May 19, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Edward Arthur Lancaster

Conservative (1867-1942)


I do not think it is quite fair for the hon. Minister of Railways to suggest that the hon. member for South Simcoe (Mr. Lennox) is impatient in this matter. We have been here four or five months waiting for legislation from the government and have had only one piece of legislation which my hon. friend properly says has taken up a good deal of time. But that is not the fault of the opposition but the fault of the legislation which the government has introduced. It is legislation which is very controversial and very peculiar. This Railway Commission was appointed two years ago and for two years the Dominion of Canada has had that commission, but the people have had not a tittle of official evidence or information as to what that commission is doing, not one particle of information have the people of Canada as to whether that commission is doing anything like what was expected when it was appointed. I have a good deal of respect for the commission as a whole and for the individual members of it, but this is an instance where all public servants will do as they like if there is not some restraining or guiding hand in the shape of legislation or rules to govern them to which they must submit. Instead of lecturing the House and the hon. member who spoke in the interests of the people, I think the Minister of Railways or some member of the government should apologize to the House and the country for their laxity in this matter. It is not a matter that should be treated with levity. We have a large expenditure connected with this Railway Commission, and they were appointed to do work that is most important to the country. We do not know nor do the people of the country know at all except in cases where they have hunted up information for themselves,-sometimes at a good deal of expense, and always with a good deal of trouble,-what that commission is doing. They are not responsible apparently to the Minister of Railways or to the government in the matter of making a report. I do not see why there was not legislation introduced last session in this connection for this matter was known last session. On February 22 of this year as has been said, attention was drawn to it and the hon. member for South Simcoe then brought the matter up. The Prime Minister on that occasion said :
I shall at once call the attention of the Minister of Justice to this. If the commission is not under obligation to make such a report it is due to parliament that it should be at once put under such an obligation.
That was on the 22nd of February of this year, and here we are practically three months later and nothing has been done. Now ' at once ' might mean, I should think less than three months' time. Parliament
is in session and I do think we ought to have a little more speed in this matter. To-day we were promised in a very cursory, almost off-handed way by the minister. that there will be some other measure in regard to the amendment of the Railway Act which is supposed to be dealt with this session and which is now on the order paper. It is certainly as important as any legislation that has been introduced by the government, or promised by the government. I do not think that the manner in which the Minister of Railways treats this House would inspire the public with much hope that the government are going to do any better in the future than they have been doing the last few years ; and if not, I think the censure of the people should be visited upon this government. I would urge upon the government, so far as I have any influence, at least I would request the government as representing my constituency in this House, to take immediate action. I do not wish to allow this occasion to go by without putting on record my protest and the protest of my constituents against the dilatoriness with which the government has treated this matter, the want of care, the lack of appreciation of the importance of the matter, which I think the government has evinced. This' matter is one which demands a remedy at once, and we ought to have better assurance than we have yet had from the Minister of Railways that it will be attended to, and that the Railway Commission will be charged with the duty of making this report, either quarterly, half yearly or yearly, at all events at some set time, when these reports will become public documents and open to inspection by the public, so that the people can learn what is going on with regard to this matter, and all those other numerous matters that the commission has to deal with. The House desires to learn how the commission is working, and whether any other amendments are required in order to make it fulfil the intention of its appointment.

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