March 16, 1921

UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

I am prepared to give a ruling on the point of order raised by the Prime Minister (Hon. Mr. Meighen), but if any hon. member desires to be heard, he may speak on the point of order now.

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L LIB

Jacques Bureau

Laurier Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

Mr. Speaker, I do not

think the point of order is well taken. The fact that an hon. member introduces a resolution for the purpose of ascertaining the

views of the House on the subject with which it deals by no means binds the Government to any action involving the expenditure of public moneys. I think there are precedents in support of this contention. If the point of order were sustained, the effect, in my opinion, would be to preclude any member of the House of Commons from expressing his views on any important subject affecting the welfare of the country, or of learning the opinions of other hon. gentlemen. After all, a resolution dealing with any public work must ultimately involve the expenditure of public moneys. For instance, the resolution of my hon. friend from Quebec South (Mr. Power), asks that the walls of Quebec be maintained; and that, as well as any other resolution having for its object the erection of a monument, say, or the performance of any other public work, would ultimately mean the expenditure of public money, if the proposals put forward in the resolution are to be given any effect at all. Now, I do not think it is the intention of the rule to preclude the expression of views by the House on public questions which might ultimately involve public expenditures. The resolution of the hon. member does not necessarily bind the Government; there would first have to be a mandate from the Governor General in Council before public moneys could be spent. I do not think it has ever been the intention of Parliament to prevent members from merely advocating that certain necessary public works should be done. In this case, very many members of this House have decided that the building of the Hudson Bay railway should be completed. I understand that the works have been suspended. To-day an hon. member gets up and asks the House to concur in his opinion, that operations should be resumed. Of course, the resumption of the work would necessitate the voting of money; but that vote would not be by reason of this resolution; it would be in consequence of a resolution introduced by the Government upon which a Bill would be founded. I submit, therefore, that the rule is not applicable in this instance, and the point of order is not well taken. If the Prime Minister's point of order were upheld, hon. members would be prevented from suggesting necessary public improvements for the good of the country.

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UNION
UNION

John Archibald Campbell

Unionist

Mr. CAMPBELL:

Mr. Speaker, I should like to speak to the point of order. Some of the speeches from which I quoted were

delivered in a debate similar to this. The matter under discussion was to the same effect as the resolution now before the House, and I might mention that (as a matter of precedent-

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UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member will

pardon my interrupting him. I think I can very well anticipate his line of argument on the point of order, and possibly it might be well for me to suggest that the contention which he evidently intends to advance is sound. Bourinot says, at page 410:

A practice has grown up in the House of allowing the introduction of resolutions byprivate members, when they do not directly involve the expenditure of public money, but simply express an abstract opinion on a matter which may necessitate a future grant.

It seems to me that the resolution now before the House is entirely covered in the phraseology of the extract I have just quoted. I also find, in May, 12th edition, at page 468, the following:

In like manner, motions advocating public ex-penditure, 'or the imposition of a charge, if the motion be framed in sufficiently abstract and general terms, can be entertained, and agreed to by the House. Resolutions of this nature-

And I call the attention of the House particularly to the following sentence-

-are permissible because, having no operative effect, no grant is made or burthen imposed by their adoiption.

It seems to me that there again the authority points to the resolution as being in order. But in looking up the journals of the House I find two cases particularly in point. In 1892, on the 14th of March, Mr. Denison, seconded by Mr. Tyrwhitt, moved:

That, whereas the new United States canal at Sault Ste. Marie is being constructed of a depth of 18 feet, and whereas i.t is proposed in that country to deepen their canals on the Great Hakes to not less than 20 feet, and whereas the proposed increase in depth has already been made at the mouth of the Detroit river, in the opinion Of this House it is expedient that the Soulanges canal and the other canals in the river St. Lawrence should be deepened to 20 feet.

Obviously that resolution was in almost direct terms an authority to expend public money. There was also in the year 1885 a resolution moved by Mr. White (Cardwell) seconded by Mr. Wright:

That in the opinion of this House, the full sessional indemnity of .such members of this House as have volunteered, or may volunteer, for service in the North West, and whose services have -been or may be accepted, should be paid on their departure from Ottawa.

