January 26, 1937

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Quite so. Their constitution is the result of the deliberations of these great representatives of the four provinces, the Cape, Natal, the Transvaal and the Free State, just as our constitution was assumed to be prepared on the basis of the resolutions which were arrived at after much discussion and consultation between the representatives of the provinces.

May I refer now to my own experience in connection with these matters? When the provinces are represented by their premiers and some of their ministers there is always

a tendency, whether you like it or not, to consider political questions from the narrow rather than the broad angle. Every interprovincial conference which has met in this country has been a political conference; therefore to talk about amendments to this rigid written document, the British North America Act, by the action of a body of men who for the moment represent merely a majority- or sometimes not that-of the electors, is in my judgment an entirely erroneous view, and cannot possibly lead to any adequate solution of the difficulties before us. Therefore I suggest that we have a constitutional convention: a conference at which the provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, would be represented not merely by their premiers but by all who constitute the legislatures of the provinces-not all in number, but such as may be representative of all phases of thought within those legislatures; and the same with respect to Quebec; the same with respect to Ontario and the west. There are in western Canada many schools of political thought; would it be right or fair that there should be a determination of constitutional rights and a limitation of constitutional powers of the provinces if some of those schools of thought found no representation at the conference or convention which modified our constitution?

Then I come to this parliament. In any constitutional convention or conference there should be provision for representation of the various schools of thought represented here; the Prime Minister, his government, the opposition, gentlemen who sit to my left representing other schools of thought. We should then have a constitutional convention or conference in accordance with the general principles which governed the conference that brought into being the British North America Act, the constitution of this country. In other words, we cannot hope to succeed in the modification of our constitution by appealing merely to the partisans in the provinces or in the dominion; for that is what it means if we limit the representatives to the governments of the day. If we are to succeed we must have representatives of the whole of the legislature or parliament, in order that there may be full, free and frank discussion, and that the conclusions arrived at in the form of resolutions may be such as embody the modifications that our experience teaches should be made.

I wonder if there is any hon. member of this house who has any doubt as to the desirability of amendment of the British North America Act. I know of none. I have never talked privately to a member of this house

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Constitutional Conference-Mr. Bennett

who has not agreed that there should be some modification, some amendment. It is for that reason that I make this suggestion.

I have deliberately left out from what I have said any reference to the method to be adopted to accomplish the amendment of the of the constitution. I am not unaware of xne methods followed in Australia and South Africa; they were in sharp variance with our own. That is a matter which may well be discussed, if thought desirable, at such a conference1. But for the purpose that I have in mind at the moment, namely, the preservation of our institutions, I do submit that in this suggestion we have a broad basis of discussion, representation not on a narrow party basis but by all those who axe leaders of- you may call them not parties, but groups, small though they may be; and that the discussion be on such a broad basis as may ensure a successful constitutional conference or convention to effect the measures of reform which in my judgment are essential to the preservation of democracy in Canada- I go just that far. For unless democracy can be as efficient as a dictatorship, it cannot survive. And it cannot be efficient in this country with these sharp conflicts between provincial jurisdiction on the one hand and federal on the other, and the many other matters to which I have referred and to which I could refer at greater length. Our desire to ensure and maintain the success of democracy on the northern part of this continent can in my judgment be made effective only by the government of the day arranging a conference which will ensure such conclusions being arrived at., after consultation and discussion, giving in here and advancing there, as will place our modern political thought, shall I say, on a constitutional basis. For certainly the tendency is everywhere to efficiency in government, and the general view is that efficiency cannot be maintained if you have in nine different areas nine different sets of laws dealing with problems that are national in their scope.

