March 10, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


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


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

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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.

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