May 4, 1922

CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I am sorry if I mistook his reference, but I must take the hon. member's word. It would be more appropriate if he had done so than anything else he has said relative to this issue.

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

What about the committee appointed by the late government to consider the National Railway operations ?

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

It is true that we did submit that question to a standing committee but does not the House see the difference? Had there been any body considering that question through these years? Had there been any body constituted to study that question and hear evidence upon it? None at all. That was a fit and proper question to submit to a special committee so that evidence could be heard and that evidence sifted; but in this case the evidence has been all heard, the evidence has all been sifted-there has been a special body appointed to do it. There it sits, there it has sat, there it is right ready with its advice. Last session we did refer this question to which allusion has been made to a committee. I moved for the appointment of that committee to consider a wholly new question as respects which there was no body in this Dominion in a position to advise the government of the day. We asked for a committee of this House to investigate this question: How far the daily operations of our National Railway system-how far, and when, those operations could be brought down and fully disclosed to Parliament without hindering the, work of the Board of Directors itself. Now even though we did appoint a committee to do this, it was a question as to which the government had no body to resort to, and no evidence had been already compiled, and as respects which information could be adduced that at least had not been adduced before; but even though we did ask for that committee the government already had unmistakably declared its own opinion on the question and had followed that opinion consistently in the House. We did not seek to hide behind any commission-not at all. We were ready to have the whole thing studied and evidence adduced; but we were

11 p.m. not afraid to declare our own belief after the study we had been privileged to give it. So where is my hon. friend when he calls upon this reference able to make anything that has even the appearance of an argument? Nowhere at all. You do not get anywhere in dis-

cussing this issue merely by emphasis of sound. Let the Prime Minister say what there is that can be adduced before this committee that has not already been adduced and that any hon. member can read.

Now let me pass from that. On the other hand what is to be lost by the appointment of this committee? That is worth inquiring into. This committee if it sits day and night, and Sundays, will not have but a small fraction of the time required to study the subject that is committed to it by the terms of this resolution. But presuming that it has, it will require it all-it will require weeks. Then I do not think this report will be of much value. But look at the time that is lost, and where is the Government going to be then? Why it will be about the end of the session, and then the Prime Minister will be in that most frightful position that he will lament it himself in tears, as he did many a time in times gone by of bringing down important legislation in the dying days of the session. Would it not be humiliating for the Prime Minister to find himself in a position where he had to perpetrate such an awful mistake as that? Why he has been declaiming against such a course session after session. It should not be done but it is not always possible to avoid it- I know that. In this case we are going to lose weeks. We are going to get into the position where, I submit, the committee will have to say to Parliament, if it speaks its honest mind, that it has not had the opportunity or the time adequately to study this problem, and consequently where the Government will have the excuse, as I fear it, of coming to Parliament and saying " The whole issue is not finished out yet and we present this position to the House of Commons: We cannot get the judgment of this special committee, and it will probably be next session before we can. The special committee, to the extent it has gone, has not anything like traversed the whole ramifications that it must traverse, and consequently, we must ask Parliament for at least a temporary extension of the suspension." When I spoke first, I said that that was the cul-de-sac into which the Gvoernment was going to get. It looks, because I have not heard any reference to the matter, as if that is the cul-de-sac the Government seeks to get into. At all events, nothing but valuable time can be lost; nothing in the world can be gained; great expense can be heaped up, and all for the sake of the administration to avoid taking upon its back the responsi-

Crowsnest Agreement

bility which it for so many years, courted, but which now it does not seem able to discharge.

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister) :

Mr. Speaker, I wondered, when I heard the amendment read, just what exactly was the intention and purpose in the mind of the hon. member (Sir Henry Drayton) who moved it. It is perfectly apparent now that the intention was to give the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) an opportunity to make a second speech and to go over the same ground he went over at great length this afternoon. Let me say to my right hon. friend that his case must be an extremely weak one, or he would not have taken an hour this afternoon and another hour to-night-

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Twenty minutes.

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

-in a loud as well as at times a modulated voice, to cover the ground which he has found it necessary to cover in support of his case. I think the amendment only gives the House an added reason why it should support the original resolution. The first paragraph of the amendment reads:

A general reduction in railway rates so essential to the welfare of Canadian production and trade cannot, as declared by the Government, be made until Parliament decides whether or not the suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement which expires on July 6th, be renewed.

This clause is to the effect that Parliament must decide whether or not it is advisable for the Crowsnest pass agreement to be renewed. May I ask hon. members of the House-How are they to reach a wise and sound decision on this question unless they have ample opportunity of satisfying their minds as regards all the bearings of the situation? The purpose the Government has had in mind in suggesting this committee, is that every hon. member should have opportunity of getting such information as may be necessary or desirable to enable a decision, that will be in the national interest, to be reached. I contend it is impossible for hon. members, without any knowledge whatever of the arguments pro and con with respect to this agreement, to register in this House an intelligent and fair vote upon the matter.

