May 4, 1922

CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I was stating the fact.

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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:

Take another jump.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I moved the resolution; I spoke in favour of it; I supported it, asking for a committee on that subject for the reasons that I gave. There was

Crowsnest Agreement

no body constituted to furnish Parliament or the Government with that information. The question was a new one because of the acquirement of the National Railways. I supported and voted for the resolution for those reasons. In this case, there is a body constituted for this purpose with the information at hand. Why does not the hon. member not go to it? I stand by my position on that resolution. May I ask the Prime Minister-How long does he expect to abide by his decision on that resolution?

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

That was not worth

the jump.

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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:

My right

hon. friend is unduly sensitive. If he can keep his seat until I get through, then he may speak again.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGIIEN:

The hon. member told me to jump.

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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:

What did my right hon. friend suggest as the course which the Government should have taken? He said that we should have gone to the Railway Commission for information. I think I am right in that.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Hear, hear.

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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:

Yet, what

was the burden of his whole say with respect to the Railway Commission? It was that a few years ago the Railway Commission was, in the public mind, regarded as a body which was protecting the interest of the public, but that to-day and of recent years, it had come to be looked upon by the public,-he did not say whether rightly or wrongly-as a body that was supporting, not the public, but the railways. That is the body which my right hon. friend says that we should have gone to for information, and, then brought down to the House our decision on the basis of the information so supplied. What would have been the first charge my right hon. friend would .have made if we had come to Parliament and said: "We have certain information from the Railway Commission; we have taken our stand on that ground". He would have said that the Railway Commission was looked upon, throughout this country, as caring more for the interests of the railways rather than those of the public.

May I ask my hon. friends from the West this question? Would their confidence in the Government's position have been greater if. the Government had come be-

91 i

fore the House and stated that a certain policy which it had adopted was based upon information given by the Railway Commission? It was out of deference to western opinion on this very matter of securing reliable information that the Government felt it a special obligation that western members should have the right and power to discover for themselves, by representation on a committee of this House, what was the truth and what was not the truth in regard to the essential facts on a question in which they are so vitally interested. That is the reason why the Government has taken the position it has. I am surprised at the hon. member for Marquette taking the position he did to-day. It is not a position he would usually take; I mean it does not display the measure of caution he generally exercises before he takes a definite stand. He says, in effect, that he does not care what the consequences are of. the Crowsnest pass agreement; that it must go into effect, willy-nilly, regardless altogether of how it may affect any other parts of the country. That does not express, I am sure, the real feeling of my hon. friend. I have heard him repeatedly in this House, whilst referring to matters of special interest to one part of the country, advocating that we should take into account the interest of all other parts of Canada. He will agree with me, I am sure, when I say that, if it is going to help to make for national unity to divest discussion in this Parliament of sectional prejudice, if it is going to help to give people in all parts of this Dominion a greater sense of security as regards the desire of Parliament to act in the interest, not of any one part, but of the whole, then that that particular course should be taken. If he has time to reflect further on the matter, he will, I am sure, agree that there is a great deal of force to be attached to that particular consideration.

The leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) is fond of saying that the Government has not a policy on this or that. Of course we expect him to say that; but let me make it very clear that, not only is the Government in this matter acting in accordance with the broad policy which it has always taken with respect to matters of great national interest, namely, that there should be the fullest information available before final decisions are reached; but, with respect to the Crowsnest pass agreement and the time of the expiration of its suspension the Government has a

Crowsnest Agreement

decided, clear and very definite policy. In order that there may be no mistake as to the Government's position on this matter, I have reduced to writing the exact statement of the Government's position towards the expiration of the Crowsnest pass agreement, and I hope my hon. friends opposite, after hearing it, will feel, as I think they ought to feel, that, as regards this particular resolution, there is no reason why it should not have their whole-hearted support., In a word, the Government's policy is this:

Unless It can be shown that in the public interest there are good and sufficient reasons why, what is termed the Crowsnest pass agreement of 1897, should not again become operative in July next, the existing Statute Will not be interfered with.

In other words, the suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement will then have expired.

