May 4, 1922

LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. MACLEAN (Halifax) :

Will my

hon. friend put the question again?

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PRO

John Morrison

Progressive

Mr. MORRISON:

I asked you if you thought it was more disastrous for the railways to fail to pay dividends during the past two years than the present situation, where the masses have failed to earn dividends no matter in what industry they were interested. You apparently consider the railways as of first importance, as compared with the masses of the people.

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LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. MACLEAN (Halifax) :

I doubt, in the first place, if any good would be accomplished by answering my hon. friend's question, because I do not think it is important at all. Of course, it is an unfortunate thing for the country if people produce commodities at a loss, and it is an unfortunate thing if the railways sell their services at a loss. I would not undertake to say which is the worst. They are both bad enough, dear knows. It is not the kind of question one is interested at the moment in discussing. We should rather be concerned in avoiding the causes which bring about these conditions.

I am not speaking on behalf of the railways. All I was attempting to say was this. It is not a desirable thing to take from the pockets of the people of this country ;by taxation, moneys to pay the operating deficits of the Canadian National Railway System, or to pay the dividends of private enterprises either, but the situation would be surely aggravated if last year's deficits on the Canadian National Railway System were increased. It surely would be aggravated if the same misfortune befell other great railway interests in this country. It would all mean that the people would not only have to pay for necessary transportation but also to bear the burden of increased taxation as well.

The issue involved in this resolution is important to the Canadian National Railway System and to the other railway systems of the country. It is of interest to all classes; it is not a provincial or a sectional issue, it is national in its character and we must look at it in that light. Undoubtedly the taxpayer is interested in the question. If this agreement involves increased taxation, then we as representatives of the people must consider the issue before us in that light; if we do not we are not perform-

Crowsnest Agreement

ing our duty. There are many intricate and involved facts in connection with the whole question. We should familiarise ourselves with these facts and master them as thoroughly as we can. It would not take very long, in my judgment, to have all the facts placed before a committee, and by the committee sent to Parliament for action. There would be justification for the adoption of this resolution even if the committee confines itself to simply procuring the relevant facts and present no finding-and it is just possible that that would be quite a proper course for the committee to pursue. What objection could there be to that suggestion? Will any hon. member, outside of perhaps one or two gentlemen, state that he is so fully acquainted with the history of this question that he is willing to pass judgment upon the matter at once? If there are a few members who entertain that opinion, surely they will be fair and generous enough to concede to others, who feel that they wish to know more about the subject, the privilege of securing additional information through the avenue of a committee. It is for that reason I propose to support the resolution of the minister.

I say the question is eminently one for a committee. But while I have spoken strongly for the appointment of a committee I do not wish it to be understood that I am committing myself to the principle of suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement. I do not feel myself in a position to pass judgment on the matter at the present time and for that reason I support the Minister of Railways in urging that the resolution be accepted by the House.

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PRO

Milton Neil Campbell

Progressive

Mr. CAMPBELL:

I would ask the hon. member if he has taken into consideration the sacredness of a written contract?

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LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. MACLEAN (Halifax) :

I had intended referring to that matter and in answer to my hon. friend's question I would say this: Many written contracts regarded as sacred-as between men, and between companies-have been violated or varied during the past two or three years. That is one of the incidents of the post-war period. Agreements between nations, governments, corporations, and individuals, have been suspended, varied, or abrogated, these last few years. Post-war conditions have changed the course of events, and have forced governments and men to adopt unexpected courses in relation to many affairs and transactions.

At Six o'clock the House took recess.

After Recess

The House resumed at eight o'clock.

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PRO

John Morrison

Progressive

Mr. JOHN MORRISON (Weyburn) :

Mr. Speaker, I wish to state my views but briefly on this question to-night, as the ground has been pretty well covered. I desire to say, at the outset, that I am not antagonistic to our railroads, either privately-owned or publicly-owned. I realize fully how dependent we are upon the prosperity of our railways, and that if Canada is to prosper, our railways must necesarily be prosperous. I feel it is the duty of this House so to adjust conditions in this country that all classes, railway companies, manufacturers, farmers, all employers of labour, and labour, shall have an equitable deal, and my purpose is to present the views of the people whom I represent in this House.

The hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Maclean) stated that the consumer pays the freight. I do not think that is correct in every instance. The freight rate on grain per 100 pounds from Brandon to Fort William is 21 cents. I am quoting central points in the three provinces. From Regina, the rate is 29 cents cents, and from Calgary, 36 cents. If the consumer pays the freight, how is it that the farmers do not receive the same net price? The Brandon farmer receives the Fort William price minus 21 cents; the Regina farmer the Fort William price minus 29 cents, and the Calgary farmer, the Fort William price minus 36 cents. The farmers have to sell their products on the world's market; the world's market fixes the price.. Could we set the price, then the consumer would pay the freight rate. Farmers in Manitoba get their farm machinery from the East more cheaply than do farmers in Saskatchewan, while we Saskatchewan farmers get ours a little more cheaply than Alberta farmers do. That shows that we, as consumers, pay the freight rate on machinery. We pay the freight rate both ways, and, therefore, we are very much interested in seeing that there is a more equitable adjustment of the railway rates.

Rates on lumber and, indeed, on all building materials are to day prohibitive. The hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Maclean) drew a gloomy picture of what the state of affairs in Canada would be if railways were not earning dividends, but he assumes that railways can earn dividends only. by excessively high rates. I contend that rates have been so high of recent years

Crowsnest Agreement

that they have actually killed much of the business. We believe that a larger business at a lower rate would be more profitable to the railways and vastly more profitable to Canada as a whole. I know farmers and business men who want to put up buildings, but who are saying: "No, I will not build just now; I think materials will get cheaper as time goes on and railway rates colme down." It is very necessary that they should have better buildings; but they are deferring building, because they know their money will go much further when railway rates come down. I am quoting these instances just to show that exceedingly high railway rates are not the most desirable thing for all classes.

I meet quite a few railwaymen, and this phase of the question has been put up to me by them. One man said to me: "I worked only four months last year. I get high pay while I am working, but I can barely live on the high wages I get for working four months a year." If there was more business, these men would be willing to accept a lower wage if they had continuous work; but if a man works only four or six months in a year, he has to get exceedingly high pay for the days he does work. We contend that it would be much better for employees of the railways as well as for the mass of the Canadian people generally if rates were lowered. Last summer I met a gentleman who put up this phase of the question to me. He was travelling from Edmonton east, and he was on the train but one night. He went to get a state-room, and they wanted $33 for one night. He said to the conductor: "Are those rooms all taken?" The conductor replied: "No, not one of them." He said: "Is that usual?" "For the last two weeks," said the conductor, "not one state-room or compartment on this train has been occupied." The man said: "How was it before the increase in rates" The conductor said: "It was a rare thing for one of them to be empty." The man was telling me this as evidence of the fact that railways had raised prices so high as to be prohibitive, and the railways were thus killing their own business.

Now, Sir, the West was partly settled as a result of the protection afforded by the Crowsnest pass agreement, and we contend that there should not be any further delay in bringing the Crowsnest agreement into operation. Nothing else will satisfy the people of the country, who are exceedingly anxious that the agreement shall

come into force again on the 6th day of July.

Hon. JOHN A. STEWART (Lanark): This afternoon the Minister of Militia and Defence (Mr. Graham) and the senior member for Halifax (Mr. Maclean) stressed the point that the war had worked tremendous changes in Canada. The senior member for Halifax stressed particularly the effect upon economic conditions. If the Minister of Militia had stated to the House that one of the most remarkable changes brought about in Canada since the war was in the policy of government, I think possibly the House would have agreed with him. It has 'been the past parliamentary practice in Canada, for as long as we have any record, that a government in power takes the responsibility for its action upon important questions; and I think that upon a matter of the importance of that involved in the resolution now before the House, it will be the opinion of hon. members and the view of the people of Canada that the Government should give to Parliament a lead. I followed the remarks of the Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Kennedy), and I listened closely to those of the Minister of Militia, and I believe it is a fair criticism of what they both had to say that there was no indication, in their speeches, as to what the policy of the Government was on the really important matter that is involved in the resolution. I think I might even go further and say that in the remarks that have come from the government benches so far in this discussion, not only has there been no indication as to what the policy of the Government is, but there has been no attempt on the part of those who have spoken even to chart out the probable course of the Government and indicate in what direction they are attempting to move. The onus in this matter is clearly upon the Government. Under Order 308 of the Board of Railway Commissioners, passed on the 15th day of September 1920, the following view is expressed:

