August 30, 1917

LIB
LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

My hon. friend says that their lives will be short. I hope he means their political lives because I have no reason to hope that any hon. gentleman, on the other side of the House will not live to the good old age of a hundred. The conscription measure was brought down some time ago. I took a certain stand on that measure. The Government were in a hurry to pass the law. I would not have minded the Government putting into effect this gag, or closure, on the question of conscription having regard to what they said on that occasion, that they were in a hurry to get the Bill through, if the reason to get it through in a hurry was that our soldiers

at the front were in dire need of reserves. But in this case there is no reason why this question could not have remained in abeyance until after the election so that the question would be squarely put to the people as to whether or not the forthcoming government should introduce what I conceive to be the government ownership of our railways. I do not think the people will look upon this as a business proposition.

I cannot conceive how they can. I know the Minister of Finance is a business man, everybody recognizes that fact, but I do not understand how he can justify himself before the people in extending not only relief to the Canadian Northern railway to the extent of $45,000,000 under the statute of 1914, then further aid to the extent of $15,000,000 and now in giving them an opportunity perhaps of getting $50,000,000 for stock which, according to the report of the Drayton-Aeworth commission is not worth one dollar. Talk about confiscation! Hon. gentlemen say that if they foreclosed the mortgage, or brought into effect the statute of 1914, it would be confiscation. Is it any more confiscation than it would be if a man foreclosed a mortgage for $10,000 on a property worth $40,000? Do you not think that Mackenzie and Mann, or the Bank of Commerce, or the other financial interests who are behind this company, would get ample justice if they were to go to the Canadian Pacific Railway and get the Canadian Pacific Railway to place a fair price on this road either through a sheriff's sale or the foreclosure of a mortgage.

It is done every day. Every business man in this country who loans money on property forecloses mortgages. The people know he has a right to do so; it is a business custom of this country; and no man will say that he is confiscating his neighbour's property because he forecloses under his mortgage. That neighbour goes into business, he takes his $10,000, and he knows when he signs the mortgage that if he does not pay under its terms it will likely be foreclosed. He knows also that he has a chance of redeeming that mortgage, that some friend may buy the property, and if there is anything over the $10,000 he hopes to get it.

I was going to say something with regard to the present operation of railways in Eng-and, but I shall not have time. There is one safeguard which I think should be placed in this legislation, and that is to have a definite provision that it is the value of this railway when Messrs. Mackenzie and Mann put their money into it or when

it was completed that is to be determined. There is no doubt that the present legislation will have in some degree enhanced the value of the stock held by Messrs. Mackenzie and Mann, which has been declared valueless, and some'provision should be placed in this Bill to guard against that. I think also that Mackenzie and Mann will attempt to prove to these arbitrators that if they put $10,000,000 into this road in 1914, the present value of that investment, owing to the enhanced cost'of everything in the railway, will be at present $20,000,000; and that if they put in $60,000,000 it will be worth $120,000,000. I think there should be some safeguard in that respect.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
LIB

Levi Thomson

Liberal

Mr. LEVI THOMSON (Qu'Appelle):

Mr. Speaker, I believe in government ownership, and I am in favour of this Government taking over the Canadian Northern railway.

I voted for limitation of this discussion because I believe the country has heard all it wants to hear of this matter. I believe the people are convinced that Mackenzie *and Mann have got all they deserve from the people of Canada, and very much more than they deserve, and if this House discusses this question for the next two or three months, you will not make any difference in the opinion of the people of Canada-they will still be convinced that Mackenzie and Mann have got all they deserve, and a great deal more than they deserve. Therefore, I will merely say I am in favour of the amendment under discussion and I shall vote for it.

At six o'clock the House took recess:

After Recess.

The House resumed at eight o'clock.

