April 17, 1923

UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

Does the hon. member mean by rectifying the matter, that they should cancel the agreement?

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CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

No, I mean in rectifying it, you adopt the resolution before the House to eliminate the mountain differential, the discriminatory rates, and to give the same treatment to all the members of confederation on their basic commodities. What can be fairer than that? Can any hon. gentleman present stand up and seriously and honestly deny the merit of that contention? Certainly not, and least of all the government. What did they do? They took the first step last

196S

Railway Rales

year to smash a well-balanced, judicial body in the way of the Railway Commission, and to substitute for that judicial machinery, political machinery in exactly the same way as we have seen one attempt after another, under different guises, to abolish the Civil Service machinery and to inject political machinery, a process which even now the government may be endeavouring to carry into effect. The duty of every member of parliament is to put his hand flatly against attempts of this kind.

This resolution is being brought before the House on this occasion, largely irrespective of the political aspect, in order to make bare and plain to the government the effect of their action of last year, and the fact that when they gave a special consideration, as they did last year to the prairie provinces-not that I would deny them that at all-they must in duty and justice extend that to the rest of us. What do we find as a consequence of this advantage that was extended to [DOT] the prairie provinces last year? We find that in playing politics on those freight rates to move the prairie provinces, this year a Romeo left the family circle of the government in Ottawa, in the guise of the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell), and hastened away to Moose Jaw to sound his plaintive note; but sad as it may be said, Miss Moose Jaw hooked up with a Farmer. The result is that they are no further advanced than they were before.

Anyone who listened to the discussion last year, anyone who has heard the debate this year, the case ably presented by the hon member for Burrard (Mr. Clark), and the arguments brought out in some very able speeches, must, if he uses his intelligence, his heart and his judgment, admit that the case for British Columbia has been established to the full. We did suffer an injustice; we are under discriminatory rates; we are entitled to have that rectified, and the action of the government last year made it still more impossible to bring about the rectification of the situation in which our province finds itself. This year the government, through hon. members speaking on their behalf, say: "Keep railway rates out of politics; that is a matter for the Railway Board." Why did they not say that last year? This year they say: "We have the matter under consideration"; but for the past two seasons the government have been telling us that they are a democratic government; that when they have a complicated matter of interest to the whole people, they consult all the representatives of the people, they consult parliament, and when parliament has expressed its view, they

[Mr. Ladner.?

formulate the conclusion into legislation. These are inconsistencies which must be apparent to every hon. member, and I wish simply to point out, with all due respect to the Minister of Public Works (Mr. King), my good friend from British Columbia, that when he says that the people, of British Columbia would prefer if the hon. member for Burrard had not meddled in this question, he is stating just the reverse of the facts. I believe the people of British Columia want every one of its members to advocate its cause before the representatives of the sister provinces of this confederation, because we know that from the time of our admission to the union by the act of 1868, enforced in 1870, we were protected under that act with respect to unfair discrimination. We know that when the Canadian Pacific built their railway, it was especially planned under the statutory laws of that time that that railway should pass through the Yellowhead pass. If it had passed through the Yellowhead pass, and somebody had not made a mistake during the survey and diverted the line to the Roger's pass, the advantages accruing now to the Canadian National would have accrued to the Canadian Pacific, and would have redounded to the advantage of British Columbia and the Dominion at large. These are facts, historical records.

We come down to the present time, and a last effort was made to preserve the protection we had in British Columbia in 1910 in the agreement with the Canadian National Railways. It is not my intention to go into that matter; but in that agreement a special, concrete provision was made that British Columbia would have on rates the protection which she had had in the past, and which she did not wish to be deprived of. The fact is-and no hon. member has made a suggestion to the contrary-that there are discriminatory rates, and we are handicapped without a just cause. Where is the remedy to be found? Parliament last year absorbed by its action $17,000,000 out of the revenues of the railways in order that the prairie provinces might benefit that much. I do not object to their having that; but that is what the result of parliamentary legislation was, and this made it impossible to remedy conditions in British Columbia and to give fair treatment to the other provinces.

So to-day, Mr. Speaker, the government find themselves in the predicament that having injected politics into the question they have to play politics to get out of it. And that is what they are doing. They are appealing

Railway Rate-i

to parliament and saying: "Gentlemen, do not treat this resolution on its merits. This is a want of confidence motion, and if you want to retain your seats support the government. Never mind the merits, support the government."

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Carried.

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CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

I put it to the hon. member that shouts "Carried" that perhaps he is afraid of losing his seat. I say to hon members generally, including my Progressive friends, that we must decide this question on the merits. The resolution simply asks for the elimination of the discriminatory "mountain scale" and the same treatment as the sister provinces of confederation in respect to basic commodities. The government seek to evade the issue by saying, "No, this is a want of confidence motion." I appeal to the conscience, to the political instinct and to the good judgment of all members to determine which course they take. I am confident that a very large number, including many in this part of the House, will determine this question on its merits and not as a matter of political expediency.

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CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (North Toronto):

Mr. Speaker, a general freight rate reduction is necessary for the economic life of the country. From what we have heard to-day we might think that only the province of British Columbia is being discriminated against, but let me assure my hon. friends from the West that the provinces east of the Great Lakes are suffering greater discrimination than any other part of the Dominion.

The question of freight rates should not be made a political football of this party or that; indeed it is a question which should not be brought up in this House at all. The gist of the general Railway Act as to rates is equality of treatment. Consequently the regulation of freight rates is an economic and commercial question, and if we are going to attempt to fix freight rates by legislation and so tie the hands of the Railway Commission, that commission will not be able to function as it should in preserving equality of treatment throughout the Dominion in regard to freight rates.

