March 10, 1938

LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

Very childish.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie) suggests that that is not so. Let us look at the matter just a little more narrowly. Power is to be exported from this country. One of our assets is to be carried out of Canada, just as much as though you took any asset we have and carried it over to a foreign country.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

If parliament agrees.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Quite so; I am coming to that. That asset is to be taken away, not if parliament agrees but if parliament gives assent to a private act which is governed by interest, as pointed out by Bacon; as long ago as that. Interest is the dominating factor in a private bill. Interest always has been. The very rule that was read this afternoon indicates that; and for the national good, the welfare of the state, we are now to substitute a private bill which is governed and controlled by private interest. Always remember that. Every private bill is based upon the assumption that for some reason private interest shall prevail over the fixed, universal rule.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

Surely a member has the right to introduce even a public bill.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I do not say he has not the right to introduce a public bill, but this is said to be a member introducing a private bill. The Prime Minister dwelt upon that at length and cited authorities as to its being a private bill. If I were dealing with it as a public measure I would use entirely different arguments, but what the member is introducing is a private bill and the basis of all private bills is interest. That is as old as the parliament of Britain. The conflict between interest and duty is the conflict, not of to-day or of yesterday, but of the centuries. It is a conflict of duty on the one hand and interest on the other; interest, with all it means, with all its ramifications, with all that is involved of wealth, with all that is involved of privilege, with all that is involved in the benefits that accrue, as against duty which

Electric Power Export

is measured by the general rule. And when you say that that general rule shall be invaded by a private member introducing a private bill, you have struck a blow at the institutions of this country from which it will not readily recover. These are the days in which we know democracy is being attacked on all fronts. The whole theory of parliamentary control is democratic, as the Prime Minister properly said this afternoon. That is democratic; but if in order to make it effective you substitute interest for duty, you substitute the interest that invades the general rule and take the operation of the private statute out of the general rule, then instead of helping democracy you have struck a blow at it.

There is no member of this chamber who does not realize that. That is the reason why the conflict as to whether one should vote for the second reading of this bill becomes acute. But it appears to me that while one can merely record his opposition to the principle of a private member with a private bill, actuated and governed by interests, taking a given undertaking out of the operation of a general rule-while one is opposed to that, one realizes that, as indicated this afternoon by the Prime Minister, the government's policy is to seek the opinion of parliament. And on the theory that the governing principle is to seek the approval of parliament, I shall be content by merely recording my dissent from the general principle involved in the bill-, and give notice that when the bill is in committee I shall seek to modify those provisions to the extent of providing that any licence granted under the statute shall not become effective until approved by parliament.

That is all you need, all that is ever needed, and all that has ever been needed. It is true that it still leaves responsibility with the government. It still leaves the question of saying yea or nay with the government. It still involves that the governor in council shall make up its mind and arrive at a conclusion. It still means that with doubts and conflicting opinions the government has to decide yes or no. It has been entrusted with that power, and that is its duty.

And now to avoid it, the government says, "We have nothing to do with that at all; we merely pass a statute which says that this house and a private bill will determine what they want." That is to be the voice of parliament, touching an issue, Mr. Speaker, which is not private by any stretch of the imagination. It touches the lives and livelihood of thousands of Canadians born and unborn. It affects the industrial life of this country and the development of our resources. When the

private bill is before the house I shall endeavour to indicate some of the reasons why we should vote against any export licence being given at all-not only on grounds of sound economy, but also on the great international issues to which the president of the United States referred in the short report made the other day. Perhaps the Prime Minister in his reply, closing the debate, will be able to indicate to what extent he may have further knowledge of what was in the mind of the president when he made those observations; for if those observations as reported in the press meant anything, they meant that we should not grant a licence for export. Why? "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

To foresee; to look into the future; to see the possible complications; to realize what may happen that is what the president was directing attention to just as in 1914 the government of Sir Robert Borden found it essential to pass the order in council they did to negative once and for all, so far as they could, the thought that a vested interest could be acquired under a yearly licence.

There is an acute distinction between granting an export licence to an existing industry, and granting an export licence to a utility for distribution; there is all the difference in the world. To grant an export licence to a company for its industry, and for a limited period of a year or two years, while it is building up its power plant, is one thing. To grant a licence for the export of power to a distributing company, or to a utility, means just what was pointed out by that New York commission, and what was pointed out in the Astor hotel at the banquet at which the then president of the United States was reported to have said that it would be regarded as an unfriendly act.

