Although I ventured to speak on this subject once before this session, and although there have been a large number of speakers since that time,
I feel to-night that the subject is one which is arousing increased interest in the country and in this House. It is quite pleasing to us on this side to see the effect this debate is Laving in the House, as shown by the vote that was taken a short time
ago, and I believe that the more the subject is discussed and the more light there is thrown upon it, the more opportunity the public have of investigating it, the more public sentiment will take the turn the House is taking and that the public will say we are going a little too fast in this matter. It has been said again and again that it is a very important subject. and its importance will justify the lengthened debate which has taken place upon it. It is one of the most important matters which has been brought before the public since confederation. I venture to say that no subject of equal public importance has ever attempted to be put through the House by force as is being done in this case, without the electors at large having some opportunity of expressing themselves upon it. It has been sprung upon the electors and they are only now, through the medium of the newspaper press and other means, obtaining a little opportunity to look into it. I feel satisfied that the more light there is thrown upon the subject the less chance there is of this measure being carried with the consent of the electorate of the country. We on this side of the House are not opposed to expenditure for the development of this country. We have as much faith in the future of Canada as any one on the other side of the House. If we may judge from our history in the past we may claim that we have always had more faith in the future of Canada than has been possessed by the party on the government side of the House. However. we are pleased to note the growing feeling, the growing sense of loyalty to Canada, which is even permeating the ranks of the great Reform party of Canada. It is not matter of congratulation to us on tliis side of the House to see any spirit contrary to that. We believe in the development of Canada and in any reasonable expenditure, provided it is a wise expenditure, for that development. The enormous sum which is proposed to be added to the public debt of Canada is not the sole or the main objection that we have to this scheme which is being forced through the House. We are prepared for expenditure, having faith in the future of this country and having faith that at no distant period we will require extensive development and extension of railways in the west and a better transportation system than we have at present. There are abundant opportunities and avenues for expending money. The most important question we have to deal with in Canada to-day is, as has been often said, transportation. But it is not necessary that there should be any undue haste in this matter. It does not follow that we should rush unwisely into enormous debt and expenditure but rather that we should be sure we are right and then be prepared to go ahead. That is a good motto to use in
individual life, aud in small enterprises ; it is a good motto to adopt for the administration of the affairs of a young country like Canada. The mountains of information which were to have been brought before us have dwindled down to very small, almost invisible mole hills. It is evident that we are very lacking in the information which we should have before entering on a scheme such as this. We are delighted to know that we have in the great Northwest such a magnificent area for the production of cereals ; that we have what is now commonly termed, not only here on this continent, but in Europe as well, tiie granary of the world. We are delighted with this, hut there is no need on that account that we should rush into unwise expenditure. We have been going steadily in that regard. A very large amount of mileage is now under contract and construction for the development of the country. To build railways into areas which are not at all settled at present, for which there could be no local traffic, is to say the least an unwise expenditure, especially when we see that we already have a country served with railways either built or under construction that would provide homes for per- * haps five times as many people as are now settled there. It would he much better for the interest of the country and much to the advantage of the settlers, that settlement should he of a regular consecutive character, where railways have been already constructed and where lands are available for settlement either on free grant or reasonable terms in order that the settlers may have municipal government, social life and all the advantages which flow from these conditions. If anything is said depreciating any particular section of Canada we know that it is regarded as a sad thing to give a black eye to that part of the country, but it is of much greater importance that we should see that no attempt is made in bringing in settlers to place them in districts not suitable for settlement, where they cannot eke out a reasonable livelihood. Mistakes of that kind have already done infinite damage to Canada. Men have been induced to go into districts where they could not raise crops or even cattle and when these men who were as badly off as if they bad been transported to Tasmania have returned to the old country, their accounts of their experiences have been a very bad advertisement for Canada.
What will they say of Canada as a whole ? They judge of it by the miserable experience they have had in districts not suited for settlement. Hon. gentlemen opposite talk about encouraging colonization in this country between here and the North Pole- north of Quebec and Ontario, in those wilds of which so little is known. I do not think I need tell agaiu the story of that wonderful rose bush discovered some 250 years ago.
I suppose the roses are growing there yet. But that is no guarantee that the country is a fit place for settlement. What we have pointed out all along is that we should have a reasonable knowledge of the country before proceeding to build a railway through it. In the first place there should be a reasonable exploration of it, we should know something about its topography, its climate and all thes matters. Then if the exploratory reports be satisfactory, we should have regular surveys made, before attempting to go into a large railway enterprise such as this, involving such an enormous expenditure. Should this scheme prove a blunder, no one will live long enough to see its worst results. We do not claim that it is a barren country, unfit for settlement, or that it is all rocks or impracticable in its topography for the building of a road, but what we say is that we know nothing about it. We were promised a lot of information, but we have not had one iota added to the meagre, scanty data given us when this House rose last October. If any has been obtained, it lias not been imparted to the House or the country.
Last year we were assured again and again that the bargain was closed, that no suggestion, however good, no amendment, whatever might be its merits, could be received or entertained for one moment, because the agreement had been made with the accredited representatives of the Grand Trunk, and simply required to be ratified by the Company in Great Britain, which ratification was bound to follow. Consequently no amendment could be entertained, no matter how desirable, nothing could be accepted which was not in the bond We were told emphatically that the agreement was of such a character, made with reputable men, with a strong company, of such repute, that there need not be the least doubt of its being carried on their part, and that they would be held to their bargain. My hon. friend the Minister of Finance told us that, if there should be any attempt or any appearance of any attempt not to keep the bargain, the government would find means of holding the company tight to the agreement. But where is that bargain to-day ? We were told that we would be surprised at the very insignificant nature of the changes to be made. We were not told however, that all these changes were to be made in the interests of the Grand Trunk. But when the whole thing is unravelled and laid before us. what do we find ? Not a word to our advantage. Not a word which will strengthen the guarantees placed in that agreement to protect the rights and privileges of this country. But we find every word in the interest of the Grand Trunk Railway. It seems as if in some way we cannot fully understand the government were tied to the Grand Trunk Railway. We cannot understand why we should