July 3, 1956

LIB

Edward Turney Applewhaite (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Applewhaite):

Before the minister commences the second part of his speech, I might point out to hon. members that it is now five o'clock and the house will proceed to the consideration of private and public bills.

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OF SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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LIB

George Carlyle Marler (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Marler:

I have only two or three minutes more, and if I had consent perhaps I could finish my remarks.

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OF SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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LIB

Edward Turney Applewhaite (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Applewhaite):

With unanimous consent, the minister will continue.

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OF SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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LIB

George Carlyle Marler (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Marler:

Thank you. I was just saying that at first sight it may appear as if the provisions of section 22 of the Telegraphs Act give the governor in council all the authority that is required, and that by the simple expedient of either granting or withholding approval on plans, site and location of the cable, the government may permit or may prevent the laying of new cables. In fact, however, the matter cannot be resolved in such a simple way; first, because the problem does not always arise in a way that admits of a yes or no solution; and, second, because under the present act there is no continuing control or regulation of the actions of a company with regard to the cable itself.

I should like to emphasize that if one reads section 22 of the Telegraphs Act, it will be found that what is contemplated seems to refer to actions that must be taken and completed before the cable comes into operation. In a word, they do not appear to be of the continuing character that would prevail and continue after the landing permit has been granted and the cable comes into operation. The problem, moreover, is complicated by the fact that most of the trans-Atlantic cables that are landed at some point in Canada serve primarily for the transmission of messages between the United States and the continent of Europe, or for what may be called through traffic.

The cables comprise two segments, one from Europe to Canada and the other from Canada to the United States, but they do serve also, although to a much lesser extent, for the transmission of messages originating in or destined for Canada. This is a complication because in a given case there might be no objection whatever to granting permission for a cable to carry through traffic, while there might be very real and valid objections to the provisions of facilities additional to those already established to meet Canadian requirements. Or alternatively, it

might appear desirable to limit the number of circuits to be opened in Canada. The present act does not appear to contemplate the attaching to the landing permit of conditions of a continuing nature and therefore does not seem to provide for revocation of the landing permit if the conditions are not observed.

The government believes that by establishing a licensing system it will be in a better position to deal more flexibly with applications for permission to land cables, to control the opening of circuits into Canada, and to regulate increases in the capacity of cables; and the amendment before the house has been drafted with these objects in mind.

There is one further point I wish to mention and that is the routing of messages originating in Canada. I am sure that hon. members share the feeling I have that it would be desirable if this business were routed to the cable heads in Canada over facilities located in Canada and owned and operated by Canadians. This would have the obvious effect of giving Canadians the maximum benefits to be derived from the business which they themselves originated.

Of course, I appreciate, just as I am sure hon. members do, that it would not always be possible for this to be achieved and that sometimes there would be reasons, such as the interruption of communications, overloading of facilities or other circumstance which might make it desirable in order to avoid delay that the traffic be carried over facilities in the United States; but in a general sense I think that Canadian traffic ought to move to the cable head by means of Canadian facilities. I feel sure the various companies operating cable facilities share this view and that so far as this is not now being done they will co-operate in helping us to achieve this objective; but I think I should point out that the proposed licensing system would enable us to exercise some measure of control over the routing of traffic originating in Canada.

I trust that with these explanations the bill will commend itself to the members of this house. May I add that if the bill receives second reading I shall then move that it be referred to the standing committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines.

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OF SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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PRIVATE BILLS


On the order:


LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. W. E. Harris (Minister of Finance):

Mr. Speaker, so far as I know it is not the intention that any of these bills shall be

called, although I speak subject to correction, and if that is so we might stand them all at one time.

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS
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LIB

Edward Turney Applewhaite (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Applewhaile):

any hon. member of the house so desires, the public bills must be called one at a time but if there is unanimous consent we can revert to the business interrupted at five o'clock.

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS
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LIB

Edward Turney Applewhaite (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Applewhaite):

There being unanimous consent, the business reserved for private and public bills is considered as disposed of and the house will revert to the business interrupted at five o'clock.

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS
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TELEGRAPHS ACT

AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OP SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS


The house resumed consideration of the motion of Mr. Marler for the second reading of Bill No. 212, to amend the Telegraphs Act.


PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Howard C. Green (Vancouver-Quadra):

Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that this bill is to go to the standing committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines there is no necessity to discuss it at any length at the present stage. I believe the minister is wise in referring it to that standing committee for several reasons. One is that there would appear to be some features about this activity which can be fully understood only after they have been explained by the experts and then I take it there may be some people who will be affected by this amendment who might wish to be heard before the committee and, of course, if the bill were dealt with in the house without being referred to the committee there would be no opportunity for such representations to be made.

We in the official opposition are curious about some aspects of this particular bill and while we are not opposing it at this stage we are reserving our right to do so in the event that the examination by the committee reveals the bill has features which in our opinion would justify opposition to it in the subsequent stages.

