His lieutenant places on the order paper a resolution which says that notwithstanding the Board of Railway Commissioners, nothwithstanding the statute .that deals with the railways of this country and that permitted the commission to deal with rates absolutely with the Exception of certain special cases, that we should come in here and undertake to interfere and disregard the Railway Commission altogether. It is an absolute change of policy. Last year it was, leave everything to the commission. This year, play politics for British Columbia and leave nothing to the commission. That is the position my right hon. friend stands in today.
My right hon. friend is at his old game; he knows the value of consistency too well. My right hon. friend is in this position: Last year he
solemnly asked this parliament to commit itself to the proposition that there should be no intereference with the Railway Commission. This year he puts his lieutenant up to ask us to absolutely interfere with and disregard the Railway Commission.
Oh, because we did last year? Why, my right hon. friend has been talking for the last two years, day in and day out, about consistency to the extent of even excluding any of his followers from talking about it. Now we have a wonderful exhibition. The changed condition of my right hon. friend is a wonderful exhibition of consistency: Leave everything to the Railway Commission last year; leave nothing to it this year. That is where my right hon. friend stands. What does the resolution mean? My hon . friend from Burrard (Mr. Clark) had a resolution on the order paper all during the session to this effect:
That, in the opinion of this House, railway rates westward from the prairie provinces should be reduced to an equality with railway rates eastward from said provinces for similar goods and distances.
Nothing about the Crowsnest pass agreement there; but in order to carry out the policy of my right hon. friend that there should be no interference with the Railway
Commission the hon. member for Burrard, in amendment to a motion to go into supply, moves a resolution which declares that what is known as the "mountain scale" of railway rates in British Columbia should be removed, and secondly that the Crowsnest pass railway rates on grain and flour should be made applicable to the whole of Canada.
In terms it is. At any rate I will quote the other resolution. The one which I have just read deals with two subjects. The second resolution is thus worded:
That, in the opinion of this House all unfair and unjust discrimination against British Columbia, as exemplified in the "mountain scale" of freight rates should be rescinded-
Practically the same thing, only a change of language-
-and the special reduction made by the restoration , of the Crowsnest pass rates on the basic productions of the prairie provinces be extended to the basic productions of all other provinces of confederation.
My hon. friend for Burrard consulted somebody between twelve o'clock this morning and three o'clock this afternoon. The resolution I first read was the resolution which was sent by the hon. member to the Acting Minister of Railways. This is a quick change of policy on the part of this wonderful party. They completely reverse their policy solemnly resolved on last year, which was supported by my hon. friend from West York (Sir Henry Drayton) in a strong argument. All this goes to the winds, and again a policy inaugurated at twelve o'clock in the morning is changed at three o'clock in the afternoon.
The whole burden of my right hon. friend's attack was this: There was something done about the Crowsnest pass rates last year. Because there was something of that kind done you committed a horrible crime, and you now propose to say British Columbia must have her rates dealt with regardless of the Railway Commission or of what the law may be, and we will commit the same crime. That is the policy of my right hon. friend, and he undertook to argue with his usual ingenuity that the provisions of the act of 1897 relating to
what is known as the Crowsnest pass agreement had not been maintained in existence or specially preserved because of the fact that the Railway Commission came into existence. I was very much surprised at my right hon. friend's argument on that point. All he needed to have done was to have turned up the statute passed in 1903 which dealt with the agreements which were to be preserved, and he would have found the provision clearly set forth as follows:
Unless otherwise expressly provided in this act, where the provisions of this act and of any special act passed by the parliament of Canada relate to the same subject matter the provisions of the special act shall be taken to override the provisions of this act in so far as is necessary to give effect to such special act.
Could there be anything more definite, anything more clear laid down in the statutes -that the provisions of the Crowsnest pass agreement were to override the provisions of the general act relating to railways? I will cite the testimony of a witness on the point (Sir Henry Drayton), a gentleman who has had some experience in regard to railway matters. I would like to call this gentleman as a witness to substantiate the position which I have ventured to take in regard to this matter and also to show how the arguments the right hon. gentleman was advancing this afternoon and evening contrast with those of his desk-mate because that gentleman dealing last year with the question said in this House:
We have had the very limited rate regulation imposed by this agreement in place of the broad and full regulation given under the Railway Act. The agreement here only has to be considered because under the scheme of the drafting of our general railway act, all the conditions of special acts are made to over-ride the general provisions of the Railway Act and to that extent limit its provisions.
