April 17, 1923

LIB
CON
LIB

Herbert Meredith Marler

Liberal

Mr. MARLER:

Certainly I voted that way last year. I have been trying to infuse into my hon. friend the idea that last year we did not interfere with the Board of Railway Commissioners. Has he studied conditions himself? Is he aware what did happen last year? I am surprised at my hon. friend asking such a question.

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CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

If my hon. friend asks for information, we certainly know what happened last year. We know that the effect of the action of the government made it impossible to give to British Columbia that degree of justice which was given to the rest of Canada.

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LIB

Herbert Meredith Marler

Liberal

Mr. MARLER:

I cannot exactly follow the argument of my hon. friend. Last year we were dealing with a specific act, nothing more and nothing less, an act which had been on the statute book and which this parliament was perfectly right in changing in whole or in part, if it thought fit. Everything in connection with that act, the reason it was changed and the manner in which it was changed by a committee going into the whole question, was fair and equitable in every respect. I am opposed to this resolution, and I shall vote against it for the grounds which I have given.

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

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

Mr. Speaker, in the few remarks that I intend to make, I will endeavour to adhere to the resolution more closely than-some of the members who have preceded me. There is no question that British Columbia is a unit in demanding justice as regards the discrimination of freight rates against her. She is practically unanimous in that matter; but I fear she is not and will not be unanimous in the presentation of this resolution in this way and in this manner and at this time in this House. British Columbia is as unanimous against the discrimination in freight rates as she is on the Asiatic question, and last year when that was brought up in the House, all the members from British Columbia got together and presented the case with a united front. I think this impressed the other members more because although of different political opinions, we were able to get together on a common ground. I think it would have lent more force to the arguments and prevented the suggestion of partisanship if that had been done in this case to-day; but I fear that would have been, under present conditions, almost impossible, because those members-what shall we call them?-who are nonconservative members from British Columbia, would hardly have lent themselves to the resolution as it is drawn.

A great deal of history has been given in regard to this case this afternoon, and I notice with some surprise that very little credit has

Railway Rates

been given to the Hon. John Oliver, Premier of British Columbia. I hold no brief for the Hon. John Oliver. He had the unpardonably bad taste to come into the district where I was trying to be elected and to canvass against me, with the result, no doubt, that he contributed to the sweeping defeat that I sustained on that occasion. At the same time, when a man has done a good and zealous work on any particular matter, it is only justice, whatever his political affiliations may be, that he should be given credit. The history begins in the time of Sir Richard McBride. His friends here were in political'sympathy with him, but he was not able to achieve any concrete results. Mr. Oliver took the matter up on its merits; he engaged experts, and he spent, at the expense of the province, some 850,000. I mention this sum to give to the members of the House an idea of what an immensity of detail this highly technical question involved, the investigations that had to be, and the men who had to be employed, before a real grasp could be got of the situation. He employed one counsel to devote his whole time to the matter. Mr. Oliver, himself, spent weeks on the subject, and at last they got a grasp of it, held, I believe, by no other two men in Canada. Perhaps some members of the Railway Commission might have a greater grasp of railway matters as a whole; but on the subject of British Columbia rates, there is no question that the Hon. John Oliver and Mr. McGeer have a grasp superior to that of anyone else. They brought the matter by repeated hearings before the Board of Railway Commissioners, the hearings lasting over a period of weeks. There were no discursive speeches as we have here, but hard facts were brought out by a lawyer and one witness at a time. Finally they got a decision from the Railway Commission, not what they were contending for; but as regards this mountain scale which has been alluded to so much, the decision gave a remission of practically one-half of the discrimination. Where it was $2.50 before, it was reduced to $1.25. There were gther matters of discrimination claimed as well; but on this mountain scale rate, Mr. Oliver by his representations before the Railway Board secured that reduction. Why have some of our members from British Columbia not given Mr. Oliver any credit in that regard? I leave that for them to answer. Not satis-.fied with that reduction of 50 per cent, Mr. Oliver appealed through his counsel to the only appeal he could get, namely the Privy Council of Canada. That case is now under advisement before them. It has been in a

manner tried-half tried at any rate-and it is now awaiting further hearing after the conclusion of this session.

Now, I do not wish to reflect upon the motives-I have neither the right nor the desire to do so-of the introducer of this motion, the hon. member for Burrard (Mr. Clark). In passing I may say that I know him to be in the town from which he comes a gentleman of the highest standing and most honourable character. But possibly being a somew'hat new member he did not thoroughly appreciate the plow he was putting his hand to; I think he will realize that before the end of this debate. While this motion ostensibly seeks to be in the best interests of British Columbia, I submit that by its wording and the time of its introduction it can only have three results-first, to do considerable harm 1o the interests of British Columbia; second, perhaps to create a certain amount of embarrassment for the government of the day; and third, possibly-possibly I say-to manufacture a certain amount of political capital of very dubious value for the Conservative party in British Columbia.