That resolution in its terms clearly involved the expenditure of money. Taking

the general view, it does seem to me that if the House were unduly to restrict hon. members in moving motions of this character it would serve to circumscribe debate to a very marked degree, because after all very few resolutions are moved which would not in themselves, if carried into effect, involve the expenditure of public money. It seems to me that the better principle would be to widen the rule as much as possible in order that the sense of the House may be taken upon these matters, it being understood in all cases that these resolutions merely involve an expression of opinion on the part of the House and that they do not affect the constitutional method of placing upon the Government the responsibility of initiating all legislation which has for its object the expenditure of money. Therefore, under all these circumstances,

I must rule that the resolution is in order.

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UNION

William Findlay Maclean

Unionist

Mr. W. F. MACLEAN:

(South York): I just wish to say that from my long experience in the House I think your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is absolutely in the right direction, and does protect freedom of debate. But there is a feature of the subject we are now discussing as to which we should have some information, and perhaps the Government will now tell us why the work has been stopped and give us good reason for such action. I think that is the most important consideration for the moment and I would like to have some information on the matter, if that be possible, at this stage of the debate.

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UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member understands that he has exhausted his right to speak.

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UNION
UNION

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Unionist

Hon. J. D. REID (Minister of Railways) :

I would like to say a few words on this resolution. The hon. member for Nelson (Mr. Campbell) stated that the building of the Hudson Bay railway was a plank in the platform of both parties for a number of years. That is true. The railway was commenced by the previous Government, and the work was continued by the Administration of Sir Robert Borden from the time he assumed office in 1911 until the cessation of operations on account of the war. The hon. member must therefore understand that the Government did proceed with the work, and carried it on just as quickly as possible until the project, in common with others, had to be temporarily discontinued at the time of the war. The hon. member also stated that

he could not understand why the work could not be proceeded with and that he could not get any sufficient reason for it. The reason has been given him from time to time. The financial conditions of this country are such that we have been prevented from proceeding not only with the Hudson Bay railway but many other projects. Those financial conditions are entirely different now from what they were in 1910 when the construction of the railway was begun. There is another important fact to be borne in mind. The construction of many other railways in the Prairie Provinces was commenced prior to the war, and it is necessary that these lines should be extended and completed. Quite a few members from the West are pressing for railway extension in their respective constituencies and rightly so for the reason that many settlers are living thirty, forty, fifty and even sixty miles away from a railway. I had a deputation from one of those constituencies yesterday asking for the carrying out of pledges that were made ten, twelve or fifteen years ago. The farmers who composed that deputation told a tale that was really very pitiful respecting the hardships from which they suffered for want of railway communication.

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UNION

John Archibald Campbell

Unionist

Mr. CAMPBELL:

Will the minister

give one or two instances of the kind of railways of which he speaks, and also tell us if those have been under construction and abandoned?

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UNION
UNION
UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

If the hon. member desires to ask a question he may do so with the permission of the Minister of Railways, but he is not in order in correcting a statement. However, at a later stage, he will have his opportunity to do so on speaking in reply.

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UNION

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Unionist

Hon. Mr. REID:

The hon. member

states that there have been many deputations and resolutions from boards of trade urging the extension of the Hudson Bay railway. I might also tell him, what I am sure he already knows, that there have been many deputations and resolutions from boards of trade for a great many other extensions of railways in the West, and they all have good cases. They have waited for the construction of railways that were promised them many years ago, and they certainly deserve a great deal of sympathy. I have every confidence in the West, and I believe that all the transportation facilities that can be given to our Prairie Provinces should be granted. Any route whether via the Pacific or via the Hudson Bay railway or via the St. Lawrence, that can be developed to serve the West should be established, but at the present time I cannot see where it is possible for the Government to undertake many of the works that are being asked for. In 1910 when this railway was started it only required about $130,000,000 to cary on the affairs of this country.

What position are we in to-day? Instead of $130,000,000 we are faced with an expenditure of $300,000,000, and then on top of that greatly increased expenditure we have a big annual loss in connection with our National railway system. And that is not a loss that we are going to get rid of for some time. I intend a little later on to go more fully into that feature, but I want

to tell the House now that there is a deficit of at least $20,000,000 per annum on the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Transcontinental that is here to stay for many years, because the earnings are such that we cannot get a sufficient revenue to pay the operating and fixed charges on those roads. Now, it may possibly be that even though there is that deficit it pays the country to have those roads, because we are receiving very large revenues from the industrial and other development along the line of the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Transcontinental. But even though that may be, there is a deficit of $20,000,000 that any Government for many years to come will have to make good in the Estimates. Then there is another portion of the road on which there is a very large deficit this year, and that deficit will continue, although I hope it will decrease from time to time.

