March 9, 1933

LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Not at all; a budget has to be presented. If the hon. gentleman has not read the act I may tell him that it provides that a budget must be presented, and this parliament gives its sanction and approval in order that it may have that power and control that is essential. I put this to the house, Mr. Speaker: How would it be possible for these trustees to function and operate if they were to be subject to the governor in council? I put that problem to the house and to every individual member. What is the governor in council? The governor in council is the government of the day.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I have heard it otherwise described in this house by hon. gentlemen opposite. I suppose government by order in council, which rescinded a contract for $4,000,000 for a hotel in Vancouver, substituting contracts that brought the cost to $11,000,000, is responsible government. That may be responsible government, but responsible to whom? The problem which this house and this country faces is not to be glossed over by any talk about constitutional rights or parliamentary powers such as this. Can parliament create a body with such powers as would be exercised by a private enterprise and still have control by reason of having to find the necessary money to enable them to function? I say yes. That is what is embodied in this statute. That is parliamentary control in its broadest and best sense; that is responsible government. Not a dollar can be found for this road or for these trustees; no money can be advanced to enable them to meet the obligations that have been imposed upon the roads by the guarantees alike of provinces and the dominion, unless this parliament grants it to them. That is the essential control that parliament must exercise, and if I so desired I could name many commissions both in England and in Canada in which we find the same situation.

I desire to avail myself of this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to say that if government ownership is to succeed it can only do so if it observes the same business maxims that are observed by private enterprises. It cannot succeed if those who administer it are to be dragooned on the one hand by their political friends and attacked on the other hand by their political foes. It cannot succeed if its policies are made the football of contending parties. It can only succeed if it has the same free, untrammelled opportunity under the laws of the country that is afforded private enterprise. The corporate position of these trustees must be the same as the corporate position of the directors of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Both are under the law; both control properties; both exercise their powers to the best of their ability, with an eye singly directed to the success of the enterprise. If this parliament should be dissatisfied with their conduct action can be taken any year when it is asked to provide means and money for the operation of the system. No one will complain, I am sure, if the time ever comes when they do not have to apply to parliament for money, but if parliament in its wisdom, in the exercise of its plenary powers, is dissatisfied, it can declare that it will not give them further money unless they vacate their offices. Parliament has complete control. Anyone who knows the fundamentals of government knows this is so. This house, in its power to vote money, has complete control over that board of trustees, and parliamentary control can never be more strongly exercised than it can under these very powers.

I shall not deal longer with this phase of the matter, Mr. Speaker, but I should like to say that when subsection 6 of section 9 is referred to it must be perfectly clear that the crown is the crown as a shareholder, because as a shareholder the crown owns the Canadian National system. The words "any other shareholder" of course contemplates to the crown as a shareholder. With respect to the possibility of amalgamation being brought about by an indirect method when it could not be directly accomplished, the section that we will offer will provide against both direct and indirect means, so the house need have no fear in that respect.

Now I should like to say a word or two with respect to the amendment. I hope the right hon. gentleman will withdraw it. Perhaps my hopes are beyond my expectations, but for a moment let us look at what it contains. It asks that the second reading of this bill be postponed, and of course that means the end of the bill.

C.N.R.-C.P.R. Bill-Mr. Bennett

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

No, it does not.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Hold on a moment. Look at the rules with respect to the six months hoist and the three months hoist. The postponement of the second reading of this measure means an interference with its orderly passing in this house under the government of the day.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that under the ruies of the house this amendment can be put and, if it is carried, the house can immediately proceed with the second reading of the bill.

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CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

I do not think that is a point of order.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

There can be no proceeding with the immediate passing of the second reading of this bill, for the motion is that the bill be now read a second time, while the amendment asks that all the words after "that" be struck out and something substituted therefor. If that is not the negation of the second reading I think every hon. member of this house must have difficulty in understanding the English language. What follows is this: The amendment asks that the second reading of this bill be postponed until this house has declared-and here is the manual of constitutional law that the house is to adopt. Task the house to listen to it. First:

. . . that nothing therein shall be taken to authorize any amalgamation of the Canadian National Railways with the Canadian Pacific company;

The appropriate place for that, of course, is in amendment to the measure itself, and not in amendment to the second reading of the measure, which is the adoption of the principle. That is the answer to that point. The next point is:

... or to divest parliament of its rights;