The Minister of Labour desired to ask me a question. I shall be glad now to answer if I can.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I did not propose to take issue with the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) but simply to correct what I assume was an inadvertence on his part when he referred to the Quebec resolutions as having actually been the basis of the British North America Act. In some provinces, as he is well aware, considerable importance is attached to the fact that the Quebec resolutions were followed by the resolutions of

TMr. Bennett.]

the Westminster conference of 1866, which actually I think are set out in Pope's Confederation Documents.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, I am thoroughly familiar with that.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Are they not the basis of the British North America Act?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Mr. Speaker, in my

judgment the Minister of Labour has not accurately expressed the situation. The conference at Quebec was different from the conference at Westminster. The conference at Westminster was limited in its numbers as compared with the conference at Quebec. The conference at Westminster was a conference of give and take in the final discussions that were held between the members who went there to represent Canada and the government at Westminster, just as in " Lord de Villiers and His Times " it is pointed out that he went to England after the resolutions had been arrived at in connection with the Union of South Africa, and modifications were made. Lord Crewe made modifications and changes because he thought the draftsmanship was faulty and should be improved here and there. The resolutions were finally adopted, and the Westminster conclusions were the conclusions arrived at in the hotel as from day to day the members of the delegation from Canada discussed their problems with the British government which had to put the bill through the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

The difficulty was to give legal expression to the resolutions.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Quite so. The draftsmanship, I believe, is said to be that of the late Lord Thring, and it has always been the subject matter of discussion. Sometimes when I read the sections I marvel at the prescience and power of that great draftsman who, out of the resolutions which were before him, created the act we now know as the British North America Act. No one would say that the men who met together at Westminster were the men who were primarily responsible for the adoption of the constitution.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I am not suggesting that.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That was done at Charlottetown and Quebec, and it will be recalled that after the Quebec resolutions were drawn up those who were responsible for them visited Upper Canada, Lower Canada and the lower provinces, and made addresses in various places. Those from the maritime provinces came up here, and you will recall many of their speeches which are contained in the

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Constitutional Conference-Mr. Pouliot

records of one of the Prince Edward Island representatives, Mr. Whelan. He records their visits to Upper Canada and to Lower Canada, as it was then called, and the discussions that took place at that time.

Mr. JEAN-FRANCOIS POULIOT (Temis-couata): Mr. Speaker, I was rejoicing in the fact that the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) was back in this country, but after listening to what I have just heard I am not sure whether he has not made a broadcast from Cape Town or Canberra, whether he has not been speaking from South Africa or Australia, or perhaps from New Zealand.

Five or six years ago, sir, when I was sitting in the corner to your left and when the Liberal party was in opposition, I denounced the policy of the then government when the prime minister acted as a sort of Santa Claus, saying to the provinces and the municipalities, " Come to me and I will give you anything." What did he do? He imposed heavy charges on the provinces and municipalities. After the speeches delivered by the right hon. gentleman during the election of 1930 people were under the impression that the government of Canada was a kind of Santa Claus, that the Bennett government would give plenty of money to every citizen, and that no Canadian would have to work after the election. He promised to take care of every unemployed person, saying. " Come unto me and I will give relief to the unemployed," who were not then unemployed but who wore buttons paid for by the Conservative organization, and who made trouble at meetings addressed by the leader of the Liberal party.

That was the story at that time, sir. Then the right hon. gentleman was creating a false impression throughout the country, leading people to believe that there were many unemployed when there were none. More than that, sir, the Indians who had been on relief for years were considered as unemployed, though the government knew very well that they could do no work. They were unemployable unemployed, but their number was added in order to give a false impression to the country. Afterwards what happened? After the right hon. gentleman had said to the country that he alone could take care of the unemployed and end the unemployment problem, he said to the provinces, " You will pay so much " and to the municipalities, " You will pay so much " and to the railways, " You will pay so much." Thus he imposed on the railways, on the municipalities and on the provinces a heavy burden of responsibility

which he shared to only a small extent. As a result many provinces and municipalities are bankrupt.

I am very glad, sir, to have seen the right hon. gentleman rise in his seat this afternoon and denounce a condition which he created by his own policies from 1930 to 1935. He sees the evil now which we forecast when we were on the other side of the house. We knew what would happen, and now this government has to look after the result of the wrongdoings and shortcomings of the right hon. gentleman, in order to try to make this a country in which Canadians can live happily. That is pretty hard after the five years through which we have passed, from July 1930 to October 1935.

