May 13, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)

LIB

Clifford Sifton (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. SIFTON.

legislature of that province. Any such principle as that would be a most unsafe principle to adopt, and I do not fancy, unless they should be of a character which would show that there was an absolute explosion of public opinion, this House would be justified in accepting representations of that kind. It seems to me very clear that the legislature of Manitoba has emphatically made up its mind on that subject. The Bills were passed by a large majority. The opposition did not poll its full strength in the divisions upon which the Bills were passed. The government, I believe, did poll its full strength.
The legislature was importuned by the Liberal press to place in this Bill a provision to the effect that the law should not come into force until it was ratified by legislation at Ottawa, but the legislature would not do it, and the Bill does not contain any such provision. They bound themselves to the contract without condition. As I read that contract at the present time, the government of Manitoba is bound to guarantee these bonds whether this Act is passed here or not. That seems to be the legal effect of it. They have put no suspending clause in it, and it looks very much as though the legal construction of that contract would be that the provincial government would be bound to guarantee these bonds whether this Act is passed or not. They were certainly importuned by the Liberal press of the province to put a suspending clause in the contract, but I do not find it there. They did, however, put in a clause with the opposite tendency. It is a clause which did not seek to limit the executive of the province, but sought to extend the powers of the executive of the province by giving them power to include provision in the mortgage taken in pursuance of the contract, even though that might be inconsistent with the terms of the contract. My hon. friend from La-belle (Mr. Bourassa) pointed out that this Bill did not contain that clause, and the inference from his remarks would be that his view was, that on that ground the province of Manitoba would not receive in the carrying out of the contract the benefit of that clause. That, however, is not the case, because in making the contract between the railway company and the government, the government will be bound to carry out the terms of that provision and to put that particular provision respecting the payment of shortages in the contract. There is no legal effect in it being left out of our Bill here, in so far as the relative rights of the parties are concerned. Another thing which seems to make it stronger and clearer that the government of Manitoba and its followers are clear and decided in their position on this question, is the fact, that the counsel for the province of Manitoba appeared before the Railway Committee. I think I may say that the counsel for the province, Mr. Walter Barwick, of Toronto, is a man well

and favourably known all over the Dominion of Canada, as a very able, and very competent and reliable solicitor. Mr. Banvick appeared before tbe Railway Committee and declared that tbe Bill was perfectly satisfactory to his clients, the province of Manitoba. Well, if the Bill Is perfectly satisfactory to the government of Manitoba, if they can find no indication, if their counsel can find no indication that they are not getting what they bargained for, I should think that is pretty fair evidence that the apprehensions of our friends who are raising these points are without foundation. We have the application of the two railway companies ; we have the application of the legislature and of the government of the province, and we have the counsel of the government coming before us to say that the Bill is what they want. I can only conclude that the position in which we find ourselves is this : That the people of the province of Manitoba have fairly well made up their minds that they are going to have a railway connection to Lake Superior under their own control and able to compete with the Canadian Pacific Railway so that the Manitoba government can control the rates at which the produce of the province will be carried to the lake. That is the evident determination of the people of that province and they have been of that mind so clearly for the last four or five years, that successive premiers of the province, three in succession, have attempted to carry out some such plan as this. We are called upon to decide whether we will allow them to do that in their own way and upon their own responsibility, or whether we will say to them ; No ; you will stop at the boundary line of the province of Manitoba ; you cannot connect with any Dominion railway, and you have to take whatever rates these railway companies give you, under our supervision. That is the position we would have to take if we refuse this Bill. The best conclusion I can come to in reference to the matter is, that with regard to Manitoba or any other province under similar circumstances, we should allow the responsibility to rest where the power rests, and that we should endeavour to carry out as far as we can what are the well understood and very clearly defined wishes of the legislature of the province.

Topic:   LEASE OF RAILWAYS BY MANITOBA.
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