My hon. friend went on to say that it was on account of the provisions of the statute of 1903, which preserved intact the Crowsnest pass agreement that parliament was dealing with that very question. My right hon. friend can turn up the debates of last year and see the arguments of his desk-mate.
My right hon. friend did not say that this afternoon. He was arguing that because the provisions of the Crowsnest pass statute were not preserved this government committed a great wrong last year in infringing upon the powers
of the Railway Commission and providing the legislation that parliament passed; and because this government did that my right hon. friend says this year that British Columbia and every other province can come in irrespective of what the law may be to-day. That is my right hon. friend's position; there can be no mistake about that. As a matter of law there can be no doubt that since 1903, since the Act constituting the Railway Commission was passed in this country, under the powers of the commission in regard to freight rates-so far as the territory covered by the Crowsnest pass agreement so-called was concerned-the commission had no power to interefere with the provisions of that special act, and not having any power to deal with the matter parliament had to determine whether or not the provisions of that act should be suspended and if so in what degree. It so decided, as is very well known, and my right hon. friend bases his whole position in favour of this resolution of his colleague upon the fact that we did that last year; we violated some holy law; we infringed upon the powers of the Railway Commission; and that consequently British Columbia can come in and do the same thing although it had no Crowsnest pass agreement.
So also in regard to the Manitoba agreement. My right hon. friend is too good a lawyer not to know that when Manitoba came here with the Canadian Northern Railway Company with an agreement to be ratified in 1901 and submitted to parliament the act they did submit, the conditions which were attached at that time by this parliament to the provisions of that agreement were such as were only fair and proper. Let me sav also that if the province of Manitoba and the Canadian ^Northern Railway Company did not choose to accept those conditions they did not have to come here to get legislation. But they did come, both parties came to an agreement, they accepted those conditions and those conditions were in force from 1903 on To-day my right hon. friend, after a lapse of twenty years, says that the bond must be broken; that notwithstanding the fact that parliament imposed those conditions twenty years ago we must disregard them because parliament permitted the Crowsnest pass railway rates to come into effect last year. That is my right hon. friend's position when you analyze it. I would like to remind my hon. friend for Burrard in regard to his claim that British Columbia lost its control over C.N.R. rates by the action of this parliament and that the person who took away from that province its right to interfere with rates was
the right hon. gentleman who is his leader. So that is the situation in which the hon. gentlemen opposite stand in regard to the matter.
Where do we stand on the whole question? The province of British Columbia has not the Crowsnest pass agreement to protect it. She stands like all the other provinces of the Dominion, subject to the provisions of the general Railway Act which deals with the way in which freight rates shall be fixed in this country, and the method by which they should be fixed, as parliament knows, is to go to the Railway Commission, and thence by appeal from that Railway Commission to the Privy Council. Let me remind hon. members what took place, Mr. Speaker. The British Columbia government, speaking through their Attorney General, and speaking formally for the people of that province, petitioned the Railway Commission, under the provisions of the act, and asked them to take up this question. The people of British Columbia went to the tribunal, but I fear-although I do not want to charge any bad faith-that my hon. friends have come here not so much with the idea of coming to a proper tribunal, but with the idea of making a little political gain out of it. That is so plain, in view of the situation, that there can be no answer to it. What occurred? The Railway Commission dealt with this matter fully and completely and delivered judgment on the 30th June, 1922. Then they came to the Privy Council of Canada, and they came in these terms:
The petitioner the Attorney General of the province of British Columbia, acting on behalf of the province of British Columbia, hereby appeals, by way of petition under section 52 of the Railway Act of Canada and asks thait that order be varied, and in part rescinded.
They set out twenty-two grounds upon which it should be varied or in part rescinded, and those grounds involved questions of law and fact. They involved the constitutional question whether the terms of union with British Columbia should be carried out, and various other suggestions as to the effect and the weight of evidence, and as to the law which should be applied in dealing with this matter, which inevitably involves the exercise of judicial discretion by the tribunal before which they came. Let me say, however, with the greatest respect for the decision you arrived at, Mr. Speaker, as to whether this motion was in order that I regard the functions which the Privy Council have to perform as being purely judicial. It is well settled law in this country that the king is present in the Privy Council and we inherit by precedent all the powers which the Imperial Privy
Council have exercised. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was a development in Britain from original powers of the Imperial Privy Council and it was specially created for the purpose of dealing with questions of appeals to the council. My hon. friend may laugh at my argument, but I want to say to him that I would be very glad if it were necessary for the purpose of dealing with this question to discuss that matter at length. I could suggest to him some authorities which he has perhaps forgotten. However I do not want to be dragged into a question of that kind.