Mr. ARTHUR B. OOPP (Westmorland); In a short statement made to the House just prior to recess, my hon. friend from Qu'Appelle (Mr. Levi Thomson) gave as a reason for supporting this measure that he was in favour of government ownership and operation of public utilities. He also gave as a reason for voting for the closure, as he did this afternoon, that the reputation of the Canadian Northern railway, or Mackenzie and Mann, was so nefarious that he thought it was a shame for the people to hear any mo-re about it. I am opposed to this measure principally on the ground that I am opposed to government ownership. I am in a somewhat different position from many members of the House on this question, because it has not been my privilege, or good fortune or whatever it may be

termed, to have anything to do with the Canadian Northern legislation until this present occasion. I realize, as every honourable gentleman must realize, that this is one of the most serious and most important questions ever brought before Parliament, at least during my short period, and I believe I am not exaggerating when I say one of the most important in the fifty years of Confederation. I do not feel that I should be doing justice to myself and my constituency having listened to the arguments on either side, if I did not express my views. Realizing the importance of this question, I have taken occasion to read Hansard and the different statutes regarding this company passed by this Parliament, in order to work out in my own mind what my duty was and what the duty of Parliament was to the people in this matter. We must realize that we are face to face with a most unfortunate financial position in the Dominion of Canada. In spite of that fact, the Government brings before this House a measure which, judging from the figures given by hon. gentlemen who have addressed this House-the correctness of which figures I have no reason to doubt- will place an added burden on the people of Canada of upwards of $650,000,000. They proceed with this Bill, in spite of the fact that during the past three years we have been face to face with a great crisis in this country, and have been obliged to go to practically all the money markets of the world to which we can go to borrow money for the carrying on of the war.

It is, therefore, a serious step for Parliament to place this further burden upon the shoulders of the people. It has been said that we should not for one moment think of the suggestion that this railway system should go into the hands of a receiver, because it would ruin the credit of Canada. I do not assume to speak as an expert in matters of this kind, but I have taken occasion to read carefully a very informative address delivered in this Parliament before I had the pleasure of a seat in this Chamber, in 1914, by my hon. friend from Calgary (Mr. R. B. Bennett), who laid before this House and this country a statement of facts which, if true-and I have no reason to doubt the truth of the statement made at that time-must cause us all to consider seriously what is the duty of Parliament at the present time. That address was followed by another address, by the hon. member from Kingston (Mr. Nickle), who also took a very strong ground

against the operation of this railway by the Government, declaring that it was absolutely unbusinesslike in every way for this Parliament to assume further responsibility in regard to the financing of this corporation. I may be asked what I think of the proposal to operate this railway under government control, and those who ask the question may well point to remarks I have made in this House and elsewhere in regard to the operation of the Intercolonial as a government railway. I claim that there is no fair comparison between the operation of the Intercolonial by the Government and the operation of this road, which has five or six times the mileage of the Intercolonial. At the time of Confederation, the building and operation of the Interclonial became a moral contract on the shoulders of any government managing the affairs of the Dominion. But I am not blind to the fact that there are very many strong arguments to be used against government operation, and I am aware that the Intercolonial itself is cited as a warning against that policy. I cannot but believe that the operation of the Canadian Northern Railway system, if undertaken by the Government, will impose a very great burden and -a direct liability upon the people, first in the necessary assumption by the country of responsibility for the financing the system and second in the operation of the railway. Unless a very great improvement is made in regard to the influences that politicians may have in the operation, it will be very difficult, indeed, for the Government to conduct the business of that railway in such a way as to realize the glowing picture painted by the Prime Minister in his address last evening of what some people hope for as a result of this legislation. I have tried to obtain information by listening to the questions which have been asked of the Government, and I am bound to say that I have been unable to see any willingness on the part of the Government to give even very necessary information in regard to this very important measure.