But, sir, I fully agree with the right hon. leader of the opposition when he says there should be an adjustment of taxation. For long enough this government has been considered a kind of Santa Claus. The municipalities go to the provincial governments; then the provincial governments come here and ask the federal government to give them money that comes from ffederal taxation. There is a question appearing on the order paper now which I hope will be answered in Hansard, requesting information, first, as to the revenue derived from each tax during the last five years, and second, how this money has been spent, in order to show the people that the federal government is no Santa Claus, as the right hon. leader of the Conservative party preached during the election of 1930, and as he tried to make the country believe during the years he was in power.

We must come to this, Mr. Speaker: Every Canadian citizen should know what amount he pays in municipal taxation, what amount he pays in provincial taxation and what amount he pays in federal taxation, and every municipality, every province and the federal government should spend only the money received from their own taxation. I am sure this will meet with the approval of the Canadian people. Why do we tax our people in order to give the money to the provinces, who in turn give it to the municipalities?

What is the income of the municipalities? The main part of their income is what they obtain by taxing those who own immovable property. The burden of taxation falls on those people, who are left with no purchasing power after they pay that taxation. The official gazette of each province is full of lists of immovables which are to be sold for taxes. People have no means with which to pay their taxes and their properties are sold. This creates a very acute problem, and it is

Constitutional Conference-Mr. Pouliot

time for an adjustment of taxation. My right hon. friend the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Bennett) sees that now. Why, when he was leader of the government, did he not appoint a committee of the house to study this question of taxation, a matter of the greatest importance to every one of us? It was not done. Before coming to any agreement with a province the first thing to do would be to examine the field of taxation, to see whether or not the taxpayer can be relieved to a certain extent. Then, the next duty would be to see that the municipalities have sufficient sources of income so that they may not have to lean too much on the provinces for subsidies, and that in turn the provinces may have great enough revenues, so that to make both ends meet within their own borders they will not have to lean on the federal exchequer for further subsidies.

This is very simple, in theory, but it may be more difficult to bring about the necessary adjustments. However, as a Canadian citizen I urge upon the house and country the necessity of a careful study of every field of taxation. Who shall be called to that conference? If we call every sitting member of every legislative assembly to meet to discuss the matter, where shall they meet? I say they will meet in the Tower of Babel. That is where they will meet; there would be no understanding.

I believe in the rule of the majority, although some different opinions have been expressed in this chamber; and I fully realize the importance of a modification of the British North America Act. My right hon. friend the hon. member for Calgary West has said that the British North America Act has often been amended since its original passage. That is not exact, and he knows it. The amendments are very few, and are contained in only a few pages of the annex to the statute. Every member knows that, and the right hon. gentleman opposite knows it better than anyone, because he is well posted in the law. He knows it. The amendments to the British North America Act have been only slight and minor.

If we are to study amendments regarding taxation I suggest such study should first be made by a committee of this house, such committee having been given authority to go to the bottom of the matter. There are intelligent members in every party in this chamber, and many hon. members are well qualified to make a thorough study of the matter from the federal point of view. Then, when such committee has reached a conclu-

sion, that conclusion should be sent to every legislature in Canada, because the matter affects the provinces as well as the dominion. The report of the committee of this chamber should be sent to every province, and after having been discussed by each province it should be sent back to Ottawa. After the returns have been received, it would be proper to have a meeting of members of the House of Commons and the Senate, and duly accredited representatives of every province.

We must have order. As a boy at school I remember writing in our copy books "ordo ducit ad Deum"-order leads to God. There is no order now in the way subsidies are granted to the provinces. As soon as the right hon. the leader of the Tory party took office every province came here, as they would have come to Santa Claus, saying "We have a deficit; you Ottawa people must fill it. We cannot make both ends meet; you of the federal government must give us money to fill the gap." That is what happened, and the right hon. gentleman opposite knows it better than anybody else. I am sorry to see him smile; he should cry, because that is his own work. He knows, and every man of ' good faith in this chamber knows, that what I have said is true, and only since the right hon. gentleman was prime minister has there been such disorder in the finances of Canada.

It is time to have order, and such order can be achieved through the good will, experience, intelligence, devotion and earnestness of hon. members who are ready to make a careful study of this most important problem and draw the right conclusions.