As our jurisdiction for granting increases on certain lines of railway in western Canada depends entirely upon the amendment to section 325 of the Railway Aot, 1919, which expires on the 6 th day of July, 1922, the rates hereby established cannot continue beyond that date unless Parliament, in its wisdom, sees fit to exttend the provisions of that section. Therefore, the rates heroin provided for shall not extend beyond the first day of July 1922.

In view of what Order 308 states the onus is clearly on the Government to

Crowsnest Agreement

determine its policy; the final consideration and decision of the matter by the Railway Commission is blocked. If the Government decides its course the Railway Commission will be able to act on the result of its investigations carried on since 1920 for the purpose of recommending and deciding as to what would be an equitable adjustment of rates, having regard to the general conditions throughout Canada. And if the Government defines its policy and Parliament declares its decision, there would be nothing left that would obstruct the final decision of the matter by the Railway Commission.

Now, what is proposed in the resolution before the House? What is the scope of the inquiry which the Government proposes should be made by the special committee? I read from the resolution:

That notwithstanding that the regulation of railway rates is a matter within the jurisdiction of the Board.of Railway Commissioners, it is advisable that a Select Special Committee be appointed to make inquiry-

Inquiry into what?

-into the question of railway transportation costs.

These are the only words in the whole resolution that define and limit the scope of the inquiry that will be held. When this committee meets, supposing this resolution goes through, it will be limited by the four corners of the resolution as to what it shall inquire into and within the four corners of the resolution there is no provision for any investigation by the committee further than to inquire into the question of railway transportation costs. There is not a word in the resolution as to the general question of rates. The committee is to inquire into the question of railway transportation costs,-in what connection? Let us see what the second paragraph says:

That, in the circumstances, it is advisable to afford opportunity to all interested parties to submit their views-

Upon what are they to submit their views?

-to submit their views upon the subject matter of the inquiry.

Well, what is the subject matter of the inquiry? The subject matter of the inquiry is limited absolutely to what is stated in the previous paragraph, and that is an inquiry into the question of railway transportation costs. Once the investigation into the matter of railway transportation costs has been disposed of, the committee

will have exhausted the whole authority granted to it under the resolution. There is not a single question in the resolution as to the necessity for the revival of the Crowsnest pass agreement, and if the special committee sought to deal with that matter it would be exceeding its jurisdiction and the authority given by the resolution under which it would act. The hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Crerar) dealt at very great length and in a most interesting way with the effect that the continued suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement would have upon the people who live in the West, particularly in the Prairie provinces; and the Crowsnest pass agreement was pictured as a panacea for all the ills to which the West is heir. I wonder if the member for Marquette has considered the effect a revision of the Crowsnest pass agreement might have for the benefit of the very people for whom it was originally enacted. The first classification in the agreement provides that there shall be a reduction, upon all green and all fresh fruits, of 33J per cent moving from points east of Port William to certain defined points in the West. I doubt very much whether that would be of any benefit to the people in the middle West to-day.

If I am correctly informed, the movement of fruit to-day is from British Columbia east to the (prairie provinces; in 1897 the movement was from the eastern provinces to the west. Under the Crowsnest pass agreement there is absolutely no provision made for fruit that moves from the west to the east, so that this commodity when shipped from British Columbia east would be penalized in favour of fruit grown in the East. Let me also refer my hon. friend for Marquette to the second classification,-coal oil. I wonder how much coal oil moves to-day from Fort William and the east into the West? I would refer him also to the provision that there shall be a reduction of 10 per cent upon the movement of live stock from the east of Fort William to the West; that being the direction of the movement in 1897. I think hon. members who know western conditions will agree with me that the movement of live stock to-day is from the west to the east. Under the Crowsnest pass agreement there is absolutely no provision affecting transportation charges upon live stock moving from the West to the east.