Question after question has been put to the Minister of Finance to find out who is demanding this legislation, and who is to benefit by it, but he has given no good and sufficient reason why this measure should be crystallized into law at this session of Parliament. My hon. friend from Calgary made it quite clear in 1914 that the $100,000,000 of Canadian Northern stock in the hands of Mackenzie and Mann -was absolutely without value, which statement was also

corroborated by 'the hon. member far Kingston; it was nothing but water, he said. Unless some adequate explanation is given by the Government, I say that the people of this country will view with deep-rooted suspicion the appointment of a Board of Arbitrators to determine the value of this stock. They will suspect that the Government have been urged to act by some interests behind Mackenzie and Mann, who have money invested in this great enterprise.

Why should the minister feel it necessary to introduce the closure at this early stage of the discussion, to press this measure through Parliament? My experience in this House has not been long enough for me to say just how long discussion should proceed on a measure of this magnitude before closure can properly be applied, if indeed, it is proper to apply it at any time. It has been applied only once before in this House, and that was on the Naval Bill introduced by the present Government. I have taken occasion during the last few minutes to look through. Hansard, and I can >see that thus Canadian Northern railway measure was discussed in the House on eight separate days before closure was applied. The resolution was introduced on August 7, when it was discussed for three and a half hours. On the 8th O'f August the resolution was again under consideration for four and a half hours. Then the first reading was given to the Bill, and on the 14th of August the second reading was moved, and five hours was spent in discussion that day. On the 15th the discussion lasted six and a half hours; on the 16th, when the Bill was given its second reading, two and a half hours. On the 17th the House went into committee on the Bill for two hours, on the 23rd for four hours, and on the 27th for seven hours, when notice was given that closure would be applied.

So that this measure, which the people of this country are vitally interested in, and on which they are anxious for information, was under dispussion for only thirty-five hours before closure was applied and public discussion throttled, fully one-half of which time was occupied by Government speakers. Taking seven hours a day, only five days were allowed to hon. gentlemen to discuss this very important measure. Then closure was applied, and it was impossible for the people of this country to get the information they were seeking with regard to this transaction.

In his memorable speech in 1914, the hon. member for Calgary not only gave us a great deal of information, but prophesied

what would happen in the future, and many of his prophecies are coming true. For one thing, he said it would not be very long before this company would be back again asking Parliament for aid. Let me read what he said in this connection:

I appeal to every man in this House and say that if he will take the time to read the history of the operations of Mackenzie and Mann from that time till now, he will find nothing but a long trail of parliamentary corruption, of lobbying, of degradation of parliamentary institutions, of the lowering of the morale of public life, and the degrading of those standards by which public life should be truly measured. Both sides of the House have been to blame. Look to the statute books for the aid that has been given to this company.

Mark what follows:

Just a few days before a general election, one party proposes and the other acquiesces. They are bound to ask a few questions in order that the contribution to party funds may be large enough.

The hon. member for Calgary says that just a few days before a general election, when each party thought the contributions to party funds were large enough, it was the custom to press railway legislation through Parliament. My hon. friend accused the Opposition of that day of making a feint at opposition and then- letting the legislation slip through. What does he think to-day, when he sees the gag being applied because the Opposition are determined to expose this nefarious proposition to the people?

My time is nearly up, and I must conclude. I maintain that the legislation of 1914 gave Parliament ample authority to take over the Canadian Northern in case of default, without paying Mackenzie and Mann or any interests behind them a single dollar, and I say that if the Government want to take over this road they should do so by means of the provisions of the law of 1914. What did the Minister of Finance say at that time, when he not only took off his hat to the Solicitor General, but turned round and looked behind him and said: "Wonder of wonders! Oh, Lord, where did I find him?"