But what the hon. gentleman now asks is that the Government go out and borrow money at six per cent interest to complete the Hudson Bay railway, and thereby add further deficits to our National railway system, for undoubtedly if we build that road to Port Nelson and operate it there will be a very much heavier deficit. I cannot for the life of me see how any hon. member could support such a resolution, which really means that I must come to the House for a large sum to expend on the Hudson Bay railway this session. If the Minister of Finance (Sir Henry Drayton) could supply more money for the construction of railways during the present year, I want to say frankly that I would use it to extend some of the railways in the West to the territories where the people have been suffering so long from lack of railway accommodation, instead of continuing the Hudson Bay railway through a country where there are no settlers at all at the present time. That is the policy I would carry out. Therefore, while I am in sympathy with the construction of the Hudson Bay railway, I must ask that the matter be deferred until financial conditions are better than they are at present. When that time arrives, the Government should proceed with the work and carry it to a conclusion, and also carry out a policy of trying to connect Port Nelson with Liverpool by ships that must be specially built for that route. That being the case, I certainly oppose the resolution and hope the hon. member will withdraw it; if he does not, I hope the House will reject it.

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. W. D. EULER (North Waterloo):

Mr. Speaker, it is not my purpose to discuss this resolution at any length, because I cannot pretend to have any very extensive knowledge of the matter under debate. I quite understand the desire of western members to have this road built, but I am not so sure that the carrying out of the project would be as great a benefit to the country as a whole as it would be to the western provinces in particular.

I may say at the outset that if the Minister of Railways (Mr. Reid) had stated to the House that the Government had definitely decided not to continue the construction of that railway, at any time, I believe he would have met the wishes of a large majority of the people of Canada. We have spent already on that road something like twenty-one millions of dollars, and we have practically nothing for it. We are told that the harbour at Port Nelson, which has been under construction, is an impossible harbour in any case. Some six or seven million dollars have already been expended there, I am informed, and have been practically thrown away.

The member for Nelson (Mr. Campbell) has referred to a report that was made by the Canadian Senate during the past year. I read that report with considerable interest when it was sent to me some months ago, and after doing so I could hardly understand why the committee reported in favour of the construction of this railway. There can be only two main objects for the construction of this road; both were mentioned by the member for Nelson. One was that it would develop and open up the country which is contiguous to the Hudson bay; that minerals would be developed, and so on. I agree entirely with the Minister of Railways that if this is the only reason for the construction of the road, the money might better be expended in affording transportation facilities to people in the West who are more entitled to them. The other reason given is that it would provide the means of transporting overseas the grain of the West. Now, in order to do that without great loss, transportation must be possible over a very considerable portion of the year. The hon. member for Nelson stated that the Hudson straits were open some four months every year, possibly five months. I have not had time to look up all the extracts bearing upon that in the report of the Senate committee. I quote, however, from "Authorities quoted and Extracts of Opinions," on page 11 of the report:

Captain Anderson says as to safe navigation during the summer season, year by year, the question is open to individual opinion. The seasons vary considerably. Some are excellent and some are bad. Navigation in Hudson bay may be relied upon from the 15th of July until the 15th of October, with an extension of a week at either end according to the season.

At the most, that would be a period of about, three months. I quote further:

Mr. Harling says, for the three midsummer months, any ordinary vessel could navigate the Hudson bay and straits with comparative safety.

Herbert B. Saunders says that in his opinion the season under ordinary conditions should open about August 1, and vessels can remain in safety at Port Nelson until October 27, which practicaly gives a working season of three calendar months.

And so on. Then, there is an opinion here to which I attach considerable weight. Mr. O'Hara, Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce, says:

Experiences in navigating Hudson bay widely vary. One captain has a favourable voyage and reports few difficulties, and naturally is very optimistic as to the route. Another has a bad voyage and his opinion is entirely the reverse. Some ships have come safely through, though at times, from ice or heavy weather, they report having been in serious situations.