I refer to these classifications for the reason that my hon. friend from Marquette, it seemed to me, left the impression upon

Crowsnest Agreement

the House that the revival of the Crowsnest pass agreement in its present form would effect the relief which this country needs. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that while the Crowsnest pass agreement should not be scrapped, in the general interests of Canada it should not be revived. The classifications under that agreement were adopted having regard to the requirements of western Canada in 1897. I think the hon. gentleman will admit that in the particulars to which I have referred the West would be better served by a revision ' of this agreement rather than by its revival in its original form.

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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

If my hon. friend will permit me, the subjects to which he has alluded are, with the exception of live stock, of comparatively little importance. Grain, lumber and fruit from British Columbia are also of importance.

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CON

John Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Lanark) :

My hon. friend (Mr. Crerar) stated this afternoon that as a result of the present conditions the lumber mills in British Columbia were closed, and that the transportation of lumber from that province to eastern Canada was adversely affected by the present rates. Let me refer him to the fact that under the Crowsnest pass agreement fhere is provision for a comparatively low rate upon lumber moving from points east of Fort William to points west of Fort William; but there is absolutely no rate provided for the transportation ofi lumber from western Canada to eastern Canada.

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PRO

Daniel Webster Warner

Progressive

Mr. WARNER:

Does my hon. friend know that the Railway Commission already has power to fix rates which are not included in the Crowsnest pass agreement?

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CON

John Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Lanark) :

Yes; and I have absolute faith in the good judgment of the Railway Commission, but I am discussing the provisions of the Crowsnest pass agreement. The only provision governing rates of transportation from points west of Port Arthur to eastern Canada is that contained in subsection (e) :

That there shall be a reduction in the company's present rates and tolls on grain and flour from all points on its main line, branches or connections west of Fort William to Fort William and Port Arthur and all points east of three cents per one hundred pounds.

That is the very limited provision governing the transportation of any commodity from western Canada to the east, and that is why it does seem to me the revival of the Crowsnest pass agreement, by the failure of this Parliament to take action between now and July 6, will not provide for my hon. friend for Marquette and those associated with him that relief which they feel they ought to have.

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LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

Might I ask the hon. gentleman if he has considered the significance of clause nine of the agreement itself, when he states that no provision is made for the transfer of goods from the west easterly except on the two articles, grain and flour?

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CON

John Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Lanark) :

I am speaking now of the provision for specific rates. The whole question as to rates upon other commodities goes to the Railway Commission.

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LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

Quite right.

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CON

John Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Lanark) :

But under the classifications expressly set out I say there is a definite limitation as to the commodities covered by the agreement, and the point I desire to make is that having regard to general conditions not only in western Canada but over the whole Dominion, surely an agreement based upon conditions existing in 1922 would be much more likely to provide the relief and the remedy which the people require in the form of a reduction of freight rates, rather than an agreement based upon conditions as they existed twenty-five years ago.

This Parliament is asked to-day to appoint a special committee, with certain powers as defined in the resolution, and I again submit that the four corners of the resolution limit the subjects that this committee will be empowered to inquire into to the single subject of transportation costs.

We know that the Government ha vie studied this question for some considerable time. We know that the Government has conferred with the chief executives of all the railway companies; we know this because the Government itself says so. The resolution contains this statement:

That notwithstanding that the regulation of raiHway rates is a matter within the jurisdiction of the Board of Railway Commissioners, it is advisable that a Select Special Committee be appointed to make inquiry into the question of railway transportation costs,-

Now what?

