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


John Archibald Campbell



The importance of
the matter under consideration warrants me, I think, in saying a few words. I have listened with a great deal of attention to the speeches which have been delivered today, especially that of the hon. member for West Lambton (Mr. Pardee), who waxed eloquent on the question of provincial rights. In my opinion, the question is not so much the protection of provincial rights, as prevention of provincial wrongs. The rights of Ontario seem to be fully protected; no one is trying to infringe them. If Ontario's rights were being infringed in any way, then objection might well be raised. If Ontario thinks that it is within her rights to interfere with the privileges and rights of another province, then I think it is time that such legislation as this is introduced. However, I do not know that Ontario is taking that attitude. It 'is generally conceded that, in the case of navigable streams, the rights of the Dominion are paramount. In this case it is a question not so much between Manitoba and Ontario as between the Dominion and Ontario. Hon. members will recall that it is not so long ago since a debate took place on the question of the transfer to the Prairie Provinces of their natural resources, and I might remind the committee that this transfer has not yet taken place. At the present time Manitoba has not the control of its water powers, or any of its other natural resources. I think, therefore, that when it appears that the rights of the province of Manitoba may be affected adversely the Dominion should look after those rights. The province of On-

tario not only claims an interest in the resources of Manitoba, but also apparently takes the stand that the Dominion should not in any way protect the interests of that province when development of the resources within its boundaries is in question. I wish to point out that the very fact of there being a question as to who has control of the water in question seriously affects the situation in Manitoba. It may be that Mr. Backus, of whom mention has been made, is a perfectly square-dealing gentleman. It may be that he does not propose to act in any way which will injuriously affect the interests of the people of any province. Notwithstanding that, if the situation is not changed as provided for under this Bill, the very fact that Mr. Backus has this power is going to prove a serious menace to the development of the water powers in which Manitoba is interested. If Mr. Backus, or anybody acting for him, has the power at any moment to regulate or interfere with the supply of water in a Winnipeg river-and under the existing circumstances he appears to have such a power-~it can be readily understood that those interested in the development of the water-powers referred to are going to be materially affected even if no drastic measures are taken by those in control.
Several speakers have referred to the fact that this legislation has been brought up rather late in the session. Well, some matters have to be introduced late in the session. But we do not know how late in the session this is. A week or so ago we were under the impression that Parliament was going to prorogue in the course of a few days. Now it looks as if the end were still some time hence. As a matter of fact the first Bill dealing with this matter was brought down and passed a considerable while ago, but apparently was rendered ineffective by reason of the province of Ontario failing to take action. Therefore it is necessary to take definite action now no matter how late in the session it mav be.
My understanding of the correspondence which has passed between the Prime Minister of the Dominion and the Premier of Ontario is, that the latter was quite in accord with the legislation passed by this House some time ago. He intimated that the interests of Ontario were not adversely affected by that legislation and was quite willing that it should be enacted; but owing to circumstances over which he appears to have had no control, the concurrent legis-

lation agreed upon was not put through the Provincial Legislature. Now as far as I can see the situation at the present time is not materially different from what it w'as then. It is not a question of the Dominion Government usurping powers and rights of any province. It has been pointed out that there was a pact at the time of Confederation between the Dominion and the provinces as to the respective powers which each authority should exercise, and consequently the Dominion must be very careful not to infringe on provincial rights in any way. I wish to point out that there were two parties to that pact-the Dominion and the provinces-and if it is important that .the Dominion should not infringe in any way upon the powers of the provinces, it is equally important that the provinces should1 not arrogate to themselves powers or privileges to which they have no right or title. In the present case, if the Ontario Government proposes to enforce these rights which various hon. gentlemen contended they possess, they would be adversely interfering with the rights of another province as well as of those of the Dominion. There is a section in the British North America Act which intimates that the Dominion has power in the case even of works which may be wholly situate within a province to declare such works to be for the general advantage of Canada. If that clause means anything at all it means that the present occasion is one where the Dominion Government can properly act in accordance with that provision. The question is not one of Manitoba endeavouring in any way to gain an advantage over the province of Ontario. It is not a question of enriching Manitoba at the expense of Ontario-it is a question of preventing something from being done which will detrimentally affect the interests of Manitoba.
A similar question may arise at any time in connection with other provinces. In fact this afternoon I was conversing with a gentleman from one of the western provinces and during the discussion the question was propounded: What if the province of Alberta should claim the same rights in respect to the Saskatchewan river that the province of Ontario claims in the present instance? If the province of Alberta should divert the waters of the Saskatchewan river for irrigation and other purposes, it might carry out that diversion in such a way as to materially affect the prosperity of the province of Saskatchewan. I can quite readily understand that in such a case strong objection would be raised by the province of Saskatchewan, although according to the contention of certain hon. gentlemen from Ontario the province of Alberta would have just as good a right to carry out such a policy as the province of Ontario possesses in the present instance.
I do not know that any good purpose will be served by prolonging the discussion of this matter. The fact is that a situation has arisen whereby an individual named Backus has gained control of various powers and franchises that hitherto have been in the hands of different parties. That fact is now recognized as creating a situation which is full of menace to Manitoba. While I deplore that there Should be any occasion for an apparent conflict between the rights of the two provinces, still the situation is one which must be faced, and to put the matter clearly, the province of Manitoba is not going to bow the knee to Backus.

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