Mr. D. B. NEELY (Humboldt).
Mr. Speaker, when I first saw this resolution on the Order Paper, I was glad to feel that there was a certain ground on which I could stand shoulder to shoulder to some extent with a political opponent from the west. In the heat of elections we are apt to say of the other side. ' Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' When I first saw the resolution on the Order Paper I was inclined the hon. member for Macdonald (Mr. Staples) a good deal of credit; but after listening to his remarks in support of it,
I have to retract a great deal of that credit.
I had supposed that the hon. member was moving the resolution in the interest of the western farmers; but the tenor of his remarks has been more in the interests of the political party to which he belongs.
I have the honour of having been elected by the votes of the farmers of a district in what I consider to be the banner province of western Canada, Saskatchewan, and I want to say that the farmers of the west appreciate the importance and value to the west of the Board of Railway Commissioners instituted by the present government. The farmers of the constituency I represent have no serious fault to find with the present government for the treatment they have received from that government since it has been in power. In the first place, the need of a board of Railway commissioners for Canada grew out of the transportation policy of this Liberal government. Until 1896 there were no transportation questions to solve in this country by a board of railway commissioners, because we had in the northwest only one railroad, what I conceive to be the greatest railroad monopoly on the continent of North America, the Canadian Pacific Railway. The few farmers who were in the west prior to 1896 were in the hands of that powerful corporation, because under the terms of the contract by which the railway was built, the government had practically no control over it or the way it did business. It could charge whatever rates for freight and passengers it pleased, and it had the farmers of the west completely in its power. The first remedy that came to the western Canada farmer was the vigorous action of this government in the construction of lines of railroad that would compete with the Canadian Pacific Railway. Having thus created the need for a board of railway commissioners, this government proceeded to establish that board, and it is something to the credit of this government that members of the opposition, when they speak on this question, are compelled to give the government that credit. Before this government came into power the farmers of the west needed relief in the very worst way; they came to this parliament again and again asking for relief; they came to this parliament asking for bread, and were given a stone. It was not until this government came into power that the farmers of the west received any of that consideration which his place in the industrial economy of this country entitles him to. The western Canadian farmer does appreciate this board of Railway Commissioners. It is a convenient court of appeal. It is a means of reaching the solution of the many transportation problems of the west that he never had before. With regard to that part of the resolution dealing with the appointment of a man to the vacancy brought about by the demise of the late Hon. Thos. Greenway, I believe that if a vote of the farmers of the west were taken on this question, they would not vote in favour of the resolution moved by the honourable member for Macdonald. The farmer of the west fs not a sentimentalist, but is above all things a practical man, who looks for results, and is not above taking advantage of every kind of inventive and mechanical skill and using it for the betterment of his
condition. What he wants is to obtain results from the efforts of this Railway Commission. If a farmer were appointed to it just because he is a farmer, and did not ably represent the farming interests and all the interests of all the' people of Western Canada as well as the farmers, the farmers of western Canada would be the first to condemn the government for appointing such a man. What the farmer of the west wants is that the government, in making the appointment, shall not consider any class distinction of any sort whatever, but shall appoint a man who has every qualification necessary for the proper carrying out of the duties of the office. I did not hear very distinctly all the remarks of the hon. member for Macdonald when he was introducing this resolution; but it did seem to me that he was endeavouring to bring it down to a very fine point. If I am not mistaken, he had reference to seme man in his own constituency who had been highly recommended by the farmers of the west and whom he himself would be pleased to have appointed. These remarks from the hon. member from Macdonald (Mr. Staples) could not but lead to the conclusion that there was a coloured gentleman somewhere in the fence, and when he came to that part of his speech I felt that we had at last discovered the location of that coloured gentleman. Then the hon. member for Souris, who undertook to second this resolution, tried to impress on the government the necessity of filling this vacancy with a western Canadian farmer. Is it not rather peculiar that the hon member for Souris does not see the position in which he places himself by supporting this motion? The hon. gentleman, like myself and some others in this House representing rural constituencies, is not a farmer but follows another profession. No doubt he thinks that in electing himself, a medical man, to represent them in this_ House, his constituents made the best choice possible. But he does not wish his own election to be taken as a precedent in the filling of the vacancy on the Board of Railway Commissioners, that vacancy must of necessity be filled by a farmer. But if the contention of the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Clark) be correct, the hon. member for Souris should not occupy a seat in this House because his is a rural constituency, and the hon. gentleman should have seen that a farmer was sent here and not himself. I wish to say this, that so far as I am concerned, I am in sympathy with the word ' western ' which is used in this resolution When this House established the Board of Railway Commissioners, they made the number six, and there are only five at present. If this House saw fit in its wisdom to establish a board of six, and one seat becomes vacant, that seat ought to be filled. And in my opinion the board re-Mr. NEELY. '
quires a man who thoroughly understands and appreciates the conditions in the west.
I am prepared to go that far in support of the resolution. I would like to see a western man appointed, and I think the government, when making a selection, ought to cast their eyes over the territory from Lake Superior to at least the Rocky mountains.
I suppose a British Columbian would say to the Pacific coast. I mention this because I think that a western man, probably in the majority of cases, understands the western conditions better than any other man probably can. But having said that much, I must deprecate the unseemly haste expressed by it. This resolution calls for the immediate filling of this vacancy. But I am not aware that the country is suffering very seriously at present. It may be true that five men are doing the work of six. It may be that the western interests will be better represented on this board when a new appointment is made and a western man is given the appointment; but so far as that is concerned, the main thing in these appointments is to get a man who will fill the position in the best possible manner. And I think the government should take sufficient time to look over the ground carefully and consider the possibilities of the situation thoroughly before they make a selection of such grave importance.
There is no amendment proposed and I do not, for my part, intend presenting one, but 1 do not think it would be a good thing for this House to pass the resolution in its present shape. It would restrict too much the choice. I think it urges undue haste in the making of this appointment, and therefore in conclusion I would say that I am prepared to support the view that the appointment should be filled, and I would be glad indeed if the government would see their way clear to appoint a western man. But the other part of the resolution, which limits the choice to that of a farmer and demands the immediatte filling of the office, I cannot conscientiously support.