There can be no divesting of parliament of its rights by any statute of this parliament, for the parliament that acts to-day may act to-morrow in an entirely different way. It can repeal to-day what it enacted yesterday, and it may enact to-morrow what it rejected to-day. Parliament is omnipotent.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I should like to ask my right hon. friend this question: If this measure were passed to-day could parliament remove the chief trustee to-morrow?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Certainly.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

In what way?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Just by passing a statute removing him, without repealing the whole of the measure. I do not want to be offensive, but I do say that no student would suggest that the passing of this statute will divest parliament of any of its rights. What are the rights of parliament? They are defined in the British North America Act. Are we amending that act? Can we amend it? Are we changing the constitution? Are we considering an address to change the constitution? Are we trying to take from parliament any rights which it possesses? Its plenary legislative powers exist tomorrow, after we pass this bill; they exist next week and the week after; they exist in continuity and in perpetuity until the constitution itself destroys those rights. Is there any doubt about that? Then the amendment goes on to say;

... or to take from the House of Commons its primary duty to control expenditures of public moneys and the taxes required to meet the same;

This bill provides that this parliament shall itself control the public moneys that are to be made available to these trustees. Does this bouse expect to have the right to control the expenditures made by the company itself? The amendment says not. It contains these words:

. . . public moneys and the taxes required to meet the same.

This bill provides that if this parliament sees fit it need not grant a single sou to the trustees. Parliament has complete control over taxes and expenditures.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

May I interrupt the Prime Minister for a moment. I should like to direct his attention to section 7 of the bill which provides:

No trustee shall be removed from office, nor suffer any reduction in salary, during the term for which he is appointed, unless for assigned cause and on address of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Surely.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I would ask my right hon. friend whether that does not make this House of Commons subject to the will of the Senate with respect to the salary to be paid to the chief trustee named therein.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

But it is the same with respect to the judges. This followed the provision with respect to the judges, that is all; it desired to place the trustees beyond the influence of political control and to give them the same position of independence as the judges enjoy. They can be removed only by a joint address of the Senate and the House

C.N.R.-C.P.R. Bill-Mr. Bennett

of Commons. Let me go further however. If this parliament, notwithstanding that provision, saw fit to pass a statute the day after tomorrow repealing that section, it has the power to do so. Everyone knows that.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

The Senate would have to be in agreement.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, of course; you cannot pass any bill unless it is passed by the commons, the Senate and the crown, for those three constitute parliament; there is no parliament without that conjunction. Let me quote further:

And that the provisions of said bill shall be read in the light of this declaration.

Well, all bills are read in the light of that declaration; there is no bill on the statute books that is not read in the light of that declaration. But, I ask, why should we adopt, as a preliminary of the second reading of the bill, a short essay on responsible government? I ask that question without offence. All bills, I say, are passed in this country in the light of that declaration, and to suggest that this bill should be singled out as one that shall be passed in the light of that declaration is to put it mildly to do violence to constitutional practice and authority. Further:

And be construed so as to conform therewith, and that in so far as any of its provisions may be inconsistent therewith they shall be amended accordingly.

In other words, before you know what is to be done, Mr. Speaker, you are asked to adopt amendments in this house. The time for this of course is when the bill is in committee, the time for it is when amendments are under consideration in the committee; the time is when an opportunity may be offered for consideration and discussion, when we know whait we are dealing with. But as regards this pious declaration that the rights of parliament are not to be taken away in the passing of this bill, and that the control of public expenditures is in the hands of the House of Commons-that is only partly true, unfortunately; they are in the hands of parliament, for the Senate sometimes rejects money bills. I wonder if it is beyond the memory of hon. members that the Senate rejected the Yukon bill by which a subsidy was provided for the construction of that road; I wonder if it is beyond the memory of the house that the Senate rejected a bill in the days of Sir John Macdonald with respect to a section of the Canadian Pacific that passes through the State of Maine. Is that beyond the memory of hon. gentlemen? The statement should be that parliament controls, for no bill that

is passed by this house, not the budget bill, becomes law until it is passed by the second chamber and assented to by the crown. There are three divisions of government in this country-the legislative and executive and of course the judicial, which we leave out for the moment; and the legislative divides itself into three branches: the commons, the Senate and the crown. Now, this is a suggestion that only the commons shall be concerned in the matter before us. Let me point out however that we cannot adopt any such statement as the law of the country, not even to oblige my hon. friend from Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth)-that the commons is the only house. There is still a reformed Senate.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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March 9, 1933