October 16, 1919 (13th Parliament, 3rd Session)


William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)


entirely mistaken. Well, then, suppose you lay aside that question.
I have already said .that even if we should feel that this arrangement was more meritorious than I have described it-if we could feel that there was no criticism of the agreement on its merits, we would still have reason to complain that at this late stage of the session it is utterly improper to introduce this legislation. What possible justification can there be? Urgency there is none. The Grand Trunk, in all this transaction, does not appear to have been anxious to have its property taken over. If I have read the correspondence correctly, the Government from beginning to end seems to have been trying to invent a ground for taking it over. Once the negotiations were opened for taking it over ,the Grand Trunk people would naturally desire to get the best price they could, and no blame can be ascribed to them. But no reason of urgency has been shown why this transaction should be undertaken now. Suppose the letter of Mr. Smithers had been written ten days later and we had had to wait until another session, what possible harm could have ensued ? What interest could have suffered? Wherein would the people of Canada have been injured ? Wherein, indeed, would the Grand Trunk or anybody else have suffered ? But for some strange reason the Government seem determined to push this matter through in the face of what I do not hesitate to say is a strong opposition on the part of independent public opinion. I know there are members listening to me, sitting on both sides of the House, who cordially agree with me. I am facing hon. gentlemen who I am sure agree with everything I am saying but who are influenced by party considerations. I am throwing no stones on that score. I used to be a party man years ago, and I shall not quarrel with hon. gentlemen on that score, but I do know that if we could get at the independent thought of the members we should find a strong opinion that this Bill ought not to be passed during the present session. There are various reasons, one of which is the gravity of the financial situation. My hon. friend the ex-Minister of Finance, in his speech today, has said very frankly that the situation is one of great gravity. Indeed, he has stated the same thing in public in another place even more forcibly, and I shall give him the benefit of his more forcible statement, On ia recent occasion-
where or when is of no consequence-the Inn. gentleman said:
I do not want to magnify the seriousness of the position of Canada. In my War Budget speech I aimed to give the exact facts to the House and to the public. I aimed to scrupulously point out the facts as I saw them, without any holding back of the unpleasant side of the situation. I said that an obligation had been incurred which would be a burden for generations to come, but I nevertheless struck, as I have always done during the war, an optimistic note, because I believe that, notwithstanding the heavy burdens which we have incurred, with the policy of retrenchment

they had notice that in four days the road would cease operating, but surely with 14,000 miles of railway now in the hands of the Government, it has a good opportunity of giving the thing a test. It is being tested elsewhere and not with great success. Public ownership was popular in the United1 States three years ago. To-day public ownership is discredited in the United States by the most responsible men. I doubt if the United States to-day could be induced to accept public ownership as they were *willing to but a few months ago. I do not ask the House to condemn public ownership. I do not even ask-apart from the particular transaction that I have been obliged to criticize-the House to pass judgment upon the merits of the scheme, but I know that the most sober minded men in this House, some of whom are sitting on the opposite side, feel that this is a grave and dangerous experiment. I submit that there is no urgency which requires us to put this thing through to-day; that there is no excuse for railroading it through to-day, and that it will be the part of wisdom, over which the Government themselves will later on rejoice, if they agree that this matter should not be proceeded with during the present session.

Subtopic:   V072 COMMONS
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