He told the people then that the Government were carefully safeguarding their interests. If his words meant anything, they meant that if the Canadian Northern Railway Company or any of its subsidiary companies defaulted the Government would take over the road. It is, therefore, only fair and right that the Government, as the trustees of the people of the country, should, when they are confronted with a proposition such as faces us at the present

time, look after the interests of the people and take over this road, irrespective of what Mackenzie and Mann may say, irrespective of what the Bank of Commerce may say, irrespective of what Sir Edmund Walker may say, irrespective of what any other gentlemen who axe financially interested in the Canadian Northern Railway Company may say.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Mr. F. B. CARVELL (Carleton):

Mr. Speaker, I miaxle a. few remarks on this question on the second reading, and since then I have taken no part in the discussion. I would not speak to-night were it not that some of my hon. friends opposite are apparently able to treat this matter with such extreme levity. When, as has been pointed out by my hon. friend from Westmorland (Mr. Copp), an exceedingly short time has been taken up in the discussion of this, the most important matter, excepting, of course, the war, that has come up before Parliament in my experience. I feel that the Government are showing undue haste and great solicitude to get this measure through when they are applying the closure under the circumstances. The rules of the House are there, however, the Government have the right to invoke their aid if they see fit and we have nothing to do but submit.

I cannot do much more to-night than restate some of the opinions which I hold on this matter. After having listened to the discussion which has been going on now for some days, I am afraid that my views are not shared, in their entirety, by very many hon. members on either side o'f the House, although I am happy to say that some hon. members are seeing the light as I see it. What is better than that is that very much of the public thought in Canada, as expressed in the newspapers is in line with my views. If this amendment is carried, perhaps there may be some means of getting aw'ay from the unfortunate position into which we are drifting by the enacting of this legislation. We were told in 1914, as has been referred to in this House many times, that the advance of $45,000,000 would be the last contribution which we should haye to make to the Canadian Northern. We were told that that would pay the bills and put that company on its feet financially, and that it would then take its place as one of the great transportation companies of Canada. We were told also that if they defaulted we had the power by this legislation, and that it would be the duty and pleasure of the Government, simply to foreclose the mortgage and take over the property. We would then own it, and that

would be the end of the matter so far as the stockholders were concerned. But in 1916 they came back again, and we gave them another $15,000,000. They are "now again in financial troubles. I for one do not feel that, under present financial conditions, with the enormous amount of money which we are compelled to borrow, with the importance of keeping the financial reputation of the country at as high a mark as possible, we can afford to allow these bonds to go by default. Perhaps very few people, outside of members of Parliament and other men who are giving this matter considerable attention, realize the difficult position in which we are placed. We are the guarantors of $104,000,000 and our mortgages are not the first but the second and, in some cases, the third or the fourth mortgage. Ahead of our mortgages come $107,000,000 of provincial guarantees which, in some cases, are first mortgages and, in some cases, second mortgages. Then again, ahead of all those mortgages and coterminous with the provincial guarantees, come something like $150,000,000 of mortgage bonds. There is no doubt in the world that, if any of those default, and if we want to protect our $104,000,000 of guarantees, we must pay the default of those mortgages that come ahead of ours. It is, therefore, a reasonable proposition that we cannot allow the Canadian Northern to default. We are compelled to see them through in some way, and the question naturally arises, what is the best way in which to see them through? About two or three weeks ago, I stated that my way _ of seeing them through would be by putting up the smallest possible amount absolutely necessary to pay the present bills and then seeing if they could not carry the matter on until after the war, when we should know exactly where we stood financially and be able to decide upon the best course to pursue. I am sorry to say that I have not heard many hon. members who have agreed with me; in fact, I do not know that any person has agreed with me. I know, however, that is a good financial proposition. I am satisfied.' that the present owners or operators of this road, can carry this matter along much more cheaply than the Government can. I would not hand over to Mackenzie and Mann or to the Canadian Northern railway the money I propose to advance- it might be $18,000,000 or $20,000,000-but I would allow the Department of Finance to handle the money, and I would see that the concern were compelled to finance matters as carefully and prudently as they pos-

sibly could and that no more betterments than were absolutely neediedj should be provided. Many of us know-at least I know [DOT] what I can accomplish along that line when I am driven to retrench.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
LIB
LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Mr. CARVELL:

I have some friends who have managed to get along during that important period in their lives. But the Government are unwilling to carry out that proposition, although they admit that they are compelled to pay out the money just the same. Whether the sum be $20,000,000 or $22,000,000 ot $25,000,000 'that the Canadian Northern require, the Government agree that we must pay it. What is the difference between our advancing the money and taking over sufficient stock to give us control of the road, and advancing the same amount of money and taking over all the stock and becoming the owners of the road? If we could stop by paying the same amount of money, the matter would not be so bad, but when we become the owners of the road we are confronted with the curse of public ownership. I use a very strong term, but I use it intentionally and advisedly. While the Canadian Northern can get along for another year by paying, say, $20,000,000 of actual debts, the Government of this country, if they become the owners of the stock of the company, cannot get along with paying less than $40,000,000 or $50,000,000; I make the prophecy to-night that if this Bill goes through and the Government take over the Canadian Northern, we shall spend that amount of money during next year. We know we shall have to pay the debts in any case, and there will come enormous demands for improvements here and improvements there, more rolling stock and all sorts of things. This afternoon I was reading a return brought down regarding a small matter of public telephones in British Columbia . The first expenditure was the small amount of $4,000 or $5,000. That soon mounted up to $70,000 or $80,000, and we have in the Supplementary Estimates an appropriation for $50,000 or $75,000 more. The matter could not be otherwise. The very moment people in this country acquire a right to draw upon the public treasury for these public services they never know when to stop. My hon. friend from Westmorland (Mr. Copp) referring to the great speech delivered by the hon. member for Calgary (Mr. R. B. Bennett) three years ago, has pointed out exactly what will happen. Just before every election there is a great demand and money

is paid out. The people may say: Well, you are painting a very dark picture; you are taking the ground that the Government of this country is not composed of responsible business men. I am not taking any such ground at all. I would trust the members of the present Government, or I would trust the members of any Government that might be formed, to look after these matters in a proper manner, if they were handling them as their own private business affairs. But when the public demand is pressed upon them, and there is a need for votes, and they are asked for money which is not their own money, they say: "Oh, well, this means so many votes, and it may carry a constituency; of course we have to surrender our ideas of business economy, and grant the money." We had an illustration one night last week:

I watched this House vote, in less than an hour, $25,000,000 on capital account for the Intercolonial. It went through just as if it was in the ordinary course of business, and so it was. There has not been a session of Parliament since I have been here that we have not been voting from five million to seven or eight million dollars to carry on the Intercolonial. We are piling up million after million on the Intercolonial, and it is not much better to-day than it was ten years ago.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

It is worse.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Air. CARVELL:

It is true, this year we have a surplus in the operation of the. Intercolonial, but it is only a matter of accounts. They have been carrying on a system whereby one department charges up to another, and the result is a surplus-a book-keeping surplus. When the extraordinary business which has developed as a result of this war passes away, we shall come back again to our deficits. The idea of paying a dividend on the capital investment of the Intercolonial never dawned upon the mind of any one in Canada. It will be the same thing with the Canadian Northern. You will not only pay the interest, but you will pay the deficits. You will put in millions and tens of millions of dollars on capital account, and you will not get any better accommodation out of the road than you are getting at the present time; the people of Canada will not get any revenue out of it, and they will have to pay those enormous amounts of interest.

I do not know what actuated the minister in the beginning in taking the extraordinary course he has taken. There will be an arbitration as to the equity there may be in the

