ease and not so deeply moved, and my task would be all the easier. I quite realize that it may not be agreeable for those hon. gentlemen to listen to your humble servant expressing himself in the language of Molifere and Racine, and not in the language of Shakespeare, I wish I could show more compla-

cency lor our friends sitting to the right side of the Chair, but this is an impossibility for me, and I feel much more at ease when I happen to use my own mother-tongue.

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with keen interest to all that has been said on the question now submitted to this House, and so far as I can recollect, ever since I had the honour to occupy a seat within these precincts, no question was debated with so much science, eloquence or authority by the hon. members who have preceded me. As I have somewhat a partiality for my own friends-I mean particularly the hon. members who sit on this side of the House-I have listened with a great deal of pli^sure, I must admit, to the young members of the Opposition when they dealt with this proposition in such an able and forceful manner. I shall, therefore, congratulate them all, most heartily.

I have often times participated in very serious debates which took place within these precincts, debates which lasted uninterruptedly through many days and even many weeks, and had reference to questions which we thought it our duty to discuss to the full measure of our strength, trying thereby to defeat, if possible, the proposals submitted. I shall now ask those of my colleagues who share my own opinion to support the views which I am about to expound, I shall ask them as a special favour to speak as fully and as often as may be required to defeat this nefarious measure.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, why should we buy a railroad, under the straitened circumstances in which we are placed? Why should we think of buying a railroad, when we have no money?

An honourable MEMBER: Hear, hear.

Mr. iLAFORTUNE : Always did I approve those who say: "Never buy on credit, buy for cash, and if you cannot buy for cash, do not buy at all. Buying on credit is a ruinous policy, and its consequences are always fatal."

The railway which the Government intends to take over is capitalized at about $500,000,000, a pretty large sum, Mr. Speaker, though not considerable for a prosperous Government; but it is a large sum for a country whose financial condition is unsettled. Under the circumstances, it is foolish to entertain a proposition of this kind; no wonder so many protests are made throughout the country, and if we are to judge of it by the most unpleasant remarks which are hurled at the Government from all parts, we must come to the conclusion

that public opinion is very much exercised over it. I ask you, again, why should we buy a railway when we are burdened with more obligations than the Government can face? The budget of the country shows large deficits every year, and strange to say, the honourable gentlemen, as though they wished to make our condition worse, are trying, by every possible means, to deepen the abyss in which we are plunged.

Mr. Speaker, though not conversant to a great extent with financial matters and not having made a special study of the railway policy, I have some experience, however, I have investigated what happened in the past and what is taking place just now, and I frankly declare that the position taken by the honourable gentlemen on the other side has been a great surprise to me. I do not charge them with bad faith, and I respect their opinion, for I am willing to admit that they thought they were doing the right thing, and were really satisfied that this transaction was in the interest of the country. But, heavens' I am very much afraid that their opinion will not be accepted later on, that is, when they have to render an account of what they have done.

As long as a member does not have to stand before his electors, he can always do and say as he pleases; but when it is a question of showing clearly his policy to the puhlic who have elected him, I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I do not envy the position of my hon. friends on the opposite side of the House when, pressed by the electors, they are called upon to give them detailed information and vouchers explaining the reason of the enormous expenditure which this calamitous transaction is going to saddle on the people of this country. I repeat, iSir, that the people will have their turn and perhaps sooner than our 'hon. friends seem to believe. Far from me the idea of trying to offend anybody, but experience tells us that things are not so bright for the hon. gentlemen of the other side of the House; clouds a.re gathering, the sky is getting darker; from all sides one hears Tumblings, the people are restless and, .as you know, Mr. Speaker, when the anger of the people is aroused there is cause for apprehension. Nothing in the world would lead me to accept any part of the responsibility which is incumbent on the hon. gentlemen opposite and therefore I believe it is my duty to stand up in this House and protest very energetically against the adoption of such a measure. I said a few moments ago that this year again we shall have to face

a deficit of at least $18,000,000 in the operation of our railways. This is an enormous sum, Mr. Speaker. Still when we ask that certain works be undertaken in the immediate interest of our electors, nay, most urgent works, this is the answer we get: "What could we do? We have no money. We understand that your request on behalf of your electors is fair and reasonable, but we cannot possibly help it". This is, Mr. Speaker, the answer that we get from them, and the answer is correct because, I assure you, the treasury of this country is far from overflowing and whatever sum we may have to invest in that way .amounts to very little. But if we lack funds to meet the urgent needs of this country, and I think the hon. gentlemen are right in so stating, why then should we seek to acquire a road which will cost millions of dollars? This is the question, that I, like some of my good friends on this side of the House, have not ceased to .ask of the Government, nut so far no satisfactory answer has come forth. Why are they trying to persuade this House that it will be of great advantage to the country to buy a road wrhen we have not the money to pay for it.