After the remarks of the right hon. gentleman opposite I submit the government should first appoint a committee of this house to study through and through the matter of taxation, because the federal government is more interested than provincial, municipal or school authorities. We are more affected because of the grants or subsidies asked when finances are in a bad way either in the provinces or in the municipalities. Competent members of this chamber-and I am sure all are

should be chosen to form a committee to make a close study of the problem, and to report to the provinces and ask their views in the matter. Following that we might have a conference where representatives of provinces might be selected by the legislative bodies. We would have a final and practical report on the matter. Mr. Speaker, that is all I have to say for the time being.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Minister of Justice):

Mr. Speaker, of course we were

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unaware that my right hon. friend (Mr. Bennett) would discuss this matter to-day. I realize it is a most important one, and my remarks must necessarily be general.

I agree with the right hon. gentleman that occasionally there are queer happenings in certain parts of the dominion, and the instance he mentioned of a province claiming sovereignty is certainly one of them. I suggest however that that must not be taken too seriously. I know of happenings in another province which some of our friends in other provinces, and even elsewhere, are perhaps taking too seriously. A few days ago I was amazed to read in a review published in London references to certain speeches which have been made recently in my own province, and making unjustified comments thereon. May I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and through you the House of Commons, that those who have indulged in such speeches do not represent the views and the mentality of the people of my province. We are attached to confederation, as are the other provinces, and certainly are opposed to having nine nations in Canada. We have one nation, the Canadian nation, of which we are proud, and we will see to it, all of us, that Canada is kept and maintained on the road to progress and prosperity.

There is no doubt that changes are required and should be made in our constitution so far as the jurisdictions of the central government and of the provinces are concerned. The fathers of confederation did a great work in 1867, but they worked in the light of conditions as they were seventy years ago. Times have changed; the problems are different; conditions to-day are not what they were seventy years ago. Changes have to be made, and the statesmen of to-day have to harmonize the constitution of Canada in its relation to the jurisdiction of the provinces so that it will conform to the conditions of to-day rather than to the conditions of 1867. But this should be done harmoniously. It is not being disloyal or unfaithful to the memory of Macdonald, Brown, Cartier and the others if we make the necessary changes that will ensure the permanency and continuance of the great work which they have done.

My right hon. friend has mentioned some of the anomalies which exist and some of the difficulties which governments have to meet almost every day in the administration of affairs both in the dominion and in the provincial jurisdiction. The great difficulty-and this has engaged the attention of the courts ever since confederation, and is still engaging it because there are references now before the

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privy council on certain social legislation of this parliament-the great difficulty is the harmonizing of that power in the constitution which gives to the provinces jurisdiction over property and civil rights with that other power which belongs exclusively to the federal parliament with regard to trade and commerce. Most things which concern trade and commerce apply also to property and civil rights, and it is most difficult to determine in which jurisdiction certain specific matters lie. Take the administration of justice. My right hon. friend is right in pointing to the anomalies there. The provinces enact the legislation, create tribunals, fix the number of judges who shall administer justice within their limits, and then the federal government appoints the judges, and this parliament provides for their salaries. There are other matters. Take the prison system. A prisoner is sentenced to twenty-three months in gaol; he goes to a provincial gaol. If he is sentenced to two years, he goes to a federal penitentiary. Of course all this was arbitrarily determined, and certainly some of the difficulties that have arisen are as a result of this arbitrary division of powers and jurisdiction. All these things may be revised if the constitution comes before a conference of the kind suggested by my right hon. friend.

He also mentioned the power of disallowance. This is another very difficult thing. The power of disallowance which is in the constitution has in practice become practically obsolete. The power of disallowance which existed at Westminster with regard to the legislation of this dominion exists no longer because there has been a constitutional convention which has done away with that power. There has been no such convention with regard to the power of disallowance by this dominion of provincial legislation, but in practice the provinces claim full and complete sovereignty within the limits of their legislative sphere, and it is rather difficult to exercise that power of disallowance. There are cases-I will not affirm that they exist at the present time-where it would almost seem that a province would desire that its legislation be disallowed in order to create conflict between the province and the dominion parliament and the dominion government. This renders the power of disallowance almost illusory, you may say.

