February 23, 1926 (15th Parliament, 1st Session)


George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. G. R. GEARY (South Toronto):

the early days of this sesion there was cited to the House an authority for the proposition that a ministry must have this quality at least that it can exercise effectual control over the proceedings of the House of Commons; and yet, Mr. Speaker, we hear from time to time

from hon. members opposite that we on this side are obstructing the business of the House and of the country. If that be so, and we have a government that can govern and control, why does not that government stop what it calls obstruction? It has the means to its hand but it has as yet shown no inclination whatever to screw up its courage to the required point, even in spite of the rather disastrous defection of the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa).
There is no obstruction here; the blame must rest upon the shoulders of the government. It is the government that initiates legislation; it is the government that prepares and brings down for consideration the programme of legislation. We have been told by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell) that this government was engaged as long ago as in November last in the preparation of the Speech from the Throne, three long months ago, and yet at this moment we have no indication whatsoever that any legislation has been prepared, and there is no readiness apparent on the part of the government to implement the promises that have been made in that Speech. Surely therefore we must assume that if there is any obstruction it is due to the utter inability of the government, or its refusal to prepare and submit to parliament any such legislation. We are faced now at this stage with the motion which we have under consideration and which has been submitted to this House by arrangement between the government and the leader of the Progressive party (Mr. Forke). I had almost expected1, following the repudiations which we heard the other day, that the government would again repudiate the fact that it had by arrangement with the Progressive party introduced this resolution. The Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) who is leading this House accepts my proposition. I should have thought it was the case, because my hon. friend from Nelson (Mr. Bird), although he denied having any direct connection with the arrangement, did thrust himself and his party into an analogy with the Robin Hood myth-himself the Little John of the piece, and, sitting so close by him, Friar Tuck and Robin Hood from Brandon, not forgetting Maid Marian. They were summoned to some sort of conclave, so he led us to believe, in which the hon. member for Nelson indicated that there was a distressful maiden to be helped-the government of this country. Rather rudely, I thought, the hon. member referred to it as the "under dog." Here, he said, is this distressful maiden; let us to her succour, let us resuce her from the

The Address-Mr. Geary
cruel oppression of the High Sheriff of Nottingham; moreover, my merry men all, said he, if we don't do something of that sort we shall be faced with the necessity of voting either confidence -or no confidence in the present government, and that is going to be very awkward.
If the government accepts the position I have indicated, we have once again the spectacle of the larger part of the animal being wagged by the tail, and that is probably a very pleasant motion when one becomes accustomed to it, something apparently in this case in the nature of a soporific. The person who is watching these proceedings can sympathize very largely with the government because after all it is in a difficult position. I can imagine the leader of the government saying, "It is very nice, this being in power, very pleasant and very profitable and we like very much sitting here. But, dear me, we have to do a great deal; we have so many people to placate, so many arrangements must be made from time to time, that it is enough to try the patience of any man. There are my allies, the Progressives, who are showing signs of independence. I don't believe I can trust their leaders; I don't believe those leaders can control all the Progressives, for a bit of that sturdy independence declared in this House seems to be manifesting itself just now. They insist on running the whole show. That is one of my troubles. And looking further down the chamber I see the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woods-worth). There is an active, live person, a man who insists on being attended1 to.
Bright and early on the morning of the first day he sat down and wrote two letters, one to the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) and one to the Prime Minister, asking for certain concessions. He got, direct and forthright by return mail, a square and fair answer from the leader of the opposition. He got no letter from the Prime Minister. Well, something had to be done. The first vote was coming on and he called upon the Prime Minister; and whatever the result of that interview was it was satisfactory for the purpose, for it enabled him to cast his vote as was desired. But there was a second vote coming and still the letter had not come, and in my mind's eye I can see the course that was taken by the hon. gentleman. I can see him walk up to the door of the Prime Minister's sanctum, I can see him ushered in, and I can hear the Prime Minister say to him "What can we do for you to-day?" His visitor answers, "What