Then he adds:

In all the reports, however, the utmost caution appears to have been the sole cause of a successful outcome. Difficulties in the nature of magnetic variations, varying currents, ice, fog, heavy gales and heavy seas are not infrequently referred to in the reports of Hudson Bay navigators. These conditions may not be so bad as they actually appear and may be regarded by navigators as all being in the nature of their day's work. Tet, it is sufficient to make one hesitate to take a favourable view of that route, even allowing for more than ordinary conditions of navigation.

The last sentence, in the opinion of the deputy minister, should make every member hesitate before committing this country to further doubtful expenditure on this railway. In view of the evidence adduced before the committee it is rather surprising to me that the committee does recommend the construction of the railway.

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UNI L

John Flaws Reid

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. REID (Mackenzie) :

May I ask the hon. gentleman if he will read the evidence of Captain Wakeham, on page 11?

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

Yes, I will read that also if you like. I am not saying that these opinions all coincide, I have read three extracts which state that the period of navigation would be three months. I will read Captain Wakeham's opinion; I do not even know what it is and do not de-

sire to suppress anything. I quote from the report:

Captain Wakeham says that he agTees with Captain Gordon in fixing- the date for the opening of navigation !n Hudson strait for commercial purposes by suitable vessels at from the 1st to the 10th of July. I consider that navigation should close from the 15th to the 20th October.

That also would be only three months; that bears out the opinions which I have already quoted. But under all the circumstances, with these opinions varying as they do, I think it is fair to assume that year in and year out one could not even count upon three months of safe navigation. Indeed, you cannot, according to the opinion of the Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce, count on any particular period when navigation is reasonably safe. But even if under the most favourable conditions ships can navigate through Hudson straits for three months of the year, while I am not a marine man and know very little about shipping or the cost of doing business of that kind, I question very much whether ships can be operated profitably on that route for such a short period of time. I question very much whether these vessels carrying grain to Europe would have a return cargo in any case; and if they are to be constructed so as to be in a position to navigate these straits in safety they must have a special construction which, I understand, reduces their carrying capacity something like twenty-five per cent and necessarily increases the freight cost.

That brings me to another point of supreme importance at this time; it has been mentioned by the Minister of Railways. Even if this road were built, even if it did relieve to some extent the situation in the West, and even if it did assist in the carrying out of the grain, although it would not carry out the grain in the same season in which it is produced, I believe it would show a tremendous deficit. Sir, we have come to the point where we do not want, with our eyes open, to increase the deficits that are now being shown by the National railways. Another reason why I would oppose this resolution is that I am one of the few members, counting members not only on this side but on the other side, who are favourably disposed towards public ownership of railways. The National railways are showing tremendous deficits and the fact of those deficits is being used day by day by those who are interested, and others, as an argument against public ownership; not fairly, in my opinion, and if we add to the National railways deliberately, railways which can show nothing but a deficit, then we are damning the cause of public ownership for a generation or two, and I for one would not like to see that. I believe, therefore, the continuance of the construction or * the completion of this road would be merely throwing good money after bad. It is of no particular consequence to me whether the construction of the road was begun or continued by a Liberal Government or a Conservative Government; in fact, I am inclined to think that both parties were perhaps playing a bit of politics as regards the western country, but I am not concerned with that. This House should now consider whether this road is in the interest of the people of Canada as a whole, whether it is going to be a paying proposition and if it is not, then we should cut it out without any consideration.

The hon. member for Nelson (Mr. Campbell) has thrown out a suggestion that there are special interests opposed to the construction of this railway. I do not know what he means by that, but I know he will believe me when I say that as regards myself, there is nothing of that kind at all. The opinions I have formed are from reading reports and public discussions and discussions in the press. I do -not claim to have any particular authority to speak on this question, but that is my opinion as I have given it. As I stated a moment ago, I am one of the few members of this House who are in favour of public ownership of railways; but if there is one road that I would like to see private interests take up and construct, it is the Hudson Bay railway. There is little likelihood of that, for private interests are too shrewd to entertain the thought. I wish the Government, instead of making the announcement that it is merely postponing construction, would state that the Hudson Bay railway cannot be considered a practical enterprise and that it is definitely abandoned.