With regard to financial difficulties, there are some at the present time, and they are engaging the attention of this government to a considerable extent. I can assure my right hon. friend that they have been discussed by this government almost continuously.

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Constitutional Conference-Mr. Lapointe

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I did not suggest that they had not, you know.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

No, I quite realize that. These financial difficulties are so urgent and so pressing that I am afraid their solution could not await any constitutional conference, because some step must be taken in order to prevent what might be rather a danger to the whole of Canada.

As far as amendments to the British North America Act are concerned, I agree with my right hon. friend, and on various occasions in this house, wherever I happened to be sitting,

I have stated that amendments to the British North America Act are necessary and should be made. I also claimed, and I have not changed my view about it, that Canada, as a self-governing dominion, should have the power which other self-governing dominions have to amend its own constitution, subject to the necessary safeguards of certain rights which cannot be ignored. I have already discussed in this parliament the question of a constitutional conference. The first public man to my knowledge who advocated a constitutional conference of the kind suggested by my right hon. friend was Sir Clifford Sifton, who very often claimed that we should have a constitution for the Dominion of Canada, and that it should be the work of a conference representing the dominion and the provinces, with the delegates chosen by the dominion and by the provinces and representing, as my right hon. friend has suggested, the various parties in the dominion and in the provinces as well. No doubt much might be said in favour of such a scheme, and the idea expressed by the leader of the opposition to-day ought to be discussed and considered not only by the members of the house but by all who are interested in these questions, and another occasion should be provided for the purpose of discussing it more fully. In a general way the matter engages the attention of public men, and more particularly of members of this house; for if you consult the order paper you will observe not less than three resolutions affecting the subject we are discussing. There is resolution No. 2 of my hon. friend the member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell), who suggests that a committee of the house be set up for the purpose of recommending amendments to the British North America Act. There is the resolution of the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Church), who also asks for a committee of the house which would consider all the matters that have been referred to this afternoon. There is one by my hon. friend the member for Peace River (Mr. Pelletier) which

asks the appointment of a commission to investigate problems with special regard to western Canada. Of course all this cannot be done this session, but enough has been stated to demonstrate to the house and the country that there is nothing irreverent in talking about amending the British North America Act; that although it is a fine piece of work and has served Canada well, it is not an ark of the covenant which nobody can touch without being punished as a criminal; it is a human device which may be improved, and particularly so because of the changes that have taken place in seventy years. I have no doubt that the disruptive elements to which my right hon. friend alluded will not prevail in the Dominion of Canada, but that we shall continue to be a united country which will in the future, as it has in the past, set an example to the other dominions and the rest of the world.

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REC

Henry Herbert Stevens

Reconstruction

Hon. H. H. STEVENS (Kootenay East):

While I naturally endorse and welcome the eulogy contained in the closing remarks of my hon. friend the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) as applied to the Dominion of Canada, I think it would be unfortunate if a matter of this tremendous import should be dismissed even with words so eloquent as those he has just uttered. This subject appeals to me not so much from the legal or constitutional standpoint as from that of the welfare of a vast proportion of the people of Canada. It would be folly for us to blind our eyes to the very serious problems with which this country is confronted. Perhaps I am putting it too strongly, but I will venture the thought that underlying all this trouble is the constant wrangle over the question of jurisdiction; at least that is seized upon continually as an excuse for inaction. People appeal to their provincial legislatures for redress of wrongs which they conceive it to be within the powers of the legislature to right. The leaders of the legislative assemblies reply that it is a subject which comes under the powers of the dominion. If I may be permitted a colloquialism or slang phrase, what is known as " passing the buck " is an expression very closely applicable to what has been going on in this country for many years.

I believe the suggestion made by the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) is one that should engage our most earnest consideration at this time. It should not be treated as a matter which might well be considered some day in the future when we have more time. I do not know of any subject which could more worthily command the concentrated attention of this house than that

Constitutional Conference-Mr. Stevens

which has just been proposed by the leader of the opposition, namely that there should be held a conference of the dominion parliament and the legislative assemblies of the various provinces, adding to that, as suggested by the Minister of Justice, outside interests that have given study to the subject, and that such conference be assembled at some time in the near future for the purpose of studying amendments to the British North America Act.

