September 15, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Edmund Boyd Osler

Conservative (1867-1942)


When this agreement was first presented, I read it and I was especially struck with two points in it. One of these points was the fact that practically the government had no security from any

one to operate tlie eastern section, and the other point was in reference to clause 17, which says that no addition should be made to the cost of construction or to the capital construction account in respect to customs duties where direct importation of material was authorized by the government. It occurred to me that in these two points the contract was weak. Accordingly, I did what I would do in my own case ; I applied to the best authority on contracts that I knew of, and I asked for an interpretation of these clauses. I got the opinion of Mr. J. F. Smith, K.C., which I read to tlie House. There was an attempt to belittle that opinion by stating that Mr. Smith is a real estate agent who did nothing but draw up mortgages, and that lie had no knowledege or experience as counsel. Mr. ,T. F. Smith is a well known leading counsel and authority on contracts. He has been for many years the confidential adviser of two of the largest of our banks in Canada. He was for long years associated with the late J. J. C. Abbott, in connection with some of the largest contracts which Mr. Abbott, as a lawyer, drew up. I look upon Mr. Smith as an eminently safe and wise counsellor, and I would take his interpretation of that agreement most thoroughly if it were for myself. However, the matter seemed so important to me that I thought I had better fortify that opinion, and consequently I asked the firm of Messrs. Blake, Lash & Cassels-Messrs. Blake and Cassels -if they would give me a legal opinion on these two points in the contract. I received a letter from Mr. S. H. Blake. I may say that I submitted the contract to him, stating simply that I wished to be advised upon it. and he sent me a note saying that possibly from the long connection of his firm with the Grand Trunk Railway Company, he .might not be able to give me his opinion. He said that after he communicated with the Grand Trunk authorities, and if he was at liberty he would give me his opinion with Mr. Cassels. If he was not at liberty, then, as I was leaving Toronto for New York the day I saw him, I asked him if he would hand my letter and the questions on the contract to the man he thought best able in Toronto to give me an opinion on the subject

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