I want is a reply to that little letter which you promised me so long ago and which has not been forthcoming. We are getting just on the eve of another vote, and I must have that letter." This was on January 28. The Prime Minister says; "Just take a chair and we will attend to that right away." So it is attended to, and I can see the Prime Minister ushering the hon. gentleman out of the room while he says, "Well, will that be all for you to-day? Shall I send it or will you take it with you?" The door once shut and the Prime Minister left alone, his countenance takes on another cast, and I can imagine him saying to himself:
YoncT Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.
But the letter is there, the letter with the five items set out in detail. I cannot give them all to the House, but one is an amendment to the Criminal Code. The hon. gentleman has the letter. On the 29th, the vote is about to be taken. He rises in his place, and to make assurance doubly sure places the letter on Hansard, and when the time comes he votes "like a little man." No wonder the hon. gentleman todk his seat with a smile of satisfied accomplishment. I wish he were here because I would ask him if he remembers a certain picture that appears before me at the moment-the picture of a pleased looking cat with a great grin from ear to ear, licking its lips and supposed to be saying, "I have eaten the canary."
"That is another of my troubles" says the leader of the government. "But then I have to consider still another gentleman, the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa). Of course one knows that he is a man of gestures, and I am not particularly concerned when he makes a gesture towards the Conservative party. But one never can tell, so vehement a gesture may he make some day that he will overbalance himself and topple head foremost into the Conservative lobby. That man is not any great comfort to me either. Then I have the protectionists in my own ranks, the free traders and others. Coodness knows I have troubles enough of my own." Then he looks back to those stirring days of September last when he and his party were going forth to battle, and he recalls all the high and noble things that they set forth in their manifesto, all those great questions that would be dealt with by the government whose party was then breaking a lance with the opposition. "Those were high resolves." I can hear him say, "and we determined to do many things. We were going to implement those resolves

The Address-Mr. Geary
by action, we were going to be strong for the people. But see the position we are in. We have got to think this thing over. Perhaps we were a bit rash. We need a little more time for consideration. We are not in as easy circumstances as we had hoped to be." And so the desire to do something great and noble gradually passes by.
And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
Mr. Speaker, His Majesty's loyal opposition has another view of this matter. We are not disposed (to take the lead of inaction which has been given to us by the leader of the government. We are disposed to go on and discuss the business of the country, the questions that should come before this House. The words of the Prime Minister echo still in one's ears, that one of the great problems facing this country and awaiting discussion in the House was the problem of our railways. It is a very important -problem because the people at the moment are staggering under a load of taxation which is built u-p largely of deficits in the operation of the National Railways. We have turned over the operation of the system to a company, which, periodically turns in -its statement of operating income and outgo. But this House has reserved to itself, Sir, one important function in regard to the financing of the system. It does not propose to interfere

it h-as not interfered, so we are told by the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Stewart) -with the -actual operation and management of the road; but this House does propose to interfere, has interfered, and will continue, I believe, to interfere with the expenditure of money on capital account. One of the most prolific sources of discussion during the last two sessions, and probably before, has been whether or not this House will vote money to build branch lines, whether it will guarantee the -bonds to foe issued for the construction of such branch lines. Bac-h line, big or small, has had its own special act, and around that act h-as centered discussion on the merits or demerits of the proposition. I know of no branch line that has been built of recent years at all events, in fact I know of no branch line which has been built otherwise than after the fullest and freest discussion by this House of its merits or demerits.
Well, the right hon. Prime Minister, we recall, was speaking at Richmond Hill on September 5 and uttering these lofty sentiments about the conduct by parliament of the business of the country. But at that
very moment he was on the eve of perpetrating by order in council the most outrageous violation of the rights and privileges of parliament. It had been suggested to him or to his government that a branch line might be built -from a point in Rouyn township to the National Transcontinental. I must not detain the House with details of the geography of the district. Suffice to say that Rou-yn is in the northern part Pf Quebec and is well known to all members of this House. There runs at a distance forty-five miles north of it and from the west eastward to its terminus in the city of Quebec the National Transcontinental. To the west of it running from North Bay in a northerly direction and then bending to the west is the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario railway, which ultimately finds its destination at a junction called Cochrane on the National Transcontinental railway. West of Rouyn some fifty-five miles runs this Temiskaming and Northern Ontario railway and, if you drew a line directly west from Rouyn you would intersect the latter railroad at a point called Swastika. From Swastika a road has been built under a Dominion charter eastward over part of the intervening fifty-five milea until it strikes the boundary between Ontario and Quebec at a point just twenty-three -miles short of Rouyn. So if that road were to be extended -that distance it would reach Rouyn; whereas the present proposition is (to build a new road forty-five miles in length from the Transcontinental railway down to Rouyn.
Now it is said-it was said by the hon. member for Timiskaming (Mr. Armstrong) last night in his very interesting and instructive address on the north country -that this Temiskaming and Northern Ontario railway is equipped for the purpose of developing the mining industry in that north country; it has a frequent and perfectly satisfactory service. The Canadian National road in its course westward from the city of Montreal takes that route north from North Bay to Cochrane, and there is a service, passenger and freight, with every facility for handling the mining output of that country. This is not the time, Mr. Speaker, nor is it the place to discuss the merits of the proposed branch line from Rouyn up to the Transcontinental railroad at O'Brien. That is a matter, and of this we complain very bitterly on this side that, due to the action of the present government we have not been permitted to discuss. No opportunity has been given, as there would have been if there had been a particular bill introduced, to discuss this proposed construction in the House and in the committees
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of the House, or to put questions in regard to the building of this line, or to discuss whether an issue of bonds to the amount of some $5,000,000 should be authorized and would be proper to be added to the outstanding charges of the National railway system. That, as I say, is a matter we have been given no opportunity to discuss at all, and this, Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to discuss, but it is well within the range of possibility that one would find varying opinions in this House on the one side and on the other as to whether this country should go to the extent of a capital expenditure of $5,000,000 on account of this branch line. I do not attempt to be a judge of that question; I might be influenced one way or the other by the discussion of the matter in this House, but the difficulty is that discussion of it has been entirely closed to us by the action that was taken by the government.
Now how was this Rouyn railway arranged for? The government was asked if it would build the line. Who were active in the proposal I am not in a position to say, but it is fair to say that the government of the province of Quebec was very deeply interested. It is fair to say, I think, that the Noranda mines were interested, and whoever else I do not know, but the course of affairs afterwards shows plainly enough that no matter who were the persons interested in the proposal to build this road, at all events they were not parties to whom the present goverment were unfriendly. The government acceded to the request, and I have no particular objection to that, nor could anybody have, if he felt it was a proper request. But did they take the straightforward, the usual and the legal method of putting into effect the building of that line? Did the government incorporate the matter in a bill and bring it to this House for decision, as had been done in every other case within my knowledge? Not at all. The government entered on a course of evasion. It promoted a scheme to get around the law and to deprive this House of its privilege and right of free discussion in the matter. It entered into a scheme to take advantage of a technicality which would enable it to do something by order in council which it well knew it had no business on earth doing at all. This government, Mr. Speaker, lent itself to the promotion of a dummy company. It lent itself to the wiles and arts of the expert corporation lawyer. It lent itself to all the rigmarole of subsidiary companies and figurehead directors. It lent itself to the device of not letting your left hand know what your right hand doeth. It entered into that scheme, ( II
that solemn mummery where a board of directors who do not direct, and never intend to direct, and could not direct, were called upon in meeting and solemnly acquainted with the fact that it was expected if this road was built it could be leased and operated by .somebody else-that is to say, if those directors ever took the trouble to read the prepared minute that was laid on the table before them they might have become acquainted with that fact. This board swallowed at one gulp, in a hurried sitting-a long, intricate, involved agreement covering four or five pages of Hansard, probably five or six thousand words .in length, and just put its name on the dotted line.
I shall deal, if it is at all necessary, later on, with the method which this government undertook to pursue to accomplish its object. It is sufficient to say at this moment, Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of my further point, that it is clear beyond peradventure that this government-through the Canadian National Railway-is actually by its own organization constructing a branch line of railroad 45 miles in length from Rouyn to the National Transcontinental railway. That is my premise.
Now' why did not the government come to this House in the ordinary way? Because it wanted to build this road for purposes best known to itself. It knew it had not the legal right to build this road, and it determined to build this road without legal authority in any way that it could devise, and because it thought that by laying out and following this devious path of corporation trickery it could circumvent the law and bring itself into the shelter of an act of this Dominion parliament passed in 1915, but which, as a matter of sober fact, I shall be able to show plainly to this House has nothing to do with the case at all. The very words of the agreement which has been placed before us 'by my hon. friend for West York (Sir Henry Drayton), and is on Hansard, indicate that it was prepared, drafted and finally put into form for one purpose only-I mean outside the purpose of construction-and that was to try and bring itself within the provisions of this act of 1915 to which I have referred. And so it becomes necessary for me, without any particular technicalities, without any particularly fine discussion of points of law, because I do not intend to go into that, to refer to what the government now presumes has been its authority for acting in this matter by order in council as opposed to the usual course invariably followed of submitting branch lines for discussion and decision to this House.

The Address-Mr. Geary
Before 1915 there were government railways. They were governed by an act called the Canadian Government Railways Act. All I have referred to that for is for the purpose of showing that a government railway was defined in that act to be a railroad "under the management and direction of the Minister of Railways and Canals.1" Then in 1915 the matter of the bill referred to came up in this House. The party then in power in this House was the Conservative party, with the Right Hon. Sir Robert Borden leading the government, and the Right Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, of lamented memory, leading the opposition. The Conservative party had had as a plank in the election this, that all lines privately-owned attached to the Intercolonial railway should be purchased and added to the Intercolonial railway. It had introduced a bill for that purpose, but it had been defeated, and the matter came up in the House again in 1915. [Mark this, Mr. Speaker, and hon. members, that that was a well-known and established! situation. Everybody interested in the Intercolonial railway knew of every branch line that was in existence at that moment. A bill was introduced. The hon. member for West York adverted to it in his speech the other diay, and I do not intend to go into the matter by way of repetition, except to emphasize one or two' points. After introducing the bill the then Minister of Railways pointed to the fact that these independent lines exist in conjunction with the government line subjecting the shipper or passenger to a local rate, so to speak, whereas they might have been on a continuous line getting a through rate, and so on. These were reasons that appealed very strongly to gentlemen on the other side, and were acceded to by them as being sound and substantial reasons. When the question came up Mr. Macdonald-as he was then, but now the Minister of National Defence-took part in the discussion. My hon. friend said in effect: Yes, fotut this applies to the Intercolonial and Prince Edward Island roads only. How about the situation if the government takes over the Transcontinental railway line? It was generally admitted1 that that would create a different situation, and it was finally, definitely and unanimously agreed, and so appears on Hansard, that the legislation of 1915 applied exclusively and only to the Intercolonial railway and the Prince EdL ward Island railway. One cannot get away from that, and it is important to recall Hansard because the discussion of that time has a distinct bearing on the whole question. Later on the Transcontinental railway did become a government railway, and later on was added to the Canadian National railway system. But my present point is this-that that act of 1915 was passed definitely and exclusively in regard only to the Intercolonial and Prince Edward Island railways. That is the point that is established, and that point I wish to have borne in mind. Where would the other view lead us? Suppose that in 1916, one year after the act was passed, the Transcontinental line had become a government railway; and suppose that the Holise was met then with the situation that faces us today, and that the Rouyn railway was suddenly approved by order in council under this provision, supposedly, of the act of the year before, the act of 1915? Can any hon. member of this House suppose for one moment that the House could be hoodwinked by any action taken under the act of 1915? Of course it could not. I can See Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Mr. Macdonald rising in righteous indignation and describing such action as an outrageous breach of faith, as indeed it would have been. This is 1926, ten years later. Can it be any less an outrageous breach of faith to try and put this thing through in .the manner it has been put through to-day, than it would have been under the same act ten years ago? Statutes do not improve or grow, or change with age. It is the same statute to-day as it was then; and it is plainly to be seen that it can not permit to-day what it did not permit in 1915. The Minister of National Defence, at least, was fully aware of all the circumstances of the passing of that act in 1915; and I am perfectly safe in saying that knowledge of the circumstances of 1915 is within the minds of many of the members of the government and hon. gentlemen sitting around them.
Let me look at the matter in another way. The act of 1915 provided for acquisition in two ways. The government might buy or lease a railroad up to the limit of 200 miles in length, and it was quite safe to entrust to the government the buying or leasing of lines up to that limit because everybody in the House knew what those lines were; they were all then in existence and present to the minds of members who were passing the legislation. Another clause which was allowed to be incorporated in the act was to permit the building of new lines but with the limitation that the road yet to be constructed should not exceed twenty-five miles in length. Now let us look at the matter in this way, bearing in mind these two provisions-that the 200 mile railroad was evidently and very plainly-can any member think otherwise?-a road already in exist-
