March 17, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Hon. W. S.@

That a select committee, composed of Messieurs Burrows, Smith (Nanaimo), Johnston (Cape Breton, South), Grant, Demers (St. John and Iberville), Monk, Maclean (York), Boyce, Roche (Marquette), and the mover, he appointed to inquire into and report regarding the various public telephone systems in operation in Canada and elsewhere, as the committee shall determine ; and to consider and report what changes, if any, are advisable in respect of the methods at present in force for furnishing telephone service to the public. Such committee to have the power to send for persons and papers, to examine persons under oath, to engage stenographers, clerical and other assistance, and to report from time to time.
He said : Mr. Speaker, It is not necessary, I think, for me to occupy the attention of the House at any length in order to induce it to adopt, as I trust it will unanimously, this resolution. Although the telephone is of recent invention, yet, the wide extent to which it is in use throughout the civilized world testifies to its usefulness to the public and demands from a representative institution such as this its best consideration in order to discover whether, and if so, in what manner its further usefulness may be accomplished. In its inception the use of the telephone was confined chiefly to cities, towns and centres of population connected S6J
together by degrees by trunk lines. Of later years it has found its way into rural districts, into comparatively sparsely settled districts, and it seems that the time has arrived when we might study the question with the view, if possible, to making the telephone as widespread in its usefulness in connection with the people as the post office itself. I can conceive of no utility that more touches the people, leaving aside the post office, than the telephone. At the present time in Canada we have one great company. There are many other smaller companies and there are telephone systems conducted as private enterprises. Of late years the subject has received attention at the hands of the imperial parliament and in the course of a few short years that great system will, in England, pass under state control. I do not at this stage indicate what should be our decision. It will be premature to prejudge the ease, but I do think that a careful and thorough inquiry into the conditions in Canada and in other countries might furnish us with a useful and safe guide and aft^r the information is gathered together by a committee that will, I feel assured, give every attention to the subject, the House will then be in a position to make some substantial progress with this measure. There are some who have already made up their minds as to what should be the future destiny of the telephone. There are others whose minds, perhaps, are yet in an unsettled state. Some perhaps are of the decided opinion that the government should have nothing to do with such a service. With all these conflicting views it is right, I think, that the public should be put in possession of evidence and arguments collected after careful, thorough and impartial study to enable us to reach the safest conclusion. I shall not prejudge the subject myself, although, perhaps, if I must confess to a bias as regards the telephone, that bias would be that I cannot see why it is not as much the duty of the state to take charge of the telephone as it is to conduct the postal service. However, as I say, I will endeavour to approach the subject judicially notwithstanding that bias which I think it my duty to announce in advance so that I may not be allowed to give a too unlimited rein to that view in the committee if others should feel that I was proceeding rather to carry out a view of my own than to investigate the case judicially and then reach a conclusion. Some people are willing to rush at conclusions even where large interests are involved. It Is the duty, I think, of the House to be careful and guarded and safe so that we may take wise, safe and prudent steps. I do not think it is necessary for me to do more than observe that these existing systems in Canada, although they have been of very great use and have rendered great public service, still have occas-

ioned friction and dissatisfaction as is always more or less, perhaps, the outcome of conflict between consumer and producer, and so in this case it is possible that the committee may find grievances existing that their inquiry will help to remove. X have nothing further to add except to state that I would be glad to be allowed to suggest another name to the committee, that of Mr. Zimmerman, of Hamilton.

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