January 13, 1954

PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

The railways have passed on no information to the member, and I would like to have that information. I would be very pleased to discuss the matter further with the minister, but I do not feel like having the question dropped at the present time.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   PURCHASES
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I am not in a position to answer the question. I can only reiterate the statement I have made, which has been passed on to me, namely, that the answering of the question would entail considerable expense and inconvenience and the collection of a great deal of information.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

Mr. Speaker, the argument that this information may be asked by many points across Canada does not hold water. It is asked for a particular reason in New Brunswick and Quebec, and I believe only those points are concerned. The people there are anxious to have the information and I, too, wish to have the question answered.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I am afraid I cannot give any other answer.

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Subtopic:   PURCHASES
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Question number two,

answered.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   PURCHASES
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?

Some hon. Members:

No.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Stands?

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

The question cannot stand as it is. I am not able to give any further information than I have given. The house well knows that the practice of the Canadian National Railways, one that has been accepted in the house for years, is that if information of this nature is required it may be asked at a sitting of the committee on railways and shipping. That has been the practice for years. The hon. member is a member of that committee, and he can seek from the president of the Canadian National Railways, or from other officers who are there, information other than that which I may not be able to give. But if the question remains on the order paper I shall not be able to answer it, any more than I am at the present time.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   PURCHASES
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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

I must object to having it answered in that way.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   PURCHASES
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. The hon. member has put a question on the order paper. The minister could have answered either verbally, as he did, or in writing. He did answer it verbally, and if he says that is the only way that he can answer it now, the question cannot stand. It must be declared as having been answered. That is the position that one must take.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   PURCHASES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, I submit that this is a case for you to decide as to whether the procedure of the house is being complied with. A question has been asked. There is no suggestion that it is an improper question. The minister has stated that it cannot be answered, and then almost immediately afterwards has stated that it can be answered at another time. If it can be answered at another time, then it can be answered now, unless there is some reason, which has not been presented, why it should not now be answered.

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

Mr. Speaker, the reason why it cannot be answered now is quite apparent. The Canadian National Railways is not a department of government. Hon. members are entitled to ask the government for the information it has at its disposal. I do not know whether the house can make an order that would be effective on the Canadian National Railways that they supply that information at this time. There has never been any attempt to reach a definite rule about that; but the practice has been that when hon. members want that kind of information, which is not a part of the government records, they ask for it when the officials of the railway company appear before the committee.

If it is felt that any company which is recognized as a crown corporation should be compelled to answer any question about its affairs that is raised in the house, perhaps that could be dealt with by the committee which has been set up to assist Your Honour in drafting rules; but the present rule is that the questions that are put have to be answered from the information that is in the possession of the government, and we have not got that.

Now, should there be an order that the records of the railway be kept in another fashion or tabulated in another fashion, that is something that can be considered; but in view of the statement that has been made that we have not got the information, the minister who reports to parliament in connection with transport has set out everything that appears on the records of the government.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, since I raised the point as to the way in which this question

has been put forward, and that there has been no suggestion that it was an improper question, I should like to follow up what the Prime Minister has said by pointing out that this is not something that affects procedure or accounting or anything of that kind which reasonably might wait until the representatives of the railway are before the committee. This asks for specific information which undoubtedly from the records of the company could be given at the request of the government, which after all is in a position to obtain that information. And I would point out that it is in the nature of information that would be useful to us now for the purpose of such discussion as might follow in the house in relation to this subject. I would suggest that this stand, if only for the purpose of giving consideration to the desirability of drawing some distinction between questions of this nature, which ask for information easily obtainable, and questions in regard to details which will be embraced in subsequent accounts which perhaps might be difficult to obtain separately from those which would be put forward at the time the officials are present in the committee.

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

I think we all realize that the railway officials are anxious to maintain good relations with the members of parliament. They come before parliament every year with their financial budget. They have given that explanation. They will know the manner in which their explanation has been received in the house. Perhaps if Your Honour has no objection to allowing the question to stand it might stand. They will know how their attitude has been received in the house, and we know that they are anxious to maintain good relations with parliament as well as with the public.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

I should like to ask the minister a supplementary question. Is it not true that the fuel board has all this information, and that that board is under a department of government?

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LIB
LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Before the minister answers this question may I say that I think the procedure which is now being followed is most irregular. We are dealing with written questions. There are further supplementary questions which may be asked later, but that will be done when the orders of the day are called. I should like to remind hon. members of citation 307 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, third edition, which reads as follows:

A minister may decline to answer a question without stating the reason for his refusal, and insistence on an answer is out of order, no debate being allowed.

Questions

If the minister wishes to have the question regarded as having been answered, although the answer may not be satisfactory to some hon. members, I will have to declare the question answered. If he wishes to have it stand, I will say "stand".

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I feel I must maintain the original position which I took, namely that the question is answered.

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Subtopic:   PURCHASES
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Answered.

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Subtopic:   PURCHASES
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ELECTION SPEECHES

January 13, 1954