September 6, 1917

LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD :

If you, Sir, will keep the Minister of Railways and the hon. member from Annapolis in order, I will come back to the question under discussion. I have been diverted by these hon. gentlemen who have been asking me questions which I have been endeavouring to answer. Nobody knows better than the Minister of Customs that the reason- for Canada acquiring those three railways in war time is so grotesque that you cannot state a more grotesque proposition at any time, let -alone in war time. I can fancy that certain hon. gentlemen who support the minister, for instance the Minister of Inland Revenue (Mr. Sevigny), would be willing to get the Quebec, Montmorency and Charlevoix made a Government railway so that his confreres could go down to Ste. Anne de Beaupre and visit the shrine there and get cured.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
CON

Albert Sévigny (Minister of Inland Revenue)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SEVIGNY:

It would be a very good thing for the hon. member to go down to Ste. Anne de Beaupre.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

I happen to worship at a Presbyterian shrine and not at the shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupre.

< Mr. REID: Does the hon. member belong to my church?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

I do not know how some of my hon. friend's confreres from Quebec who are so terribly anti-French these days-

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
CON

Albert Sévigny (Minister of Inland Revenue)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SEVIGNY:

I do not think they are worse than the hon. member for Pictou.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB
CON
LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

The minister knows that my ancestors and all my people and myself have been associates of the French race for three or four generations and we have no antipathy against them. He has associates behind him and men who support him, men who, I am surprised, would support a proposition that the Government of Canada should own and operate a railway for the purpose of carrying people to the shrine of Ste. Anne de^Beaupre. That is the only part of the railway which the Minister of Customs undertook to defend as being a commercial proposition. He said that part of the railway paid.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

It was the hon. member for Rouville who said that.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

My hon. friend defended that proposition. He did not say anything about the Lotbiniere and Megantic or the Quebec and Saguenay. What I say is this: This whole proposition is a disgraceful perversion of * public

11 p.m. money in war time for the purpose of satisfying a political supporter from the province of Quebec. When you are taxing the people by the various methods adopted by this Government, when the Minister of Finance is speaking about economy, to divert this money for this purpose is absolutely defenceless.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
CON

William Folger Nickle

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NICKLE:

Last year when this question was before the House, I differed from my confreres on this side of the House as to the wisdom of the vote. The few remarks that I am now about to offer, let me assure the committee, shall not deal with my ancestors, nor the antagonism of any hon. member from Ontario to the province of Quebec. This is purely a business propositicn, and surely it is possible to approach it as such without endeavouring to stir up either political or religious animosi-

ties. I think I know those parts of the country in which those railways are situated fairly well, and I know something about their history. I can appreciate the desire that the people have that they should have railway communication like people in the other parts of the country more favourably situated I am not altogether blind to the fact that since the French settled on the northern bank of the St. Lawrence the winters have always been found tiresomely long, and the people have been more or less driven into isolation. If we were not at war, although the expenditure might be extravagant, I think I would be prepared to vote for the purchasing of those railways in the hope that they might give those people more adequate railway facilities. But, unfortunately, the country is at war, and our national resources are being taxed to their utmost, and, in my judgment ,the financial resources of this country are going to be taxed more in the future than they have been in the past. .

Only a year or two ago Lloyd George said that this war would be won as much by the "silver bullet" as by any other means. If that was true two years ago, it is obvious to us and to the world at large that it is equally true to-day. Putting that idea into commonplace expression, it simply means that that nation is likely to win the war which can stand the financial strain the longest and make the best resistance to the inroads on its financial standing. What is the standing of this country to-day? We started out borrowing $100,000,000 and $150,000,000. as the case might be, at a rate in the neighbourhood of 51 per cent. The next loan did no't sell quite so well. Lately we borrowed a few millions in New York at a cost of 6 or 7 per cent. If we are to believe what we see in the papers to-day- I speak only from that information-the next loan of $100,000,000 will likely cost us 6 per cent. In other words, money is getting dearer; it is getting harder to get the money that is necessary to carry on the war. No one who has watched the situation can be blind to the fact that England's financial resources are being strained, and that we in Canada are being called upon to bear part of the burden that England would otherwise bear. Under these circumstances we are asked to spend $4,000,000 in the purchase of what I consider to be unnecessary railways at this time. When last year I saw the confusion that arose in the arbitration before Mr. Justice Cassels, I rather hoped that we had heard the last

of this railway problem. The arbitration terms, as set out in chapter 22 of 6 and 7 George V, lay this down:

Said value to be the actual cost of said railways, less subsidies and less depreciation.