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L LIB

Thomas Vien

Laurier Liberal

Mr. THOMAS VIEN (Lotbiniere):

Mr. Speaker, there are, in the resolution of my hon. friend (Mr. Campbell), two words which make the discussion of it more than an academic one. Those two words are to be found in the third line of the resolution which reads:

Should he resumed as early "this year" as possible.

What the hon. gentleman wants is that this House should commit itself to a recom-

mendation to the Government that this, work should be carried out this year. With that feature of the resolution, I am afraid I cannot agree. We understand clearly the objects which prompted the hon. gentleman and his friends from the Prairie Provinces in advocating the construction of the Hudson Bay railway. The farmers in this country wish to cheapen production and also to cheapen transportation, and in this respect, they are on sound economic grounds. If all the other industries of Canada would, like the farmers, try to cheapen production and also to cheapen transportation, such action would be greatly in the interest of the country. If the Government would develop our natural resources, and particularly our waterpowers, giving the latter as a grant to city industries, this would offset the necessity for protection of city industries, and would thereby facilitate this Government taking measures to protect the farming industry just as well as other industries of the country. But I do not believe the remedy advocated by the hon. gentleman would be of much avail in obtaining for people of the West the relief for which they are looking. We have in this country a vast system of railways, a considerable portion of which has been nationalized and is under Government control. Unfortunately, it has not been put to the best advantage to which it could be put. For instance, I think the Transcontinental railway is not taken full advantage of, and if the Government or the business managers of the Canadian National railways would look into the matter a bit more seriously I think they would find their way clear to assist the western farmers greatly in cheapening the transportation of their products and also in settling various problems which embarrass them in the marketing of their goods.

Many opinions have been cited already by previous speakers. I think nobody will question the authority of a great navigator who was also heard in the investigation on this matter. I speak of the Arctic explorer, Captain Bernier. What did he say, and he is corroborated by other witnesses who have already been quoted? Not only does he say that the navigation season by the Hudson bay route would be limited to three months, but he states that it would be impossible to use that route except with specially constructed ships. I quote from his evidence at page 39 of the report:

About the end of October dee comes down

and closes the straits so that after October there

[Hr. Vien.]

is danger of the iship meeting that old ice during a gale. It is very important that ships should be built especially for ice navigation. The Pram was built for ice navigation and survived. The Guss, afterward called the Arctic, is a ship that has done eleven years and is now as good as ever; also the Roosevelt. These ships were built especially for ice navigation, and they have stood the test, they have done their work, and they are .proofs that for navigating in Hudson hay and the Arctic ocean, where there lare .four different kinds of ice it is necessary to have ships especially built for ice navigation. It is a mistake-

I wish to emphasize this:

It is a mistake to send in tramp steamers. They may sometimes hit a piece of ice, and if it is old ice the ship is done for. The ship should be double-framed forward and have thicker plates. .

As to the length of the navigation season Captain Bernier says:

I think, with properly constructed vessels, you could navigate from the 15th of June untii the 1st of November.

I doubt very much if in the face of these facts, established as they are by unquestionable evidence of navigators who know what they are talking about this House should recommend the Government to undertake at this juncture under the present financial conditions of the country further expenditure on this project. I would favour this project if it were clearly shown that it would relieve the situation for the western farmer, but I do not believe that it would afford him proper relief. After constructing the road, you would have to secure specially constructed ships to provide transportation from the end of the rails to the European ports. The argument has been made, and if it were sustained by sufficient evidence it would have some force that the natural resources of the district to be traversed by the Hudson Bay railway would more than offset the sinking fund and interest on the investment, but if we are to take the statement just given to the House by the Minister of Railways, my hon. friend is flatly contradicted in that respect. The minister has just told the House that he tried to put on a twice-a-week service.

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UNION
L LIB

Thomas Vien

Laurier Liberal

Mr. VIEN:

I should be very glad to

hear from the hon. member when he speaks again, anything which would justify me in changing my opinion, because I am absolutely in sympathy with the farming class of Western Canada in their efforts to cheapen the transportation cost of their products. But surely in the case of a

resolution involving such a large expenditure of money as this, we should look at the matter in the light of facts as established by unquestionable evidence.

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March 16, 1921