-it having been disclosed by recent conferences held between the Government and the chief executives of the various railways with respect to the reduction of freight rates that the representatives of the railways deem it inadvisable immediately to reduce rates on basic commodities because of the expiration, on July 6th, 1922, of the suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement;

Crowsnest Agreement

In view of that should not the Government state in detail to the House what the result of those conferences was, rather than content itself with that general statement? Has the Government no faith in the ability of the chief railway executives in Canada to advise it on the question of transportation costs? Does the Government believe that a special committee of this House would in four or five weeks be better qualified to advise it on the question of transportation costs than the chief executives of the railway companies? The Government has under its jurisdiction, managing 22,000 miles of railway lines, two boards, the Canadian National board and the Grand Trunk board. The Government knew four months ago, when they came into power, that the Crowsnest pass agreement would expire on the 6th of July if some action was not taken by Parliament; so it is a fair assumption that since the 29th of December last they have studied this question and obtained the advice of the two boards which control the government railways. There are available also the records of the Department of Railways and Canals and the statistics filed in the Bureau of Statistics, which is connected with the Department of Trade and Commerce. And in addition to all that, the Government has access to the records and the findings of the Railway Commission itself.

As far back as 1920 the Railway Commission was asked to carry on an investigation for the purpose of determining this very question of rates. Since then that investigation has been carried on by the commission with all the organization and facilities at its command, and I am advised that in that connection 250 exhibits have been filed. Since it started to function in 1904, the Railway Commission has been building up records which are invaluable in the consideration of the difficulties in which the Government finds itself. If, therefore, the Government, having called into conference the chief executives of the railway lines in Canada and the operating officers of the lines under government control, were still unable to determine upon a policy, they might very well have called into consultation the Railway Commission itself. The Railway Commission is a very valuable organization composed of experts in the very matters which it is necessary to consider in order to determine what are fair and equitable rates, what are rates that will serve all the people, having re-

gard to present conditions, not to conditions that existed in 1897. I do not think any hon. member will question the necessity for reduced freight rates or the benefit that they would confer upon trade in Canada. These reduced rates ought to become effective, having regard to present conditions in the West and all over Canada. So that I urge, Mr. Speaker, that this is a question upon which the Government should make its decision. I urge, as it has already been urged in this discussion, that the time between now and the 6th of December-the 6th of July-[DOT]

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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CON

John Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Lanark) :

Possibly, Mr. Speaker, I had in mind that this matter was to go to a committee, and if it does I fancy my first statement might be good. But my point is that the time between now and the 6th of July is wholly inadequate for a proper consideration of these matters. Last year the special committee on transportation sat for over six weeks inquiring into matters not by any means as involved as difficult and as intricate as the questions which it is now sought to refer to a special committee.

If this matter is to go to a special committee, why has there been delay from the 8th of March to the 4th of May? Hon. members opposite have known how difficult and intricate this investigation would be; will they suggest that the business that has been before the House for the last eight weeks has been sufficiently important to interfere in any way with the sittings of a special committee? If it was the deliberate policy of the Government to have a fair investigation of this matter by a special committee of the House, it should have been referred to us in the first week of the session. Had that been done, we could have given to the matter during the past eight weeks that consideration which will be impossible if it goes to a special committee now.

It may be argued that this is a matter arising out of the report to the House of the Minister of Railways. While the matter did come to us in that report, the introduction of it weeks before would in no way have interfered with the report itself. The Government could quite consistently have said in the first week of the session: "Here is a matter that we have considered since the 29th of December. Here is a matter with respect to which we have conferred with the chief executives of the different

Crowsnest Agreement

railway lines. Here is a matter upon which it is impossible for us to arrive at a conclusion, and we desire that it be investigated by a committee of the House." But, Mr. Speaker, that is not what has occurred. After the session has been in progress for nine weeks, the Government tells the House that it cannot come to any conclusion on this matter. The senior member for Halifax (Mr. Maclean) said this afternoon that he did not think a statement to the House on the part of the Government following a conference with the chief executives of the railways and the Railway Commission would be wholly believed by hon. members; that the members of the House would prefer to hear the statement direct from the lips of the officials themselves. But, after all, that is not what the resolution provides for and the senior member for Halifax should have directed the attention of the House to that fact. The resolution does not provide that there shall come before that committee the chief executives of the railways and of the Railway Commission and tell us the results of their investigations and give us the statistics they have gathered, but the resolution itself expressly provides for what is going to happen, and what is going to happen is this:

That, in the circumstances, it is advisable to afford opportunity to all interested parties to submit their views upon the subject matter of the inquiry to the said committee with particular regard to the effect of the rates established by the Crowsnest pass agreement upon Canadian National railways and other lines, as well as upon agricultural development and Canadian industry generally;

That second clause of the resolution provides that these four interests shall be represented before the committee. The four interests that are to be represented before the committee, under the resolution itself, mind you, are the Canadian railways, and other lines, interests concerned with agricultural development, and Canadian industry generally. If these interests are to be represented before the committee I wonder what the extent of that representation will be? Take, for instance, the investigation that has been carried on by the Railway Commission. The argument alone before the commission on behalf of those who were represented there, and had the right to be represented there, occupied three weeks. It took three weeks of the time of the Railway Commission to hear the argument, and they sat morning and afternoon. Their sittings were not limited to certain hours, as would be the case with a special committee of this House; they

sat every morning and every afternoon, and it took them three weeks to hear the argument, after all the evidence was in. I ask hon. gentlemen what chance there would be between now and the 6th of July to carry on an investigation by a parliamentary committee covering the interests referred to in this resolution.

It would be an easy matter to determine upon the representation of the National Railways. It would be a comparatively easy matter to consider and dispose of the representation of other lines of railways, but I wonder how long-hon. gentlemen to my left will know-it would take to get before the special committee all those who would be interested in the agricultural development of Canada, and all those people would be entitled to be heard because this is an investigation of transportation costs having regard to the agricultural development of Canada. Who is going to determine that, and how is it going to be determined in time to allow this special committee to get down to work within a reasonable time?

Take the last interest that is to be heard before this committee, Canadian industry generally, extending from Halifax to Vancouver. I wonder how that representation will be determined? I wonder how long it would take to have a proper representation of those who would have a right to be heard with regard to Canadian industry generally. Yet these are the matters which in the short space of five or six weeks a special committee of this House is to investigate in the hope that it will get results which it would be impossible for the Government to secure from the Board of Railway Commissioners who have had these matters in hand. If the Government want information in any other direction, it is surely a comparatively easy matter to get it from their own railway executives, from the men who are associated with them in the management and control of 22,000 miles of government roads. Has the Government no faith in its own executives? Has it no faith in the records that are in its own offices as to transportation costs? Will it have more faith more confidence in the findings of a special committee of this House? At best, Mr. Speaker, I urge that such a finding would be a half-baked affair simply because there is no time, no opportunity, to go into these matters, even if such a committee had the ability to do so.

Under the law as it stands to-day the whole question of railway rates is in the hands of the railway commissioners. If

Crowsnest Agreement

it is the intention of the Government that the Crowsnest pass agreement shall not be revived, surely we have a right to know whether it is the intention of the Government to transfer wholly or in part the power of fixing rates from the Railway Commission to Parliament itself. That such is the intention is a natural deduction from the resolution. The whole question seems to be whether there shall be a further suspension of the provisions of that agreement, or whether, by failure to act in any direction, it shall automatically revive on the 6th of July. What I submit is this, that the House has a right to expect a lead from the Government. The House has a right to know what the Government policy is. The House has a right to expect that if the Government is going to function, it should come into this House upon a matter of such far-reaching importance as that involved in the resolution we are now considering with a clean cut, definite policy and tell the House what it recommends. This agreement was framed, confirmed by act of Parliament, and became law in 1897. It sets out a special list of the commodities which shall receive special treatment under the agreement. I do not fancy that any hon. gentleman has any idea that that list of commodities was based upon transportation costs. The rates fixed by that agreement had no relation to transportation costs as they existed at that time. The list of commodities, according to the debates of the House of that time, was based upon political considerations, based upon the necessities of western Canada at that time as the Government deemed them to be. Surely the original drafting of that agreement was as much a matter for consideration by a committee as the question whether the agreement should now be revived or further suspended.