By what I see, the hon. minister of the Interior (Mr. Meighen) while an honourable man, iis the most astute lawyer I ever came across. At home, .such men are termed hair splitters, I shall not presume to detract from his merits; far from it and I .shall say that if the hon. minister had taken1 up as a career pleading before criminal courts, nobody would ever have been hanged. His cleverness, his persuasive ways, his mellifluous tones in the service of a bad oau.se, are unexcelled, and I do not think there is in this House any one who can compare with him in this respect. He is never taken unawiares; there is always an answer forthcoming; and many who have not made a study of him are liable to abide by his statements, to believe 'in his sincerity. As for me, having seen him so often on the job and thus being in a position to adequately size him up, I have no hesitation in saying that he has not yet convinced us that he was right.

On .the contrary I think, and it is the opinion of a great number of my friends, that the more he has tried to explain the case the more he has given proofs of his weakness, not his personal weakness, but that of the cause which he was defending. Is it a matter for surprise, Mr. Speaker, that supporters of our friends opposite,

very respectable and worthy gentlemen, .men who have sat in this House for a great many years, should cut off the ties binding them to the Government? For, if I am well informed,, the Government can no longer depend on the support of many of its old-time partisans. We shall observe their demeanour when the bell rings and they are called upon to openly express (heir opinion. It will be particularly interesting to notice the stand of Liberals who have abandoned their party and joined the present Government. If they have deserted us, it is no doubt, for serious reasons.

They wanted to follow the dictates of theil*conscience on a policy of momentous intereslt to the public at large; they expressed the view that they could no longer support the party as regards conscription issue and consequently they extended a generous hand to our opponents for the "time being" and no further.

Sir, conscription being no longer a question of the hour, what position will they take? I wonder if my hon. friends who. were seen in our ranks ever since they began to meddle with politics, ever since they were born, so to speak, may sincerely and conscientiously approve the transaction which is now submitted to us. Up to the present time I believed them to be sincere and in good faith, but I must reserve my right to Judge them otherwise if they agree to this proposition and if they vote for this measure. _ _

I have taken, so far, a keen interest in the railway policy, and I am perfectly aware of what happened when the North .Shore railway was built. Great discussions took place, many public meetings were held and that enterprise was fully discussed pro and con toy tooth political parties. It would seem that whenever the railway question is dealt with, the weak side of my hon. friends' cuirass is reached.

They had built a railway for $14,000,000 or $15,000,000, and they sold it for $6,500,000. We said to them: What transaction do you wish to make? That road has cost $14,500,000 and you are going to sell it for $6,500,000? It is ridiculous. They replied that the transaction was in keeping with the public interest. Poor tax-payers! How they are loved ! How jealously their rights are safeguarded, and public money economized! The more one has, the more one wants. Our good friends from Toronto have sacrificed hundreds of millions by taking over the Canadian Northern, and yet they are not satisfied. Yes, Mr. Speaker, the more one has the more one wants. Having caused

the country to spend an enormous amount of money for the (Canadian Northern, they now wish to bring the country to ruin. Yes, how they like the good Canadian people, and how they concern themselves with the credit of the country ! .

Mr. Speaker, having promised my dear [DOT]electors so many good things, I often wonder how it will be possible for me to canvass their votes once more, they are such a good sort of people, and they thought I could obtain justice for them. Often [DOT]times did I advocate, in their behalf, the building of a bridge from Perrot island to Vaudreuil, and of another bridge from Vaudreuil to 'St. Ann! Well, like sister Ann, as says the song, J keep waiting, but nothing is yet in sight. My hon. friend the member for Vaudreuil and Soulanges (Mr. Boyer) whose political career spells sacrifice, who has been most active, who has even spent a good deal of money, has joined me. We have joined hands, but in vain, to the effect that those two bridges, which are so necessary, should be built. This would entail a total expenditure of about $.350,000. What is that sum, after all, for the Canadian Government, for the government of a country with inexhaustible resources, resources representing millions and I should rather say billions of dollars. In fact, for centuries to come, this country can undertake to do whatever it pleases. As was said by the old woman whom somebody tried to frighten, one day: "No matter, Canada can stand it."