May I draw attention to the next clause, and see what it implies?

That it is the immediate duty of the Government-already too long deferred-to acquire the necessary information gathered and in their disposal at the hands of the Board of Railway Commissioners and to submit its policy to this House.

Is that not simply repeating what was said by my right hon. friend this afternoon, namely, that the Government should come into this House and suggest a certain course of action in connection with freight rates, based solely on information obtained from the Railway Commission or upon information received in conference, but, as I remarked this afternoon, in purely informal conference without any opportunity whatever of the Government ascertaining, by further inquiry, whether the representations that have been made are, to all intents and purposes, fair and accurate. In a matter of this importance, the Government would not be justified in taking, at their face value, the representations that have been made to them by the railway executives. They have heard only one side from the railway executives. They desire an opportunity of bringing the railway executives before a committee of this House and of enabling every hon. member to question the railway executives and to get true and accurate information in regard to the situation. The Government wants that for its own protection as well as for the protection of the people of this country. If we are going to decide this matter, it being of the magnitude it is, in a way that is unmistakably in the national interest, there should be opportunity for the fullest investigation. The leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) says: " Take the information you have already at its face value; take it from the railway executives and from no one else excepting the Railway Commission." What did my right hon. friend have to say about the Railway Commission this afternoon? As I pointed out, he said that, in the minds of the people of this country to-day, the Railway Commission is standing for the protection of the railways.

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I did not say that. The hon. gentleman had better look up Hansard. I stated that the duty of the Railway Commission, as it appeared from the outside for a time, owing to the natural conditions, was to stand between the railways and the people for the protection of the people, but owing to conditions brought about by the war, the reverse appeared now to be the case. But I expressed no reflection whatever upon the Railway Commission, and never have I, in any way in this debate, expressed the slightest lack of confidence in the Railway Commission.

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I am not imputing to my right hon. friend any lack

Crowsnest Agreement

of confidence in the Railway Commission. I know he has every confidence in that commission; but I am taking the statement he has just made in saying that the reverse is now the case as regards the attitude the public takes towards the Railway Commission. If his words have any meaning, it is this, that, before the war, the Railway Commission was regarded as protecting the interests of the public where controversies arose between the public and the railways; that since the war, without his indicating whether the impression is just or unjust-I think my .right hon. friend would say that the impression was unjust-the impression nevertheless exists, that the Railway Commission to-day is primarily protecting the interest of the railways. Yet he asks us, as a Government, to base our policy on information given by that body and that body only. All the information that the Railway Commission has in its possession will be at the disposal of the Committee which will be asked to investigate this matter. Hon. members of the House will then have the same information as the Government has. Are we taking a retrograde step when we seek to put into the possession of every hon. member the information that we ourselves have? Surely, if there ever was reason for a course of action such as is being taken that reason is present when the question being dealt with is that of railway rates and of the consequences that are involved in proposed changes.

Let me say, in conclusion, that the Government's motive in this, has been to inspire public confidence in whatever action is taken. We are led to believe that certain consequences will follow a failure to continue the suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement. I am unable to say whether those consequences are well founded, whether the reasoning is sound or not. It may well be that, in the course of a thorough investigation, it will be discovered that there should not be placed on the possible consequences of a failure to continue the suspension of that agreement the emphasis that is being placed upon them in certain quarters at the present time. But what the Government feels is this, that, if certain consequences are likely to follow, the country has a right to know what they are. The people of this country will have to bear the effect of those consequences; the Government are the trustees of the people, trustees for them as taxpayers, as the owners of large railway systems. When hon. gentlemen opposite

speak about giving public ownership a fair trial, they ought to be prepared to support whatever will work towards that end. Our contention is: While this agreement applies to the Canadian Pacific, it is well known that the effect of competition will occasion similar rates to be put into effect on the Government roads. We are not saying that that should not be done. All that we say is this. Government ownership is on trial at the present time; hon. gentlemen opposite want to give it a fair trial; we propose to give it a fair trial, and one of the ways in which we propose to do that, is to take the public into our confidence to the fullest extent possible. While it is important that the Government should have the confidence of its own following, and while it is desirable that they should have the confidence of hon. members of this House to as large an extent as possible, it is still more important that they should have the confidence of the people of this country whose trustees they are at the present time. It is looking to that larger confidence that we take the stand we do, when we say that before we plunge the country further into debt as a consequence of railway liabilities one way or the other, before we take any stand in the way of Government policy which may or may not prove injurious to large sections of the country, we intend to have the fullest possible publicity in order that the public may be completely informed in a matter that so vitally affects the public interest.