Now, is there any hon. member of this House who will rise to his feet and say that he is not in favour of such a policy as that? If it is shown that it is not in the public interest that a certain step shall be taken, is there any member who will rise in his place and defend such a course? All that the Government is asking is that there shall be an opportunity, not alone to the Government itself, but to the members of Parliament and to the country, to understand all that is involved in the coming into effect of that agreement on July 6th of this year, or in the continued suspension of it after that date? As has been pointed out in the debate this afternoon, the Government, far from seeking to evade responsibility, is fully conscious of the magnitude of its responsibility as representing the public in its three capacities, as consumers, as investors, as taxpayers. The Government cannot afford to decide any question on the ground simply of the way in which, and the degree to which, with respect to one particular aspect it will affect one particular part of the country. The Government has to take into account the Dominion as a whole, and all classes therein, and take the course that seems most in the public interest. If it is shown that it is in the public interest that this agreement shall be permitted to be revived on the 6th day of July, certainly the Government will see that it is revived. But if it is shown that such a course is not in the public interest -and remember that this aspect of the matter before it can be finally determined has to be decided on the floor of Parliament, not to-night but at a later date,- and that the suspension of the agreement

should be continued longer, legislation will be necessary. When such legislation comes into the House, then will be the time for hon. gentlemen opposite to east their votes in making a final decision. Let hon. gentlemen clearly understand that sooner or later the whole matter will come back to them again for consideration, and in the meantime that all they are deciding is whether or not they will allow a committee of Parliament to get all the information it can on a matter of great national importance. To-day, in the minds of my hon. friends opposite, it is a question of railroad rates affecting one part of Canada. I have been through the Canadian West on two or three occasions of late, and 1 may say frankly that I have been impressed with the absolute necessity for a reduction in freight rates if that part of our Dominion is to develop as it should. Hon. members on this side of the House are in entire sympathy with hon. gentlemen opposite in their desire for a reduction of rates. But that is not the question involved. The Government is anxious to see that, in seeking to do justice by hon. gentlemen opposite, they do not do injustice in another part of the Dominion in a manner which might lose to those hon. gentlemen the support that they may look to on future occasions in other matters in which they are also vitally interested. To-day it is a question of railway rates; to-morrow it may be a question of some trust or combine which hon. gentlemen opposite may think should be investigated. Are they, then, now going to take the stand that they will not permit a committee of Parliament to get all the information it can on any question? My Labour friend (Mr. Woodsworth) who spoke this afternoon argued eloquently the other evening on the desirability for the fullest information in regard to social conditions in the coal mining fields of Nova Scotia. Is he going to ask Parliament to allow an investigation into the matter of the coal miners and their rights, and deny to this Parliament the right of having an investigation into this question of railway rates which affects all classes of the community? That is the point from which I hope hon. gentlemen opposite will view the matter. Realize that all the Government is asking is that there shall be the fullest inquiry into this all-important matter; because, as my hon. friend from Lanark (Mr. Stewart) rightly said to-night, the Government has been negotiating with the railway executives to see if they cannot effect an immediate re-

Crovjanest Agreement

duction on the basic commodities of the country, and the Government has learned that the railway executives are prepared to make an immediate reduction on those commodities, although to what extent they are prepared to go depends upon the view that is to he taken of this Crowsnest pass agreement. The right hon. the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) says that when the Government was raising railway rates in 1918 the Crowsnest pass agreement was the impediment that stood in the way. To-day the position is just reversed. The executives of the railways are prepared to make an immediate reduction on basic commodities, but this agreement stands as an impediment in the way; and until they know definitely what attitude is going to be taken towards the agreement they are not prepared to make the reductions which otherwise they would be inclined to concede.

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CON

Donald Sutherland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SUTHERLAND:

Do I understand from the Prime Minister's remarks that the reason why the reduction has not taken place is because the Government have not decided as to what they will do in regard to the Crowsnes. pass agreement?

