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


John Patrick Molloy

Laurier Liberal


I desire to say a word or two on this matter which is of great public importance to the province of manitoba. I will not attempt to follow the arguments of the gentlemen who have preceded me-gentlemen belonging to the legal profession who have argued from the legal point of view more or less-but will consider the matter from a common-sense point of view.
The present situation has arisen, as I understand it, owing to the failure of the Ontario Legislature to pass concurrent legislation with this Parliament in regard to the board of control. The board of control was formed of the four gentlemen whose names have been mentioned by the Prime Minister, but they had no legislative authority behind them and so Were not in a position to carry their views into effect. For instance, I am informed that the Norman dam is in need at the present time of repairs to the extent of $60,000 or $70,000. The board of control, however, were unable to recommend any expenditure for that purpose because they did not know whether the provincial and Dominion authorities would sanction it. Along the Winnipeg river there are a number of splendid power sites. The city of Winnipeg is therefore

directly interested in this important question, as are other sections of the province of Manitoba. I am not speaking for any of the interests that have been referred to when I say that the province of Manitoba is asking for the passage of this legislation, which is nothing more or less than protective legislation. The hon. member for West Lambton (Mr. Pardee) this afternoon sought to make a point of appealing to Liberals to oppose this Bill. I am just as good a Liberal as my hon. friend ever was, and I am going to support this legislation. I believe it to be liberal in its character. It is legislation for the protection of the people of the province of Manitoba as against what may probably, in the long run, be the interests of one man if this Bill be not passed. If the enactment of this legislation was desired, or sought, by any particular interest, and that alone, I do not know whether I would bother supporting it or not. But I intend to support it on the ground that not having the enjoyment of our natural resources the only authority to which we can appeal is the Dominion Government. If I thought that my vote in this matter, or that the effect of the operation of any provision of the Bill, would prejudicially affect the province of Ontario in the slightest degree I would refrain from giving the measure my support. But I am a Liberal, and as such I believe in provincial rights of which Liberals have always been the champions. If my hon. friend from West Lambton, or any other hon. member, can show me that this protective legislation in the interest of the province of Manitoba will injure the province of Ontario to the extent of a five-cent piece I will vote against the Bill. But they cannot do it-they cannot prove that there will be any such result. Now, as I have already said, we do not control the natural resources of the province, therefore, in this matter it is the Dominion which must act. This is not a question of the Dominion versus the provinces-it is a question of provincial rights as against Backus' rights. If this Bill be not passed, and Mr. Backus succeeds in his plans, he will, by reason of his control of the water-powers on Rainy river and lake of the Woods be able to so regulate the flow of water passing through Norman dam and the White Dog rapids, as to be in a position, if reasons of his own prompt him to do so, to cut off the heat, light and power supply of the province of Manitoba obtained through the Winnipeg river. For that reason I am compelled to support the Bill.
There is another factor too. The Winnipeg river has been declared to be a navi-.
gable river. As I understand, the agreement that the Dominion Government wanted to enter into with the Ontario Government was simply this, to share control of that portion of the Winnipeg river which does not lie withn the boundary of the province of Ontario. The Norman dam, I am informed, was built by a Mr. Mathers a great many years ago as the result of a concession. It appears that he obtained from the province of Ontario a quantity of timber on a number of islands, and the province, if I am correctly informed, asked for this timber to be surrendered, and in consideration of his doing so granted him permission to build this dam. Mr. Backus, later on, bought the dam from a private party. My hon. friend from Port Arthur (Mr. Keefer) mentioned about compensation. I understand that Backus was not only offered all he paid for the structure, but that the Dominion Government invited him to bring forward every item he had paid on account of the dam with interest added, which they were willing to repay him. But he refused their offer and later tried to sell the dam to the city of Winnipeg for $1,500,000, which he had bought for only $147,000.
I support this legislation because any concession of the kind I have indicated is against the interests of the people, and should not be granted to Backus or any other private individual. The waters there belong to the people of the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario, and! not to any individual. They were put there by the Creator for the benefit of our people, and as many of our people should be benefited thereby as possible, rather than a favoured few. t
There is another ground on which I support the Government, and that is power development. I understand there can be developed on the Winnipeg river 500,000 horse-power. At present the city of Winnipeg is using 47,000 horse-power and the electric railway 35,000 horse-power, and I understand that the city is now endeavouring to establish a plant to generate further power, but they cannot get money to carry on the enterprise, because the financial institutions take this stand: We do not know who owns or controls the power on this river, and therefore we do not propose to lend you any more money. If it is true that 500,000 horse-power can be developed, it is also true that the quantity of electrical power demanded for use doubles in seven years. This means that all the power which can be developed along that river will be in use by 1947, and more will then be re-

quired. As I said before, it strikes me that it is not a matter of provincial rights, it is a matter between the rights of the province and the rights of Backus. Why should we for one minute allow any man to purchase the Norman dam, or any other water-power and, with unlimited capital, put himself in a position to be able to say: You cannot have that power unless you deal with me. Hearsay evidence is not considered good evidence, but I have been told that Backus a short time ago stated in Winnipeg that within twenty years, if his scheme matured, his son would be the most powerful power magnate in the whole of North America. When he gets control of this power he will say to the people of Manitoba: Bow to King Backus! I, for one, refuse to bend the knee -to him or to any other magnate.
The province of Manitoba has spent millions of dollars on these water-powers. The argument has been advanced by the member for West Lambton (Mr. Pardee) that he and others who share his views are trying to do something for the province of Ontario, and he quoted those old lines:
The tyrant's hand is on thy throat, Ontario! Ontario!
Well, I heard that when I was a boy at school. But it seems to me that what my hon. friend and some others want to do is to put the heel of Ontario on the neck of Manitoba. I can only say, Mr. Chairman, that I am opposed to any such proceeding. The trouble is that this man Backus has received so much from the people of this country that he simply does not know when to quit. I remember in the old days the late James Conmee was the only one in the Private Bills Committee who was able to handle Backus and put him where he belonged. And, as far as this country is concerned, we are going to put Backus where he belongs, no matter what some people may say about this legislation. At any rate, that is the stand I take.
Mr. Backus owns the pulp and paper mill and the power development at Fort Frances. He also owns the Norman dam and the Kenora municipal power plant. He has acquired, or will soon acquire, the right to develop White Dog falls on the Winnipeg river near the eastern boundary of Manitoba. He also has large concessions of pulp and paper on the English river, and will also, no doubt, get the power sites on this river. The result is that he is in possession of the means of controlling the flow of the waters down the Winnipeg river, and may, if he is not controlled, do indefinite damage by holding up the 267
water at times to suit his own purposes.
Now, to sum this up, Mr. Chairman- and I do not intend to take any more time, because I do not have to talk at great length to make myself understood-I can put it in a sentence: This legislation is merely a means of protecting the interests of the people in one province against those in another on an interptrovincial stream over which this Government has the right of control.

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