The minister opened his remarks today by pointing out that the Telegraphs Act has been in effect almost without amendment since 1875, a period of over 80 years. When he said that, it struck me as being rather strange that the bill having been so good originally and having been so good for over 80 years it should now be necessary to amend it and not by the usual type of amendment but merely by giving the government the power to license. In other words, here is another

Telegraphs Act

case in which we are establishing a licensing system to be fastened on the long suffering people of Canada. Apparently, judging from the minister's remarks, the main reason for taking this licensing power is to be able to limit the number of circuits. Evidently the government feels there are or may be too many cables and on that account there must be some power given to restrict them by licensing.

That would sound more reasonable if it were not for the fact the government itself is in the business in the shape of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation, a crown company set up in 1949. It was set up at that time to take over external telecommunications but the minister of transport of that day on more than one occasion in the course of the discussion pointed out that it was not intended to give this crown company a monopoly. He may have been stretching his argument a bit but I find that at page 394 of Hansard for September 30, 1949, Mr. Chevrier had this to say:

It was asked whether the bill would create a monopoly. My reply is no, the bill will not create a monopoly.

And then he repeated that on the next page. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) had been referring to the possibility of the crown company being given a monopoly and Mr. Chevrier replied:

In any event, whether it is or is not the case, the Anglo-American Cable Company and Commercial Cable Company are in direct competition with both Cable and Wireless, Limited and Canadian Marconi Company, Limited,...

The latter two companies were taken over by Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation.

... so there is no danger of a monopoly. From what I understand, in the international field exclusive of the commonwealth field there are telecommunication services, both wireless and cable, that are quite strong and quite competitive in these services.

The minister was questioned further about that when the bill went before the committee in 1949, and at page 10 of the proceedings of the committee of November 8, 1949, we find this:

Some suggestion was made during the debate concerning monopoly. I will not go into that now because there are some technical officers here who will be able to do that. I do not think this nationalization will create a monopoly in any sense because there is a considerable amount of competition as it is now.

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OP SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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?

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Mr. McLure:

May I ask the minister one

question?

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OP SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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?

Lionel Chevrier

Hon. Mr. Chevrier:

Yes.

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OP SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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?

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Mr. McLure:

Will this create a monopoly?

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
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?

Lionel Chevrier

Hon. Mr. Chevrier:

It will not, in so far as Canada is concerned.

We had that very definite statement by the minister in 1949. Even at that time there

Telegraphs Act

was some concern because there had been an agreement between various nations in the commonwealth with regard to telecommunications. In the very committee proceedings to which I have referred Mr. W. C. Connelly, superintendent of radio, Department of Transport, placed before the committee a memorandum relative to the subject under discussion. The memorandum points out that there had been an agreement reached between commonwealth countries for a reduction in the rates and that in that agreement the governments had agreed:

(a) to maintain the policy of concentrating overseas telegraph traffic on the systems of Cable and Wireless Limited and its associates;

That was one of the companies taken over by the Canadian crown company.

(b) to use their best endeavours to stop the circulation of traffic over foreign services using circuitous routes, and to resist the routing of traffic through foreign organizations not established in their respective territories where the Cable and Wireless Limited system has a suitable route which can carry the traffic;

I would point out the next two clauses.

(c) to continue the policy of resisting the authorization or opening of new circuits which would be detrimental to Cable and Wireless Limited or its associates in the British empire;

(d) to afford Cable and Wireless Limited and its associated companies overseas the opportunity of taking over on reasonable terms any external commercial wireless telegraph transmission services in the extra-European system at present operated by governments where or if such services compete with the companies' services;

That memorandum seems to be fairly clear as to the real objective in 1949 being to get a monopoly in external telecommunications services, and one wonders whether the amendment brought in today is not the next step to obtain that objective of a monopoly. There are other companies in the field which have been established for almost as long as the Telegraphs Act has been on the statute books of Canada and those companies are in a position to extend their services by way of additional circuits or to modernize their services. It may be that the real purpose of this bill is to force them out of business in Canada.

That brings up the question of whether the Canadian people are entitled to the benefits which would follow from fair competition, and I think that should receive the careful consideration of the standing committee. Any company operating under the Telegraphs Act is subject to drastic control, apart from the licensing control which the minister is now seeking to initiate. Such a company must obtain a charter from this parliament, and I believe they all have done so. Such a company must obtain a charter authorizing it to construct its cables.

IMr. Green.]

That control is set out in many sections of the act. The minister referred only to section 22. That section, in referring to any company coming under the Telegraphs Act, reads:

The company shall not exercise any of the powers by this part conferred until

(a) the company has submitted to the governor In council, a plan and survey of the proposed site and location of such telegraph and its approaches at the shore, and of its stations, offices and accommodations on land and of all the intended works thereto appertaining,

(b) such plan, site and location have been approved by the governor in council, and

(c) such conditions as he thinks fit for the public good to impose touching the said telegraph and works, have been complied with.

That latter clause (c) gives the governor in council very wide powers. Section 24 provides:

(1) Before commencing the construction of any such telegraph or work mentioned in section 23, or of any buoy or seamark connected therewith, the company shall deposit, at the Department of Transport, a plan thereof, for the approval of the minister.