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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 do not quite see the force of my hon. friend's remarks, unless they are intended to imply something which cannot be inferred from what I have stated. The Government, as I have said, has been conferring with the railway executives on this matter. I need not point out to the House that such conferences as the Government has had, through the Minister of Railways (Mr. Kennedy), have of necessity been in the nature of informal interviews. The Government have had to accept at their face value the statements which have been made; there has been no opportunity to investigate these statements. That was impossible in informal conference; but that step can be taken before a Select Committee of the House; and if there is right, and justice, and truth, and wisdom in the course which my hon. friend from Marquette (Mr. Crerar) suggests, namely, that the agreement shall come into force, why be afraid of publicity? Why be afraid of an investigation? That is the whole point at issue. It is not a matter of responsible government, as my right hon. friend (Mr. Meighen) said this afternoon. He declares that the Government should have a policy, should come to Parliament with it, declare it, and drive it through the House. Well, he has his views on responsible government and I have mine. If I am to judge him by his acts of the past, his theory of responsible government is that a Prime Minister and his colleagues should regard themselves as a body of supermen who can come to a decision in secret conclave, bring that decision into Parliament, and by sheer force of their following, regardless of how it may have been obtained, drive that decision through the House, irrespective of the will of the people at large. Now, I desire to say, and to say more particularly to my western friends,-who have been saying a good deal in their public speeches-that in my view of responsible government, the House of Commons, the rights of members of Parliament and the rights of the people should be regarded as all-important, and that the Cabinet should consider itself as a committee of Parliament and not as a body of supermen-I have taken the position that this Government would so regard itself, and that on these controversial questions, so far as it was possible to do so, the Gov-vernment would seek to ascertain the will and wish of Parliament in a reasonable way and give expression to it in legislation. That is what we are seeking to do at the present time; that is the whole purpose of the present legislation. The whole purpose is to form, out of the different groups that compose Parliament, a committee which shall have full powers of investigation under oath, permit them to summons the different classes and interests concerned, and give to them the right to get all the information they can before this matter is finally decided.

In the last analysis-and with this let me conclude-if it decides to ask for a futher suspension of this Crowsnest pass agreement, the Government will have to come before this House, and persuade the House that that course is in the public interest. There can be no change in the statute as it stands, and the agreement will automatically go into effect on the 6th July, unless prior to that date this Government comes before Parliament and secures from Parliament further legislation.

Now, all we ask at present is, having regard to what is involved, having regard to the fact that we have railway deficits to consider; having regard to the fact that we have British Columbia's interests, the interests of the maritime provinces, of the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as the interests of the prairie provinces to consider; having regard to the

Crowsnest Agreement

fact that we wish in all things to maintain a spirit of unity and goodwill between all classes and all parts of this Dominion- that hon. members let us have this matter fully investigated by a committee, leaving to us full responsibility as to the course to be ultimately pursued, which we are not shirking for one moment, but which we wish to exercise in the light of full information, and in the light of what we believe to be just and right for the people of this Dominion.

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. A. W. NEILL (Comox-Alberni):

I do not propose to add anything to the merits of the debate on this question, it having been so thoroughly threshed out. I merely wish to allude to some matters of local or provincial importance in connection with it.

In the first instance, I am sorry that I find myself in disagreement with my hon. friend from Marquette (Mr. iCrerar), and with his followers, of course, more especially when I have in mind their gallant support of me when I had some little railway troubles of my own. I was heartily in accord, strange to say, with everything that the hon. member for Marquette said this afternoon, and I endorse every word of his remarks, but unfortunately there are matters of provincial or British Columbian character in connection with this subject which compel me to take a different point of view. The interest of my own riding and province must prove superior to the bonds of friendship or of esteem for the honourable gentlemen.

If the Crowsnest pass agreement is abrogated without further amendment, a very gross injustice will be done to British Columbia. It was partly alluded to by the hon. member for Lanark (Mr. Stewart), and I should like to add something to his remarks. This agreement was embodied in legislation passed in 1898 and, as the Minister of Railways (Mr. Kennedy) read out this afternoon, its two vital sections are sections (d) and (e). Section (d) imposed upon the company a reduction of rates from 33J to 10 per cent according to the various articles, some twelve in number, on all traffic westbound from Fort William to points west of Fort William. Fruit is one of tho articles covered. But that is only on the rate westbound, so that our British Columbia fruit would suffer a tremendous setback by this additional 33J per cent reduction given to the presumed fruit grower in the East, and a very gross injustice

would be perpetrated in that regard. I can give you an example, Mr. Speaker.

Apples originating at Okanagan Landing, which is about the centre of the fruitgrowing industry in British Columbia, would pay a freight rate of $1.43 per hundred pounds to Barstow in Alberta, a distance of 405 miles. From Fort William to Hazelton, the same distance, going west the rate would be 84 cents, a difference of 59 cents, or a percentage difference of 71.4 per cent. The reduction on the Fort William rate would be about 55 per cent. Can any hon. member say that it would be a reasonable thing under the present conditions of fruit growing in British Columbia, where we already have a high railway tariff to contend with, that another additional 331 per cent should be added, or that that was ever contemplated in 1898, when fruit growing in British Columbia, for export at least, was entirely unknown.

