As I understand from a reading of this Bill, it is an amendment of the Railway Act to provide a method different from that which has heretofore existed for the approval of general routes of proposed railway lines. Under the statute the method heretofore followed hias been this: Upon a 'Company's making application to Parliament for a charter for the construction of a line, the Bill in respect to the matter is referred to the Committee on Railways, Canals and Telegraph Lines. The promoters of the scheme are asked to place before the Railway Committee a map giving a general outline of the proposed project. As a matter of fact, it quite often happens that these maps are not very illuminating, and give very little information as to where the road is, going; and the Railway Committee and the House itself have power to make definite landmarks along ine railway and generally to say at what points it shall touch. It has been the practice in the Railway Committee, however, to be not very exact in this respect, and to leave the location of the route generally to the minister. Under the statute as it now stands-and I think it has not been amended-there is submitted to the minister a map of the route, and it is his duty to locate it in a general direction. After he has done this the matter goes before the Board of Railway Comissioners, whose duty is more definitely to locate the line, their powers being limited to a change of the route that has been approved by the minister to the extent of one mile either way. That has caused a good deal of work on the part of the minister, and has been very troublesome at times. But there is this to be said in favour of the minister's having the right to locate the line in a general way: that it reserves to the Government the matter of policy as to the locating of lines within certain distances of each other. For example, if a new portion of the country is to be opened up, there is left to the Government a full discretion through the Minister of Railways as to the policy that shall be adopted in the matter of railway construction in connection with opening up that new piece of territory. However, I am rather inclined to the view that it would not be unwise to give this amendment a trial. Our main lines of railway have been constructed across the continent; a great many of our branch lines have been constructed, and, as the Board of Railway Commissioners
have power to change the route to the extent of one mile either way, I am not prepared to oppose this Bill, which gives them the further power of determining the whole location of the line. It may prove that the power is a little too extensive to grant to the Board of Railway Commissioners, but I am inclined to think that a board composed as that board always has been composed will be in as good a position, with our railway construction as far advanced as it is now, to do this work as was the minister, and perhaps better. I have read the Bill hurriedly, but it would seem that nothing is said with reference to the old powers heretofore vested in the board. In other words, new powers are conferred upon them by this Bill. If I am not mistaken, the Bill gives the board power to locate the line generally, or transfers to the board the power which was formerly vested in the minister. Subsection 2 of section 157, as amended, says:
Such map shall be prepared upon a scale not smaller than six miles to the inch, or upon such other appropriate scale as the board may determine, and shall be accompanied by an application in duplicate, stating: the Special Act authorizing the construction of such railway, and requesting the board's approval of the general location as shown on the said map.
Is not that about the authority that the minister had before? And, in addition to that, has not the bo-ard, under this or some other section of the Bill, power definitely to state where the line shall run? You are wishing not to take away from the board the power that they did have, but to add such power as the minister had before?
Subtopic: RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENTS.