February 3, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)

CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. GEORGE E. FOSTER (North Toronto).

I have a few observations to make, but I promise the House I will not occupy much time. In the first place, the very fact of bringing down a resolution of this kind to fill a vacancy which formerly was filled by nomination of the government, I think, called for at least this courtesy to the House, that either the minister who introduced it or the First Minister who spoke upon it should have given some reasons why this position became vacant. This resolution is introduced because of the resignation of the former chief of the Railway Commission. That gentleman was an appointee of the present government. He was an appointee of -the present government under somewhat peculiar conditions, and we must not forget to hold a government responsible for all its appointments, as well as for the grievances and losses which result from those appointments.
There was a peculiarity about the appointment of that gentleman to the head of the commission in its very inception. Here was a member of a government, on an equal plane with the other members of the government, who had charge of a special department, in the line of which department this appointment and this legislation lay. The members of that government had not sufficient confidence in their colleague, their representative, the Minister of the Railway Department, had not sufficient confidence in that minister to give him the place that he should have had in the inception, the negotiations and, I may say, the completion of certain business matters culminating in legislation which had to do entirely with that gentleman's department. Under those circumstances, no self-respecting man could have remained in the position which he occupied, and consequently there was a resignation. Now, this question arises, a pertinent question : If there were a Minister of Railways appointed because of his fitness for that position, because of his special knowledge with reference to railway matters, but who had so far forfeited the confidence of his colleagues that they would not entrust him with the negotiations of what fell particularly to his department, if must have been because they considered him

unfit to undertake these negotiations and carry them through to their fulfilment. If he were unfit for that, by what process of reasoning was he considered fit for taking the chairmanship of a great railway commission such as this ? Is the old evil the same evil to-day, that hon. gentlemen in the ministry look upon office, not as a sacred trust of the people, but as a plaster to bind up, and to heal, so far as they possibly can, the exigencies and the wounds of the party ? Now, I wish I could make that even more emphatic than I have. That parliament and that country are taking a step in a perilous direction when they lose sight of the fact that the offices of the country are a sacred trust for the good of the country, and are not simply means by which the exigencies of a party may be met and overcome. The initial difficulty in this appointment to that Railway Commission lay there, that it was to get the party out of a bad fix that they appointed to that office the man in whom they had declared their lack of confidence, that made him the chief officer of that commission, lauded him to the skies as the man especially fitted to take hold of it; and within a few months we find him equally under that old delusion that an office of trust and emolument in the interest, and to be carried out for the good of the people, was to be looked on as a pawn upon the board for the especial interest only of one man, the office holder.
It was incumbent upon the First Minister or the Minister of Justice to say to-day what circumstances intervened of such overshadowing and overwhelming importance and urgency, that the responsible commissioner, having heard cases which could not be decided unless he remained to give the decision, and having heard them by dozens and scores, perhaps hundreds, involving grievances of the people which, for seven months, had been exposed before the tribunal and all the evidence collected, and that then, without a thought as to the people, without a thought as to the gravity of the questions, without a thought as to the results which would take place if he hurriedly left that office, without having made arrangements with his co-commissioners, but simply looking upon the office as a private appurtenance, left his position and brought all this damage and harm upon the country. It was incumbent upon the First Minister, it is incumbent upon the government, to give to the House the especial, the overwhelming, the urgent reasons that made it necessary for the chairman of the Railway Commission to act in the way he did. Does the country know of any such reason ? Has the world turned upside down suddenly since that gentleman left the chairmanship of the Railway Commission ? We have not heard that he has been called to give advice to the Czar of Russia, or to the Emperor of Germany, or even to the King of Great Britain. We find that there is great public concern in
this matter. Why could he not have remained there for a fortnight, for three weeks, for a month, and done his duty ? That duty not being done, the fault for it not being done, is placed on the head of the mem who made the appointment. And yet, Sir, these gentlemen think that parliament is so much of a dumb show that they do not need to act as sensible men ought to act, sensible men representing the government, and give a reason for the action in this matter. Either they were wrong in their choice, and they, therefore, have to take the responsibility, or there must have been some urgent reason, and it would be easy for these gentlemen to give that reason if such reason existed. So I say I am here, and I think we ought to stand here and say that we need an explanation on this point, and that for all the damage, and loss, and delay, which have occurred, this government must be held responsible, because incurred through the action of their own appointee.
So much on that phase of the subject. There is another point I wish to touch upon. I am here to assert that, so far as I have been able to read the cool judgment of the country, the commission appointed by hon. gentlemen opposite did not come up to the importance of the duties which were to be performed by that commission, did not go so far as the country thought they ought to go. I listened whilst my hon. friend the Minister of Justice read the almost autocratic powers which are placed in the hands of that commission. From the inception of the incorporation of a railway company, the principles upon which it ought to be organized, the conditions which ought to be attached to it, until you get out into that wonderfully complex work of fixing rates and tolls upon the traffic of a country like this, with its diversity of sections, its long hauls and its short hauls, and everything in connection with that, it seems to me that there is no set of duties you can conceive of, which require abler, stronger, more experienced and better versed men than those duties which are imposed upon the three railway commissioners by the law passed in 1903, under which we are now acting. Now, I do not say anything personally of the commissioners ; but I do say that the formation of that board in the first place did not, in its selection, meet the exigencies of the case, and did not meet the reasonable and, I think, well warranted expectations of the business men of this country.
What have you ? You have a gentleman as one of the commission who, though very estimable,- perhaps, does not bulk before the public as being a man versed in large business affairs, in the great traffics of the country, in the currents of its trade and in all those complex problems of transport and distribution which meet the railway commissioners almost in every case. I leave