One of three things must happen to this resolution : It can be withdrawn, it can be passed, or it can be defeated. I will deal with them individually. We will suppose it is withdrawn. Then we have wasted the time of this House for a whole day at an expense of something like $20,000. We have had no new light thrown on it whatever. The superficial manner in which we have had to deal with it has not affected the question in the slightest. Can we discuss in a few hours in this superficial way and with many of the members out in the lobbies taking no interest in the subject, give it that frank impartial consideration such as our courts will give it after weeks of study of the highly technical evidence submitted to them? It is impossible. We cannot come here and in a few hours decide such an important and intricate question like a meeting of a Young Women's Christian Association dealing with the academic question: Is the pen mightier than the sword? Or something of that kind.

On the other hand, if the motion passes what happens? The defeat of the government follows because the resolution is introduced as an amendment to the motion to go into Committee of Supply, and its passage would mean the defeat of the government. The question is under advisement by the government to-day. We in British Columbia are earnestly hoping for a favourable decision. Will we advance our case much by defeating the government on this motion? Surelv

Railway Rates

it is the part of wisdom to afford them a chance to give us what we want. Why Swap horses in the middle of the stream? We-and I am only speaking of British Columbia- have more to gain by letting this matter go on and seeing what we do get out of the decision of the Privy Council. Then it will be time enough to come to this House if we do not think we have got justice from the Privy Council.

So much for the passing of the resolution. Now, if it is defeated I submit the result will be to very much prejudice British Columbia's case before the Privy Council. The Privy Council consists of what-ten or fifteen men, some of whom are bound to be inimical to our desires, and if we defeat this resolution it will give those members of the Privy Council an opportunity to use this argument: Well, the House, the highest court of Canada, consisting of 234 men, have decided against British Columbia. Why should we, only a cabinet of a dozen or fifteen men decide differently? I maintain that if we defeat this motion tonight it will prejudice our case, and it is for that reason that I deplore the introduction of it, and state with all sincerity that, however innocently it may have been introduced, it was not introduced in the best interests of British Columbia.

I say that the net result of this resolution can only be the production of a certain amount of political capital. Just to show with how little consideration for the interests of British Columbia this matter was brought forward let me quote the original resolution placed on the order paper by the hon. member for Burrard (Mr. Clark), which we would have been debating at that time if it had come up when he expected it would some weeks ago. It is as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, railway rates westward from the prairie provinces should be reduced to an equality with railroad rates eastward from said provinces for similar goods and distances.

That would mean that starting in the prairie goods would be carried westward to British Columbia for the same rates as they would be carried eastward from the prairies; but no provision was made at all for dealing with the vital question in British Columbia- the passage eastward from British Columbia of our produce, our fish, lumber, paper and other products. These would have been handicapped worse than they are now because it would have given an opportunity to the eastern manufacturer to ship his goods more cheaply west, whereas we would have had no reductions in shipping east. Take fish, some members in this House were attacked the other day because we asked that the fish

canners of British Columbia should gradually introduce white men in place of Japanese in their canneries. We were held up as men trying to injure their business. But what greater injury could be done to them than that suggested in this resolution? Let me show how it works. There is a certain kind of herring- I forget the name-put up in British Columbia. It competes with a similar kind cured in Holland. A manufacturer in British Columbia told me that owing to the freight rates his product from British Columbia could not go any further east than a point some distance west of Winnipeg, say 100 miles, where it came in competition with the product from Holland. The Dutch product could be laid down at that point and the British Columbia product could not compete with it in the Winnipeg market. If this resolution had gone through at that time this point would have been still farther west and would have given a direct advantage to the manufacturer and producer in the East and a direct disadvantage to the manufacturer and producer in British Columbia. To show that that is the case I shall quote a few words from a telegram sent by the Board of Trade of Vancouver to the member for Burrard-and I am not, as was done in a provincial legislature, reading someone else's correspondence, because I am quoting from the newspapers. The Board of Trade of Vancouver is a body which with all moderation I might say contains its full share of gentlemen of the same political leaning as the member for Burrard. I will quote as follows:

We would point out that this resolution,-

Referring to this resolution I have just read.

