Mr. E. D. R. BISSETT (Springfield):
Mr. Speaker, it had not been my intention to take part in this discussion, but inasmuch as most of those who have spoken have addressed themselves to the circumstances surrounding the granting of the lease of the Seven Sisters falls water-power site, I feel it incumbent to state to the house the part that I played in the transaction. I do not propose to discuss the lease between the Manitoba government and the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company or any subsidiary company; I consider that is a matter for discussion in the Manitoba legislature and not in this house. But if such is the case it might be interesting to find the reason why the members representing Manitoba in the federal house took a stand on this question at all. To do that it would be necessary to go back to a news item appearing in the Winnipeg papers in 1927, which stated that owing to a report from the city of Winnipeg, that the street railway company of that city had applied to the federal government for a lease of the Seven Sisters falls, the then leader of that government, Mr. Bracken, had stated that he was unalterably opposed to the street railway company getting that permit and was prepared to go, if necessary, as far as expropriating the Pinawa plant of the company on behalf of the province. When that news item reached Ottawa it was a matter of discussion among the Manitoba members, and in order to get behind the Manitoba government on the question a letter was drafted and sent to the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Stewart), on February 8, 1928. This letter reads:
That we, the undersigned members of parliament for the province of Manitoba, respectfully request that the power site on the Winnipeg river known as the Seven Sisters falls be retained for the use of the government of the province of Manitoba in their own provincial hydro-electric system.
That was signed by the following members from Manitoba: Bissett, Bancroft, Steedsman, Milne, Ward, Lovie, Beaubien, Glen, Bird, Brown, McPherson, Howden, Thorson, Mc-Diarmid, Woodsworth and Heaps. In other words, sixteen out of the seventeen members representing Manitoba signed this letter which was sent to the Minister of the Interior on February 8, 1928. Subsequently it was found that the government of Manitoba had changed their mind in respect to the development of this power; for after an investigation they had apparently come to the conclusion that it was not wise for the province as a province to develop this water-power. But the one
thing I wish to point out here is that the legislative assembly of Manitoba had passed in 1927 a resolution reading:
Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this house-
That is, the Manitoba legislature.
-the government should press for the immediate granting by the federal government all rights to the Seven Sisters falls, situate on the Winnipeg river, said site to be held by the government on behalf of the province of Manitoba.
At the same time the city of Winnipeg passed a resolution protesting against the granting of a lease of the Seven Sisters falls power site on the Winnipeg river to the Backus-Seaman interest, the action of the committee in sending the city solicitor to Ottawa "to be approved and endorsed." The Manitoba members, as has been said by several speakers in this debate, had a good many discussions with the Minister of the Interior relative to this lease and finally, on May 15, 1928, wrote to the federal minister the following letter which was signed, not by all the Manitoba members but by the majority of them. I wish to discuss this letter somewhat in detail. It reads:
The federal members, representing the province of Manitoba, have had before them the question of the disposal of the power of the Winnipeg river at Seven Sisters falls for some time, and after thoroughly going into the matter, beg to advise that their recommendation in connection with same is as follows:
1. That the site be not disposed of but that the matter be held in abeyance until the close of the next session of the provincial legislature for the purpose of giving the legislature of the province of Manitoba an opportunity to express its opinion in connection with the disposal of the said site or the development of it by the province of Manitoba.
Now the whole" object of the Manitoba members in writing this clause into their letter was based on the fact that the Manitoba legislature-and the legislature, we are given to understand, is supreme-had by formal resolution requested that this particular power site, which was specified in the resolution, be held by and on behalf of the province of Manitoba. Clause 2 of the letter read:
2. That the said - interval would afford the city of Winnipeg an opportunity to take a referendum vote on the question as to whether the said city desires to develop the power at said site in connection with their present hydro electric system.
That section of the letter was put in as a result of the resolution which I have quoted as having been passed by the city council of Winnipeg, which resolution protested
Natural Resources-Mr. Bissett
against the Seven Sisters power site being handed over to private enterprise. The letter also requested:
That in the event of the province of Manitoba deciding to develop the said power as a provincial undertaking, that they be given said right upon request.
And further, that if neither the province of Manitoba nor the city of Winnipeg wish to develop the said site, the present applicant, the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company, be given priority to any other private corporation to develop same, subject to the usual restrictions imposed by the water-power regulations.
Now I contend that that letter presented a very fair view on behalf of the Manitoba members. We insisted that inasmuch as the legislature of the province had asked that this site be held for the province, in our opinion this should be done; and we also asked that, inasmuch as the city of Winnipeg had protested against the alienation of this power to private interests, if the province was not interested the city of Winnipeg should be given the next opportunity to develop the site; and, thirdly, that failing either of these parties becoming interested, the railway company, the present applicant, should be considered ahead of any other applicants subsequently applying.
As the house has been told by a number of speakers, various interviews took place between the Minister of the Interior and the members from Manitoba, and I wish it distinctly understood that the Manitoba members were not all of one opinion regarding this proposition. The minister has been quoted with reference to a promise he gave the Manitoba members prior to prorogation, and which has been the subject of a great many remarks, not all of them to his credit. I feel that I should explain exactly what my position wa. with respect to the promise made by the minister. When the house prorogued I was under the impression that before anything further was done in regard to this power site I would be consulted, and I want the house to understand that prior to the conference and agreement being signed between the provincial and federal governments with respect to the natural resources I had not changed my mind in regard to this deal between the street railway company and the provincial government. Further I want to say that until the agreement was made between the province and the Dominion with reference to the transfer of the natural resources I did not at any time sec the minister or have any discussion with him by letter or otherwise in regard to the matter.
However, I must say that I saw the minister in Winnipeg, after the agreement was signed, and with a number of other members discussed the whole agreement with him. On that occasion I told the minister that since there was an agreement in existence between the province of Manitoba and the federal government with respect to 'the disposition of the natural resources, my position was that the federal government should stand by that agreement. I want this distinctly understood: Had I been able to express myself
prior to the drawing up of this agreement I would have objected to the insertion of clause 6; however, I did not have the opportunity of doing so and rather than see the agreement jeopardized by any controversy, which certainly would not have any effect on a binding agreement of that kind, I withdrew any opposition I had to the Seven Sisters deal, because it was bound up with the general natural resources agreement.
At six o'clock the house took recess.
The house resumed at eight o'clock.
Subtopic: NATURAL RESOURCES