April 17, 1902 (9th Parliament, 2nd Session)


The MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR (Hon. Clifford Sifton).

It is not customary to debate the principle of a Bill upon the explanation which is given by the minister who introduces the Bill ; and I think hon. gentlemen who sit upon the front bench of the opposition will agree with me that it is not conducive to clearness or to a fair and reasonable understanding of important questions, that a debate should be sprung upon the merits of a very important Bill immediately the minister who gave the explanation has sat down. I think the House will agree with me, too, that if my hon. friend was interested in a real solution of this large and important question he would have devoted his attention to making inquiries of the minister who introduced the Bill, with the object of eliciting any further information that might enable him to understand the question, and then give it more mature consideration before expressing an opinion. I may say to my hon. friend that this legislation under which he says the people of the North-west Territories are suffering, was placed upon the statute-book by his own party and not by the Liberal party. The grievances of the people in that respect have been redressed to a considerable extent by the legislation which the Minister of Justice has introduced this afternoon, pnd I would willingly challenge my hon. friend to lay his finger upon any piece of legislation that was introduced prior to the advent of this government, in which, in so few words, so many important matters were dealt with, and the grievances of the people were so effectually redressed, and the rights of the people so effectually protected as they are in the Bill which my hon. friend has just asked leave to introduce.

We had upon the statute-book the clause which stated that the tolls of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company should not be reduced until the net earnings were 10 per *cent upon the capital actually expended in the construction of the railway. Now they come along and ask us for leave to extend that capital by $20,000,000. It is not suggested that the application is not a legitimate and an honest application. I think we will all agree, however our views may vary in regard to the policy of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, that that company has now arrived at such a state of development that we need not look for any cheap huckstering or anything of that kind in connection wTith their capital. When they come forward with an application to increase their capital, we expect them to do so in a bona fide way, to get money for a bona fide purpose. There will be no question in the minds of members of this House upon that subject. They ask us to give them leave to increase their capital by $20,000,000. The first condition we make is this, that in considering the amount of capital actually expended in the construction of the railway for the purpose of applying the control which the law gives to the government in certain cases, that $20,000,000 need not be taken into consideration. So if the public get the benefit of that $20,000,000, and that sum does not add to the amount on which net earnings should be reckoned before we can apply our principle of control, can my bon. friend suggest anything in connection with our legislation for the Canadian Pacific Railway which would have placed the people in a better position in respect to the control of rates ? My hon. friend, I believe, is something of a socialist. Perhaps he would have taken the position that he did not care what the law was on that point, or what the legislation was, that he did not care what the vested rights of the stock holders and' bond holders of the Canadian Pacific Railway were, but he would simply have done as he pleased. I am bound to say, Mr. Speaker, that this government is not prepared to take that position ; but we are prepared, and I believe with the full agreement of the other side of the House-of the responsible members of the other side of the House-to give full, fair and reasonable protection to every vested right of any person who invests a dollar in the Dominion Of Canada. That does not prevent us, however, when government action is required, from taking fair and reasonable measures for the protection of the public, and I think it will be the sentiment of members on both sides of the House that we have gone in this respect as far as we honourably and legally could have gone.

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