November 4, 1919 (13th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Joseph Archambault

Laurier Liberal

Mr. JOSEPH ARCHAMBAULT (Chambly-and Verchferes):

Mr. Speaker, I feel that 1 would be derelict in my duty if, before the vote is taken, I did not make a nonpartisan and earnest appeal to the members on both sides of the House in an endeavour to save Canada from an agreement which in my opinion is fraught with possible catastrophe and national bankruptcy. In order to make myself perfectly clear in my opposition to the Bill now under discussion, I desire at the outset to enunciate the reasons which I intend to develop in the course of a few remarks I shall make on the subject. These reasons are: First, in my opinion the Bill embodies what I may term an amphibious project, which is not public ownership but which retains all the risks and disadvantages of public ownership, eliminating many important features and advantages appertaining to such policy; second, although I believe in public ownership in theory, and although in practice it might be a good policy in other spheres of action, yet experience teaches us that in railroad matters it has been and is bound to be a failure; third, even if public ownership of railroads were a successful policy, the finances of the country do not permit the expenditure involved in the proposed agreement; fourth, there are at least two alternatives which are better than the proposed agreement now before the House; fifth, the agreement in itself is bad and it should be amended or postponed for further information and more mature consideration; and, finally, public opinion does not demand this undertaking, on the contrary, it is protesting against the proposition.
Let us now briefly and dispassionately examine these six reasons, having in mind the fact that when each and every one of us entered Parliament he took a solemn oath to vote not for party purposes, but according to his conscience, and only in the best interests of Canada. I said, Sir, that this project was amphibious: ni chair ni poisson. It contains all the risks and disadvantages inherent in public ownership, but discards many of the essential features and advantages of that policy. I might have used a more modern and up-to-date expression created recently by the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Meighen), who has largely piloted this Bill. I might have said " amphibiological." But, Mr. Speaker, as I am not speaking " in code," the word amphibious conveys adequately the idea I wish to express. The term "amphibious" is applied to animals or plants which can exist either in water or on dry land and which generally do not thrive to any marked degree of success in either element. Figuratively and economically speaking, it may be applied to a man or a policy having all the ear-marks of a well-defined character, but lacking many of its essential features. This amphibious character is very seldom a success; and it is always a failure when it embodies all the disadvantages of the policy it feigns and takes no cognizance of the advantages which attach to that policy. The ministers who piloted this Bill have made efforts to impress the House with the idea that the agreement embodies real public ownership of railroads, and I shall deal later with the danger of this policy. In the meantime let us examine the advantages of public ownership which are left out of this Bill. In the first place, according to the minis-

ters, the Grand Trunk will never be in our name; we shall never be the real proprietors. We may possess at a certain moment the majority of the stock, but the Grand Trunk Company will remain as a company and an entity. By not having the railroad under the name of the Canadian National Railways we deprive ourselves of a very great advantage in the shape of advertise- ' ment. It is true that the people will know that we have the controlling interest, but the road will still be run as the Grand Trunk railway and will not attract Canadian trade to the same extent as if it were known as part of the Canadian National railways. The second advantage, which is not embodied in the Bill, and which appertains to public ownership, is the fact that under this policy the state can enact uniform legislation favourable to its own railways and of great assistance towards their success. The Grand Trunk has something like two thousand miles of road in the United States. It controls thirty-three companies with stock amounting to some fifty-one million- dollars. These companies in the United States will escape our legislation and jurisdiction, with its benefits. Furthermore, of these two thousand miles both ends will be subject to foreign law, operated under the administration of the American railroads; and it is not likely that the American people will favour a railroad controlled by a foreign government and running in the United States in competition with American lines. Therefore these lines of the Grand Trunk which are at present running in the United States under a deficit will be further jeopardized by antagonism and unfriendly legislation. When we were discussing the resolution in committee, I raised the point that Canada, or His Majesty, could not own and operate railways in a foreign country because it is an absurdity in international law that the sovereign can be subject to the legislation and the laws of a foreign country. The Minister of the Interior who answered my question gave me two reasons. The first was that, although admitting the soundness of my argument in theory, the fact remained that the United States Government were operating railways in Canada. That was no answer at all because the United States Government does not operate any of its own railways in Canada. The New York Central and Delaware and Hudson are privately owned railways that have been taken temporarily by the Government of the United States for operation. There is no similarity between the fact that the United States Government is .
operating temporarily private-owned railways in Canada and the fact that we would go into the United States and operate our own railways. It makes all the difference in the world. If the New York Central or the Delaware and Hudson should violate the orders of the Canadian Railway Commission, or if by chance an accident should occur rendering either company liable in damages, -surely action would be properly instituted against the New York Central, or the Delaware and Hudson, and not -against the United States Government in view of the fact that it is not the United States Government which is operating these roads in its own name but that they are simply being operated for private companies.
But, says the minister, in his second answer: "We will not own the Grand Trunk railway lines in the United States but we will only own the majority of the stock." I admit that -legally and technically the contention of my hon. -friend is well founded but, although on this side of the House we were considered disloyal in 1911 because w-e wanted to enter into a trade agreement with the United States, I must say, Sir, that we d-o not relish the idea of the Dominion of Canada expressing the subordination of its will to a foreign power and to a government bureau of that foreign power. We believe we are right in our contention that the subordination of a private-owned company or corporation to the laws of a foreign government is not the same as the Government of Canada subordinating itself in any manner to the same power.
This operation by Canada of its railways in the United States -has another aspect which concerns the -friendly relations between Canada and the United States. It is well known that the acquisition by Japan of -a railway in Manchuria and the operation of that railway is looked upon with intense disfavour in China and may bring about trouble between the two nations. How will the 110 million people of the United States view the control by the Dominion of Canada of a company owning American territory approximately 2,000 miles in length and 60 feet in width in the States of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois consisting of the right of way necessary to enable the Dominion of Canada to reach two of the seaports of New England, Portland and New London as well as the great city of Chicago. Will that make for friendly relations?

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