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


Rodolphe Lemieux

Laurier Liberal


I shall not detain the committee very long. The question, it seems to me, is too complex to justify any long argument at this stage of the session, but I believe the Government should have waited until next session before introducing such an important piece of legislation. I am, Mr. Chairman, as you are well aware, from a province which clings jealously to the doctrine of provincial rights. That question has always created political turmoil in this country. Especially was that the case during the eighties, but I had thought that after the many judgments which had been rendered by the Privy Council the question of the proprietary rights of the provinces as regards rivers and lakes had been very well established.
I listened this afternoon to the arguments which were addressed to the committee by hon. gentlemen representing both sides, and I must say that I was struck with the ring of sincerity which I detected in the able speeches delivered by my hon. friend from Lambton (Mr. Pardee) and my hon. friend from Port Arthur (Mr. Keefer). I do not say that there is not much in the argument of the right hon. Prime Minister, but from the division of opinion which apparently exists between both litigants, it seems to me that the proper course for the committee to take at the end of this long, protracted 'session is bo leave this Bill over for further consideration, when Ontario shall have had an opportunity to be heard.

What are the facts, Mr. Chairman? This body of water is of interest to both Manitoba and Ontario, but chiefly to Ontario. The Dominion Government has an interest also from the international point of view; but so far there has been no difficulty with the United States, matters which might have given rise to international difficulty having been laid before the tribunal which we created concurrently with the United States Congress to deal with boundary waters. So that the question is limited to the alleged rights of the province of Manitoba and the certain rights of the great province of Ontario. Between the two provinces I am perfectly free to express an honest and unbiased opinion. What strikes me is that the Dominion Government was from the very beginning absolutely certain that no legislation dealing with this subject could be passed without being implemented by concurrent legislation on the part of the legislature of Ontario, and so a month or two after the opening of this session the right hon. gentleman introduced the bill which I now have before me. This Bill unfortunately was not implemented by the legislation which was sought from the legislature of Ontario. It is not for me to pass judgment on the decision arrived at in the first instance by the Premier of Ontario, but it appears that for the time being owing to difficulties in the legislature this concurrent legislation had to be dropped.
But the Premier of Ontario, speaking on behalf of his province and on behalf of the legislature, served notice on the Dominion Government that he could not countenance the legislation which is now introduced, and which differs materially from the first piece of legislation submitted to this House. The difference is obvious, and that is one of the reasons which impel me to strenuously oppose this Bill. In the first Bill nothing could be done without concurrent legislation being passed by the legislature of Ontario. In this Bill the principle is proclaimed that the works are for the general advantage of Canada. Here you have the beginning of what I suppose will be a long constitutional struggle between the Dominion and the province of Ontario-a struggle which will end probably before the Privy Council.
I have much sympathy for the province of Manitoba, and I bear no ill-will towards the citizens of Winnipeg and the people of rural Manitoba. I want them to be given fair play and to get all the power they need for the industrial development of their pro-
vince, I am at one with them as to the sacred rights of their province; but I see a material difference between the opinion voiced by the Premier of Ontario and the views expressed by the gentlemen who represent the province of Manitoba in this House. It is not a question of sympathy, it is a question of constitutional law, and on that question I feel that I am on safe ground in standing with the province of Ontario. I take no sides. I simply say: Let this House prorogue, and during recess let the Government investigate and negotiate with the province of Ontario, and next session introduce such legislation as will have the good-will of that great province and be implemented by its legislature.
In such vexed matters, Mr. Chairman, let us move slowly. Already we have too many quarrels between the Dominion Government and the various provinces, and certainly we should not raise any controversial issue at this juncture when a little time will bring about an amicable understanding which will result in joint action. My right hon. friend should exercise conciliatory methods. Let him not ride rough-shod over the rights claimed by the province of Ontario. I do not blame him for the attitude he took at the beginning of the session, I do not blame him even for the surprise which he must have felt at the Premier of Ontario not being decided at first in regard to the action that he should take in the matter. But a man has a right to err, and at any rate he may mend his ways. Again, I say the question is too complex to be dealt with at this moment when we are on the eve of prorogation.
The legislation now introduced is rather a high-handed proceeding. True, there has been some little difficulty in the legislature of Ontario, but my right hon. friend surely is too human not to understand that even in the best governments there are divisions of opinion, and that there is nothing like time to mellow men and modify their opinions. My right hon. friend not having succeeded with his first Bill, which *was acceptable to Parliament and to the majority of the people of the province of Ontario, comes now with another measure absolutely different from the first. For example, he will not find in his first Bill the declaration that these works are for the general advantage of Canada. In the last clause of the Bill the right hon. gentleman gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Section 10 says:
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 Counc'l may, by proclamation published in The Canada Gazette, repeal or suspend this Act and the regulations made thereunder at any time when or after The Lake of the Woods Control Board Act, 1921 shall come into force: 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 be for the general advantage of Canada shall remain and continue to be works for the general advantage of Canada.
My right hon. friend and the Government are creating by this clause vested rights for the Dominion as against rights justly claimed by the province of Ontario. I shall not discuss the point further Mr. Chairman. The question is too complex, too serious from the point of view of its bearing upon the interests of Ontario, which has superior rights in the matter, to be dealt with as the Government proposes to deal with it. I shall vote against the Bill, standing for what I believe to be provincial rights.

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