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Dominion Of Canada—Charges Of Corruption In Reference To Pacific Railroad—Questions

Volume 217: debated on Friday 1 August 1873

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asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether any steps are being taken by Government to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the charges of corruption alleged against the leading Members of the Government of Canada in reference to the Pacific Railroad; and, whether the Treasury will refrain from guaranteeing any portion of the Pacific Railway Loan, under the Canada Loan Act of the present Session, until the charges have been disproved?

Perhaps, Sir, the Question of my hon. Friend would be more regularly connected with the Colonial Department in this House, but having made myself acquainted with the particulars of the case—which would not regularly have come under my notice—I am prepared to answer it. These charges, affecting at least some of the Members of the Government of Canada, are very decidedly within the power of the Legislature of the Dominion. The Canadian Ministers are responsible to their Parliament, and are not in any way responsible to us for their conduct. In the first place, these charges were denied; and in the next instance were placed under investigation. A Committee of the Canadian House of Commons was appointed for the purpose of examining into the charges, and power was given them to examine witnesses on oath; but unfortunately that power, considered to be given by the Canadian Parliament, was given in such a form that it went considerably beyond the power which the Parliament had the right to confer. That being so, it was not within the competency of this Government or of the Crown to advise the Canadian Legislature to make that a competent act. The Committee was therefore, on the advice of the Law Officers, disallowed. It is now for the Canadian Parliament to consider what course they will take, and I imagine they will act upon the principles of public conduct by which. I believe they are usually prompted, and will do everything that is right in the matter. In giving this explanation, I wish to say that I was unwilling to be silent when silence might have led to a suspicion of something wrong; but I do not think this is a matter in which it is competent or desirable for us to interfere. The hon. Gentleman may say we are responsible for the guarantee of the Canadian Loan, and that it is out of that, this arises; but that is not a grant to the Pacific Railway Company, or any company whatever. The Loan is granted to the Dominion of Canada, and the condition laid down in the Act of Parliament is not in any measure dependent upon the proceedings of any railway company in Canada, or upon any particular Ministers in the Canadian Legislature. The conditions are laid down in the Act, and in fulfilment of these conditions, on which the guarantee was granted, it will be our duty to go forward with, and give force to, our engagements, quite irrespective of any inquiry instituted in Canada, and which an untoward accident appears to have put a stop to.

asked, If the right hon. Gentleman had taken the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on the subject, and if he was clear on the point as to whether the word "may" did not give power to refuse the guarantee?

I am not aware whether the opinion of the Law Officers has been taken; but if the hon. Gentleman likes to give Notice of a Question I will answer it.