Perhaps it is fortunate for Canada that we have a written constitution. I know there are those who hold the view that a written constitution is very often a nuisance. Sometimes it is. But in times of stress and passion, when conditions are disrupted and feeling runs high, it is a fine thing to have a written constitution to hold us steadily on the track. Obviously, as the Minister of Justice has very properly admitted, the conditions of to-day are not the conditions of 1867, and there has to come a time when changes should be made. The question is, are those changes to be made sanely, after proper consideration and by properly constituted authorities, or are they to burst upon us out of the passions of the people? It is the latter that I fear. I do not think we properly apprehend the seriousness with which very many people in this country view present day conditions. Nor have we, in my opinion, a full appreciation of the utter hopelessness of the great mass of people in this country. There is a feeling of futility and hopelessness permeating the hearts and souls of hundreds of thousands. Since the last assembly of parliament I have talked to men whom I have known for years, whom I have looked upon as pretty thoughtful and sane, who have discarded hope or trust in parliaments-and they are not citizens whom we can lightly disregard. I have one hope in my heart for Canada, and that is that there may be a preservation of Canadian democracy. If we look at the world to-day, what do we see? Everywhere, in Asia and in Europe, in the two old centres of civilisation, we see an alignment in two directions: on the one hand we see government by force along communistic and socialistic lines, and on the other hand we see government by force along fascist lines. And that is becoming generally accepted and, to me, to an alarming degree; it is being accepted now that the test is between these two views, and democracy as we understand it is being pushed aside as scarcely worthy of consideration. Yet in my opinion, from my studies of history-the history of a thousand years; and if one had time one might summon the witnesses here from the pages of history-there is but one system that will

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protect the interests of the individual and contribute most to the happiness, the comfort and security of peoples everywhere. And that is the system of democracy.

But we are bound to admit that inherent in democracy and peculiar to it are certain weaknesses owing to the fact that there are so many who have a part or say, to a certain degree, nominally at least, in what shall be the government. There is not one central dominating intellect that determines matters. Democracy is supposed to be the composite view of the masses of the people. But there is another weakness that afflicts us far more seriously than that, and it is this. We have developed certain institutions such as the party system, and we find that the party system lends itself to domination by a system of patronage or influence. This may not sound nice, but those of us who have been allied to parties over a period of years and have had experience of the influences that are brought to bear know perfectly well that one of the things which it is most difficult to resist is what I might term the effect of malign influences that are brought to bear upon parties. By that process we weaken governments and leadership in the democratic system through the party method of administration. But the fact that these weaknesses exist is no reason why we should not bend every effort to preserve to the country the great principles of democratic government.

At the risk of being charged perhaps with stepping into a realm I am not competent to discuss, I will cite the old British North America Act-and I do not join with those who treat this document lightly or with scorn. I think it is a magnificent document; and as I read it as a layman and seek to find in its majestic phraseology an expression of the views of the men and women of that day, I can see in it, even without any amendment and in the form in which it was intended to apply, the very salvation that we are looking for. Unfortunately, however, certain parts of the act have passed through the courts and certain interpretations have been given them, and these interpretations stand as the meaning of the act. I am not going to quarrel with that; it is one of the facts with which we are confronted; but I should like as a layman to direct the attention of the house to what I conceive to be some of the salient points and principles, not embalmed perhaps but included in this sacred document.

Take the very preamble. I called attention to this two years ago, but. I admit, with very little effect at the time. The very preamble declares that the four provinces of

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Constitutional Conference-Mr. Stevens

that day had met together and decided to unite into a dominion. Under the act, as the preamble says, the [provinces of Canada-that is to say, Ontario and Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick-expressed their desire to be federally united in one dominion under the crown. These words thrill my heart; they conjure up before me a gathering of men from the then provinces to which reference is made, expressing one to the other a desire to unite; and I believe that the first thing we need in Canada to-day is a reaffirmation of that doctrine, that we the people of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the maritime provinces and the old and powerful provinces of Quebec and Ontario, are ready to say once again that we pledge ourselves one to another to unite in one dominion. But the sentiment that is abroad to-day-and in a moment or two I will refer to some of the causes, which I think can be removed-is not that we should unite; it is a far different sentiment and is far more widespread than many of us perhaps conceive. Some people are looking at the situation and saying, "Would it not be better for us if we were out of confederation?" I know that a strong case can be made for that conviction, I can point to at least three sections of the dominion where a strong case can be made for it, and I think it is a tragedy that that feeling should continue and should spread without a reaffirmation of the very basis of this document.