&148

stock. But we all know there is no equity in the stock as it stands to-day. I do not say there would not be a prospective equity. Somehow or other I am rather inclined to think there might be in the future. I am rather inclined to think that if the road were allowed to remain in the hands of the men who built it, and if they were allowed to manage it as a business proposition, there might be an equity in it. At the same time, we cannot take it and pay them for something which has not been earned, because, remember, the moment the Government of Canada gets hold of it there is no equity in it, and there never can be anything in it except debt, and debt, and more debt, capital and still more capital. Many of my friends from Ontario and the West have been captivated by this public operation fad. I want to point out to them that it is the greatest farce and fallacy that ever was brought forward in any country. It is useless to talk about the Government operating railways, or telephones, or electric light systems, or anything else as cheaply and economically as they can be operated by private enterprise. Such a thing is not reasonable. Some of my friends from the West believe that if they can get this road operated by the Government, in some magic way they will get better service and better results. Possibly they think they may get a reduction of rates. No greater fallacy was ever held out to anybody. They cannot beat the roads down below what is a reasonable business basis. Remember, you have another railway there, and you cannot cut the rates down below what is fair. No government in Canada can operate a railway system in the West and make it pay with any lower rates than are being charged by the Canadian Pacific to-day. If the Government carried on the road for the next ten years at the same rates as the Canadian Pacific are charging to-day, instead of paying a ten per cent dividend as the 'Canadian Pacific is paying, it would go behind fifteen per cent or twenty per cent every year. No man knows this better than my hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Sir George Foster) who has had the longest experience in this House, with one exception, and who has lived in the Maritime Provinces. He has seen all the bungling and all the mismanagement, he knows exactly the condition of affairs, and he knows that every word I say is the truth.

I am rather surprised that he has sat here as long as he has without raising his voice in opposition to the scheme. Of

course, he may have been overmastered and overpowered by his colleagues. I know enough about governments to know that when the majority come to a decision they compel the minority to follow their lead. I can only conclude by appealing to my hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce to give his friends and colleagues the benefit of his experience, and try to prevent Canada from being drawn into a maelstrom of debt and mismanagement, as it inevitably must be by attempting to operate a great railway system under the control of the Government. I have only a minute more-

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member has five minutes more.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Mr. CARVELL:

Arbitration has been

spoken of. I would like to know what on earth you are going to arbitrate. You are appointing three gentlemen to arbitrate the equity of this stock. How are they going to get their information? I do not want to say anything personal, but I do feel that we are starting ouj under very, very unfavourable circumstances when we have Sir William Meredith representing the Government. I had six weeks' experience with that gentleman, and while I do not want to refer to him, I can only say he is the last man in Canada I would choose to represent me in an arbitration between the Canadian Northern railway and the country. In any event, what is he going to do? Where will he get his evidence? How much better evidence and how much different evidence can he get than was obtained by the commission which spent nearly a year in investigating the cost of the great railway systems of this country. I have before me the report made by these three gentlemen, Sir Henry Drayton, Mr. Ac-worth, and Mr. Smith. I know Sir Henry Drayton personally, and I have the utmost confidence in him 'Yhile these gentlemen divided in their opinion as to what should be done in the future, they were unanimous in their conclusion as to the value of the Canadian Northern. They took it up from three points of view. First, they considered the cash investment. They reached the belief that there could not possibly have been as much cash invested in the road as the debt represented. Secondly, they regarded the matter from the standpoint of the physical basis, and they said it could be replaced for less money than the debt. Then they took it up from the point of view of a going concern, and said

i

that no purchaser would offer a sum amounting to the total of the liabilities of the road. At page 44 they say:

We conclude, therefore, that the shareholders of the company have no equity, either on the ground of cash put in, or on the ground of physical reproduction cost, or on the ground or the saleable value of their property as a going concern.

We know they had a staff of 40 or 50 engineers on the work. I know two of these gentlemen from the province of New Brunswick who were on it for nearly a year. They made a physical examination of every mile of the system. They examined the ties, the rails, the roadbed, the ballast, the stations, the drainage, and everything in connection with the line. Then they collaborated their notes and made this report, which says that the value is not there. How in the world is an arbitration board which we may appoint going to get evidence which these expert gentlemen failed to find? It seems to me that the whole thing is so absolutely nonsensical that it is not worth considering for a moment. They cannot do it. Those gentlemen spent a great deal of time collecting the information they required, and they found the value was not there. I do not want to impute motives, but I would feel very much freer upon this matter if the Minister of Finance would tell us how much money the Canadian Bank of Commerce has lent to Mackenzie and Mann on this stock.