-if carried, would be against the interests of British Columbia's industries. . . . The whole resolution, while greatly assisting grain movement westward,-

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CON

John Arthur Clark

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLARK:

I presume my friend is talking about the former resolution which was on the order paper, not the resolution which we are discussing to-day?

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PRO
CON

John Arthur Clark

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLARK:

Then I presume my hon. friend **knows that the argument on the other resolution would be exactly the same as the argument on the one under discussion?

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

That is what I anticipated, that had this resolution in its original form been introduced-he himself has used the words that I intended to use-the argument would have been the same, and presumably the results would have been the same. His object in bringing it forward is, I presume,

Railway Rate's

to pass it, and if it had been passed in its original form the strictures of the Board of Trade would have been justified for it would have had the effect I have been quoting. It would have created a most serious, if' not disastrous, position for British Columbia. Let me quote further from this Board of Trade resolution:

It would hamper British Columbia's industries. We would suggest that you refer to the provincial government application for removal of discrimination March 18th, 1921, in the hands of the Railway Commissioners-

That is John Oliver's kick

-to which application we, as a board, are committed and feel that it is in the best interests to press for. Your resolution gives no consideration to goods moving eastward from British Columbia, which is absolutely essential.

I only quote that to show how lightly this matter was decided to be introduced when the Board of Trade in the very home town of the hon. member-the centre and industrial capital of British Columbia-has come out and repudiated the action taken by the hon. member.

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CON

John Arthur Clark

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLABK:

May I interrupt again? My hon. friend does not suggest, does he, that my argument for the removal of the "mountain scale" could not have been considered by the Privy Council on the other resolution, which was originally drafted dealing mainly with the extension of the Crowsnest Pass legislation to grain and flour going westward' Does he suggest for a moment that the Privy Council could not have listened to the argument on the "mountain scale" and dealt with it just as they might deal with it to-day or after this session?

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

I must frankly confess that I do not understand the hon. gentleman's argument, and I think other hon. members do not understand it either. It is an illustration of how incompetent we are in this House to go into a subject of such a highly technical character and lightly pass a resolution upon it.

There is another aspect of this question I want just to touch on-another thing that leads me to question the sincerity of this resolution. I refer to the attempt to wave the flag, as it is popularly termed. I have never known it to fail, when a man gets up to deal with a question that has nothing whatever to do with nationalism or patriotism and proceeds to what is known as waving the flag-that he has a rotten argument and is trying to cover it up in that way. There are some politicians, who cannot discuss the removal of a dust-bin from a country post office without waving the flag and suggesting that the oppon-

ents of the proposed removal are animated by lack of patriotism. Nothing is more prejudicial to the true and real influence of patriotism than its being invoked in this way for political effect. We have had here to-day the usual flamboyant references to "The British Empire," to "this Great Canada of ours," and the "Virility of the race" that inhabits it. I assure the hon. member that the British Empire would probably have muddled along if this discussion had not taken place at all; that Canada would remain as great, if not have been even a little greater, had we not wasted the time and money that we did this afternoon on this subject, and as to the virility of the race, that, I submit, has nothing whatever to do with freight rates in British Columbia. When we take the facta as we see them here; when we realize that the withdrawal of this resolution renders it useless and that its passage or defeat is calculated to do actual harm to our best interests in British Columbia, I would ask hon. members of this House to consider-and I would go further than that; through the pages of Hansard I would ask the people of British Columbia to consider very carefully-whether this resolution was introduced with the idea of advancing the best interests of the province we come from, or whether it is a piece of political, shall I say, claptrap?

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LIB

James Horace King (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Hon. J. H. KING (Minister of Public Works):

Mr. Speaker, I find myself in a rather peculiar position. Although a member representing British Columbia, I am not allowed to present the arguments that would be expected from one coming from that province. It has already been explained by the hon. Acting Minister of Railways (Mr. Graham) that the government of British Columbia, through its Attorney General some months ago made an argument before the Railway Commission of Canada dealing with what they alleged to be discrimination in the matter of freight rates. The government of that province, through its Attorney General, did not accept the findings of the Railway Commission. Appeal was taken to the Privy Council, and, as it has been explained by the Acting Minister of Railways, argument has been partly heard, presented by the Premier of the province and also by counsel representing the people of British Columbia through its government. Joined with British Columbia was the province of Alberta, Mr. McGeer acting as counsel for both provinces. Argument was heard extending over some three or four hours on just one phase of the question, the constitutional aspect. The government having received an intimation

