Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly [Appointment of Standing Committees], 5th Parl, 1st Sess (21 September 1854)
By: The Globe
Citation: “Appointment of Standing Committees,”The Globe (25 September 1854).
APPOINTMENT OF STANDING COMMITTEES.
Mr. MORIN moved that the House proceed to consider the report of the Select Committee appointed to nominate Standing Committees.—[This report has already appeared in our columns.] Mr. M. stated that he intended to move to add the names of Messrs. Rankin and Mongenais to the Railroad Committee. He also explained that his own name had been placed on that Committee, but that his intending was to decline serving as soon as Sir Allan MacNab should return to the House, in order that the hon. and gallant knight might be put on the committee.
Mr. BROWN objected strongly to the composition of the Railroad Committee. It was a packed Committee. In the last Parliament that Committee was composed of 14 ministerialists and 3 opposition members. Now it had been changed to 13 ministerialists and 4 opposition members, and the Commissioner of Crown Lands make it stand 15 ministerialists to 4 opposition members. Was there the slightest pretence of fairness in such a committee as that? Gentlemen might say that politics had nothing to do with the matter, but he apprehended that they had a great deal to do with it. Then, again, there had been no attempt to give a fair representation on the Committee to the different portions of the Province. There were only four members on it from west of Brockville, although half the population was west of that. He complained also, that too many members of the Committee were interested in Railroad affairs. Six of them were directors of the Grand Trunk, another was Solicitor of the Grand Trunk, and there were several other gentleman [sic] who were presidents or directors of other roads. It was quite clear that those gentlemen could not consider the interests of rival roads with those dispassionate feelings with which they ought to be considered. Another result would be a tendency to amalgamate the railroads of a country. The thing was a perfect farce.—It was a repetition of what took place in the last Parliament, when the committee was composed entirely of gentlemen from along one of the proposed lines for the Grand Trunk, and the back townships had not the slightest influence.—The hon. member then called attention to the fact, that whilst all the friends of the government on the committee were directly interested in railways, not one of the opposition members of the Committee was in any way connected with any road. The hon. member for the town of Sherbrooke [Mr. Galt.] was on the list originally prepared by the government, but the Select Committee had stricken his name off for the very reason that he was connected with a railroad.
Mr. ROBINSON thought that railroad men ought to be put on the committee. If that course had not been pursued in the last Parliament they would not have all the railroads now in progress through the country. It would be absurd to put gentlemen on the committee who were opposed to railroads, or knew nothing about them. He was glad that the committee had been formed on the same principle as the last.
Mr. MORIN denied that the committee had been formed with any regard to political considerations.
Mr. MACDONALD of Glengarry condemned the committee as unfair to the opposition and unjust to Upper Canadian interests.
Mr. RANKIN did not think that, if gentlemen opposite had been in power, they would have been magnanimous enough to put a majority of their opponents on the committee. If the government wished to carry out those measures which they believed to be best for the interests of the county, they must of course secure a preponderance of their supporters in all the committees. He complained, however, that the region of country from which he came—the great western peninsula of Canada, was not properly represented.
Mr. CLARKE thought the committee was unfairly constituted towards the western section of the Province. There were applications for charters from every portion of that section not asking for any of the public money, but simply to be allowed to construct railroads with their own money and he thought that there ought to be some gentlemen on the committee who were acquainted with those localities and would be able to give the committee information in regard to the various applications. If it was necessary that the government should have its own supporters on the committee, they might surely find gentlemen who supported them from that section of the Province.
Mr. SANBORN did not think the committee ought to be marshalled into platoons to carry out the designs of the government. He thought the committee should not be formed from political or party considerations but that all the important interests of the Province should be fairly represented in it.
Mr. SCATCHERED complained of the preponderance of Grand Trunk interest on the committee to the entire exclusion of the West.
Mr. FELTON contended that as the government were responsible for the legislation of the House, they ought to have the control of the committees. He also maintained that railroad men were the most proper persons to put on the committee on the same principle that if they were naming a committee to amend the laws, they would put a preponderance of lawyers on it.—
After a few words from Mr. BELLINGHAM,
Mr. HARTMAN pointed out the inconsistency of the honourable member for the county of Sherbrooke (Mr. Felton). That gentleman had given notice of his intention to introduce a resolution declaring that it was inconsistent with the official position of the members of the Executive Council or the Speakers of either House that they should act as Presidents, Secretaries, directors, agents or solicitors of or contractors with any railroad or other corpoeration, and yet he was to-night advocating the very opposite principle and claiming that the railroad committee should be composed entirely of railroad men. The gentleman had taken that ground on the same principle that he would put lawyers on a committee to amend the laws. Now he [Mr. H.] supposed that common sense had something to do with law and that a man of common sense would be quite as competent to act on such a committee as those who had been educated as lawyers. If members who were not connected with railroads were incompetent to act on the railroad committee, they were equally incompetent to act upon railroad questions that come before the House.—He was not at all surprised at the composition of the committee. It was what he had anticipated when he saw how the select committee was composed. He had expected a Grand Trunk committee and was not therefore surprised to find a large proportion of the committee either directly or indirectly interested in the Grand Trunk.—He complained that the largest portion of Upper Canada was not to be represented on the committee except by the honourable and gallant Knight who expected to represent Hamilton.