The provisions of the statute, and all matters that can be determined upon the appeal by the Privy Council, are of such a character that they demand the closest possible attention and a great amount of research, and the approaching of the consideration of the matter with those feelings with which any judge should be animated in endeavouring to do that which was fair, proper and right in the interests of the whole country. My hon. friend the former chairman of the Railway Commission last year pointed out the danger of any tribunal or any body attempting to deal with the question of railway freight rates without the fullest inquiry, with special reference to the costs of railway transportation, and yet his right hon. leader had the temerity to come to this House and, after an afternoon's debate, without any investigation, on a short statement such as we have been given here, to say that the Railway Commission did not know what they were talking about, that the whole rate question should be decided in this discussion. I believe that the right thinking people of British Columbia and Canada generally will be prepared to wait for that full and complete investigation which the Privy Council of this country will give to this appeal. It is conceded that this question was adjourned until after the session when it will be dealt with, as agreed with the petitioner the Attorney General of British Columbia, who is the legally constituted representative of the province for the purpose of instituting legal proceedings. And the government will approach the consideration of this matter with absolutely open and fair minds with the desire of doing that which is in the best interests of Canada as a whole.
The resolution before the House has two parts to it; one part refers specifically to a
longstanding grievance of a province and asks' for a statement or declaration by parliament that this grievance be removed. The second portion of the resolution asks parliament to declare that a certain action taken last year, giving certain advantages to a section of the country, should be extended to the whole of Canada. It has been held from time immemorial, as declared, Sir, by your ruling this afternoon, that the time for the people of the realm to submit their grievances to parliament and for parliament to hear and consider those grievances is when the motion i3 made for the House to go into Committee of Supply.
We have just listened for a very short time to the new minister without portfolio (Mr. Macdonald, Pictou). I take this occasion, the first I have had, of publicly congratulating my hon. friend upon having at last attained a longstanding ambition. Nevertheless, I want to say to him, as an old friend and associate in this House, that he scarcely did himself justice in the very brief but laboured argument which he has just concluded. I shall not deal with it more than for a few moments. First, I will remind him that it ill behooves the kettle to call the pot black. He rather twitted my right hon. leader (Mr. Meighen) with inconsistency. With that I will deal in a moment, but I would remind the hon. member that last year, in the special Railway Committee having this question under consideration, he fought day in and day out, and night in and night out, away into the wee sma' hours of the morning on one occasion at least, for a certain position that he had maintained, with a few others in his party and with some on the other side of the House, and supported a resolution in that committee for the continued suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement. It was stated through the House and the corridors that if he did not have his way there was going to be an upheaval amongst the supporters of the government, and there was, at least, a miniature revolt. Now he comes before the House to-day and puts up, as I have already said, an argument scarcely befitting his ability and experience in this House in support of the weak position the government find themselves in.
Before leaving my hon. friend's remarks, let me refer to what he said regarding my right hon. leader. He attempted to show that the right hon. gentleman this year is inconsistent with his position last year. Last year we stood behind the right hon. gentleman and declared ourselves in the form of an amendment to the resolution, and we stood behind this principle: That the Railway Commission, the properly constituted
body, should be the body to determine railway rates. We stood there then, and we stand there to-night. But, Mr. Speaker, parliament, under the leadership, if not under the dictatorship of the government, departed from that principle, abandoned that position and arbitrarily fixed rates in defiance of law, or, at least, what was law previous to that, in defiance of this acknowledged principle and in absolute defiance of the Railway Commission and its-long recognized power. That is the answer to my hon. friend. Now we come to parliament to-day and we say this -and I shall risk wearying the House by reiteration of what I have already said- " Restore untrammelled, unhampered and free, the jurisdiction of the Railway Board ", or if you will not do that then we say, " Extend this rate-fixing power that you exercised last-year to adjust grievances that we claim exist There is a reason for that. I invite the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) particularly to give consideration to this reason.