Mr. ARTHUR LACHANCE (Quebec-Cen-tre) (Translation):
Really Mr. Speaker,
Fortune seems very fickle towards me. The other night, I had, by authority of the chairman, to put'up with the hardship of the closure rule ; to-night again, I am bound to suffer the same inconvenience, since I have hut a few minutes left before the clock strikes two, the hour of crime, the fatal hour also for the present Government.
However that may be, could I make better use of these last minutes than by letting you listen here to the voice of citizens of the city of Quebec, of which I am one of the representatives?
A few weeks ago, the Boards of Trade addressed to the Government a memorandum containing important considerations upon the railways of Canada; several of
the remarks have a direct hearing upon the question now before us.
This is the memorandum:
The Canadian Railway Companies
Quebec, June 21, 1917. Proposed by Jos. Picard, Esq.,
Seconded by E. Harper Wade, Esq.,
That, in view of the differing reports which have been recently made by the majority and minority members of the Royal Commission, appointed by the Government to study and report upon the railway system of Canada, and the best mode of overcoming the difficulties which have been created by the unfortunate duplication of railway in many districts, the Quebec Board of Trade is of opinion that it would be wise for the Government to carefully study the position again, before coming to any decision in favor of the adoption of either of the reports which have been submitted. That there are many reasons why it would not be advisable that the railway system of Canada or any very considerable part of it should be under Government ownership and management, which experience has proved to be not satisfactory in many respects ; that the progress of the country would be better stimulated by the initiative developed by company management, and that the Government management of the mileage betweeen Halifax and Winnipeg, now operated by the Government should be sufficient to regulate rates so as to direct the western trade to Canadian seaports; and that it would seem wise for the Government to let the railways work out their own financial problems, and to concentrate its efforts upon the proper equipment of our seaports with steamship docks and grain storage, upon reducing marine insurance rates and thereby attracting vessels to our seaports upon building or causing to be built ocean steamers to carry the trade of Canada, and in this way making our railway system fulfil the objects for which it was created, and arrest the alarming diversion of our trade to United States seaports. And that copies of this resolution be forwarded to the Right Hon. the Prime Minister, the Minister of Railways and the city representatives in the Cabinet and Parliament.
True copy. [DOT]
I am glad to lay before the House these opinions of ia distinguished body and I hope the Government will give them all the consideration their importance 'entitles them to.
And now, may I be allowed to make a few observations about the Canadian Northern. This measure is of a most serious character; the consequence will be for Canada to assume a debt of $500,000,000 to $600,000,000, besides $60,000,000, the price for the 600,000 shares of the company's capital stock, and not including, in fine, the Government's intention to take over this railway.
The hon. member for St. John (Mr. Pugs-ley) moves an amendment to the effect that the administration should not take that step without the assent of Parliament.
It is Parliament's duty to so step in; a large number of business men have declared that this transaction might seriously affect Canada's credit abroad. It is the most gigantic undertaking that any Government of this country has ever contemplated.
But the Government refuse to accept this amendment; they want to settle the whole matter at their own will1; they don't want Parliament's scrutinizing eye upon this game of chess.
However, they cannot get away from the fact that this whole affair will be earmarked in the Dominion's financial records under the name of "The Canadian Northern . deal", that is to say a legerdemain trick, a juggling with the public funds.
Why do the Government'refuse to assume the ownership conferred under the Act of 1914? The Prime Minister replied, yesterday, that it was to allow the proprietors to submit whatever claims they thought proper under the circumstances. At first sight, the proposition seems reasonable, but less so when we recall that the advances, made in 1914, were in full settlement of any possible claim on the part of those gentlemen, the day when, in order to secure itself, the country should take over that road.
On this point, Mr. Speaker, let me quote the sections of the Bill, such as I find them contained in a speech of the hon. member from Bouville, of August 15, pages 4739 and 4740 of Hansard (unrevised edition). Mr. lemieux said:
What does section 21 of the statute say? It reads as follows.
The following shall be events of default within the meaning of this Act, viz.:
(a) If the Canadian Northern shall make default in payment of the principal or interest of the guaranteed securities or any part thereof, or default in observing or performing any of the provisions of the new Trust Deed and the security constituted by the new Trust Deed shall thereby become enforceable.
And a little further:
Therefore I say, according to section 21 of the Act passed in 1914, the company is in default, and if the company is in default foreclosure follows, by section 24. The marginal note of that section reads as follows:
Equity of redemption foreclosed on default and vested in His Majesty.
And section 24 itself reads:
If authorized by the Parliament of Canada, the Governor in Council may, on such terms and conditions (if any) as Parliament may prescribe, at any time while any event of default shall exist and be continuing, by order declare the equity of redemption of the Canadian Northern and of all other persons whomsoever in the mortgaged premises to be foreclosed, and thereupon the equity of redemption of the Canadian Northern (and of such other persons) in the mortgaged premises and every part thereof shall be and become absolutely barred and foreclosed, and the same shall
thereupon be vested in His Majesty in right of the Dominion of Canada, any statutory enactment or any rule of law or equity to the contrary notwithstanding.
In view of such statements, these would be reservations, in the name of equity are empty statements, a red herring thrown across the track.
The Prime Minister, always to justify himself for not applying his enactment of 1914, says: It were better to leave the management and the operating of the road to the parties now in charge, in order not to create too much friction.
However, the results attained should * have induced him to eliminate that very staff who have put that road into bankruptcy. They blame the war for it; but, there are other railways in Canada, and tne war has not forced them into liquidation.
No, Mr. Speaker, the truth of it is that this enterprise, ever since it was started, seems to have been used more especially to enrich a few gentlemen at the expense of the public Treasury both of the Provinces and of the Dominion, and the present Act moreover shows that those men are impenitent and, so long as golden pieces shine within theirreach, (they will never be satisfied until they tinkle in their pockets.
. Therefore, I say, Mr. Speaker, this Act should be condemned by this House, as it will certainly be condemned by the people when the latter are consulted.
The amendment moved by Mr. Pugsley was declared lost on the following division:
(St. Hyacinthe), Pacaud,
Ames (Sir Herbert), Merner,
Armstrong (Lambton), Middlebro,
Armstrong (York, O.), Morphy,
Bennett (Simcoe), Robidoux,
Boys, [DOT] Sexsmith,
Clark (Bruce), Steele,
Cochrane, Stewart (Hamilton),
Currie, Stewart (Lunenburg),
Girard, Thompson (Yhikon),
McLean White (Sir Thomas).
(Queens, P.E.I.), Meighen, -53.
Borden, Sir Robert, Laurier, Sir Wilfrid,
Doherty, Marcil, Hon. Chas.,
Foster, Sir George, Turgeon,
Marshall, Maclean, A. K.,
Morris, Marcile (Bagot),
White (Renfrew), Chisholm,
Wilson (Wentworth), White (Victoria),
Wright, Wilson (Laval),
Webster. Hughes, J. J., Gauvreau, C. A.