Mr. RICHARDSON (Lisgar).
The Bill is practically the same as the Bill I introduced last session, and which I was unabie to bring before the notice of the House because the order of Public Bills and Orders was only reached, according to my recollection, once during the entire session. The hon. member who was going to second my Bill was not present, and I was not able to get the Bill before the House. However, I introduced a resolution with regard to it, which resolution failed to carry. I am in hopes, however, that as the Bill is introduced at this early stage of the session, it will have the fullest and freest discussion. The explanation of the Bill is this : When the Canadian Pacific Railway agreement was made in 1881, as hon. gentlemen are aware, in addition to vast cash subsidies, we gave that company a land grant of 25,000,000 acres. One clause of the contract provided that the appurtenances of the railway, the rolling stock, the road-bed, &c., should be exempt from taxation for ever, and the land grant be exempt from taxation for twenty years from the grant thereof from the Crown. Some differences of opinion seem to have arisen with regard to the expiration of that twenty-year period. Up to the present time, patents for only a small quantity of this land have been issued to the company ; and when the matter was before parliament last session, the First Minister and the then leader of the opposition took the view that it was a legal question, which could only be settled by reference to the courts, whether the exemption from taxation should expire in twenty years from the date of the contract. Last session I was able to satisfy the'House, I believe, by extracts from the ' Hansard ' report of speeches of public men who discussed the contract when it was going through the House, that the clear intention of parliament was that the twenty-year exemption period should expire twenty years from the date ot the contract. I take the view that we should not refer the matter to the courts at all. If it was the intention of parliament that the exemption period should date from the time of entering into the contract, and if the people so understood it. and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company so understood it. I take it that this parliament should settle that question and avoid any reference to the courts ; belli
cause, if we allow it to go as at present, patents not being issued, the company holds its vast land grant exempt from taxation practically in perpetuity. The object of this Bill, which is very brief, is to declare that the clause in the contract be interpreted to mean that the exemption period expired on the 15th of the present month.