The preamble proceeds:

And whereas such a union would conduce to the welfare of the provinces. . . .

I pause there, and I say that a union, a real and genuine union based upon the spirit of unity, will still conduce to the welfare of the provinces. And that sentiment is one which in my opinion needs reaffirmation at this time. The preamble goes on to declare that provision shall be made for the eventual admission of other parts, which, of course, was done, and these other parts were most happily brought into the union. A little further on, in the second section of the act, it is enacted that it shall be lawful for the queen to declare by proclamation that the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick:

. . . shall form and be one dominion under the name of Canada; and on and after that day those three provinces shall form and be one dominion under that name accordingly.

I have read this in order to emphasize the spirit that underlay the organization of this great dominion, which has been so eloquently referred to and eulogized by the Minister of Justice.

[Mr. Ptevens.l

And now I turn to the famous sections 91 and 92. I ask my legal friends at once to acquit me of any charge of attempting a legal interpretation of this document, but there are certain practical matters referred to in these two sections which I believe express in very definite terms some of the chief problems with which we are confronted to-day. I am convinced that we ought to concentrate our attention upon these problems. There is a phrase in section 91 which because of party strife over comparatively trivial issues has been brought into disrepute, yet is of profound importance. I refer to the famous phrase, "peace, order, and good government." I ask hon. members for the moment to dismiss from their minds the partisan criticisms which have been bandied from one side to the other for many years,- and to consider the spirit and language of the section:

It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Canada . . .

That was the main underlying thought of those who framed this act; and the perpetuation, shall I say, or sustaining of the great thought of unity which was expressed in the preamble was the reason for their coming together. Obviously if you are to have unity there must be peace, order and good government. There must be some authority to determine the conditions that control the relations of individual citizens one to the other, and that great principle is the principle underlying the authority of this parliament. But to-day no man can say that this parliament is supreme in that regard. Technically, nominally, constitutionally, or whatever term you prefer, it is. An hon. member earlier this afternoon asked a responsible minister of the crown whether he knew of certain disturbing actions by individuals in one section of this country in relation to the relief problem. While the minister replied that he had some knowledge of it, the question of peace, order and good government, which is the prerogative of this parliament, did not seem at that moment to be present in his mind. He expressed- very properly; I am not complaining; I just cite it as an illustration of the point-confidence in the provincial authorities to maintain peace and order and take care of the situation.

Then tabulated below that clause in the act are certain exceptions. But before I refer to only a few of those which I think are pertinent let me quote further the language of the section:

. . . to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Canada, in relation to all

Constitutional Conference-Mr. Stevens

matters not coming within the classes of subjects by this act assigned exclusively to the legislatures of the provinces.

Those subjects will fee found set out in the next section, 92. Then we come to an enumeration of matters coming within the jurisdiction of parliament. I am going to refer to a few of them. There is the public debt-that is the dominion public debt-and property. The words " and property " are rather interesting. I am quite aware that there one immediately steps into a realm where constitutional sophists argue that you are impinging on property and civil rights.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

That means public property.

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REC

Henry Herbert Stevens

Reconstruction

Mr. STEVENS:

Yes, possibly. Then we go on to the next:

The regulation of trade and commerce.

And there is nothing more to qualify that. Yet during the last five or six years in particular there have been a dozen occasions when the right of regulation of trade and commerce in this country has been definitely challenged, the power and right of this parliament to legislate on it denied; and in some cases that denial has been successfully upheld in the courts. I go back, Mr. Speaker, to 1867, when this act was framed. In the minds of the framers of this act, or those who laid down the resolutions upon which it was based, the regulation of trade and commerce was intended to apply to all commerce common to the dominion. Because in section 121 of the act this phraseology is used:

All articles of the growth, produce, or manufacture of any one of the provinces shall, from and after the union, be admitted free into each of the other provinces.