Railway Rata

from the Premier of British Columbia and his counsel that it would take from two to tiiree days to present fairly before the government the argument on behalf of British Columbia, it was by mutual consent decided that it would be inadvisable to proceed with the further argument at that fime but that the matter should be delayed until after the session of parliament in order that the government might have an opportunity of giving fair consideration to the question, which i-t an important one to British Columbia and to western Canada generally. The district represented by the hon. member for Burrard (Mr. Clark) has been agitating this question for a great many years, because it was the Vancouver Board of Trade which in 1912 presented the case to the Railway Commission. On that occasion the Vancouver Board of Trade did not accept the findings of the Railway Commission; they appealed to the government of which the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens) was a supporter-and with what result? The government of that day advised that the case be again referred back to the Railway Commission. It has been stated in this discussion that the Canadian Pacific Railway should not be taken as a standard or basis for the fixing of rates, but that the Canadian National, built on extraordinary grades through the mountains, four-tenths of one per cent grades -should be taken as a standard in that respect. But I am told that in 1912, when the government of the day referred that matter back to the Railway Commission, they indicated to that body that the Canadian Northern was a colonization road [DOT] and should not therefore be taken as a standard, but that the Canadian Pacific Railway should be taken as a standard.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Will my hon. friend permit me? The Canadian National, or the Canadian Northern, as it was then known, was not completed for some years after that application was made.

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PRO

John Warwick King

Progressive

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

I quite understand that. It is true that the Canadian Northern was not then a part of the railway system of Canada; it was then under construction. After it was completed it was under the control of the government of British Columbia in the matter of freight rates, but my hon. friends opposite took that control away from the province, saying that as the Toad was a work for the general advantage of Canada the Railway Commission should control its rates. Now, the hon. member for Burrard has projected a discussion this afternoon with a view, supposedly, of dealing in one sitting with a question which the premier of British Columbia and his counsel have

had under the closest consideration for the last two years, a question which they advised the government it would take two or three days to argue. I say that the hon. member for Burrard this afternoon undertook, by an incomplete recital of argument, to convince the House that it should support his resolution- a motion which, if carried, meant the defeat of the government. Is my hon. friend playing fair with his constituents when he jeopardizes the case which the people of British Columbia through their Attorney General and their Premier have taken two years to prepare for the consideration of the Railway Board and of the Privy Council of Canada? I claim that he has not done so. I think it is most unfortunate that my hon. friend has had the hardihood or lack of judgment to throw this case on the floor of parliament with the incomplete study he has given it and the incomplete argument that he has been able to submit to the House this afternoon. He complained bitterly that he was not allowed to introduce the first resolution he had on the order paper earlier in the session because it was not convenient for the government, and he withdrew it. We find now that the resolution he originally intended to introduce was not in the interests of the province, and that his resolution presented 'to-day is an entirely different one. He did not tell us that in his argument this afternoon, but he insisted on bringing this matter forward on a motion for going into supply in order to force a vote of want of confidence in the government on this question. For what purpose? Surely he did not expect that the members from British Columbia who are supporting this government are going to vote for a" resolution presented in the manner he has presented his resolution this afternoon. I think not, I think the people of British Columbia would have preferred my hon. friend not to meddle with this question; I think they would have much preferred that he allow it to pass through the ordinary channels of legal procedure and come before the Privy Council in the ordinary way, where proper argument could be presented. But he has failed to do that. I hope even now that he will have the good judgment and the good sense to withdraw this resolution, rather than let it go to a vote and receive the defeat which I am satisfied it will receive.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Is not my hon. friend aware that the Hon. Mr. Oliver has repeatedly complained because we have not brought this question before the House? In the same breath might I ask does the hon. member object to the discussion of this question by the House?

Railway Rates

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PRO

John Warwick King

Progressive

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

I have no objection to the discussion at all, and I have no control over Mr. Oliver. If Mr. Oliver wishes this to come before the House, I say that it is a perfectly proper question to bring before the House, but it never should have been brought before the House as it has been to-day as a want of confidence motion. There is a proper time and a proper place to bring it before the House, and if it had been brought forward at such a time I might have been free to discuss it. My hon. friend was in this parliament in 1912 when this question was before the Railway Committee, and referred to the Privy Council. Did he discuss it at that time?

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CON

John Arthur Clark

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CLARK:

Is my hon. friend aware of

the fact that the government of which he is a member prevented a discussion of this question on the floor of this House as a private member's resolution, and when my hon. friend might have taken part in the discussion? As a member of the government I think he might have tried to see that the matter was given an opportunity to be discussed in this House as a private member's resolution.

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PRO

John Warwick King

Progressive

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

That is not so.

My hon. friend's resolution stood on the order paper for weeks and was called and let stand time and again.

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CON

April 17, 1923