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


Jacques Bureau

Laurier Liberal


Oh, it is not from the lodges that this information comes; it is from the public press. The Prime Minister made a suggestion this afternoon that as to the right to control and as to the duty to control there could be no doubt. Now, if he uses the word "right" in the sense of power, I am with him, but if he uses it in the sense of justice and equity I beg to take issue with him, because I do not believe that this action ought to be taken ex parte and in such a drastic and highhanded manner as is proposed. It reminds me of the old Latin saying, ego nominor leo. Certainly the question of provincial rights is involved in this matter. If some question arose between New Brunswick and Quebec as to water rights, I as a resident of the province of Quebec would not like the Federal Government to come in and say: You fellows in New Brunswick are in danger; there is another Backus in Quebec and you are unable to look after yourselves; therefore we will take control of your waters. It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, like a drastic measure and that it

has in it a little bit of vengeance. As to the last clause of the Bill, it would appear that my right hon. friend is going to hold over the province of Ontario the threat of the spanking which is so dear to the heart of the Minister of Justice. He says: We are going to keep the strap ready for you; we may let you in if you are good. It will be observed that the word "may" is used, not "shall." It would seem as if the right hon. gentleman was keeping in mind the fact that Ontario would not pass the concurrent legislation and felt badly over it, and on that account was holding out this provision as a kind of penalty.
Well, Mr. Chairman, are we faced with a calamity? Is there any danger? I do not know the details of this matter, but from listening to the discussion I judge that the Norman dam is the thing which makes the people of Winnipeg subject to loss of their water supply. I put a question this afternoon as to whether this dam was built with the approval of the Governor in Council, and the answer was "No." I then said to the hon. gentleman who was addressing the committee: Well, then, you can tear down that dam; and the hon. gentleman replied: Yes, if it impedes navigation. But the law does not say that. In 1918 we amended the Navigable Waters Act so as to provide that any work built or erected in a navigable river the plans and location of which have not been approved can be torn down by order of the Governor in Council or the Minister of Public Works after the Governor in Council has so decided. Then it provides for the sale of the material and if the proceeds thereof are not sufficient to meet the cost of the action there is a claim against the person who built the work.
As an illustration I might mention a case which occurred in the riding which it is my privilege to represent. The Provincial Government and the various industries located at Shawinigan Falls undertook to build a bridge over the falls there. It could not hurt navigation very much because it would be very dangerous for a boat to go so near the falls, but they did not ask the permission of the Governor in Council; they did not make application to the Department of Public Works to approve the location. They took advantage of the ice in the winter to build their pier and false work. While this work was going on the town of Shawinigan got a notice from the secretary of the Department of Public Works saying that the work would have to be stopped. Well, there was no alternative but to take the
bull by the horns, and I as their solicitor advised them to go on, otherwise when the ice would break up the false work would be carried away and the whole thing destroyed. So in i918 we had to amend the law to provide that the Governor in Council could approve of works which had been built before a certain date. This shows the absolute control exercised by the Federal Government over any structures which are built in navigable waters. Any such structures, therefore, which have not had the approval of the Governor in Council may be torn down, and none can now be built except under such restrictions as the Governor in Council or the Minister of Public Works may impose.
As to the future, Mr. Chairman, there is no fear. This legislation is of an objectionable character, because it takes away powers from Ontario which that province should retain for itself. As to the argument with regard to the lateness of the session, that is the stereotyped argument which is always advanced in cases of this kind. I would call attention to the fact that last night Supplementary Estimates amounting to $23,000,000 were tabled, and the other day we were asked to consider another $14,000,000. We were to prorogue last Friday; now we talk of proroguing next Thursday. It is the stereotyped argument which is brought forward in a case of this kind, but as on previous occasions the fault-perhaps, I should say, the crime-is on the part of the Government itself.

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