April 14, 1902 (9th Parliament, 2nd Session)

LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. FRANK OLIVER (Alberta).

I would like to say that while I would be only too glad to accept the assurances of the Minister of Railways on the subject of the responsibility likely to be laid upon the province of Manitoba by this legislation it is not altogether clear to my mind that the province Is not placed at a disadvantage by it. J must admit my lack of legal training, and therefore that I am at a disadvantage in discussing this question. But it is an important question. We are going to do something that we cannot undo, and it is well that we should proceed with the fullest information, even to those of us who are not thoroughly versed in legal questions. The Manitoba government lies under its present responsibility in respect of the Canadian Northern Railway because of legislation by this parliament. That responsibility is limited to a certain amount. This parliament by legislation now in hand permits the adding of a certain load of responsibility, not on the province but on the company. This brings up the question as to whether the company, by reason of this legislation would not be at liberty to provide for the discharge of the interest upon the additional bonds before giving that advantage to the people of Manitoba which they

expect because of the responsibility they have assumed. That is to say, that the company being only allowed to provide for a bonded liability of $10,000 a mile ; this legislation will permit them to provide for a bonded liability of $25,000 per mile. It is an arguable question it seems to me, whether they will not be able to hold that legislation up as a defence for paying interest on that additional $15,000 per mile before discharging their obligations to the people of Manitoba in regard to the reduction of rates. The fact of giving them the privilege to place these additional bonds upon the road may be used by them as a protection against the terms of their present agreement with the province of Manitoba. I may be wrong in that and I may be right ; but I would make this suggestion : That the
lines in the province of Manitoba, or the lines covered by the agreement with the province of Manitoba, be exempted from the provisions of this section. Then there will be no question about it. Then the province will be perfectly safe. We would know certainly that we had done no harm anyway, and I can see no objection to that provision being made.
Further I would like to say, that the idea that a railway company pays the interest on its own bonds is now exploded. The company does not pay anything. It is the people who use the road that pay the interest. They pay it through the rates which it costs them to have their traffic carried. If the company is permitted by parliament to bond its line through the prairies of the Saskatchewan valley at the rate of $25,000 per mile, the future population of that valley must pay that interest, if the interest is to be paid. The government in exercising Its authority as to control of rates must take into consideration the fact that it authorized the issue of these bonds to the amount of $25,000 per mile, and thereby became a party to the charging of rates sufficient to earn interest on that amount of bonds., I claim that it is the duty of parliament to restrict the issue of bonds on a railroad to the necessities of the case. It is necessary to do that if parliament is to exercise effective control of the rates to be afterwards charged on that road by means of a railway commission or by any other means. If the bonding power of $10,000 per mile is sufficient to construct the line of the Canadian Northern through the prairie sections of the province of Manitoba. $10,000 a mile should be sufficient to enable them to construct through the prairie regions of the Saskatchewan-if not absolutely then aproximately. The fact that they were willing to make a bargain with the province of Manitoba to build a line through the prairie sections of that province on a bonding privilege of $10,000 per mile is absolute proof that the bonding power of $25,000 per mile applied to prairie construction through the Saskatchewan valley is needlessly large, and as a matter of fact lays Mr. OLIVER.
a burden of future taxation upon the future population of that country, for which, they, nor we, nor any one else outside the men composing the company, receive any value whatever. I would ask the Minister of Railways and the House to protect beyond question the province of Manitoba against any additional obligation, and further to protect the future interests of the western country by restricting the bonding powers of this railway to the necessities of the case. The experience of this country in the past proves that such safeguard is necessary, in order that the country may get the proper benefit from the expenditure made in aid of railway construction.

Topic:   PRIVATE BILLS.
Subtopic:   CANADIAN NORTHERN RAILWAY.
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