I will go further. The meetings of that committee were always open to the members of this House, and there have been instances where members who were not members of the committee itself asked permission of the committee to address certain remarks and questions to those who were present on behalf of the National Railways, and in no case were they refused. I do not think there is any danger whatever, if the committee is reconstituted, that such permission will be refused. In addition to that, all the evidence brought before the committee was printed by permission of the House and was spread upon the records for the information of every member. Something has been said about the Canadian Pacific Railway issuing an illuminating report every year for the information of its shareholders. The National Railways issue a similar financial statement
each year, and I think it is fully as illuminating as that issued by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Canadian Pacific management do not spread all the affairs of their railway before the public for their competitors to take advantage of, and I do not think any member of this House who has the real interests of public ownership at heart should ask the management of the National Railways to do something in that particular which the Canadian Pacific management would not do.
Mr. Speaker, I rather concur in this resolution. It seems to me it is quite proper that these estimates should go before a special committee of the House, particularly as the resolution contains this proviso:
That nothing in this resolution shall be construed to curtail in any way the full right of discussion in committee of Supply.
I should like to see the government go a step further and refer all the estimates to a special committee of the House.
I believe, Sir, that a great saving of the time of the House could be accomplished in that way. Departmental officers when their estimates were up could be called before that special committee. To me it has always been absurd when a minister of the crown was being asked all sorts of questions, some pertinent, others not, on matters affecting his department-which in many cases he could not be expected to know-to see his deputy, who naturally is familiar with the affairs of his department, compelled to whisper the information to his minister, who repeated it to the House, his deputy not being allowed to give the information direct. I believe in many departments of the government we would get more information and save a great deal of the time of the House if the estimates were dealt with by a special committee.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may be permitted to add a word. I had no intention of starting a debate in moving this resolution. I had been informed by members on both sides of the House that the special committee appointed in the past few years to deal with government railway matters had been satisfactory and had been the means of placing much valuable information before the House and the country. The resolution as it stands on the order paper is in exactly the same form as the resolution which was adopted on former occasions. May I point out, Sir, that so far from restricting
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the members of this House, the resolution provides in addition to the ordinary machinery a special committee for the purpose of going into the complex details of National railway financing. It in no way reduces the opportunities of members to secure information; on the contrary, it rather widens them. In this connection I should like to call attention to the proviso referred to by the hon. member for East Hamilton (Mr. Mewburn):
Provided, however, that nothing in this resolution shall be construed to curtail in any way the full right of discussion in committee of Supply.
The whole machinery of the House still remains, but in addition to that machinery a small committee of men, selected by agreement between the party whips, is given the special task of going into the very complex matters connected with the administration of our National railway system and the Canadian merchant marine. Surely it is apparent to business men that a small body dealing with these very complex matters can do so more effectively than the whole House.
The matter of refusal of information I endeavoured to deal with yesterday. I admit its difficulty, as every previous Minister of Railwaj'S has admitted it. I might perhaps by way of illustration call attention to a question which is now on the order paper referring to the National railways, if it is in order for me to do so, Sir.
Is It the intention of the Canadian National Railways to purchase St. Paul's church .property and a number of other properties in the vicinity for terminals?
Let us assume, Mr. Speaker, a question of that sort being answered in advance of the deal for the property being consummated, does any member think for a moment that the publication of such information would not be prejudicial to the interests of the railway, supposing such a deal was intended? It is manifest on the face of it.
Paragraph 3 of question 16. I use it merely as an illustration. There may be parts of the question which are quite proper. From what I have heard from members on both sides of the House regarding the proceedings of this committee in former sessions, I understand that it operates in exactly the same manner as any other committee of the House. While, strictly speaking, hon. gentlemen who are not members of the committee have not the right to ask ques-
tions, they can and do, as in the case of all other committees, submit their questions to the parties who are being examined through the medium of a colleague who is a member of the committee.
I moved the resolution, Sir, merely because I am informed that it has been found in the past a satisfactory method of dealing with the affairs of the National Railways and merchant marine. I repeat, the resolution in no way restricts the liberties of hon. members or the ordinary procedure, but rather adds to the machinery of the House and makes it more efficient in dealing with this very important matter.
Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the Minister that representation on the proposed committee is to consist of six members from this section and nine from the other sections of the House. Why is not representation given to this party according to its parliamentary strength? I might also point out that the present representation is on the basis of eighty-one members from this side of the House.
question of the minister. I understood him to say that he would not give the information regarding the purchase of the electric railway in Montreal because it was not in the public interest, but I may say the price appeared in the Montreal newspapers shortly after the transaction.
quite simple to amend the resolution. Surely it is obvious that several members on this side are desirous of appearing before that committee, and if proper representation were given us certain additional members would have an opportunity of putting their questions before that committee.
May I ask the Minister of Railways if he would be good enough to tell me, having doubt-
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less considered the matter thoroughly, in what way he thinks the passing of estimates will be furthered by this procedure? As I understand it the House is to have full opportunity, as it has at present in regard to other estimates, of discussing each item, and I should be very much obliged if the minister would tell me the functions of this committee in regard to making reports, for example, and in sifting the evidence. Are they to be given some facilities which this House does not enjoy? Otherwise I cannot at the moment see any advantage in having the committee.
I think that would be a proper question for this committee to go into. If passes are being issued contrary to the Railway Act I would like to know it, and it would be stopped. But that is not the question my hon. friend asked me before.
Then I am asked as to the functions of the committee and the value to the House of the committee proceedings. That committee can do what this House in committee cannot do, that is, summon before it the railway officials and direct to them all sorts of questions respecting the operation of the people's railway. More than that, many questions which would arise in committee of the Whole if there were no special committee are cleared up in the proceedings of that special committee, without taking up the time of this House. Very much more time is taken up in a body of 245 men, of course, than is taken up by a smaller committee inquiring into the same question. That, I understand, is the facility provided as a result of previous experience. I believe it has generally been regarded as of value to the House to add this committee to the existing machinery of the House, without in any way limiting the right of members in committee of Supply.