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that the stenographers were all employees of the Canadian National, and the incorporation was done by that railway. It was a dummy company, because it never had any function. It came into existence purely and simply as part of a lawyer's scheme to enable this government to get over the provisions of the act. That is why it is a dummy company. It was incorporated, 'held its solemn little meeting, and somebody prepared an agreement which it dutifully accepted.
The hon. member for West York (Sir Henry Drayton) has gone into that agreement in such detail that it is not necessary for me to go through it again, but the only tiling about it that at all resembles a lease is that the parties are described as the lessor and the lessee. It is an agreement to build a road. There is nothing else to it. This dummy company-and my hon. friend objects to its being called a dummy company-has never had and will never have a single thing to do with building the road. What happens is just this: My Progressive
friends do not like the wiles of corporation lawyers; they perhaps do not like lawyers at all; but surely they will be interested1 in knowing that even the government of Canada does not mind stooping low enough to take advantage of every device and bit of trickery that 'can be employed in order to get through something which it wants to get through and which it cannot get through in a legitimate way. All that this agreement provides is that a payment is fixed which covers interest and sinking fund. In other words, the government pays for the road and pays all the taxes and all other possible outgoes. It maintains the road, and the agreement is so carefully drawn that in case there should be a charge of $100 or $200 for preparing the annual statement and nobody knows how it is going to be paid, the government says: We will pay that so long as you keep it down to a thousand dollars. Therefore, there was never an outgo which the dummy company had to make on its own responsibility. It did not even have to be the source of communication in regard to payment of interest on the bonds or the so-called rental because the agreement very nicely provides: Once the contract is signed, we will pay the trustee for the bondholders everything so that you will not have even any trouble in handling the price.
My hon. friend, the Minister of Finance, objects to a supposed statement that because stenographers incorporated this company it is a dummy company; he says: "The directors of the company are 'capitalists' and I will
fMr. Geary.]
prove to you that some of these gentlemen have money." I am sorry for my hon. friend because he was face to face with something that was very hard to explain. It had been mentioned in this House that the road was to be built by capitalists. If so, these capitalists apparently are going into this project just for the fun of the thing. They are not getting a cent; they are not handling a cent; they are not handling a contract; they are not even writing their names on a piece of paper; they are doing nothing, and even the expense of the solicitor in preparing the annual statement is paid by the government. At the conclusion of thirty years when the bonds are paid, the road is simply turned over to the Canadian National Railways and again the Rouyn Railway Company disappears from our ken. It is not a lease; it is just an arrangement to build a railway, in the name of some one else. Putting your property in your wife's name is a difficult matter compared with this, because the government continued in full enjoyment of all its functions, went ahead with its own gang and constructed and is constructing the road. The other day an hon. member asked a question as to whom the railway would belong when finished. Of course, it belongs to the government when it is built. The whole idea is for the government to build and own this railway in spite of the law. A certain portion of the North American people, particularly in the United States of America, are thrilled by, interested in and enjoy thoroughly literature such as that which appears in a book called Get Rich Quick Wallingford and plays such as one called Within thei Law. In other words, smart and clever devices thrill a certain portion of the people, but the gentlemen who are responsible for that output of literature and drama have not found anything in the way of devices or smartness equal to what is done, not by Get Rich Quick Wallingford, but by the government of the Dominion of Canada.

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