When we urge the building of a bridge to accommodate the electors of Vaudreuil and Soulanges, to help those whom I have the honour to represent, that is, the county of Jacques-Cartier, the finest in the whole country-

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

Andrew Ross McMaster

Laurier Liberal

Mr. McMASTER (translation):

The finest is Brome.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE (translation):

There should be no question of taking an inventory. When we ask the hon. gentlemen to live up to the promises made by all the hon. gentlemen who have represented that county, we are told that there is "no money available".

A short time ago, I urged the repairing of the bridge on Bizard island, the approaches of which were built by this 'Government. That would have been about $300. The answer was: "No money."

When I urge the repairing of the Lachine wharf, which is in such a pitiful condition as to be dangerous and inaccessible to the public, the answer is: "No money".

When I urge the repairing of the Pointe-Claire wharf, which the ice is about to sweep away-in fact, it should be rebuilt altogether, because it is almost completely gone and it is impossible to repair it-I am told again that there is "no money available."

When I ask the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Doherty) a most worthy gentleman who has held a judgeship for many years, a member of the Government, to his own credit and to the credit of his electors; when I ask him why not build a tunnel under the Lachine Canal, to make it possible for my own electors in Ville-Emard to cross that canal at any time, day or night, I get the same answer. Yet, those poor workingmen, those poor women and children, must stand on the bank of the canal for hours and hours, amid snow and severe frost, suffering from the bad weather at any time in the year, waiting till the canal is free and the bridge is open to them, that they may go to work in the morning and come back home about six o'clock in the evening, losing, every time, as a result of this inconvenience, half an hour, an hour or perhaps more.

Now, I said to the hon. minister, being the representative of that territory (for the constituency he represents is next to my own), why do you not urge your Government to build that tunnel which is essential for the protection of those poor workmen? "His answer was: "Yes, sir, you are right, but what can we do, we have no money?"

Well, Mr. Speaker, I asked for the enlargement of a small bridge spanning the Lachine canal, a bridge which originally was sufficient, seeing the limited business which was transacted there. That bridge was erected when there were but

2.000 people; the town of Lachine has now

20.000 inhabitants. When two vehicles pass over that small bridge, people are wondering what they should do not to be crushed. On a certain occasion, a young girl seventeen years old fell into the water and had it not been for a citizen who was on the spot, she would have been drowned. And such has been the condition for many years.

I am wondering how long such conditions will prevail. I am wondering how long the country will stand such an Administration. Time will tell. However, as I said a moment ago, beware, the voice of the people is dreadful when their anger is aroused. 1 assure you it is nothing to laugh at.

The present Government state, and I believe they are right in that, they cannot meet their obligations. They are perfectly right; I agree with them for the first time. The Government are unable to live up to their most pressing obligations.

Now, what happens in such cases? In our province, when a man cannot meet his obligations, we call it bankruptcy. I do not know how it may be called here. There is another name, insolvency, if you would have it so; however, the two names are in close relationship.

Now, if they be unable to meet the obligations they are committed to, could any one tell me what has become of the surpluses of the former Administration? Where is the money which these gentlemen got when they took hold of the coffers? I hear rumours of all kinds as to that, but the chief one is that nobody knows where it went.

Mr. Speaker, our main obligations are numerous, are they not? With respect to that, had they any rfioney and were I called upon to humbly advise the hon. members on the other side, I should tell them: "Gentlemen, the main obligation for Canada at the present time is to give to the returned soldiers what they ask for." In my opinion, it would be the right thing to do unto them. The returned soldiers are entitled to an altogether peculiar protection. We shall never repay the debt of gratitude we owe them. We may perhaps give them instalments; we could never give (he full measure of gratitude they have the right to expect from Canada.

Now, what answer has just been given to the returned soldiers? "Yes, gentlemen, you are right; you have made great sacrifices; the country greets you like heroes; but what can we do, we have no money?" When money fails, money fails and yet sums will be found for the taking over of railways. When it is a matter of protecting those concerned in such legislation, means are always found to get the required funds, but for the soldiers it is out of the question.

Be careful, the soldiers know how to fire guns; you call them heroes because they have been able to handle arms; they still have their brawn and muscle, beware! Beware of the soldiers; do not delude them.