that to the sense of this House. But, there was another reason and a very good one. A colleague had to be provided for, a vacancy had to be made because there was some one else who wanted a vacancy made and between the government who wanted to make a vacancy and outside influences that wanted a vacancy to fill the unoffending and mild-mannered gentleman who filled the position of Minister of Inland Revenue at that time had to be got rid of and he could not be got rid of unless a place were found for him. There was a convenient place found and into it he went. Does any man sitting in this House believe really in his heart of hearts that you could not have gone through this country and found amongst its business men a better representative for this work than even that gentleman whom I personally respect very highly ? 1 will not pursue the personnel of the commission further. I will say this that it struck the country that men of expert knowledge, men thoroughly well versed in the business and trade currents of the country and in technicalities of railway administration, were not the kind of men who were appointed upon that commission. I am in favour of a railway commission. I acknowledge that this is one of the most complex, one of the most diflicult problems that ever was given into the hands of a set of men to carry out. It is not simply the farmers who have interests at stake but I have just as much solicitude in another way for the carriers of this country whose interests are at stake as well and when you come to adjudge between all the delicate questions, between the freight producers of this country far and wide and the freight and produce carrying portion of the community, when you come to adjust these delicate questions as to interests impigned, when all interests may be heard and equally as well all interests may be made better'and may be helped by this commission what is the principle that should guide you? The very first thing that should have been done was not to find places for political adherents, that two of these places were found for and nothing else. The exigencies of party, the desire to provide a place for a man that they no longer wanted to keep in the cabinet; and the desire to find a place for another gentleman whom they despised in their hearts, from whom they had withdrawn their confidence and whose influence and power they dreaded at the time of the coming election, caused them to make these appointments. So much for that branch of the question.
Now, I want to go to another. . I am not going to lay down any principle as to puisne judges, or county court judges, or promotions in any way. I am not an authority upon that subject. But, if I can give a common sense view I will leave it to the members of this House to say whether this Mr, FOSTER. *
principle is a good one to be adopted in this country. If from a junior county court judge up to the Supreme Court it is known that there is a possibility of promotion from the lowest to the highest, and that it can be got if you can bring the proper influence to bear upon the appointing party I want to know if that conduces to the stable and equable frame of mind that should characterize justice in this county ? Why. Sir. a lawyer who is appointed as a judge has to leave behind him all party and political considerations. They should never again enter into his judgment. He becomes the protector of the grievances and the innocence and the rights of the people of this country in the sacred name and in the majesty of the law. He should put aside from himself all thoughts of political preferment, should give his whole attention to his justice and his law and his equity, and if he has promotions in view they should be promotions which come only naturally within the sphere of his own proper administration of justice. How different it is ! If you establish one political office can you not establish another ? Is this a political office or is it not ? It is a political office. It is a political office just the same as a post office inspectorship is a political office, It is a political office just the same as the position of an officer of the Marine and Fisheries Department is a political office. Here you have a political office and you have the statement made to all these superior court justices that it is possible for any one of them at some time, if he can only bring the proper influence to bear to become the recipient of that office. Does that militate in favour of or militate against a proper and equitable administration of justice ? If you can create one you can create another and you may have a series of political appointments to which judges may look for a betterment of their salaries and their positions, provided they can make sufficient court in order to get the appointments from whom these appointments come. In the matter of judges and in the matter of the appointment of the judges it has been a credit to our country in the past, and I hope it will always be that politics do not enter as an overwhelming consideration into the appointments of judges. They have been appointed for their fitness. When they went on the bench they were supposed to be dead to all the currents and excitements of political and party work, to have gone into the serene, staid and steady atmosphere where justice is administered and the laws are interpreted to the people of the country. You can quote all the precedents you like for having judges translated from a lower position to a higher in his own court and in his own sphere, but it is outside of that entirely when you create a separate political office and make it possible for judges to look to that office for a betterment of their salaries and positions.

That is why I think it is not the best thing to do and will not have the best influence upon the judiciary and justice of this country- Now, I want to ask my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier), a question : Did he and the lion. Minister of Justice (Mr. Fitzpatrick) sit down together and approach the question something like this : We have lost our dear chairman of the Railway Commission.

Topic:   BOARD OF RAILWAY COMMISSIONERS.
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