July 19, 1917

LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Mr. CARVELL:

We have had to face this question a good many times, especially the lawyers of this House. I have argued it to juries frequently. I am not addressing a jury now, and I am compelled to look at it from a broad business standpoint. In the .first place, we must remember this country could not exist without railways, and they are entitled to a great deal of protection. We must also remember that until electric dnergy is developed to a greater extent than it is at the present time the only known way of operating a railway is by fire; they cannot generate the power otherwise. They have to go through the country at a high rate of speed. I believe the railway companies are trying their very best to use all modern appliances to prevent causing fires. It never seemed to me fair that when a railway company is compelled to use such a dangerous thing as fire, and they cannot get along without it, you should practically put them in a position where they may be mulcted in very large damages for doing that which they are compelled to do, unless you can show that they have done it negligently. I have always felt that Parliament went pretty far when they adopted that clause providing that they were liable to the extent of $5,000 merely by proving the fact that the fire occurred. I hardly think it fair that this should be increased to $10,000.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

The suggestion has been made that a man might have $10,000 or $12,000 worth of buildings destroyed, and that the company would be only liable for $5,000. I look at this clause as being more to protect the farmer who could not possibly insure

what this $5,000 is intended to cover, that is the growing grain. I claim a man is negligent of his duty, even in his own interest, if he does not protect himself by insuring his buildings. The insurance premium is not very high, especially if he takes a three years policy. If every man would protect himself there would be more reason for having this limit larger. As the hon. member for Carleton said, we have to be fair to the other side. Every man should take precautions instead of depending on the railway companies.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

John Albert Sexsmith

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SEXSMITH:

I realize that the corn-try has to have railways and that the railways should have just and proper treatment. But, it is not the railways that are paying this;,, the people of Canada are paying it. We do not want the fire rate to get too high, because if we do the tariffs of the railways are going to be put up and the people will have to pay. The people of Canada are paying and the tariff is made sufficient to pay the loss of the individual who is unfortunate enough to have his property along the railway line. The railway? are not paying it. They figure out what their loss is going to be and they figure their tariffs in accordance with it.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Francis Cochrane (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COCHRANE:

They have not '.be

right to figure their tariffs at all.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON
CON

Francis Cochrane (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COCHRANE:

The commission figures their tariffs.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

John Albert Sexsmith

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SEXSMITH:

But they put all these things in and the commission takes them into account. They try to set a limit of $5,000.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Francis Cochrane (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COCHRANE:

The limit is not set.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

John Albert Sexsmith

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SEXSMITH:

I do not say it is

absolutely set, but it is practically impossible for the ordinary individual to prove that a smokestack ha-s a hole in' it.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Francis Cochrane (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COCHRANE:

Here is a man who

proved it.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

John Albert Sexsmith

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SEXSMITH:

The case of the hon.

member for Carleton will bear out what I say. He had a good deal of difficulty and his client paid out a good deal in costs before he could prove it. I think the railways should be responsible for the fires they set.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Francis Cochrane (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COCHRANE:

If you prove they set them, there is no limit to their responsibilities.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
Permalink
CON

John Albert Sexsmith

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SEXSMITH:

There is no limit if yon prove they have a hole in their smokestack. But how can you prove that? You have to prove first that the fire was caused by the railway.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

William Smith

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WILLIAM SMITH:

All those properties -along the railway were there before the roads ran through.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Francis Cochrane (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COCHRANE:

Not all.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
Permalink
CON

William Smith

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WILLIAM SMITH:

A great many. A farmer will not put up a valuable building to-day near a railway. The mutual companies -are refusing a great many otherwise good risks. I think there is a little in the [DOT]contention of the hon. member for Compton (Mr. Cromwell). I agree that we have to have the railways in the country and that we should deal-fairly with them because we are obligated in many ways to them. But the matter of insurance that my hon. friend the Minister of Customs (Mr. Reid) spoke of is a pretty hard one to deal with. I am connected with an insurance company, and we scarcely ever have a meeting of the board but we have to refuse -a risk which would otherwise be desirable because it is located near a line of railway.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
Permalink
LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Mr. CARVELL:

My hon. friend from

Ontario (Mr. Smith) says that the buildings were there very largely before the railways were built. In many oases, especially if the farmer is looking after his interests, in estimating compensation for the land taken the increased insurance whiidh he must pay is part of the dam-ages and the arbitration courts allow very large amounts for that increased insurance; so that the railway company -before hand has paid in the money with which to carry -that insurance.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
Permalink
CON