(2) In cases of emergency, for repairs to any work previously constructed or laid, the plan thereof shall be so deposited as speedily as may be after the commencement of the work.

Then section 25:

(1) The work shall not be constructed otherwise than in accordance with the plan as approved by the minister.

The section goes on to give the minister the power to remove the work if it has not been so constructed. Then section 26 provides for the use of lights and signals on ships used in connection with the work. Section 28 reads:

The minister may, at any time, at the expense of the company, cause to be made a survey and examination of any such work, buoy or sea-mark, or of the site thereof.

Section 29 gives the minister the right to recover any expense to which he is put by reason of checking the works of a company.

All these companies are also subject to control by the board of transport commissioners. As I read the act, the rates which they charge are subject to the approval of the board of transport commissioners. Section 31 reads:

(1) The company shall transmit all messages

(a) in the order in which they are received or in such order as the board of transport commissioners for Canada may require or direct, and

(b) at such rates as may be determined from time to time by the said board for the different classes of messages, or hours of the day or night during which such messages are transmitted, without discrimination within each class.

Section 32 provides:

The company may charge for the transmission of messages, and may demand and collect in advance such rates of payment therefor as are fixed by by-law of the company as its tariff rates and approved by the board of transport commissioners for Canada.

-giving the board of transport commissioners what appears to be full supervision of the activities of the company in the way of the charging of rates.

Now the minister proposes that there should in addition be a licensing control. He has given us no details of how that control is to be carried out. There is some suggestion that the crown company, Canadian Overseas Telecommunication Corporation, has a great deal to say in all these matters. Whilst, strictly speaking, the jurisdiction is given by statute to the Department of Transport, we hear rumours that the Department of Transport gets its advice from this crown company, which is certainly a competitor of the private companies.

We should be told in the committee whether the position is to be that the crown company is in effect to recommend the terms of the regulations and is to be the enforcing body. If that should come about, then we would have exactly the same position that has caused so much trouble in the radio field in Canada.

We should also be told in the committee whether this licensing control is to apply to existing companies already in the field or only to companies that enter it from now on. I take it from what the minister has said today that there is not much doubt that his intention is to cover all companies, no matter how long they have been in the business.

Does it also mean that all new outlets, all new circuits, are to be reserved to Canadian Overseas Telecommunication Corporation? That would have the result in the long run of putting the other companies out of business and creating a government monopoly. I believe that there is no such cable landing licence law in the United Kingdom and also that, whilst there is a law of that nature in the United States, it is not as far-reaching as the one now proposed by the minister. These details, too, we shall require in the committee.

I submit that we cannot be too careful in making changes at this time. On the surface they seem to be innocuous, but where we have had a business established for so many years and carried on in a satisfactory manner there should not be drastic changes made without very good reason, and in this particular case the fact that there is this crown corporation, with its officers no doubt anxious for more power and out to build their own empire, I think, makes it all the more necessary that we should be cautious before agreeing to make changes of this kind.

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OP SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. T. S. Barnett (Comox-Alberni):

I have been generally aware that some of the technological changes to which the minister referred in introducing this bill have been taking

Telegraphs Act

place. It just so happens that the main terminus for the Pacific cable is in my constituency, and I know, from conversations I have had, the results of some of those changes, as far as Banfield station is concerned. I also had the opportunity of seeing one or two of the installations in the province of Newfoundland when I paid a visit to that province. So I can readily appreciate that the time may very well have come when some changes to the existing legislation are necessary and desirable.

Quite rightly this bill is going before the committee, where we can hear some of the technical explanations involved given to us. I do not intend to attempt to discuss it at any length at this stage. I think I should make clear, however, that, as far as those in this group are concerned, we consider telecommunication by submarine cable to lie very clearly in the field which one can regard as a public utility service, and it is desirable that such services should be provided either under some appropriate form of public ownership or under public control, and that will be the point of view from which we shall approach the consideration of this measure when it reaches the committee stage.

Just how adequate the measure that the minister is now proposing will appear to us when we enter into that detailed discussion in the committee, of course, I do not feel I can say at this moment, but I feel I should indicate that, generally speaking, as far as I have been able to understand the bill, we are sympathetic to the purposes it is designed to achieve. The only qualms I have heard expressed about the bill, as a matter of fact, from the members of the group to which I belong in the house have come from my colleague, the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Cameron), who happens to have some of the poles that travel from the Banfield station crossing a piece of property he happens to own, and he is hoping that this bill will not interfere with the present rental arrangement he has with regard to those poles.

Probably the application of this bill and its effect are going to be more widespread on the Atlantic coast than on the Pacific because of the large-scale activities that the minister mentioned of the transmission of messages between the United States and Europe and because, of course, of the larger centres of population in eastern Canada from which communications overseas travel. Nevertheless, I shall be looking forward with great interest to the study which this bill will receive in committee, as I know will those of my colleagues who also sit on that committee.

Telegraphs Act

Topic:   TELEGRAPHS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT CONCERNING CONTROL OP SUBMARINE CABLE INSTALLATIONS
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July 3, 1956