Mr. THOMAS VIEN (Lotbiniere):
Mr. Chairman, it is highly regrettable that this Bill, confirming the Orders in Council putting the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway System under a receivership, should be proceeded with in the absence of a decision on the part of the Government as to what our future railway policy is to be. It is also to be regretted that the Government thought it advisable to take any step which would have the effect of causing the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company to cease operating that portion of their system which is called the Grand Trunk Pacific. A more democratic and a more constitutional way of dealing with this matter would have been to bring it before Parliament and to examine into it carefully before taking any such important step as is now under consideration.
The people of Canada at large and this Parliament in particular have not been fully seized of all that is involved in the nationalization of the Grand Trunk Pacific and consequently, of the Grand Trunk Railway system; nor have they had opportunity of studying the matter carefully. Last year, during the session of Parliament, it was announced by the Prime Minister, in answer to a question put by this side of the House, that pourparlers or negotiations were in progress between the Government and the Grand Trunk Railway Company concerning the sale to the Government or the nationalization of the two systems. When we inquired as to the policy of the Government in this matter, the Prime Minister said that it would not be in the public interest to advise the House and the country of the nature of negotiations which were under way. Notwithstanding that, however, the Government have committed the country to a definite policy
which they have consistently carried out- because they had absolutely made up their minds at that time to expropriate the Grand Trunk and the Grand Trunk Pacific. How did they do it? First, they refused to agree to the proposal made by the two companies; they did not agree as to the amount to be paid.
We all agree that the Government should oblige the Grand Trunk Railway Company to live up to all its obligations. The Government should not allow the country to undertake all the obligations of that company. But, as I say, the Government had made up their minds to take over the Grand Trunk and the Grand Trunk Pacific, although they would not let the House know under what conditions they intended doing so.
The Acting Prime Minister gave the House the other day the first comprehensive information that we have received since the beginning of the negotiations. He read at length various letters which passed between the Government and the company. He gave the House full details of the difficulties which the Government had met in attempting to reach an agreement with the Grand Trunk Railway Company. We now know that that company, which in 1903 or 1904. had entered into an agreement with the Government for the building of the section of the Transcontinental from Winnipeg to the coast, could not live up to their obligations on account of various difficulties which had arisen between them and the Government in the carrying out of the original scheme. Under the original scheme the Government was to build the section of the Transcontinental from Moncton to Winnipeg, and the Grand Trunk Railway Company was to build the section between Winnipeg and the Pacific coast. This new undertaking was to be called the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, its shares being entirely in the bands of the Grand Trunk.
At various stages of the operations carried on under the agreements of 1903 and 1904, difficulties arose between the Government and the Grand Trunk Railway Company and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company as regards the building by the Government of the Transcontinental railway. For instance, in 1912, 1914 and 1915, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company advised the Government that the changes which had been made by the Government in the construction of that section of the road which the Grand Trunk Railway Company was ultimately to lease from the Government, would render it impossible
for the company to take over the National Transcontinental, and to live up to the obligations undertaken under the agreements of 1903 and 1904. May I speak more plainly what is in my mind? Under the? agreements of 1903 and 1904, the Government was to build that section of the road which extends from Moncton to Winnipeg according to certain specifications, plans and details which had been agreed on between the Government and the company. Subsequently, particularly after 1911, when the change of Government took place, the Government took upon itself, through the Department of Railways and Canals, (because at that time the Transcontinental Railway Commission had been superseded by the Minister of Railways and Canals), to change, without the approval of the Grand Trunk Railway Company, not only the grading but the specifications and the terminals of the railway. The Government, therefore, did not live up to the agreements of 1903 and 1904, and by so doing gave to the company the right to refuse later on to take over the National Transcontinental railway.
The House is now in possession of the correspondence exchanged between the Government and the company. In 1912 the president of the Grand Trunk Railway Company stated clearly to the Government that any change in the grading or in the specification of the railway would put that company in an impossible position because they would not be able to take a lease of the Transcontinental railway as per the agreement of 1903. The Government did not take any notice of this formal protest by the company, but went on changing the grading in such a manner that the Transcontinental railway would not have for the company the same usefulness. Some time after, when the Government had completed the construction of the Transcontinental railway from Moncton to Winnipeg, the Government offered to the company a lease of the Transcontinental railway. That offer was flatly refused. I have not been able to put my hand on the document by which the Grand Trunk Railway Company and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company declined to take over the National Transcontinental on the conditions of the agreement of 1903, but from my recollection of that document, I think I can cite the three main reasons advanced by the company for declining to live up to the agreement.
The reasons were, first, because the cost of the railway had been greatly in excess
Subtopic: BILL TO APPOINT A RECEIVER