March 7, 1910 (11th Parliament, 2nd Session)

CON

Haughton Lennox

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LENNOX.

On Friday evening, in the absence of the Minister of Railways, I asked that this Bill be allowed to stand over. As the minister is now present I desire to direct his attention to the matter involved. This Bill passed the committee the other day with some amendments. Since that time, we have had several Bills of the same character. Notably we had one the other day that was very much pressed, but after a good deal of discussion it was decided that the matter should stand over until the Minister of Railways could have an opportunity to consider the question, not piecemeal but as a whole. The point involved is covered by the 13th section: [DOT]
13. The company may acquire, utilize and develop lands, water-powers, rights, easements and privileges on the Saskatchewan and Nelson rivers or in the vicinity of its railway, and construct, maintain and operate dams, reservoirs, buildings and works for the general transmission and distribution of electricity for light, heat, power or any other purpose in connection with its railway, vessels and other properties and works, and may supply, sell or otherwise dispose of any surplus water, electricity, electric or other power not required for the purposes of the company, and may enter into agreements with any company or person for any of the purposes aforesaid.
This section has been, slightly amended. But the point is this: we are authorizing companies, nominally Tailway companies-and sometimes, perhaps, bona fide railway companies, but often railway companies in name only-to acquire and develop valuable water privileges throughout Canada, sometimes to the impeding of navigation, at any rate, to acquire most valuable franchises that would be otherwise available for the benefit of the people of Canada, going to lessen their taxation and so decreasing the burden that they would otherwise have to bear. This is a somewhat new departure. But some Bills involving the principle have passed the committee, as in the present case. But there was one we struck upon the other day that

is still before the committee. I urged, and for the time being successfully, that the committee should stay its hand until the Minister of Railways had an opportunity to consider the whole matter. Now, it is a very serious question. I admit that it is a very difficult problem to deal with. The companies can put forward the argument that they want water-power to a greater extent than was formerly necessary in the case of a railway because they are going to use electricity, generated by water, as a motive power, and in every case they ask that they shall have the right to sell their surplus power. The result is that if they build a mile of railway, even with the amendments and safeguards we put in, if they build a mile of railway they acquire the right to develop whatever water-power can be developed to the utmost extent and to sell the surplus power. They interfere with the distribution of wealth in that locality, and they interfere-as in the case of the province of Ontario-with the control the provincial government is exercising over' water-powers for the benefit of the people. They accumulate in this way, and will continue to accumulate, large unearned fortunes in many cases, and there is every reason to believe that many of these schemes are only railway companies in name. The minister can see that if this came in as a power Bill, it would not go before the Railway Committee at all. In many respects it is a power Bill and nothing else. I would ask the hon. minister to stay progress of this and all Bills of a like character until to-morrow, when the Railway Committee holds its session, or until he can enunciate some scheme which will safeguard the interests of the public. The onus is upon the minister. The matter is not an easy one, but I would ask the minister to allow this Bill to stand over in order that all similar measures may be dealt *with alike. We shall have more or less of a contest over it in the Railway Committee to-morrow, and it will be weil to allow it and others like it to stand until the minister has stated the policy which the government intend pursuing. If you provide in all these Bills that the railway company shall have the right to develop only such power as they want for their own use, their charters will be shorn of a good deal of danger, but whatever policy the minister may enunciate, I would urge him, in the interests of the public, to see that he does enunciate a policy which will apply to all-some definite, clear policy-and if necessary amend the Railway Act so as to prevent companies, under the garb and name of railway companies, acquiring these valuable franchises and controlling industries. These water-powers will be the cause of great industries springing up at certain points;

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Subtopic:   NELSON RIVER RAILWAY COMPANY.
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