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

CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

We have lost our efficient chairman of the Railway Commission, now we must sit down and legislate on this business of a chief commissioner. What are the proper lines that we ought to lay down, what the conditions, what the salary in order to ensure that we shall get the very best talent we can get in this country to act as chief commissioner ? Did they sit down and first make the legislation on general principles and then seek their man according to that legislation ? I will warrant you that neither of them will rise in his place and state that that is the case. They are legislating from a particular point to the general. They' do not legislate on general principles and then choose the particular person to fit into that broader legislation. There is every evidence that they went first to find out the terms on which they could get the judge to act and then after a month or six or eight weeks of pourparlers, more or less intimate and confidential, they found out the lowest terms the judge would accept and then made legislation to suit his demands. Let me put a question to my right hon. friend. He takes credit to himself for providing that this chief commissioner shall be removed even from the rude hand of a ruthless government and placed where he cannot be removed until parliament in both its branches acts. Is that a right principle ? If so, why not apply it to any chief commissioner whether he be a judge or not. Does my right hon. friend mean to say that from this time forth no one but a judge of the Supreme Court shall be a chief commissioner ? He will not take that ground because any good government looks over the whole field to see which is the best man. This government looks over the field and says Mr. Justice Killam ; another government may look over the field and say : Here is the best man in Canada but he is not a judge of the Supreme Court. They will approach him and ask : Will you take the chairmanship-but he is told at the same time : My dear man, you are capable of filling this position, you are the ideal man in every respect, but you are not going to get as good a position as would be given to a
chief commissioner if he happened to be a judge of the Superior Court; we cannot give you the emolument or the conditions that were given to the late chairman, because he was a judge and you are not. Why should he not have the same salary and the same consideration ? I doubt very much if any self-respecting man, not a judge, will hereafter accept a chief com-missionerskip when a judge for any reason, has vacated it. unless you give him as good a position as you gave to the former chief commissioner. You may have a lawyer who knows much more law than any judge, a man who has a wide knowledge of the business of the country, who could fill the position just as well or better than any justice of the Supreme Court, and why, in the name of common justice and fairness, should he not be paid according to the work done, according to his merit and according to the value of the man who does the work. I object to this legislation because it makes a distinction where there should be no distinction, and I ask the Minister of Justice if it would not be better for him to introduce legislation by which, no matter who the chairman of the commission shall be, he shall have the very same emolument, the very same conditions of affluence, safety and permanence as a judge would have if he were taken to fill that position. Surely there can be no getting away from that. It may be that four years out of the House makes some change in a man's way of looking at things, but I do not suppose that even with the perfection to which caucus government has gone in these latter days, my right hon. friend called in all his followers together and went over this resolution page by page and got them all to say : That is the perfect thing and we will stand by you in that. I imagine that most of the hon. gentlemen who sit opposite knew nothing about what these resolutions contained until they were brought down and placed on the order paper, and it did seem to me peculiar-may be it is inevitable-that the very moment they came out, everybody on the other side of the House felt that he had to [DOT] stand by this and not urge a word in criticism of the resolutions. Not one of the vast surplusage of talent on that side of the House had a word of criticism. We saw the same thing the other day on the Seeds Bill, and to-day again on this resolution ; no man seems to think he is there for any other purpose than to say ' ditto ' to what the government says, Let us stand for every line, every dot and every vowel of what the government proposes to do. But are we not here to-day to make this measure as good as it can possibly be made ? I do not wish to do anything but to make this as good as it can be made, but I deplore the discriminations which have been introduced into this legislation. I think you should make the same legislation

for your chief commissioner no matter who he may he, a judge or anybody else, for you certainly must contend that when you appoint a chief commissioner, you are getting a man who will fill the contract and do the work. If you get such a man you ought to make his position equally as good as that of his predecessor or his successor. I am also opposed to the principle that this chief commissioner, simply because he is a judge, shall only be displaced by the action of both Houses of parliament. When you have a chief commissioner who is not a Superior Court judge he will not be in that position ; the Governor in Council may dismiss him for cause; but in the other case simply because he is a judge you make the other provision. I do not believe it will be found to work well, and I think the very same provisions that are in this legislation should be adopted for whatever man holds the office of chief commissioner, whether he be a layman or a judge from the Supreme Court. Now I am not going to carry my criticisms any further ; these are just the thoughts that came to me as I listened to the discussion and as I read the resolution. There is no use trying to import into this discussion a charge that we on this side are saying something against the judges. If the Minister of Justice had not mentioned Mr. Justice Killam's name no one would have known about the matter ; what we were discussing was simply the abstract resolution, no matter whether the appointee be a judge, a duke or simply a man of business. It is cheap party tactics to try to force on us the odium that we are objecting to the character of the judge. I am not going the least step in the direction of suggesting that Justice Killam would be influenced by the corporations, and it is idle to attempt to use that argument against us in any sense. In the first place, we want an explanation from the government as to why their appointee left the office in the way in which he did and with the haste with which he did. We have received as a parliament no explanation of that whatsoever. My second objection is to the distinctions in position which are made by this Bill where no distinctions exist in merit. I would have the chief commissioner placed on exactly the same plane and level as the other commissioners, whether he happened to come from the Supreme Court or was a man who had not been a judge previous to his appointment to the commission.

Topic:   BOARD OF RAILWAY COMMISSIONERS.
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