When that Act was introduced into the House last year I thought that the dice were pretty well loaded against the country. The cost was to be the amount that it had cost the railway companies to construct, regardless of whether or not consideration had been given to economy. This country was to pay for these three railroads the amount of money that 'had been put into their construction, less depreciation and less subsidies. I certainly thought that the owners of the railroad would grasp with avidity what was offered to them, but I was amazed, when I read the proceedings before the arbitrator, to learn that the solicitors for the owners set up that they were entitled to interest on the moneys invested, not only during the time of construction, but also during all the time that the railway had lain idle-because it had never been carried to completion. That seems to me to be an extraordinary contention, but I thought, as they had set it up, that probably wre had heard the last of the question. However, here we are to-night confronted with another vote. We are asked to vote $4,000,000 of the people's money to buy what I consider at the present time to be three unnecessary railroads. If some hon. gentleman opposite moves that this item be struck out, I shall, as I did a year ago, support the motion for the elimination of the item. I quite realize, after six years of parliamentary experience, that when an item of this kind is inserted in the estimates it is not very likely to be deleted. The Government put it there, and a majority of their followers will keep it there. But I direct the attention of the committee to this fact: I believe the time is coming- it may not be as far off as some of us think -when this nation may become war-weary. The people may become a bit weary of making sacrifices for this war, and if they do, it is purchases of this kind that will have helped to make them war-weary. If I judge aright the spirit of the Canadian people to-day, it is this: we are willing to sacrifice to the limit, but we want our Government to practice the same thrift, the same economy, that they ask us to practice. If the Government will give the example, I believe the people will follow; but it is the duty of the Government to give the example if they want the people ' to follow.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Liberal

Mr. NESBITT:

Last year when this vote of $4,000,000 was up, I took the liberty of moving that it be struck out. I thought it a great pity to use the people's money during the war to buy these three little railways, the purchases of which, to my mind, could not possibly be of any benefit to the people. The hon. member for Pictou (Mr. Macdonald) says that the vote is being taken in order to purchase these railways for the relief of Sir Rodolphe Forget. I do nolt know whether or not that is true; I am not going to say that it is. But I do say just what the member for Kingston said: the nation that can stand out the longest will probably win this war. We have to do our share, and so far as I know, every man and woman in the country is willing to do his or her share towards the payment of the legitimate expenses of the country. But the Government should set the example. They lecture us-quite properly on the saving of food, and on the exercise of economy; but they do not set the example them-selves. Last night we passed some votes that should not have been passed. To-night the Government ask us to pass this ridiculous vote of nearly $4,000,000. I agree with the member for Rouville (Mr. Lemieux) that the money that was spent this year on this road should not have been spent. The Minister of Customs may be right in saying that legally the Government was within its rights in spending the money, but morally they had no right to do so until the Exchequer Court's judgment had been received and the road had been taken over. They had no right to spend -any money on the roan until they owned it, and certainly they do not own it yet, because the judgment of the Exchequer Court has not been accepted by the present owners. From a business standpoint, therefore, the Government should not have spent one dollar on that road, whether they were legally entitled to do so or not. However, they have spent the money. I have the greatest possible regard for the Minister of Railways, and 1 am surprised -because I have faith in his business judgment-that he should have been induced to spend money on this road before it was properly taken over. The fact that the company have not accepted the judgment of the Exchequer Court gives the Government a goon excuse for not going any further and I think we should make that a reason for not voting money to-night for the purchase of this railway. We cannot afford to make any unnecessary expenditures.

5 <64

As representatives of the people we should set example to them of economy, but we are not doing that by any means in the votes that we are putting through. I hope the minister will apply his business sense and his good judgment to this matter and that he will agree not to press this vote.

I move that the item be struck out.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB

Edmond Proulx

Liberal

Mr. PROULX:

How much more does the Government intend to pay than the amount fixed by the Exchequer Court?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

The intention of the Government is to take only the Quebec and Saguenay road. There is no intention of taking the other two. .

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

How can the minister say that, with the statute of last year confronting him?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

The intention of the Bid

passed last year was to take over the three roads. The judge of Exchequer Court, however, has refused to accept two items of $500,000 and $700,000 odd, claimed in respect of the Quebec and Montmorency. That is the road which is completed. But the owners of the road do not want to accept the judgment.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB
CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

We would not go on only on the understanding that we would take the Quebec and Saguenay alone. The reason why ithe amount has been fixed, as I understand it, as to the value of the Quebec and Saguenay-I think the hon.' member stated the judgment of the Exchequer Court was that the Quebec and Saguenay was valued at a certain amount.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Permalink
LIB
LIB

September 6, 1917