The government took the rational course of so legislating as not to embarrass existing industrial conditions ; it certainly made it clear that after one year the government might have power by order in council to extend the period of partial suspension, but at the end of that time the suspension would be completely removed, and that leaves the commission exactly where it was before my hon. friend's government and his friends interfered.
It is not a question of re-imposing the agreement. The agreement was there all the time. The agreement was agreed to by the government of my right hon. friend. He talks about the senate bringing down an amendment.
The agreement was made in 1S97, and it was agreed to by those who made it. It was a dead letter till 1917, when we sought to remove it, but we accepted the compromise of the Senate suspending it. The late government was never a party to it in any way, and nothing was done till 1917.
How can my hon. friend say that he did not accept this amendment moved by the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. McQuarrie) ? I thought I had Hansard containing his words, but I find I do not have it here.
I do not want to take an advantage, I will admit it. I know there were some who wanted the amendment, but the government took its stand, and only accepted the suspension as a compromise with the Senate. It is unfair to try to make it a matter of government policy on that point. ,.
unfair, but I think the argument the hon. member advanced to-night is fundamentally unfair, when it is suggested to us "You wipe out what you did last year, because you interfered with the Railway Commission, and we will then and there withdraw this amendment." The whole argument is absolutely and fundamentally unfair. I do not deny anything the hon. member for Burrard (Mr. Clark) has said, or anything my hon. friend for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens) has stated. All that they say may be founded on . fact. It may be a necessity that they should have lower freight rates and that the mountain scale should be removed; all these things may be necessary, but what I say, and what I repeat, is that fundamentally the argument advanced by the other side of the House is unfair, when they try to impose on this side of the House, and on the government, by saying "Last year you interfered with the Railway Commission; go ahead and interfere with them this year." I say we did not interfere with them. They came to this House and asked for advice, and the agreement on the statute book was varied the same way as this parliament could vary any other act of parliament, and no regulation of the Railway Commission was varied in any shape. I think my argument is a sound one, and the
position I still adhere to is that the Railway Commission should be left in charge of rates. It is no doubt the intention to leave them in charge of rates, and the government has no intention of interfering with them at all.
I wonder what attitude the hon. member for West York (Sir Henry Drayton) -will take on this resolution. What can the resolution do? What effect will it have? It will have one effect and one only, and that effect will be to remove from the Railway Commission the making of rates. I wonder what the hon. member will have to say in connection with a resolution of this kind. No man in the House knows the question of rate making better than he does. Is he going to support or to favour the resolution? Does he intend to make the Railway Commission into a dried up mummy or into a rubber stamp? What is his judgment about it?
The sum and substance of this resolution means nothing more and nothing less than that the Railway Commission should be done away with, and the railways thrown into the pot of politics. That is the meaning of this resolution and that is one of the reasons why I do not support it. Questions of discrimination and questions of rates have been taken up time and again by the Railway Commission and by no less than four chief commissioners. Starting out in 1909, Mr. Justice Mabee took up the question of western freight rates. My hon. friend from West York took it up, and in a most admirable manner went into the whole question with the utmost care, and brought down an admirable judgment in all respects. Then the 40 per cent rate came along. Mr. Carvell took the matter up in September, 1920, and later on the "General Rates Inquiry" was taken up. Why was the general rates inquiry taken up? It was taken up simply because certain provinces were not satisfied with the 40 per cent rate. I think the hon. member for West York (Sir Henry Drayton) will correct me if I am wrong in that respect. What is the order of the Privy Council that was passed regarding the taking up of that particular matter? This is what is stated in Privy Council Order No. 2434 of the 6th October, 1920, passed by the government of my right hon. friend:
In connection with this appeal it must be observed that one of the duties, if not indeed the principal task of the Board of Railway Commissioners, is to determine upon application, what are fair and reasonable rates to be charged from time to time for the various services performed by public utilities under the jurisdiction of the board. In such determination there must of course be taken into account, as has been done in the present case all relevant circumstances such as change* in the scale of wages and the cost of materials-
Then it goes on to say, and this is what I desire to point out:
For Your Excellency's advisers to take upon themselves to weigh the evidence adduced and substitute their own judgment for the judgment of the board upon the question of fact arising on the issue and to be determined upon such evidence would defeat the purpose for which the Board of Railway Commissioners was created and would in the end be highly prejudicial to the public interest.
That is the order in council passed by the government of my right hon. friend, and that is exactly what this amendment to the motion to go into Supply means to take out of the hands of the Railway Commissioners, namely, the fixing of rates. It is not necessary for me to read to the House various extracts from Hansard as to the opinions of different hon. gentlemen opposite regarding the Board of Railway Commissioners, and I do not intend to speak at any greater length respecting this matter. What I wish to make abundantly clear is that, in my opinion, this is not the place to discuss the question of
10 p.m. freight rates, nor whether there has or has not been discrimination. This is not the place to state whether the mountain scale should be removed or not. I do say that the question of the mountain scale or the question of discrimination should not be discussed in this House; but I say that these questions should be taken up at the proper time and in the proper place.
Will my hon. friend permit me? I do not wish to embarrass him. We were prepared to discuss this question two months ago; but at the request of hon. members opposite, and very largely for the convenience of the acting minister himself, it was put off repeatedly. It is not through any fault of ours that this question is coming up to-day instead of two months ago.
I do not refer to the particular moment of its being discussed. What I mean is that the House of Commons is not the proper place to discuss freight rates. The proper place to lay a complaint with regard to freight rates is with the Board of Railway Commissioners.