Mr. FELTON replied. The principle on which the resolution of which he had given notice was based was that gentlemen who had private interests in such companies were unfit to be trusted to carry on the government of the country because those private interests might come in conflict with the public interests. No one pretended that a gentleman who had a private interest in a railroad would be a proper person to be put on the committee, but a gentleman could not be said to have a personal interest in a road merely because he represented the section of country through which it passed.
Mr. HARTMAN asked if the gentleman did not consider the paid directors of the Grand Trunk and the Presidents of and contractors for other roads personally interested?
Mr. FELTON said the select committee had stricken off the name of the honourable member for the town of Sherbrooke (Mr. Galt) merely because he was a contractor. No contractor should be on the committee because he had private interests of his constituents.
Mr. BROWN asked the gentleman to point out the difference between a contractor and a paid director.
Mr. FELTON replied that a paid director was merely an agent and stood precisely in the same position as a member of Parliament. A contractor on the other hand, had private and personal interests in the road.
Mr. BROWN would like the gentleman to show how any interest a contracter could have in a road could be affected by any matter which would come before the Railroad committee. His contracts was with the Company. The Company alone could be affected by the action of the committee.
Mr. FELTON was not sufficiently acquainted with railroad matters to answer the gentleman.
Mr. CAMERON had been a member of the Select Committee, and had objected to any person being put on the Railroad Committee who had a pecuniary interest in any road. Had he known that any of the Grand Trunk directors were paid, he should have objected to their being put on the committee. He thought that if there were any gentlemen on the committee, in that position, their names should be stricken off, on the same principle that the Select Committee unanimously resolved that Mr. Galt’s name should be taken off.
Mr. FERRIE complained that the section of country west of Toronto and St. Catharines—the most important part of Canada, taking into account the exports and imports—was not fairly represented on the committee, and suggested that the name of Mr. Fergusson should be added.
Mr. MORRISON, of Niagara, was quite willing that his name should be taken off the Committee, to make room for some gentleman from further West. He thought the political complexion of the committee was fair, being in the proportion of two-thirds ministerialists to one-third opposition, which was about the proportion of the House. He expressed himself strongly in favor of a general railroad law.
Mr. CRAWFORD was a Grand Trunk director [illegible] expenses in [illegible] down to [illegible] the Boards [illegible] was allowed [illegible] proportion to the number of times he attended. If he failed to attend, he received nothing. [Illegible], however, willing that his name should be [illegible] the committee, as he had no railroad interests to attend to that he could not attend to [illegible] well in the House as in the committee. He had been a member of the Select Committee to nominate committees, at the commencement of the last Parliament, and he was sure that the only object of that committee was to put on the Standing Committees the men who were pest acquainted with the business that was to come before them. For instance, they put commercial men, those accustomed to accounts, on the Committee of Accounts, and printers on the Printing Committee.
Mr. BROWN reminded the gentleman that his name had been stricken off the Printing Committee of the last Parliament, on the ground that he was himself a printer, and that too by the very gentlemen who now contended that railroad men ought to be put on the Railroad Committee.
Mr. MORIN reminded gentlemen opposite that he proposed to add the name of Mr. Rankin, who came from the West. He would have no objection to add any other gentleman from the West whose name might be suggested, but it was an ungracious task to move to strike off any of those whose names were on the committee.
Mr. BROWN thought the committee was already too large to work well.
Mr. CARTIER said that in the last Parliament the committee was 17 out of 84 members; now there are 130 members.
Att’y Gen’l DRUMMOND though a majority of the House would be satisfied with the committee if the Western Section of the Province was more properly represented on it. The government were not to blame for the insufficient representation of that portion of the Province, for the last prepared by them contained the name of Mr. Rankin but it was stricken off by the select committee. Then too that section would be to a great extent represented by Sir. Allan McNab and Mr. Hincks the first two men to move in railroad enterprises in this country. As the honorable member for Niagara had generously offered to allow his name to be stricken off; he (Mr. D.) would suggest that the name of Dr. Clarke be substituted for it.
Mr. BROWN said that Dr. Clarke came from the same section of country as Mr. Morrison and was also a ministerialist.
Mr. ROBLIN thought that if they excluded railroad directors and stockholders from serving on the Railroad committee, they would exclude some of the most intelligent men in the House, and that the time was not far distant when such a rule would exclude all the members of the House.