If you have regard to these circumstances, they afford ample reason why at the proper time we should vote against the granting of licences by private bills. But that is not the point now before us, and I shall have to content myself by simply saying that it is the principle of democratic control, of parliament having control. I still believe the unanimous opinion arrived at by this house some years ago was sound; that all that is essential to exercise that control is that we should merely amend the present statute by saying, "And no licence granted under this statute shall become effective until approved by the parliament of Canada." That would end the matter. There would never be any uncertainty or anything else then with respect to it.

Electric Power Export

Terms, conditions and provisoes would rest with the general act. The private act would no longer have existence.

Approval given by this parliament to the order in council passed by the executive under the grant of powers made in 1907, which is consonant with the general principles which govern under British institutions, the exercise by the executive of the power conferred upon it by parliament-because parliament is not always sitting-would have thus been maintained, and the approval given by parliament to an order in council granting a licence would ensure that democratic control over the granting of licences which is essential to our wellbeing.

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for having trespassed upon your time to the extent I have, because I desire not to confuse two issues- one the enabling act and the other the private act. The private act involves consideration of all these questions to which the Prime Minister referred this afternoon. The enabling act refers only to the general principle as to how the control of this parliament shall find sxpression in an enabling act.

When the opportunity arises, I shall submit to the committee of the whole house the amendments which I think are essential for the purpose of giving effect to the principle this house has heretofore unanimously adopted.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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LIB

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

Liberal

Right Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Minister of Justice):

Mr. Speaker, I did not intend to take part in the debate, and it is not my intention to make any extensive remarks. However, I am forced to say a word, in view of the observations of the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett), and especially his appeal in favour of democratic control.

He protests against the bill because of the removal of democratic control. Well, this is a bill under which it is asked that parliament exercise a power which, in its wisdom, years ago it had delegated to the governor in council. Instead of this power being exercised by delegates, this bill will bring about a new situation whereby parliament itself, the representatives of the people of Canada assembled here, will decide as to whether or not there should be an export of power, through a licence to any party who may be asking for it.

The other day the house spent the whole afternoon discussing a resolution moved by the hon. member for Wellington South (Mr. Gladstone), during the course of which discussion many hon. members complained that the government was arrogating to itself most of the powers of parliament and that private members had no more authority or power. They asked that this should be changed. To-night

we have heard the other claim made, that the government is entrusting too much of its powers to the hands of private members. I heard my right hon. friend say that it is almost a constitutional crime that a private member should be allowed to introduce a bill dealing with questions of this kind.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No; to initiate this form of legislation.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

As I said when my right hon. friend was arguing this, a private member has the right to initiate a public bill. If my right hon. friend wants a public bill instead of a private bill, what will be the difference when the legislation is initiated? They will be exactly the same. There is just a slight difference in the procedure. A private bill must be preceded by a petition. The whole public will know that a petition has been made to this parliament asking for the passing of a bill. The people of Canada will know in advance of the application. When the bill reaches its second reading hon. members will have an opportunity to express their views; but instead of being discussed in committee of the whole, the private bill will be referred to a select committee of the house.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

A standing committee.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

It would be referred to a standing committee which has the power, under the rules of the house, to hear counsel and witnesses and all evidence necessary and essential for a proper decision to be arrived at before a report is made to the house. What is the crime being committed by the government in saying that it shall be a private bill instead of a public bill? I have not consulted my colleagues about the matter; but if that is the only objection I do not think we should fight over it. If a change from a private bill to a public bill will enlist the unanimous support of the house, then I think my right hon. leader will be quite willing to change it. There is practically no difference when it comes to discussion in the house.

I think the government should be commended for giving to parliament the full say in the matter. My right hon. friend has spoken of democratic control. The complaint in recent years, not only in Canada and the old country but everywhere else, has been that too much of the control of parliament has been removed. On different occasions in this house the right hon. gentleman has referred to that remarkable book, The New Despotism, by the Chief Justice of England, Lord Hewart, in which the complaint is made that

Electric Power Export

instead of parliament being allowed to decide certain vital issues, this is done by governor in council. Have we not heard considerable both in and out of this house of government by order in council? This is exactly the opposite principle; it is restoring to parliament its control. If that is not democracy, I do not know what the term means.