One of the problems of to-day is this: how the Dominion of Canada through this parliament is to control properly the movement of goods within Canada itself. I merely state the question, without arguing it.

Then we have the question of patents of invention and discovery. Nobody questions the right of this parliament to control patents, but I ask parliament: are we exercising that control to the extent that we should, or are we allowing certain great institutions in this country to secure control of patent rights and use them to interfere with the freedom of movement of trade within Canada?

I turn over the page and I find in section 92 what I conceive to be the cause of a great deal of our difficulty. I refer at once to subsection 10:

Local works and undertakings other than such as are of the followdng classes:-

And then it says:

Such works as, although wholly situate within the province, are before or after their execution declared by the parliament of Canada to be for the general advantage of Canada or for the advantage of two or more of the provinces.

It is as clear as day that it was intended that this parliament should exercise an overriding right to declare works to be for the general benefit of Canada if it was clear that federal control of them was necessary to the happiness and well-being of the people of Canada as a whole. Here again we have what has become, in the terms applied by the minister to one of the other powers, a power which is practically obsolete, very seldom used. It was exercised constantly by this parliament when I first came here, in connection with railways. But it became more or less limited to railways, and since then has been largely abandoned.

I come now to the most important of all, that is the power or the right to incorporate companies with provincial objects. That is one of the exclusive powers of provincial legislatures. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to enter into an argument or discussion this afternoon-because I am not prepared to do so-on what was originally intended there. But I say, following the language of the Minister of Justice, that in the last seventy years vast changes have come about in our economic life, not only in Canada but throughout the world; and the power or right. to incorporate a company has become a vastly different thing from what it was in 1867. May I remind the minister of this- I think I am correct in saying it-that it was not until 1854 that the incorporation of companies included the provision for limited liability. In any case that provision has in a progressive way led to a complete change in our economic structure, a change which, viewed over a period of fifty years, is nothing short of startling. We are now confronted with the question whether the country is to be dominated and ruled and controlled by a democratic institution called parliament or legislature, or whether the welfare of its people is to be dominated by great corporations which, using Kipling's phrase, are "without the law." When I say without the law I do not mean without the Companies Act or their acts of incorporation, but who seem to be beyond the ordinary laws that control the lives, the activities and the consciences of individuals. A great jurist on one occasion, when trying one of these cases, said something to the effect that a corporation had no soul and no conscience. Neither it has. That is

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Constitutional Conference-Mr. Stevens

not a reflection; these are not words of opprobrium I am using. I am simply stating a fact, something that is inescapable.

What does perturb and alarm me, Mr. Speaker, is that by the introduction of the power of incorporation, with the right of limited liability, we have introduced into Canada, as into all other countries of a similar type, a new economic principle which has gone on step by step until to-day we find that these companies are entrenched in a most extraordinarily powerful manner, affecting, as I say, the lives of countless thousands of people. So I say that the right of incorporation which was given to the provinces, and which of course is present in the dominion, raises a question that we must face, and one of the things this country needs above everything else is uniformity in company laws. If we had a conference on nothing else it would be worth while to have a conference with the provinces. By the way, the hon. member for St. Lawrenee-St. George (Mr. Cahan), when he held the portfolio of Secretary of State, I believe did undertake to bring about that happy condition, though I am afraid without any great success, not through any lack of effort on his part but because of the difficulties with which he was at once confronted. But it is of such profound importance that it ought to be taken under consideration forthwith.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

There was another conference just the other day.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The hon. member may not know that all the provinces agreed to a uniform companies act. That was done when the hon. gentleman was a member of the government.

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REC

Henry Herbert Stevens

Reconstruction

Mr. STEVENS:

I am quite aware of that; I remember the conference very well, because I was there. But I do say

and I do not think it can be successfully contradicted- that the net results of that verbal agreement have amounted to next to nothing.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

They were carried further at a conference held just the other week.

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January 26, 1937