After a word or two from Mr. LARWILL
Mr. MCKERLIE said that he was glad the gentlemen on the Treasury benches saw the injustice of the proposed committee and were disposed to make it more acceptable to the House but regretted that the names they proposed to add were those of gentlemen closely and intimately connected with the administration. It might be said that railroad matters had nothing to do with political parties, but nevertheless it was well known that the Grand Trunk Railway was under the complete control of the government. A majority of the members of the administration were directors of that company. He objected to the administration having a preponderance of power in the management of the Grand Trunk of any other railway, surely they had patronage enough without that. His chief objection to the committee however, arose from the injustice done to the western section. He had no objection to Sir A. McNab as a member of the committee but it was well known that the gallant knight was deeply interested in a particular road. Now a charter would be applied for for [sic] a road to run almost parallel to that road and there ought to be some one on the committee to counterbalance the influence of Sir Allan.
Mr. FERRES could not see on what principle the committee had been formed. The select committee had not been guided by locality, because they had placed on this committee four gentlemen from the country below Quebec, where there were no railroads, whilst they had kept entirely unrepresented the great peninsula of Upper Canada. Nor had they been guided by a knowledge of railroad matters, for there were many gentlemen on the committee who were certainly not conversant with such matters; whilst others, such as the member for Lambton (Mr. Brown) whose profession obliged him to make himself conversant with railroad subjects, were omitted. It might have been formed on judicial considerations, for there were 10 lawyers on a committee of 17. He hoped it had not been formed on a party basis, but could not see on what other principle it could have been formed.
The debate was continued for some time longer by Messrs. Rolph, Mackenzie, Dorion of Montreal, the Solicitor General East, and other members.
Mr. MORIN’S motion was then agreed to, and house proceeded to consider the report of the select committee.
Mr. MORIN moved to amend the same by adding the names of Messrs. Rankin, Clarke, and Mongenais, and omitting that of Mr. Morrison of Niagara.
Mr. BROWN thought the arguments advanced by gentlemen around him had not been touched, although the gentlemen on the treasury benches had expended a great deal of eloquence on the subject. The members of the opposition had not maintained that no person who had anything to do with the railroad should be placed on the committee, but that the committee should not be packed with such persons. Of the 13 supporters of the government on the committee, 11 were in some way or other connected with railways. Where the government, because they had a majority in the house, to take the control of the whole proceedings of the house into their hands? They ought, perhaps, to have a majority of the committees, but not such an unfair majority as this—15 ministerialists to 4 opposition members. He could not believe that the house would sustain such an unfair and monstrous proceeding. He objected to the committee because a large majority of those composing it were personally interested in railroads, because the opposition were entirely ignored, and because the western part of the country was not fairly represented upon it. The hon. member then move to amend the report by substituting the names of Messrs. Rankin, Sanborn, Fergusson, and Mongenais for the names of Messrs. Crawford and Cartier. He wished it to be understood that he had no personal objection to the gentlemen whose names he proposed to strike off, but they were a personally and pecuniarily interested in the Grand Trunk, and ought not therefore to be on the committee.
Mr. CARTIER denied that he had any direct interest in the Grand Trunk Railway. He was only its lawyer, just as the member for Toronto, or any other member, might be the lawyer of a bank.
Mr. BROWN replied that the solicitor of a bank would be a very improper person to place upon a committee on the subject of banks, and he was sure the honorable member for Toronto would not think for a moment of acting on such a committee.
After some further discussion the question was taken on Mr Brown’s amendment and it was rejected.
YEAS.—Messieurs Aikins, Bourassa, Brown, Bureau, Daoust, of Beauharnois, Darche, DeWitt, Dorion of Drummond, Dorion of Montreal city, Dostaler, Ferres, Ferrie, Frazer, Guevremont, Hartman, Jobin, Laberge, Lumsden, Macdonald of Glengaru, McDonald of Cornwall, Mackenzie, McKerlie, Marchildon, Papin, Prevost, Rolph, Sanborn, Scatcherd, and Wright.—29.
NAYS.—Messieurs Alleyn, Bell, Bellingham, Burton, Cartier, Cassault, Cauchon, Chabot, Chapais, Chauveau, Church, Clarke, Cook, Crawford, Crysler, Daly, Delong, Desaulniers, Dionne, Attorney General Drummond, Felton, Fortier, Gill, Huot, Jackson, Langton, Laporte, Larwill, Lemieux, Loranger, Macbeth, McCann, Masson, Meagher, Morin, Morrison of Niagara, Munro, Murney, O’Farrel, Patrick, Polette, Rouliot, Powell, Rankin, Robinson, Roblin, Ross of Beauce, Ross of Northumberland East, Smith of Victoria, Stevenson, Tache, and Thibaudeau.—53.
Mr. Morin’s amendment was then adopted, and the Report as amended was agreed to.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE.
Mr. MORIN Stated that for the present, Tuesdays and Fridays would be considered as the Government days, and the remaining three days of the week would be devoted to private and general business.
Some conversation ensued as to the best mode of conducting the business of the house, in the course of which Attorney General DRUMMOND promised, on behalf of the Government, that they would give notice before-hand of the time when their measures would be taken up, so as to prevent the h\House being taken by surprise; and also that they would discountenance the transaction of any private business on government nights.