Take the other side of the question, shipping east. The reduction promised in subsection (d) is on grain and flour from all points west of Fort William to Fort William and all points east. But there is no reduction proposed on wheat and flour coming from the prairie provinces to British Columbia. When the Crowsnest pass agreement act was passed there was no export of wheat or flour from British Columbia, there was no elevator in that province, there was no orient trade, there was no Panama canal; all those things have grown up since. We have a large elevator, we are agitating for another, and one will be put up this summer by private enterprise. All these things are intended to promote the interprovincial export of flour and wheat from the prairies, more particularly from Alberta, to the Pacific coast, and in that way build up an interprovincial trade.

I will quote an instance of the rate in that regard also. The rate from Morley, Alberta, to Vancouver, 601 miles, is 30 cents; while the rate from Virden, Manitoba, to Fort William, 600 miles, is 23i cents, a difference of 27 per cent. A reduction on the grain rate from Virden to Fort William will reduce that rate by seven cents, which will bring it down to 16i cents, or a difference as compared with the charge on wheat for the same distance from Morley to Vancouver, of almost 100 per cent. That is a practical illustration of what would happen if this change is made without some consideration of the conditions which have grown up in British

Crowsnest Agreement

Columbia since this agreement was entered into. .

It may be claimed that we have what is called the Mountain rate in British Columbia, and that that affects us adversely. It does affect us adversely already, and naturally we do not need to make it any worse. Moreover, there has been a very strong agitation in British Columbia against the Mountain rate, and the province had a most searching investigation, retaining an expert to appear before the Board of Railway Commissioners, and there is every prospect that that Mountain rate will be somewhat reduced at any rate. But it does not materially enter into the subject of this agreement just now.

I wish, however, to put myself on record squarely and unequivocally as being in favour of a reduction of freight rates to the greatest possible limit. I have no hesitation in making my position plain on that point. I will stand for any reduction almost, however great, in freight rates.

When the hon. member for Marquette was talking of the lumber camps of British Columbia being closed and the fish caught on the Pacific coast not coming east, he was only echoing the remarks I made in the House a few months ago. I gave instances of those camps shutting down on account of the existing high freight rates, and there is no need to make them worse under the Crowsnest pass agreement.

The remedy I suggest is more traffic. Reduce the rates and let the farmers on the prairies have something left over after they have paid for the transportation of their wheat. Let them ship their wheat to British Columbia and bring back the much needed lumber that we are just as anxious to sell as they are to buy, and the increased traffic will make up the deficiency caused by a reduction of freight rates.

I was surprised to hear the hon. member for Marquette stand in his place and apparently unabashed and unashamed make the statement that he was quite indifferent, in fact, he practically said that he did not care whether the Canadian Pacific Railway paid a dividend next year or not. I gazed at him awestruck, expecting the floor to open up underneath him for such sacrilege, and hoping that the hole would not be big enough to swallow up also us wretched members who sit in the back seats. But he made his remarks with a nonchalance and recklessness that I certainly admire but cannot imitate. It reminded me of the small boy who

was told by his brother that he had not said his prayers that night. " No, Bill," he replied, "I didn't say them last night either, and I am not going to say them to-morrow, and if nothing happens to me I am never going to say them dny more."

I shall watch with an anxious eye during the next few days to see if something bad does not happen to my hon. friend. When I heard him make that statement, hope almost awoke in my breast; I thought perhaps I might yet get my amendment through on the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway bill. He spoke of the reserve of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and I think he mentioned something about trillions. Now, I am not familar with trillions; I count my money only in millions, and beyond that basis of calculation I cannot go. But the hon. gentleman must be mistaken, for it is not forty-eight hours since we in this House heard an exmember of the late government, the member for Victoria (Mr. Tolmie) solemnly assure the House that if the Canadian Pacific were required to build that line of railway in British Columbia thirty-six miles long he would deplore their having to do it, because, he said, along that route the stumps were such that it would require a whole box of powder to blow them up. Now, a railway that will be turned aside by a stump or daunted by the necessity for using a box of powder cannot possibly have a reserve amounting to trillions, or anything like it.