Let me draw to the attention of hon. gentlemen opposite that in 1897 when that agreement was framed and these commodities listed for special treatment, the Government of the day did not find it necessary to appoint a special committee for the purpose of inquiring into transportation costs or for any other purpose. The Minister of Railways of that day brought into the House a resolution providing for the terms of the agreement. It was introduced as a government measure and the government stood by it. They stood by it and passed it, and that is precisely what this Government should do now.

I simply repeat that the Opposition claim now that this Government is acting contrary to the whole parliamentary practice of the x^ast. The' Government comes before us with a matter which the members of the ministry themselves state to be far-reaching in its effect upon the Canadian National Railway system. It has been stated by other hon. gentlemen that the question is far-reaching with regard to business generally. The senior member for Halifax referred to it with particular regard to its effect upon the dividends of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and the member for Marquette (Mr. Crerar) dealt with it in the same connection but possibly in an opposite direction. I am not urging any objection to the Crowsnest pass agreement having regard to its effect upon the earning powers either of the National Railways or of the Canadian Pacific Railway. But I do urge that having regard to general conditions in Canada, and to the altered conditions since 1897, there is a real question as to whether the express terms of the Crowsnest pass agreement operate fairly and equitably to all Canadian interests.

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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, the real purpose of the resolution before the House can hardly have been fully appreciated or this debate would not have run on to the length it has; and certainly some of the arguments we have heard would have been rendered wholly unnecessary. The question is not one of whether the Crowsnest pass agreement suspension shall be continued after July 6, as I think my hon. friend from Marquette assumed; nor is it as to whether the Government should have gone to the Railway Commission for information before coming to Parliament as the right hon. leader of the opposition has asserted. The question is the fundamentally important one of whether, on a great national question, the Government should endeavour to become as fully informed, and have Parliament as fully informed, of all essential facts, circumstances and consequences as possible before reaching a final decision. That is the question involved in the resolution-nothing more and nothing less. It is a matter of giving the members cf this House the fullest information on one phase of a question which every hon. member who has spoken on the subject of railways in this Parliament has described as the most important problem before the people of Canada at the present

Crowsnest Agreement

time. Far from the Government not having a policy on this matter, the Government is following what in this House and in the country has all along been the policy of the Liberal party with respect to railway matters-namely, that on this all important question there should be given to Parliament the fullest information possible.

I am not surprised that my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition or indeed my hon. friend for Marquette, should at first blush have expressed themselves as opposed to this resolution, because if I recollect aright at the last session of Parliament when we of the Liberal party, who were then in Opposition, took the position that Parliament should be given the fullest information on matters relating to our Canadian National railways, both these hon. members voted against that resolution. On the 22nd March, 1921, I moved the following amendment to the motion to go into Committee of Supply:

Subject to the reservation that in exceptional cases there may be idocuments of a confidential character which, in the public interest, may properly be withheld from publication, the House declares that it is the undoubted right of Parliament to demand and receive copies of all reports, accounts, correspondence and papers in relation to the management of every department of the public service, including the affairs of the Canadian National Railways, whether operating directly under the control of the department or under corporate form.

That was a declaration of the policy of the Liberal party with respect to matter pertaining to railway problems, namely, that Parliament should have the right to the fullest information on these all-important questions. But I find the names of both the leader of the Opposition and my hon. friend for Marquette recorded in the division list as opposed to that resolution. They are therefore consistent in the attitude they are taking to-day in criticizing the Government for seeking to gain the fullest information possible on this all-important railway matter before coming to a final decision.

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

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

I am sure the Prime Minister will permit me to say that my objection to the motion is not at all based upon the considerations which he has just stated, and I think I made that very plain this afternoon.

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

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

Then I shall repeat it. I wish to say to the Prime Minister that my objection to the motion

9 p.m. now before the House was not based upon the considerations which he has just stated, but upon other considerations altogether.

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. will deal with that in a moment. I think my hon. friend objected this afternoon on the ground that this resolution was deciding the question as to whether the Crowsnest pass agreement suspension should be continued after the 6th July or not. That, I think, was the ground upon which he objected to the resolution this afternoon.

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

May 4, 1922