May 3, 1909 (11th Parliament, 1st Session)


John Barr

Conservative (1867-1942)


At this late stage of the session, when we are anxious to bring our work to a close, it is very unfortunate that this Bill should be brought up again. When the right hon. gentleman turned it down the otheT day, we thought we had heard the last of it for this session at least, but we have it popping up again like an irrepressible jack-in-the-box. The legal aspect of the question has been fully discussed, and I do not think it can be seriously pretended that this government has exclusive jurisdiction. Even if the British North America Act be strained to give it some jurisdiction, at least the Ontario government have rights in these water-powers within their own province, and ought to be left free to deal with them. We are told that the Bill passed the committee, but we must remember that it passed at a rather stormy meeting and contrary to the vote of the Ontario members, both Liberal and Conservative. It only passed by virtue of the vote of members from the other provinces who are not directly interested and who were drummed up for that purpose. I know that Ontario members on the Liberal side remained away and refused to vote for the Bill but did not like to appear and vote against it out of regard for my hon. friend the promoter of "the Bill (Mr. Conmee). I hope that no one imagines that we on this side oppose the measure because my hon. friend is the promoter. We would oppose it just as strongly if it were put forward by an hon. member on this side. We are opposing it on principle, because we believe it is of vital importance to the province of Ontario that that province should have control in this matter, and if necessary we are prepared to oppose it from day to day and thus prolong this session which we all desire to see brought to an end. I think the right hon. the Prime Minister has been ill advised in giving his consent to have this Bill brought up again. We must remember that the company in question is largely controlled by American citizens, who will no doubt, in the working out of the measure place the interest of their own country first. Let me remind the House that when the Niagara Power Company Bill was brought in a year ago, we took the precaution to provide that only the surplus power should be sold on the other side of the line, but no such precaution is taken in this measure, and the company may sell the greater part of its power in the United States. Under the circumstances, the Bill is a most dangerous one. The Ontario government have appointed an electric commis-

sion which has done good work in the province of Ontario, and that policy has been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the free and independent electors of that province. If there is one Act more than another of the Ontario government which the people appreciate it is their reserving of these powers for the province. Under the circumstances, it would be a blunder and a crime against the province of Ontario if we should pass this Bill. This House ought not to put itself in a hostile attitude to any province. We ought to remember that our water-powers are the greatest assets which our provinces possess. They are the white coal of the country, to which we look to take the place of the ordinary coal when that is exhausted. Under the circumstances we ought to be very careful not to give a perpetual franchise which will take this power out of the province altogether. This is one of the greatest water-powers we have in that part of the country. Without going into the legal question, it seems to me that the province is better fitted to deal with this asset than is the Dominion parliament. Charters of this kind are usually given by the Ontario government; and if this session be delayed on account of this Bill, the responsibility must Test on this government.

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