I do not think I have any more to say on this matter. The hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. Rowe) said that with this matter being dealt with by a private bill, with parliament having the control instead of the governor in council, there will be tremendous lobbying. Are members of parliament afraid to exercise their rights and powers as members of parliament? Have we come to the stage where a parliament in Canada will refuse to exercise its proper control over the affairs of the country because it is afraid it will not be able to do so honestly ? As far as we on this side of the house are concerned, we trust ourselves. I have enough confidence in members on all sides of the house to be sure that they will do their duty, as we shall do ours. I repeat that this is restoring control to parliament in connection with a vital issue. I agree with my right hon. friend when he says that there are certain matters which are so important that the governor in council cannot deal with them. Parliament has reserved to itself control over the tariff and many things of that kind. This matter is so important that I think parliament might very well keep to itself the right to dispose of the matter.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. R. MacNICOL (Davenport):

This afternoon when the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) was speaking, I asked a question as to the probability of the revocation of licences for power export. I have had some experience in companies that required considerable electrical horsepower with which to operate. When I asked my question I had in mind the Niagara-Hudson Company of New York state, which imports a large volume of power from Canada and has for many years. The right to export that power has not been revoked and I doubt very much if it could be. As has been said by several hon. members, the revocation of the right to import power that has been imported by an importer in the United States for any length of time would cause trouble between the two countries. That is the opinion I hold. I did not get any reply to the question I asked as to what course would be followed in revoking this right. I do not believe it could be done without causing trouble between the two countries.

There is another point to be considered. As the Prime Minister and other hon. members who have made an investigation of the matter know, there has been put into operation in Great Britain a plan whereby there will be a tremendous increase in the amount of power required in that country, and I believe the very same thing will happen here. As the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. Rowe) predicted, before two or three years a large amount of additional horsepower will be required in Canada. That has been the result in the old land. As hon. members who were in Great Britain last summer know, all the great railroads adjacent to London are being rehabilitated for the use of electric power. The same thing may happen in this country. If it does, and we have exported large amounts of horsepower which cannot be revoked without causing trouble, where will this country be so far as the supply of power is concerned?

One thing about this whole proposal that I do not like is that in renewing the contracts for power with certain companies, the Ontario government, finding it has more power now than apparently it requires, is asking us to permit that government to export it. Once it is exported there will not be enough power left, and if the same consequences as regards increase in demand follow in this country as have occurred in the old land, we shall find ourselves in great difficulties.

What happened in the old country as a result of the vast increase there in the demand for power? I have in my hand a book which I got last summer from one of the government offices; it is a report on electricity distribution. The result of what they have been doing over there-and the same can be done here- shows that a very large increase in the amount of power consumed reduces the cost to the consumers. Sales of electricity to consumers for all purposes increased from 3,512 million units in 1920-21 to 11,467 million units in 1933-34. The same thing would happen here if efforts were made to carry out the policy outlined by the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe and the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Stevens), to give the farming community of this country electrical power at reasonable cost, thereby reducing the drudgery. Why is it that throughout this country to-day men are leaving the farms? Why is it that the number of women on the farms has been so greatly reduced? In a part of the country with which I am quite familiar, on 1,400 acres there is just one woman. There are numbers of bachelors, but no women for them to marry, because the drudgery is so great on the farms that the women cannot be induced to stay there. The hon. members for Dufferin-Simcoe and Kootenay East

Electric Power Export

suggested, what is quite true, that this country can use every horsepower that can be produced, if it is properly disposed of, without necessity for exportation. There is a lot behind this proposed exportation of power which I do not believe the Canadian people will favour.

To return to the figures of production in the old country, illustrating the increase in the consumption of power as a result of what they are doing over there: for lighting, heating and cooking the increase has been from 582 million units in 1920-21 to 3,916 million units in 1933-34; and for power supplies-that is one of the things which has been spoken of this evening-the increase has been from 2,499 million units in 1920-21 to 6,392 million units in 1933-34.

What has been the result of these large increases in the demand for power so far as costs are concerned? The charges for electricity in the old land, as measured by the average revenue received per unit of electricity sold, decreased in the case of lighting, heating, cooking and shop and office purposes, from 5-75d. in 1921-22 to 2 [DOT] 28d. in 1933-34, and in the case of power, from l-69d. in 1921-22 to 0-73d. in 1933-34. These figures show very clearly that an increase in power consumption will give a large decrease in the selling price.

We have been told that if we do not permit the export of power from this country the Ontario consumer will pay more for his electricity. That has not been the result in the old land. There, through the great efforts made to increase power production and power distribution, the price to the consumer and the manufacturer has gone down. We can do the same thing here.

Topic:   ELECTRIC POWER
Subtopic:   TRANSFER TO PARLIAMENT OF CONTROL OF EXPORT EXCEPT IN INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY
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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Friday, March 11, 1938


March 10, 1938