If we had money, Mr. Speaker, we could help our soldiers and take the necessary measures so as to set them up in business, to protect their wives and children, in short, to give them a square deal. Had we the necessary funds, we would be pre-

pared to help agriculture and the farming class that needs so much help, and to protect also the workingman; we could put our soldiers in a position to earn a decent living.

The chief duty of a government, it seems to me, is to do every thing which is possible, nay, impossibilities so as to render the people contented and prosperous. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that at the present time prosperity is seldom seen in this country. There is but one class of contented people in Canada, those who live at other people's expenses; to them distress is unknown..

At night they have well-lined purses and nothing else to do but rack their brains and devising the means of going into new expenses; as I said, Sir, they are at the present time the only truly happy people in the country.

If we have any money to spend, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that one of the very first thing to do would be to increase our exports by assuring on all foreign markets a safe place for our Canadian products; however, it does not seem to be the purpose of the Government to do so.

' Instead of spending our time discussing this measure, if we took the necessary steps and appointed special financial agents on the different markets of the world with a view to successfully and advantageously introducing our Canadian products abroad, render this country a much greater ser-rende rthis country a much greater service. I regret, Sir, that the time at our disposal will not permit us to do .so.

At the present time the labourers complain of a shortage of labour and no later than yesterday I noticed that in the town of iLachine a strike involving from 2,000 to 2,500 men was called in the works of the great Dominion Bridge Company. What is the reason of this strike? The labourers tell us that the wages are inadequate. Should the Government have at their disposal a sufficient sum of money, they could launch out into new enterprises and grant further contracts to these large establishments in such a way that in their turn these companies could pay higher wages to their employees and strikes would no longer be heard of in this country. May I Mr. Speaker, be permitted to say a word about the hon. gentleman whom the Liberal party has chosen as its leader. Our new leader, who is the embodiment of honour has devoted many years to the study of these important questions as well as other domestic problems which all make for the hap-

piness and prosperity of our people. I would suggest by right of seniority, although his leadership turns to his advantage-I would suggest, I say, in my own name as well as on behalf of the people I have the honour to represent in this House, that he let not this measure carry and become law. This measure shall not became law and for that purpose, if it be necessary, we shall sit here day and night; perhaps will they be discouraged at last.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

Andrew Ross McMaster

Laurier Liberal

Mr. McMASTER:

They are already discouraged.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE:

No, Mr. Speaker, such a scandalous measure most not become law by the sanction of this Parliament, and I ask my hon. leader to stand up and appeal to all those who are ready to support him to form into a solid front and tell these gentlemen opposite what the French told the Germans at Verdun: "No, you shall not pass." And, Mr. Speaker, you know that the Germans did not pass; so will it be to-day with this measure.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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UNION

Herbert John Mackie

Unionist

Mr. MACKIE:

Will the hon. gentleman permit me to ask him a question?

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE:

With pleasure, if it is a reasonable one.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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UNION

Herbert John Mackie

Unionist

Mr. MAGKIE:

If a private company

cannot possibly make a succes of the administration of the railway, what alternative will the hon. member suggest to this House?

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE:

All I ask is that the House do not run the country into debt and be not a party to this infamous transaction.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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UNION

Herbert John Mackie

Unionist

Mr. MACKIE:

Will the hon. gentleman allow me one more question?

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE:

Most assuredly, and as often as you please.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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UNION

Herbert John Mackie

Unionist

Mr. MACKIE:

I very much appreciate the privilege that the hon. gentleman gives me.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE:

You may ask as many question as you like, provided they are not too long.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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UNION

Herbert John Mackie

Unionist

Mr. MACKIE:

My hon. friend seems to circumscribe me within certain, limits; he does not want me to ask too many questions.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE:

I am not here to undergo a cross examination; yet I am ready to answer all your questions.

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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UNION

Herbert John Mackie

Unionist

Mr. MACKIE:

Let me put the same question once more: If a company feels that it cannot possibly make a success of the administration of a railway what then would you have to suggest to this House?

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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L LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE:

In reply to the question put by my learned friend I might say that when a company is not in a position to meet its obligations, so .much the worse for the company. We, to-day, are under no obligation to nurture the offsprings of the Grand Trunk. Well-ordained charity begins at home, and with greater reason when a country is not in a position to meet its own obligations, why should it be responsible for the obligations of others?

Topic:   GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY SYSTEM.
Subtopic:   BILL PROVIDING FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE SYSTEM BY THE GOVERNMENT.
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November 4, 1919