House of Commons, 25 April 1947, Canadian Confederation with Newfoundland

APRIL 25, 1947 Private Bills 2435
[...] pletely new area in Canada, an area that has great promise. Section 20 of the bill provides:
The works and undertakings of the company are hereby declared to be for the general advantage of Canada.
I believe this bill is worthy of the support of every hon. member in this house. It will certainly open up a vast new mining area in Canada and provide employment in a part of the country which is devoid of opportunities for employment at the present time.
Mr. HAZEN: Is there any dominion legislation which provides for the payment of a subsidy to a company that constructs a railroad declared to be for the general advantage of Canada?
Mr. CHEVRIER: I know of no such subsidy paid under conditions set out by my hon. friend. At one time assistance was given for the construction of branch lines, but that was many years ago. That certainly is not the policy of the government today.
Mr. HAZEN: Is there any legislation on our statute books about it?
Mr. CHEVRIER: None that I am aware of.
Section agreed to. 
Sections 2 to 6 inclusive agreed to.
On section 7—Line of railway described.
Mr. MacNICOL: Is either the minister, the hon. member who introduced the bill or the minister of reconstruction in a position to say whether it is the Marguerite, the Moisie or the Wacouno-
Mr. RINFRET : The Mosie and the Wacouno.
Mr. MacNICOL: That is a tributary of the other river?
Mr. RINFRET: That is right.
Mr. MacNICOL: Why is the Marguerite mentioned, because it is ten miles west?
Mr. CHURCH: I should like to ask a question of the Secretary of State for External Affairs. This section gives authority to the company to construct and operate a line of railway running into Labrador, which is not a part of Canada. I would ask the minister what is the meaning of these words:
provided that authority be obtained from Newfoundland for the construction and operation of this section of the railway—
Note this:
—thence northwesterly to a suitable port on Ungava bay.
There is no port there at the present time. Will this interfere with the negotiations between Canada and Newfoundland as to the latter joining Canada, announced in the house the other day by the Secretary of State for External Affairs? And where is the port on Ungava bay? Do the words I have quoted mean that this company can negotiate with another government over the head of the government of Canada? Can a private company and private people do this? I should like to know from the Minister of Transport whether the Canadian National Railways has abandoned this territory on the St. Lawrence and in Labrador.
Mr. ST. LAURENT: I will try to answer some of the questions involved in the request made by the hon. member. What is being done here has two aspects. One is the incorporation of a company which thereby gets the right to act as a person; the second is the grant to that company of the right to build a railway in Canadian territory. Under our system no one, neither a company nor an individual, can build a railway without a charter from the government of Canada if it is to be interprovincial or if it is to connect Canada with another country, or from a province if the railway is to be entirely within the province. This parliament can grant no rights to build a railway outside its territory, but it can give a company the capacity to receive such rights from the appropriate authority. That matter came before the privy council several years ago. One was a case concerning the John Deere Plow Company, and the other was a case concerning the Bonanza Creek Mining Company. The capacity to receive powers can be granted by this parliament in creating a corporation, and that is all that this parliament can do with respect to any portion of the railway that would be outside Canadian territory. It can have the capacity to receive a franchise from the sovereign of the territory outside Canada where it may operate. I do not think that would be dealing with a foreign government over the head of the Canadian government any more than it would in the case of a United States company that gets a charter here for the operation of a subsidiary in Canada. There does not appear to be any international conflict here. All states assert the right to give companies the capacity to receive powers from whosoever may be willing to grant powers to them.
With respect to the port on Ungava bay I have no information whatsoever. I do not know whether there is a port there or whether one can be developed there. But reading the bill I gather that the intention is to have a 2436 Private Bills COMMONS railway that would go out of Canada, through Labrador, then come back into Canada and proceed through Canadian territory to Ungava bay. But the company will not be able, under this charter, to do anything outside Canada without getting a franchise from the sovereign of the territory outside Canada where it may desire to operate.
Mr. CHURCH: We are a party to Great Britain's granting of a ninety-nine year lease, binding Canada with America, which is practically a freehold of all the Newfoundland bases, and that includes Labrador inland as well as on the ocean. In view of that agreement, have we the power as a parliament to go into Newfoundland and give away, not only the bases, but the land and the bay where they are trying to develop a port? Ungava bay is a big bay and they have no port there yet, and the bill is in the dark on it. Have we the power to do this in view of the ninety-nine year lease made by the British government with the United States for the use of all these bases in Newfoundland and right down to British Guiana, Which is the size of Great Britain? You know, Mr. Chairman, that in the last war German boats came right up the St. Lawrence and we had a secret meeting of parliament in connection with that. I contend that Canada is bound by that ninety-nine year lease and that we have no power to part with this property.
These people told the railway committee that they had dealt with a former Newfoundland government before the war. I would ask the Minister of Transport, what was the nature of the arrangement, if any, the said company made with the old provisional government of Newfoundland? What form did it take? Was it just an act of the provisional government? If it was, no wonder Newfoundland went bankrupt. I think the committee is entitled to this information. Does not the agreement with the United States for a ninety-nine year lease of bases include not only the bases on the ocean but the bases on the land and in Newfoundland and all of Labrador, and all the inlets on the coast? In the last war German boats were up near Iceland and Greenland, ofi' Newfoundland, and in the St. Lawrence and Hudson strait, and we had to send ships up there. It cost a lot of money and lives.
The House of Commons is passing this bill blindly, and we shall regret it in the days to come if we hand over all this territory to private ownership forever. It is not a work for the general advantage of Canada. It is not even within Canada. So how can it be for the general advantage of Canada when the territory and inlets are not in Canada at all? We might just as well claim that inlets and coves in China are works for the general advantage of Canada. I should like to know if the legal department of the crown has been consulted about this bill. I do not like to worry the Minister of Justice. I shall not ask him for his legal opinion, but I think he should have been consulted as to whether this bill is worth the paper it is written on. It goes over the heads of the Canadian and British governments and over the head of the provisional government of Newfoundland. Great Britain had a temporary trusteeship over the whole country of Newfoundland while the war was on. I should like to know who drafted and recommended this bill. I think all that information should be on the table. So far as I am concerned I do not think it makes any difference. I feel that I have done my duty as a member of parliament in calling the attention of the committee to what is involved in this omnibus bill.
Most of the people are fine people. They are not being criticized personally at all. I do not blame them for coming to parliament and asking for this legislation, because this is a pretty easy institution which we have assembled here. Nobody would give away that property in this way if they owned it themselves. What we are dealing with here is the mining industry.
Mr. McKAY: On first view this bill appears to me to be a virtual monopoly. If that is so I should like to ask the Minister of Transport whether it will prohibit the operation of any other railway company in that particular area. If it does not I cannot see that there should be any real objection to the bill. On the surface it does appear to me, though, that it would prohibit all other railways from going into that district.
Mr. CHEVRIER: I do not think there is any difficulty in answering the hon. member's question. This bill, no more than any other bill which is approved by a. committee of the house, creates a monopoly. Any other corporation or company which seeks similar rights can apply to parliament in the same way as did this company, and its application will be dealt with by the committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines. While I do not know what the answer would be, I am sure that the committee would want to give such corporation similar rights to these. The answer is, therefore, that this bill does not preclude another company from making application.


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1875-1949. Provided by the Library of Parliament.



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