May 31, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Frederick Forsyth Pardee

Unionist (Liberal)


I have not the right
hon. gentleman's telegram of the 26th. I do not intend to take advantage of that at all, and if he will send it across I shall be glad to read it, it is only fair that it should also go on record. Here is the .telegram, dated Ottawa, May 26, 1921, in these words:
Hon. E. C. Drury,
Premier of Ontario,
The Bill respecting the Lake of the Woods referred to in your telegram of May 25th proposes no more than to take power to exercise the undoubted jurisdiction of the Dominion in respect both of navigation and of our international obligations. Further there is a clause providing that if the Ontario legislature enacts the legislation referred to in the Lake of the Woods Control Board Act passed earlier this Session the force of the present Bill may be suspended. Unless we adopt this Bill the position resulting from failure of Ontario legislature to adopt the legislation agreed upon this year is that there may be no means effectively to protect great public interests and that the responsibilities of Dominion Government in respect of a great navigable water system and of our international engagements may be at the mercy of purely private interests. This is a position for which we are not prepared to take responsibility.
Arthur Meighen.
That is exactly what the right hon. gentleman said to-day. I contend that nothing could be more fallacious than the statement that if the Ontario Legislature enacts certain legislation we will go back to the old status quo. Section 10 of this Bill provides:
If the necessary legislation of Ontario referred to in the preamble of the Lake of the Woods Control Board Act, 1921, be enacted by the legislature, the Governor in Council may, by proclamation published in the Canada Gazette repeal or suspend this Act and the regulations made thereunder-
That is absolutely permissive and may or may not be done as suits the Government which may be in power at that time. That section also provides:
Provided that notwithstanding any repeal or suspension of this Act .in the manner provided by this section the works and each of them hereby declared to he for the general advantage-

of Canada shall remain and continue to he works for the general advantage of Canada.
In other words, Sir, you give with one hand and you take back with the other, and you leave the donee absolutely nothing.
Now let me continue my argument as to what efforts had or had not been made by the province of Ontario and the Dominion, tut more especially by the province of Ontario, in order that this matter might be amicably settled without any prejudice to the rights of the province of Ontario. In that connection I will read the letter of May 27, 1921, from Mr. E. C. Drury to the Right Hon. Mr. Meighen:
With reference to your telegram of yesterday re Lake of the Woods I feel it my duty to remind you again of your promise contained in your letter to me of April 29th as follows: "X will take up the matter of continuing the present Control Board with the Minister of the Interior and can assure you that we will endeavour to do so if the same can toe effectively done." There is absolutely no reason to believe that the present control cannot toe effectively continued. This Government is in a position to assure you that-pending the execution of the White Dog lease under the terms of which the control of the Norman Dam will toe permanently established-it has an undertaking that the present control will not be disturbed toy the private Interests involved.
That is pretty strong. Premier Drury lays it down on his responsibility as the head of that great province that they have assurance that the present control will not be disturbed by the private interests involved.
In view of your undertaking and the firm position we have taken regarding control of the Lake of the Woods, the contention now advanced that control is in jeopardy is unwarranted and is, I submit, no justification of your proposed legislation which attempts to dispossess this province of its constitutional authority over its water-powers. I draw your attention to the fact that this Government has not been consulted i-n the matter of this drastic action that we have had no opportunity to see the proposed Bill and that we are prepared to co-operate with the Dominion, as we have been doing to ensure that the interests of navigation will toe amply safeguarded.
Could anything be more absolutely explicit in asserting that Premier Drury, on his responsibility as Premier of Ontario, is willing to give every undertaking that so far as the waters in that region are concerned to-day things will go on as they have done in the past, that the waters will remain at the same level as they have remained at for the last ten or fourteen years, anti that as a consequence no person who requires the use of those waters will be in the slightest degree prejudiced. I submit that nothing could be stronger or more explicit than that. Then, what further does he say?
Tour contention that failing your legislation international engagements will toe at the mercy of private interests is, I submit, lacking in frankness because no such engagements have yet been ratified and because there are means of controlling the private interests involved. I am therefore compelled to ask you not to proceed with the Bill which is unnecessary and unjustifiable invasion of the rights of Ontario.
I ask again, could language be stronger or more explicit than this language used by one holding the responsible position of Premier of the province of Ontario? Then there is a telegram-I am sorry to have to detain the committee, but I wish to put these things on record-from the right hon. Prime Minister to E. C. Drury, dated May 28, 1921. I quote:
Your telegram May 27th respecting Lake of the Woods. My statement of April 29th that we would endeavour continue present means of control was, as your telegram itself shows, conditional upon question whether such means would toe effective.
I submit with all deference that that is a rather far-fetched conclusion.
As I have already pointed out we regard their effectiveness as being so doubtful that we cannot take responsibility of relying upon them.
They have been quite effective for many years.
I pointed out before, and your telegram now confirms it, that the only existing basis upon which control can toe founded is some engagement with private interests to which the Dominion is not even a party.
Why should the Dominion be a party, I want to know? When shall it be said that a province may not deal with its own natural resources as it sees fit-in this case, so long as the flow of water below the dam is not interfered with?
Even if it were a party we could not regard this, in view of all the circumstances and importance of interests at stake, as a satisfactory basis upon which to rest our responsibility in respect of navigation and our international engagements. Your own agreement earlier this year to concurrent legislation constitutes in itself recognition of inadequacy of existing basis and of necessity of remedy.
Not necessarily, I argue. They were quite ready and quite willing to pass enabling and concurrent legislation. The only reason why there should be concurrent and enabling legislation was the fact that the commission did not have the power to carry its decrees into effect. I will admit all that, if it is any comfort to my right hon. friend. But I want to point out further that there was absolutely no reason to doubt the wisdom of what they were doing.

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