April 18, 1933

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No, but you co-uld not

in a bill give any form or shape to a policy if you limited its application to a particular period of time. I think the hon. member is too familiar with business not to say that is so; particularly when dealing with a large public utility, that one of the dangers in endeavouring to limit the time in which a policy is to be operative is that by so doing you defeat your own end. But the main concern of this board of trustees, I would once more urge upon the committee, which the commission had in mind was to endeavour to secure such administration of this property as would relieve the taxpayers of Canada from paying one million dollars a week.

The other side of it, the humanity side of it which has been mentioned, is left largely to be dealt with by the president and the various officials of the road in conferences with the unions, such as have always taken place and at which adequate measures have been taken for safeguarding the interests of all who might be concerned.

But the great concern of this legislation is to endeavour to provide a body of men of such competence as will ensure that these continuing deficits will vanish. That is the story as I appreciate it and as it has been put to me, and as I understand the whole purpose for which the commission was created and the action taken.

Coming back to the amendment, I submit that it is not the proper form of an amendment to be moved in this house because it asks to put a charge on the revenues of the dominion. The leader of the opposition says that you cannot sharply divide where deficits begin and surpluses end, but we all know the difference between operating revenues and operating expenses, and included in the operating expenses are the salaries of the transportation officials, not. only transportation in the narrow sense but of all those who constitute the personnel operating the railway. It would be an anomalous situation if we appointed a board of trustees and provided that they shall be paid by parliament although operating a system whose revenues under the law they control. I think it is not only out of order to suggest that an amendment be moved by a private member which charges the Finance minister with introducing in parliament an estimate, which is altogether improper as I understand the constitutional workings of our law, but it goes further and would precipitate into this house a discussion from time to time as to whether or not we shall vote to these men every year a sum of money for salaries. Their salaries will undoubtedly be known to everybody. The government under the statute must take the responsibility for fixing those salaries. If they are too high the house will censure the government; if they are not adequate we shall not be able to get the trustees.

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LIB

James Malcolm

Liberal

Mr. MALCOLM:

When I spoke on the

second reading of this bill I said that my principal objection to the legislation was that the Prime Minister had distinctly pointed out what he always points out when he arises, that we are dealing with an emergency, and yet the bill which is to deal with an emergency appoints trustees who cannot be dismissed. If the Prime Minister or the Minister of Railways would incorporate in this legislation a fixed period of time, say five years, within which these men were to be given absolute power, I would support that phase of the legislation very freely, but I do point out to the Prime Minister and to the minister that in this legislation we are just continuing the system we had before under the old act, the system which was criticized in the last parliament, the system by which the directors can spend every dollar of operating revenue which they receive and spend it as extravagantly as they see fit. No one is of the opinion that railway tonnage will remain at its present low level. Everyone believes that general business conditions will improve. When they do improve, and the operating revenues of the railways are sufficiently great, not only should interest be paid to the bondholders, as it was in one or two successful years under the leadership of the late Sir Henry Thornton, but there should be provision for substantial payments towards those moneys which the parliament of Canada has advanced. I contend under this legislation we are appointing these men permanently, and giving them exactly the same power as Sir Henry Thornton had. I contend that this is an emergent situation. Probably if it were private business it would be in liquidation, and if it were in liquidation it would be in the same position as some American roads in connection with which receivers have been appointed. Yet, being guaranteed by the people of Canada, these bonds have to be met; the road being the property of the Canadian people it cannot go into liquidation. Therefore the only alternative is to appoint, one, two, three, four or five men, whatever number the government decides upon, to act as trustees. I object strongly to these trustees being appointed for a continuous period of time. They are not like judges; there can be no comparison between them and judges. A

C.N.R.-C.P.R. Bill

judge is appointed to administer the laws which this parliament makes, and all parliament has to do is to change that law. These men are appointed to administer a great national utility, and to administer it with such a free hand that every dollar of revenue they receive may be spent in operating expenses. This parliament or government has no control over them, unless both houses of parliament agree, which is not very likely. I have no doubt the hon. member for Quebec South would withdraw his amendment if these men were appointed for a definite period of years- say five years.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I admit I am surprised at

the attitude taken by the Prime Minister in connection with observations which have been, made from this side of the house. He complains that we have been unduly critical. He urges us to bless this bill, whether it be good or bad. He will recollect, at any rate I know the Minister of Railways will, that when the bill was introduced he besought our cooperation.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