There is just one other thing I want to mention, and I hope the Government ani the hon. Minister of Public Works (Mr. King) who represents British Columbia in the Government, will take particular notice of it. As the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Crerar) has said the Crowsnest pass agreement does not mention rates on lumber, so that if we in British Columbia are to get any redress at all in respect to the lumber situation, it will have to be through compromise or negotiation in connection with the advocacy or otherwise of the Crowsnest pass agreement. I also wish to express the hope that on that committee there will be found a representative from British Columbia and that arrangements will be made to hear expert testimony with regard to rates as affecting the industries of that province.

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LIB

Edward James McMurray

Liberal

Mr. E. J. McMURRAY (North Winnipeg) :

Mr. Speaker, I am a representative of the city of Winnipeg, a city which, probably more than any other in Canada, depends for its existence and its prosperity

Crowsnest Agreement

upon the railroad rates. I am a western man, as my hon. friends opposite are, and I am at one with them in the demand for a reduction of freight rates. I believe, Sir, that our economic regeneration in this country depends primarily upon the bringing about of a considerable reduction in freight rates. I am confident that prosperity will not come to us until such a reduction has been effected.

It struck me this afternoon that the question was purely one of education. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) said, the matter must be finally settled by debate upon the floor of this House, and I have never known of a case where the gathering of full information and full data before a decision on any question was reached, worked an injury. With the full determination that, come what may, I will at the proper time, stand for a marked reduction of freight rates, I for one shall be glad to have an opportunity of voting intelligently on this question, on the basis of information received through or from a special committee. On that ground, therefore, I will support the resolution now before the House.

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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. E. M. MACDONALD (Pictou) :

Mr. Speaker, those of us who come from the eastern part of Canada feel just as keenly as hon. members from any other part of the country the necessity for the revision of freight rates if there is to be a revival of business throughout the land. The rates on the Intercolonial railway are fixed by the directors of the Canadian National Railways without any reference whatever to the Railway Commission presided over by Mr. Carvell, and the resolution which has been proposed by the Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Kennedy) gives us the first opportunity we have had of ascertaining at first hand exactly what the transportation costs of the railway systems of this country are.

We heard1 this afternoon of the great amount of labour that was being expended on this matter by experts connected with the Railway Commission. But do you not think, Mr. Speaker, that in accordance with the practice that has always been followed in the past, we can summon these gentlemen before the special committee and there obtain the benefit of their knowledge and experience in connection with these matters? Having dtone that, we can proceed to discuss these and1 other questions, and, if necessary, legislate with regard to them.

My hon. friends opposite speak about the onerous freight charges made against

the products of the West. But their complaints, well founded as they are, are no more justifiable than those which we make in the maritime provinces. There we have had no Crowsnest pass agreement, but under the solemn pact on the basis of which the maritime provinces entered Confederation, we were to have the benefit of such rates as would promote interprovincial trade.| But these have been taken from

us, and our trade is consequently disappearing. The conditions of which we complain are quite as serious as those prevailing in any other part of Canada. Are we, then, to be denied an opportunity, through the medium of this special committee, of ascertaining what is the basis of transportation costs?

My right hon. friend who leads the Opposition tells us how boldly he proceeded under th.e War Measures Act to announce a policy in 1918. But not much boldness was necessary, in view of the powers that were given to him under that act. He proceeded to create in this country a system of wages following the McAdoo award, and then he abrogated the Crowsnest pass agreement and imposed these higher rates. That is what was done in 1918, and that is what was confirmed by the amendment of the Railway Act known as section 325. On every other subject of importance that is presented to us for consideration we proceed through committees in order to ascertain the facts; is it to be said that in respect to this vital subject, upon which we must have information before a decision is reached, we should not have a committee? We are all glad to see the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Crerar) in the House after his illness. I may say to him in all kindness, however, that I do not think he has given due consideration to the provisions of this Crowsnest pass agreement. The Minister of Railways earlier in the evening emphasized the condition that prevailed with regard to fruit, and that point was accentuated a few moments ago by the remarks of my hon. friend from British Columbia (Mr. Neill). So also in regard to live stock; so also in regard to coal oil. Apparently it was not clear to some hon. members that the rates on lumber would not be affected in any way by the restoration of the Crowsnest pass agreement, because in it there is no reference whatever to that commodity.

The interpretation which I place upon this statute is that the rates fixed under the Crowsnest pass agreement would1 affect only the lines belonging to the Canadian

Crowsnest Agreement

Pacific Railway Company which were in existence in 1897. It has no reference or ap-lication to a single mile of railway built by the Canadian Pacific since that time. I venture to offer that opinion, Mr. Speaker, based on my reading of the statute and on whatever legal experience I may have. If I am correct in my assumption, and assuming we have no committee to investigate the matter and the agreement, being continued, has no application whatever to railways lines built by the Canadian Pacific since 1897, would not that be a peculiar condition of things?

