March 20, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)

LIB

Andrew George Blair (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Hon. Mr. BLAIR.

this Bill, will exercise all the powers which are now vested in the railway commission of the Privy Council. We propose to constitute a court to consist of three or five members. I confess to a personal preference for three, but I do not assume that my judgment is necessarily sounder than that of others, and I invite an expression of opinion from hon. members on both sides on this point when we come to discuss the subject in detail. Therefore we leave the number in blank for the present. It is proposed that the commission shall be constituted a court of record. The tenure of office is to be a term of ten years, and each member is eligible to re-appointment. We have fixed an age limit of 75 years, beyond which no person can remain a member of the board. The Bill which we submitted last year contained, and the present Bill, when printed, will be found to contain a clause providing that the members of the commission are only removable on an address of both Houses of parliament to the Governor General. This, on full consideration, we concluded to change, and although the Bill when it is distributed will contain such a clause, it is an oversight which will be remedied in committee. We propose that the members of the commission shall be removable in the same manner as the lieutenant governors of the provinces, namely, by the Governor General in Council, for cause.
We confer upon the majority of the board the power of deciding any question, but one member of the commission may make' an order, jiroviding the case or the matter is not one of a contentious character and is not opposed. We propose also that the meetings of the 'board may be migratory. The board may move from place to place, provided, however, that such meetings can only take place with the approval of the Minister of Railways for the time being.
We leave the salaries of the commission open for the present, and will make a proposal to the committee when we reach that stage in the consideration of the Bill.
I now come to an important feature of the Bill, the importance of which you will have 1'ecognized in view of what I said a moment ago as to the unsatisfactory experience in the United States by reason of the facilities for litigation on all sorts of questions under their system. We propose that the commission shall be the absolute judges of both law and fact, subject to two exceptions. The commission will be absolute judges as to the facts, only subject to appeal to the Governor General in Council. They will be absolute judges of the law, except when a question of jurisdiction arises, which of course it would be quite impossible to restrict in any way, but they may state a case to the Supreme Court in the event of any question of legal importance arising.

Topic:   MAKCH 20. 1903
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