And I did it again tonight.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

We are endeavouring to

give co-operation. On the last occasion when the bill was presented we suggested certain amendments which were discussed and which were accepted to-day. To-day we are pointing out-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Two of them were promised before the house ever went into com-nnittee. It has taken six hours to talk about them.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I am now discussing an

amendment which provides that the Board of Railway Commissioners shall have some control over the 'tearing up of branch lines. To the best of my knowledge-and I followed the debate on this bill very closely-there was no such promise made.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It was stated section 23 applied; that must relieve any doubt.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

It was argued at great

length by the Prime Minister that section 23 did apply. Evidently he is not quite sure of it. We will now find some of the theories laid down by the Prime Minister with respect to ithe board of trustees of which he is not quite sure, either. A great many of us are not quite sure that we agree with him on the position he takes. He has said the proposal we were making was something new. Since when is it new for the parliament of Canada to have oontrol over moneys ex-

pended and derived from the taxpayers? Since when is it new for the House of Commons to know what salaries are being paid for the administration of its property?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No one has said there

is any objection to knowing what they are.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Surely the Prime Minister

is not serious when he tells us we ought to be satisfied to know what they are. After all our duty as members is to see that the moneys raised from the taxpayers are spent in the interests of those taxpayers, and our further duty is to oontrol the expenditure of that money. If there is anything new in the present situation, then it is a new position which is now being created. These men mentioned in the bill are called trustees; we are told they are not directors. As the right hon. gentleman pointed out, directors are elected annually. If shareholders are not satisfied with the directors they do not reeleot them. As a general rule trustees are under the control of a court. In 'the present instance, however, we have an example of a new species of administrator. We are setting up a railway dictator, or possibly three railway dictators. We are giving them seven yeans in which to operate, and providing that of their own volition their offices may be self-perpetuating. We are giving them practically perpetual control over property belonging to the people of Canada. The Prime Minister 'has said we may repeal the act. I know, and we all know, that the very moment any proposal is made to repeal the act or to repeal that section of it, we will be told that the national honour is at stake. Section 7 of the bill states:

No trustee shall be removed from office, nor suffer any reduction in salary, during the term for which he is appointed, unless for assigned cause and on address of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada.

I suggest this is a contract which the parliament of Canada enters into with trustees, and by that contract we cannot remove them. Let us suppose that two of the trustees wish to reduce their salaries, but that the third man declines, and states, "There can be no reduction of my salary." We could not do it, and the other trustees could not do it. A change could be made only for assigned cause and on address of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada. I submit the proposal which we are making, namely that the salaries should in some way be within the control of the House of Commons of Canada, is reasonable and logical, and is not new. There is nothing revolutionary about it, and the suggestion represents one of the fundamental rights of parliament.

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C.N.R.-C.P.R. BUI


The Prime Minister states he wishes to place these men above all suspicion of political interference. In that connection I wish to repeat what I said on another occasion, namely that the Duff commission did not find that under the former regime, or the present one, officials were interfered with either by ministers or by members of parliament in connection with the detailed operations of the road. I assume that if the new trustees to be appointed are men of as high calibre as those who were made directors, those trustees will not be interfered with, either. But the serious political interference comes in when branch lines are unloaded, and that interference can be carried on when the trustees are appointed and when-


CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

There are not any branch lines left; they have all been taken up.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

When the matter was under discussion before I pointed out that there was the Temiscouata railroad, and the Pacific Great Eastern, which is worth about $50,000,000.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Without the sanction and guarantee of parliament they could not take over a railway.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

That is the point I am trying to make. Parliament could foist on these trustees any branch line railway now independently existing in Canada.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Not if the trustees did not wish to take it.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

There is nothing to prevent the introduction of a bill providing for the payment for the Pacific Great Eastern or the Temiscouata railway of so many million dollars, and saying that this railway shall belong to the Canadian National system.

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CON

April 18, 1933