William Folger Nickle

Conservative (1867-1942)

*Mr. NLCKLE:

The committee have opened up a very big subject and perhaps it would not be amiss, although it is late, to say a word or two in regard to the responsibility of any man for his own default. The general principle of the law is that no man is responsible for damage that is caused to another unless he has been negligent. W-hen railway companies came into existence and began to run, that principle of law was applied to their operation [DOT]and management. We gave them certain charter rights and there were certain rights incidental to their operation. One was the right to generate steam. To generate steam you need fire, and to get fire- you need a fire box and a flue leading from it. The principle of law was gradually worked out to be that if the engine w-a-s not negli-

gently operated, and if it was efficiently constructed, the railway was not responsible for damages resulting from fire. Time went on and there were no doubt cases where there were great hardships, where there was fire and it was impassible for the plantiff to prove that there had been any negligence in the operation of the road or the construction of the engine. Public feeling was aroused to such an extent that finally the Act was amended and it was declared th-at if there was fire and it was traceable to a locomotive the railway that owned that locomotive should be responsible to the extent of $5,000 no- matter whether there had been negligence on the -part of the railway company and its employees in the management or construction of the engine or not. There are two sides to this question. I have acted for railway companies and I have acted against them. I will take the case o-f a lumber company with a siding on the right of way of ia railway. They do not clean up the debris after their loading operations ~ are over, a railway engine comes along, a -spark is emitted from the engine, it falls on the debris and sets a fire which burns up a farmer's or lumberman's buildings. It is true that if there had been no railway there would have been no fire; but if the man who owned the adjacent land on which the spark fell had cleaned up there would have been no loss, or the loss wo-uld have been -less. What this committee is called upon to decide -to-night i-s this.: To what extent are w-e prepared to depart from the general principle o-f the law th-at says that a person or a company are not responsible for damages unless they have been negligent? The principle of the old Act was th-at to the extent of $5,000 the railway were the insurers. Beyo-nd that amount they were responsible to the extent of the damage suffered provided you could prove they were negligent. Whether $5,000 is enough or whether a couple of thousand dollars should be added to that is for the committee to decide, but I -feel that it would he most unwise to pro'vide that there should be an unlimited responsibility, because if that were the case it would put a premium on dishonesty to this extent, th-at those who had property adjacent to the line of railway -and could by no possibility suffer loss from fire, under proper conditions, might so arrange events that this property would be burned knowing that they would get the full value from the railway company. My hon. friend from South Ontario (Mr. Smith) says th-at i-t would -be difficult to

prove damages against a railway company. My experience 'has been that if you get a farmer's jury they will find some way of proving a defect in the construction and operation of the railway and that if there is a case at all the farmer jury will find something 'that was done that should not have been done, either in exhausting too rapidly up the stack, or that a spark 'arrester was defective in construction or in operation. As a rule the railway company has pretty hard going. The principle that underlay the. original Act was that $5,000 was thought to be reasonable compensation in the ordinary case, and that this amount did away with unnecessary litigation and gave reasonable insurance to the people who had property 'adjacent to the railway. Of course it must be remembered that if you unduly increase the responsibility on the railway, in the last analysis you throw that burden on the people in the way of increased freight and passenger rates.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
Permalink
CON

Frederick Robert Cromwell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROMWELL:

The hon. member for Kingston (Mr. Nickle) has referred to exhausts. The exhaust from anything, even a railway locomotive, does not amount to much. It is not exhaust we are after, it is protection for the people who have buildings close to a railway chartered by the Government of Canada to build through a certain district. Why should the railway not be responsible for damages which they cause to the property owner? I do not see any obstacle in the way of increasing this amount from $5,000 to $10,000, and I hope the House will see fit to endorse the amendment I have proposed.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
Permalink
LIB

Marie Joseph Demers

Liberal

Mr. DEMERS:

While it is true that the railways are absolutely necessary to the country, it is also true that they operate under charters granted by this Parliament, and enjoy great privileges. 1 do not agree that it is easy to get a verdict against a railway company. It is almost impossible to prove negligence or improper equipment of engines. Then it must be remembered that $5,000 covers the total damage, no matter how many owners may suffer loss. A fire in Mississquoi county a few years ago burned an entire village and caused damage of more than $100,000, but under this Act if the law had been in existence at that time $5,000 is the total amount for which the company would have been responsible, and this amount would have been divided among all the property holders.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   RAILWAY ACT AMENDMENT.
Permalink

July 19, 1917