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


George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)



The question raised is very_ important, and, as my hon. friend admits, not altogether free from difficulty. The problems that confront us in a young country change so rapidly, the conditions surrounding them change so rapidly, that we have something new to solve about every year. My opinion may be an erroneous one, but I do think that tieing up water-powers and preventing their development is not conserving, but wasting them. If we can surround their development with safeguards to the public, and at the same time encourage their development, we shall be doing the best possible in the public interest. It is not in the public interest to tie these water-powers up so that the public cannot get at them, either through themselves or through some company. One of the objections to railway companies being authorized to acquire water-powers is the fear that they might in some way get the rights to expropriate water-powers. But we have a safeguard against this in this measure, and the other Bills. No Bill has gone through the committee which allows any company to expropriate water-powers. As regards the impeding of navigation, the Public Works Department has to approve of every obstruction, of every bridge, or other impediment on a navigable stream, so that way the rights of traffic by water are protected. Some are op-opposed to the development of water-powers by railway companies. I cannot see what difference it makes, so long as the people are absolutely protected. My hon. friend had no doubt in mind the case of the coal mines on the other side of the line, which were owned bv the railway companies, so that any reduction in the rates on the railway could be added to the price of coal, and the railway company thus escaped the control of rates; but in these Bills the rates to be charged for power as well as the railway rates are to be subject to the board of commissioners, so that if a railway company should have surplus power to sell, the price is controlled by the government. It is difficult to say how far we ought to allow a railway company to go on developing power. Suppose we were to provide that a railway company cannot develop water-power except for the use of its road, and suppose it should develop more water-power than it requires for its operation, how are you going to deprive it from selling its surplus? Who will step in to prevent it? It is well known that a large amount of horse-power can be developed cheaper pro rata than a smaller amount. Now, if a railway com-

pany should need only 5,000 horse-power at present, but lays out its plant to provide double that quantity in order to be ready to meet the growth of trade, would it be wise for that company to prevent it developing 10,000 horse-power, although it can do so cheaper pro rata than 5,000, and limit its development to its actual need of 5,000. Would it not be more reasonable to allow the company to develop all it wants, and a little surplus and sell its surplus, so long as we take a proper safeguard to control prices? But even if we should strike it out altogether, the provision giving a railway company the right to sell its surplus waterpower, no one, outside some shareholder of the company could prevent its doing so. I have no objection to let the Bill stand until we discuss the other Bill in the Railway Committee, which has a like provision, although several have gone through with that clause in allowing the development and sale of water-power.

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