April 29, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)


Frank Oliver



I do not wish to delay the House, but I wish to allude to the general question that is involved in this discussion. There are some important particulars in connection with this North-west Central Railway, and with the request that is being urged upon the House to compel the building of the road under the charter that I think should be emphasized. This is one of the most important charters that exists in the western country. It was a charter that was granted in the early days for the construction of a parallel, competing line with the Canadian Pacific Railway from end to end of the country. As a result of the granting of that charter, settlement went in along its proposed line. It is because of the existence of the charter, rather than merely the capabilities of the country, that these settlers are along that line today. When this parliament grants a charter, if it means anything, it means that there is an understanding that that charter shall be built under. This parliament, I say, is in the position of having been a party to a distinct breach of faith, if not the principal party to a distinct breach of faith as between the settlers of that district and this railway.
The condition is entirely different from that suggested by the Minister of Public Works in the case of a district in eastern Canada. He said : There are many places in eastern Canada which call for branches of the Canadian Pacific Railway. That is true. But there are not many places in eastern Canada where the Canadian Pacific Railway own a charter which has been in existence for twenty years, where the people went in and settled in the country because of the existence of that charter, expecting the line to be continued, but with reference to which charter the Canadian Pacific Railway have so far failed to build their line. These conditions here are spe-

eial and peculiar. There are many places in the North-west where railroads are required ; there are many places where they are desired ; there are many places where charters are held ; but there is no place in the North-west where the conditions are as they are along the line of the North-west Central Railway. Now, a word as to the propriety of using what might be called coercion upon the railway company to compel it to give accommodation to these people. It is argued that because the locality mentioned in the present Bill is distant from the scene of the operations of the Northwest Central charter, that therefore there is no connection between the two. It makes no difference how distant the field is, the company is the same. We find that this company does not fail to exercise its influence in Manitoba at one end, and in British Columbia at the other end, nor yet in the North-west Territories between. If it is competent for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to interfere with competitive enterprises in Manitoba, in the North-west Territories, and in British Columbia, it is just as competent for this parliament to compel the Canadian Pacific Railway Company when making over to it power to build, as has already been said, through an unknown as well as uninhabited country ; it is competent for this parliament that when the company is asking for this power, and before it is granted this power it shall be compelled to carry out engagements which have been entered into on its behalf by this parliament-and on its own behalf with this parliament-with the people of the western country in whatever part they may be, or in the eastern country, if you like, if the conditions are the same.
The question to my mind is this : Are we to consider the interests of the people of the North-west, or are we to consider the convenience of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company ? I understand, and I wish to suggest to this House, that the interests of the people of the North-west are very much more important to the general welfare of Canada, and are very much more worthy of the consideration of this House, and very much more worthy of support by means of legislation on the part of this House, than are the interests of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, great though these interests are, and important though they are to this whole country. I had occasion to point out to this House some time ago, that it is upon the further development of the western country that the prosperity of this Dominion of Canada depends That proposition, I think, will not be challenged at this time and under these circumstances. Then, if the prosperity of the Dominion, the aggrandizement and enlargement of our manufacturing enterprises, and the enlargement of our wholesale inward and outward trade ; if these depend upon the further and continued development of the North-west; I say that on such an occasion as this where a vast area of the most magnificent country in the North-west, already peopled, is concerned, such a question is worthy of the most careful consideration of this House and well worthy of its consideration over and above, and far and above the interests of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

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