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Hon. T. A. CRERAR (Marquette):

I

take the opportunity for a few moments only of speaking on the amendment. I am not going to do as my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) has done, and as my hon. friend the leader of the Government (Mr. Mackenzie King) has also done, namely, make two speeches of precisely the same character and on the same material. I am going to oppose the amendment proposed by my hon. friend from West York (Sir Henry Drayton), and I am going to oppose it for this reason: My hon. friend from West York argues, and the leader of the Opposition supports the argument, that the Government should consult the Railway Commission and those who possess information in respect of this matter and bripg down a policy to Parliament in connection therewith. In respect to the amendment, I take the position I took this afternoon as regards the motion, and that is, that we have sufficient information before us now to enable this House to come to a judgment

Crowsnest Agreement

as to whether or not the suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement should he further continued. We have had discussions before the Railway Commission for months. The public, I think, are pretty well informed as to the evidence that was submitted to that commission. The newspapers have contained very full reports of it, and we have had an opportunity of studying the subject, while members of the House have listened to the arguments upon the matter. I therefore cannot see why it is necessary to give the further consideration to the matter which my hon. friend the Prime Minister suggests; and for the reason which I have just stated I am going to oppose the amendment that has been submitted.

Now, the Prime Minister argues with a great deal of force that he desires to take the public and the House into his full confidence in this matter. I have no objection whatever to that principle. I do not support the view of the leader of the Opposition as enunciated this afternoon, that it is not the part of the Government, when it sees fit, to seek the views of Parliament by means of a special committee on questions of this kind. I do not take that view, although the Prime Minister, I am sure quite inadvertently, ascribed it to me in his earlier speech this evening. But we have the facts before us pretty well on this question. I take the ground that the reference of the matter to a committee will be inconclusive. It will get us nowhere, and consequently, recognizing the need of a reduction in freight rates in this country, and in view of the fact that we have a definite, set agreement in the matter of rates under the Crowsnest pass agreement, I can see no reason why the House should not now be able to make up its mind on the question. There is no doubt whatever, if I interpret rightly the speeches made by members of the Government, that the whole purpose in submitting the question to the committee is to ascertain whether or not this agreement should be further set aside. That is the essential part of the motion we are considering. I do not think it is necessary to consult a committee to determine that question; and holding that view I cannot consistently support the motion to refer the matter to a committee, nor can I support the amendment of my hon. friend from West York, that the Government seek further information that might result in bringing down a proposal to set the agreement further aside.

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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CON

Donald Sutherland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DONALD SUTHERLAND (South Oxford) :

I have given as close attention as possible to the resolution and have endeavoured to arrive at the object of the Government in submitting it to the House. I have listened to the two addresses delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), and I recall the fact that in the speech from the Throne reference was made to the matter; and nearly a month ago the Minister of Railways (Mr. Kennedy), in dealing with the railway situation, stated that it was to be referred to a committee of the House. Some time before that it was intimated by the Railway Commission that a reduction in transportation rates was to take place. It has since been made known that the reason why no action was taken was because of the uncertainty as to the course the Government would pursue. It is a somewhat remarkable thing that nearly two months of the session have elapsed before we have reached the present stage when this resolution is submitted to the House with a view to appointing a committee to ascertain certain facts which the Prime Minister has just told us the Government have at their disposal and are already satisfied about. A special select committee is to be appointed, named by the Government, to carry out the Government's wishes. The Government will have a majority on that committee and we may rest assured that that majority will carry out the conclusions which they have arrived at. Did not the Prime Minister in his address on the main motion inform the House that, after numerous conferences with the executive of the railways, the executive had concluded to reduce the rates on basic commodities, but had deferred doing so pending the action of the Government with regard to the renewal of the Crowsnest pass agreement? I think the Prime Minister made that clear. Is it possible that the Government are a party to deferring a reduction in railway rates in this country? Is that the object they have in view in holding up the matter for months when every one knows that the business of the country is absolutely paralyzed owing to the excessive rates that are being charged at this time? As the leader of the Progressive party (Mr. Crerar) points out, the demand is being made in western Canada that railway charges shall be prepaid for fear that the cargoes will not bear the expense to which they are subjected in the matter of railway rates. During the past few weeks I have experi-

Crowsnest Agreement

The list of pairs as furnished by the Chief Whips is as follows:

Messrs.

Malcolm,

McMurray,

Kay,

Blackadder,

Clifford,

Power,

Jacobs,

Maclean (Halifax), Low,

Kyte,

Walsh,

Chew,

Forrester,

Fielding,

Hatfield,

German,

Delisle,

Laflamme,

Duncan,

Ryckman,

Wilson,

LeSueur,

Stansell,

Mewburn,

Bristol,

Guthrie,

Stewart (Lanark), Boys,

Clark,

Manion,

Porter,

Hocken,

Hanson,

McLaren,

Chaplin,

Sheard.

Crowsnest Agreement

The House divided on the main motion (Mr. Kennedy) which was carried on the following division:

Topic:   CROWSNEST PASS AGREEMENT
Subtopic:   PROPOSED INQUIRY INTO EFFECT UPON RAILWAY RATES
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May 4, 1922