May 4, 1922 (14th Parliament, 1st Session)


Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


It is true that we did submit that question to a standing committee but does not the House see the difference? Had there been any body considering that question through these years? Had there been any body constituted to study that question and hear evidence upon it? None at all. That was a fit and proper question to submit to a special committee so that evidence could be heard and that evidence sifted; but in this case the evidence has been all heard, the evidence has all been sifted-there has been a special body appointed to do it. There it sits, there it has sat, there it is right ready with its advice. Last session we did refer this question to which allusion has been made to a committee. I moved for the appointment of that committee to consider a wholly new question as respects which there was no body in this Dominion in a position to advise the government of the day. We asked for a committee of this House to investigate this question: How far the daily operations of our National Railway system-how far, and when, those operations could be brought down and fully disclosed to Parliament without hindering the, work of the Board of Directors itself. Now even though we did appoint a committee to do this, it was a question as to which the government had no body to resort to, and no evidence had been already compiled, and as respects which information could be adduced that at least had not been adduced before; but even though we did ask for that committee the government already had unmistakably declared its own opinion on the question and had followed that opinion consistently in the House. We did not seek to hide behind any commission-not at all. We were ready to have the whole thing studied and evidence adduced; but we were
11 p.m. not afraid to declare our own belief after the study we had been privileged to give it. So where is my hon. friend when he calls upon this reference able to make anything that has even the appearance of an argument? Nowhere at all. You do not get anywhere in dis-

cussing this issue merely by emphasis of sound. Let the Prime Minister say what there is that can be adduced before this committee that has not already been adduced and that any hon. member can read.
Now let me pass from that. On the other hand what is to be lost by the appointment of this committee? That is worth inquiring into. This committee if it sits day and night, and Sundays, will not have but a small fraction of the time required to study the subject that is committed to it by the terms of this resolution. But presuming that it has, it will require it all-it will require weeks. Then I do not think this report will be of much value. But look at the time that is lost, and where is the Government going to be then? Why it will be about the end of the session, and then the Prime Minister will be in that most frightful position that he will lament it himself in tears, as he did many a time in times gone by of bringing down important legislation in the dying days of the session. Would it not be humiliating for the Prime Minister to find himself in a position where he had to perpetrate such an awful mistake as that? Why he has been declaiming against such a course session after session. It should not be done but it is not always possible to avoid it- I know that. In this case we are going to lose weeks. We are going to get into the position where, I submit, the committee will have to say to Parliament, if it speaks its honest mind, that it has not had the opportunity or the time adequately to study this problem, and consequently where the Government will have the excuse, as I fear it, of coming to Parliament and saying " The whole issue is not finished out yet and we present this position to the House of Commons: We cannot get the judgment of this special committee, and it will probably be next session before we can. The special committee, to the extent it has gone, has not anything like traversed the whole ramifications that it must traverse, and consequently, we must ask Parliament for at least a temporary extension of the suspension." When I spoke first, I said that that was the cul-de-sac into which the Gvoernment was going to get. It looks, because I have not heard any reference to the matter, as if that is the cul-de-sac the Government seeks to get into. At all events, nothing but valuable time can be lost; nothing in the world can be gained; great expense can be heaped up, and all for the sake of the administration to avoid taking upon its back the responsi-

Crowsnest Agreement
bility which it for so many years, courted, but which now it does not seem able to discharge.

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