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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

I think my hon. friend is wrong in the statement that he has made. I cannot at the moment quote my authority, but I am under the impression that the Railway Commission have held in the past that the Crowsnest pass agreement covered all lines of the Canadian Pacific Railway west of the Great Lakes. '

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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD (Pictou) :

The Railway Commission is not a judicial body in legal matters, and its decisions in matters of that kind do not absolutely control, but would be affected by the decisions of the courts of this country.

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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

If my hon. friend's state-rhent now is correct the Canadian Pacific have the option of challenging the decisions in the courts, but that option they have never exercised.

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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD (Pictou) :

I have made some inquiry and I understand the situation to be this: The Canadian Pacific never raised the point. They permitted these rates to go into effect on the lines which have been constructed since 1897, and they never raised the question legally. I am simply offering my opinion upon this subject as a lawyer of some experience, and I say I cannot find in this statute any provision that these rates were to apply to the lines of railway thereafter to be built, and according to my understanding of the law, for the rates to apply, the statute must contain words to this effect: "these provisions shall apply to lines hereafter to be built". Such words are not to be found in this statute.

Not only that, but the reduction of rates was made in regard to rates then existing. How could these rates apply to lines which were not in existence, so far as traffic was concerned, in 1897? I venture to say that the position of the Government in this matter is exactly the same as they took when the question of the Wheat Board came up at the beginning of the session. I ventured

at that time to point out that a favourable decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in regard to the creation of a compulsory Wheat Board was a matter of very grave doubt, and that suggestion, which was not a very new one so far as I was concerned, was confirmed by the law officers of the Crown. Do not hon. gentlemen think it was a very wise policy for this Government to adopt instead of proceeding to formulate a hard-and-fast line of action in regard to handling the wheat crop of the West? Was it not a wise course to submit that question to a special committee of the House where hon. members had the greatest possible opportunity of discussing this very important question? In regard to this vital question of freight rates, ought not an equally wise course to be pursued? If the suggestion I have made to the House to-night that this agreement would not apply to railways built since 1897 should be correct, I submit that hon. gentlemen from the West would not be true to the interests of the people they were sent here to represent if they refused to permit a special committee of this House to investigate just what is the meaning of this Crowsnest pass agreement, and what its effect is to-ijay. Suppose section 325 of the Railway Act is amended by the Senate-there is no reason why the Senate could not pass a bill cutting out the limiting clause at the end-and that bill comes here to be dealt with. We would want to be in position to deal with it. I want to say, having had a very slight acquaintance with the subject of railway rates, because I once represented a client in a freight rate case, that I know of no other subject so abstruse and complicated and difficult to deal with. I am quite sure, as my hon. friend from Halifax (Mr. Maclean) said this afternoon, that outside of the wide experience which my hon. friend the exMinister of Finance (Sir Henry Drayton) has had as chairman of the Railway Board, there are very few men in this House competent to deal with so abstruse a subject as the proper adjustment of freight rates in this country. There never was a subject with regard to which there was more necessity for this House to insist upon a special committee being appointed to get the proper information under oath from experts who have given their lives to unravelling freight rate problems, as well as hearing from the responsible executives administering the railways of this country. Animated as we all are by the desire to reduce transportation charges in this country, so that we

Crowsnest Agreement

may have a business revival in Canada, if this special committee is appointed we shall then be able to approach intelligently a settlement of this question, but if we do not have that committee and this whole subject is left up in the air, the settlement that will be made will be one lacking that clearness of vision and that proper exercise of judgment which this House ought to have in considering a question of such vital importance as this.

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

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON (West York) :

I confess I was at a little difficulty in my effort to follow the reasoning of my hon. friend from Pictou (Mr. Macdonald). He did me an honour that I do not think I am at all entitled to when he said that I probably was the only man in the House who could understand the freight tariffs or understand this question at all. Then he pointed out that he had been engaged in a rate case and had found it the most horribly complicated thing he had ever run up against. Then he said that this horribly complicated subject instead of being decided by people whose business it has been to decide such questions should be decided by a body that he had previously said could not decide it. I really could not follow my hon. friend.

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