I have tried to find out; we have all tried to find out but we have failed. We believe that Mackenzie and Mann, Limited, were the owners of $52,000,000 of the common stock and that it has been pledged to the Canadian Bank of Commerce as security for certain advances-how much we do not know, but the conclusion is borne in upon the mind of any man who thinks that unless this stock is given some value the Canadian Bank of Commerce may have trouble in getting repayment of their loan. I am not making a charge but I am saying that that is the inevitable conclusion that is forced upon my mind. If I thought it were only a matter of a few hundred thousand dollars I would feel differently about it. But I am afraid it is a matter of a few millions of dollars and my suspicions are increased a hundred fold. My time has expired under this beautiful gag law and I suppose we cannot go further. I shall vote for the amendment and if it carries we will at least have an opportunity of having this award back in Parliament and Parliament will have a chance of dealing with it again. I hope it will carry. I

hope something will be done to save this country not only from the expenditude of an enormous amount of money at the present time but from being plunged into a system of public ownership the end of which no man in Canada can possibly foresee.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. B. BENNETT (Calgary):

Mr. Speaker, the principle of the acquisition of this property by the Crown has been acceded to by hon. gentlemen opposite and therefore I presume it is not necessary to further discuss that feature of the question. When I was speaking the other afternoon I pointed out that the amendment then proposed, as the amendment now proposed, was based upon the principle that the country is to acquire this property. There are certain 'questions that have been settled during the progress of this debate. It has been said that we are acquiring shares and not assets. In support of that proposition, reference is had to certain documents which have 'been filed here. It is hardly necessary to say that my right hon. friend the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Borden) himself refuted that argument when he stated that the reason why the Government had not taken over the shares without an arbitration was that the Drayton-Acworth report had overlooked the value of some lands which belonged to the company. As they are assets, it follows that the value of the shares is to be determined by the arbitrators on the basis of the value of the assets and not otherwise. Therefore, that argument is exploded. There is one other matter that has been settled and it is that the acquisition of this property by the Dominion Government on the basis now proposed releases the provinces from their entire responsibility as guarantors. It takes the burden that has been placed upon some of the provinces and distributes it upon them all. That argument has been controverted but it does not appear to have been very successfully controverted for this simple reason, that at the present moment the Canadian Northern Railway Company is the primary debtor and the provinces are the guarantors. It follows that, if there is default with respect to any of the obligations, the right as against the primary debtor must be exhausted and the primary debtor will be the 'Canadian Northern Railway Company owned by the people of Canada or the Crown in the right of all. It also follows that Tather than permit the exhaustion of the right against the primary debtor the Crown must inevitably assume

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. B. BENNETT:

My hon. friends will not be hear hearing in a moment. I pass to another point. I am asked to vote that the equity of redemption of the Mackenzie and Mann interests should be taken from them without the payment of any money. I am not going to repeat my argument with reference to that. It seems to me to be fundamental that any man who has something should receive payment for it if he can get it, and he should have the right to go to a tribunal to present his case to fix that value. I shall not labour that issue. But let me point this out. The Prime Minister said last evening that if we had a receivership for this enterprise there would be seven receiverships in seven provinces. In most of the provinces of Canada a moratorium now exists, and you

could not foreclose a mortgage if you wanted to.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
LIB
LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. B. BENNETT:

Well, the people of Quebec did not go to war and did not require any moratorium. I suppose that is the reason.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. B. BENNETT:

No, but it guaranteed some railways in Mercier's time that were heard of.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink
LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. B. BENNETT:

I am glad to hear there is no moratorium in the Maritime Provinces. The question whether there is a moratorium in some of the provinces is not, however, the point I want to make. Neither New Brunswick nor Quebec has guaranteed Canadian Northern securities, but in the West, where this has been largely done, if you undertook to foreclose them, by virtue of the statutes in those provinces, an extension of time would be given probably until after the war. All that has been done, so far as this Parliament is concerned, is' to say that, by reason of the financial condition that exists in consequence of the war, these men should have the opportunity to present, if they have a claim, that claim to a tribunal properly constituted, to determine its value. I shall not argue that point further. That is the principle most men follow in private business, and it should apply here. I am told that a receivership would be destructive to the interests of this country, and no man would question that. I have always said that the proper manner to deal with this was by a statutory receivership. But my voice has been as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and I have to accept the statement of the Minister of Finance that this is the only way in which this business can be done. Then, accepting the principles he has declared for and stated, I am going, as my last word upon this Bill, to direct attention to certain anomalies, certain facts with reAtion to it, and I shall prove conclusively to this House that the measure that we are passing to-night is absolutely useless for the purpose for which it is intended and that unless it is amended

in another chamber it -will have no value at all. For the purpose of placing myself upon record, I desire to indicate clearly and very briefly the various paragraphs and . what I would substitute for them.

You will observe that the Bill commences with authorizing an agreement between certain pledgees and owners of stock for the acquisition of 600,000 shares. The Minister of Finance has said that money must he paid to save the Canadian Northern railway. 'This road cannot go into the hands of a receiver, this road cannot default, I want to ask him to-night, and to ask the members of this House, what is going to happen if the Canadian Northern railway people do not sign the agreement. What is going to happen under the provisions of the Bill? The minister has not taken power to take all of the shares if they do not sign. He has taken power to take the difference between 500,000 and 600,000, which is 100,000; in other words, it is simply provided that after this legislation is passed he can, by Order in Council, acquire 100,000 shares. But we will have to pay the money for interest etc., or else the road goe3 into a receivership, and that the Minister of Finance says is not to be considered. Therefore, I submit that section 1 should he as follows.

1. His Majesty may acquire the six hundred thousand (600,000) shares of the capital stock of the Canadian Northern Railway Company, having a par value of sixty million dollars ($60,000,000) not now held by the Minister of Finance in trust for His Majesty, on such terms and conditions, not incons'stent with this Act and satisfactory to the Governor in Council, as may be set out in an agreement to be made between His Majesty and the owners, registered as such, on the stock or share registers of the said company, of not less than five hundred thousand (500,000) of the said shares, for a price to be determined by arbitration as hereinafter provided.

In other words, I submit that only the registered owners of the shares are interested. Nobody else, and any agreement arrived .at must he with men whose names are taken from the share registers, and people on the street or elsewhere in this country shall not be considered. That is my first submission. The second section of the Bill, I submit, should read as follows:

2. (1) Upon the completion of the said agreement at least five hundred thousand of the said six hundred thousand shares shall be transferred and delivered# by the registered owners thereof to the Minister of Finance in trusty for His Majesty, and if there be any of the six hundred thousand shares not transferred and delivered as aforesaid, the Governor in Council may declare the said shares to be the [Mr. R. B. Bennett. 1

property of the Minister of Finance in trust for His Majesty, and the same shall thereupon become the property of His Majesty and shall be paid for pro rata with the shares so transferred.

Mark you that no provision has been made in this Bill as to when this transaction is to be completed. Suppose that these gentlemen keep putting off dealing with the matter until .after the maturity of the loans mentioned. I have provided for that as follows:

(2) In the event of the said agreement not being executed and at least five hundred thousand of the six hundred thousand shares being transferred and delivered to the Minister of Finance in trust as aforesaid on or before the

; day of 1917, the Governor

in Council may declare the whole of the said six hundred thousand shares to he the property of the Minister of Finance in trust for His Majesty, and the same shall thereupon become the property of His Majesty for a price to be determined by arbitration as hereinafter provided.

I now come to deal with the income convertible securities. This Bill has gone out of committee, and we have not dealt with these at all.

Topic:   JO, 1917
Permalink

August 30, 1917