Last session it was contended that the prairie provinces should have special rates to the head of the lakes for their basic commodities including flour and grain. To-day grain is paying the lowest rates, and this is necessary. But it is not necessary, in order to give preferential rates on those basic commodities, that the other provinces should be discriminated

against. We are reminded that when British Columbia came into confederation it was on the faith of an agreement which guaranteed her equal rates with the rest of Canada. Then the Maritime provinces have reminded us that under their agreement to enter confederation they were to have preferential rates in order to enable them to get their products to the centre of Canada. Thus we have the East and the West pressing for lower freight rates, but if parliament goes over the head of the Railway Commission and ignores the economic factor, then we might'as well abolish the commission.

In my opinion the fairest solution of the question is to put all the parties back where they were before the war-time legislation which increased freight rates. Let us go back and restore confidence in the Railway Commission, because if this commission to-day is not fulfilling the functions for which it was appointed, if it is not ensuring equality of treatment to all localities, then it is time to get a new Railway Commission. As I read the Railway Act the jurisdiction of the Railway Commission cannot be interfered with. It is clothed with paramount control of freight rates, which it should regulate strictly from the economic standpoint. Its powers' are largely similar to the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and that commission is not interfered with by Congress or the Senate. It fixes rates in the United States according to operating costs. That is what should be done in Canada, and until it is done we are bound to have discrimination. To-day Canada has the highest average ton-mile rate in the world, '751 cents. The next is the United States '732 cents

Adequate and equitable rates depend very largely on the Railway Commission fulfilling its functions and powers and preventing unjust discrimination.

This question of the "mountain scale" was before the special committee last year. As the case was then pending before the Railway Commission it was urged that parliament should defer taking action until the commission had rendered judgment. Unfortunately, parliament interfered with the prairie rates, with the result that the Railway Commission has not seen fit to harmonize the mountain rate with the prairie rate. This unfortunate result prompts me to ask: Has not the time come for parliament to leave rate control to the Railway Commission? If the commission is no longer a competent body, then let u& appoint a new commission. Let us repeal the legislation of last session dealing with freight rates and put all the provinces back where

Railway Rates

they were before the War Measures Act interfered with rates.

Let the Railway Commission go into this whole question as the Interstate Commerce Commission did in the United States. The Railway Commission of this country did not wait for parliament to tell them what to do in the matter of raising rates after the Chicago award and the McAdoo award; they made these increases of their own accord, but they are waiting for parliament to tell them what to do in the matter of lowering rates. I agree with the principle of this resolution, because this House laid down the principle last session that the prairie provinces should have special treatment in respect to their basic commodities. If they are to have special treatment, so should the farmers of British Columbia have special treatment, and the same applies to the Maritime provinces and the other older provinces of Canada for their basic products also. The people of the old provinces of Canada-Ontario and Quebec-have paid out their money in taxes for the building of railways to give the West the railway facilities that they have. Ontario has been discriminated against more than any other province in the matter of railway rates since confederation. I say, then, repeal the legislation of last session and put all the provinces on a parity so that the Railway Act can be carried out in its entirety. Equality of treatment should be the principle; no preference should be shown to any one province.

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PRO

Levi William Humphrey

Progressive

Mr. L. W. HUMPHREY (Kootenay West):

Mr.' Speaker, as a very modest member of this House I would like the privilege of addressing my few remarks from this seat. I have not been in the habit of contributing very much to the debates, and situated as I am in the far corner of the Chamber I fear that if I spoke from my own seat some of my remarks might not be heard.

I rise as a member from British Columbia to enter a most emphatic protest against this resolution. The member for Red Deer (Mr. Speakman) has said that as a member from Alberta he considered it was his duty to offer a contribution on behalf of that province. I as a member from British Columbia feel that it is my duty to offer a small contribution on behalf of British Columbia. Although my remarks may not meet with the approval of all on this side of the House, I feel that I have the welfare of my province is much at heart as any other hon. member of this House, and that I represent a class of people who are deeply interested in the

welfare not only of their district and province, but of the Dominion as a whole.

Let us review for a moment the question that is the subject of the present debate. The resolution reads:

That in the opinion of this House, all unfair and unjust discrimination against British Columbia as exemplified in the "mountain scale" of freight rates should be rescinded and the special reduction made by the restoration of the Crowsnest pass rates on the basic production of the prairie provinces be extended to the basic productions of all other provinces of confederation.

If the hon. member for Burrard had been sincere in his professions of regard for the welfare of British Columbia-and I do not doubt his sincerity as an hon. member of this House-he would, in my opinion have been more consistent in the resolution which he had on the order paper under date of February 15. That resolution reads:

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

I cannot see the consistency of the two resolutions, and I do not see how the hon. member is consistent so far as his alleged interest in the welfare of British Columbia is concerned. In the last several months all the organized bodies of British Columbia, in fact I may safely say 95 per cent of the population of the province, have given their loyal support to those who have been instrumental in setting forth the claims of British Columbia on. this railway rate question. A large number of the boards of trade of the province have given their unanimous support to the Premier on the question. The claims of British Columbia have been carried from one stage to another until they are now before the Privy Council, and it is my opinion that this is not an opportune time for the House to take the matter out of the hands of the Privy Council and declare upon the merits of the discrimination so far as it affects British Columbia. If, on the other hand, we have a railway commission that is not doing its duty to the people, I and many other hon. members will be only too glad to see that that particular defect is remedied. But I say that this is not an opportune time to take the matter out of the channels in which it has proceeded. The hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Ladner) has said that the government last year played politics in respect to this railway question. Well, with all due respect to the hon. member and with no prejudice to other hon. members of the House, I would say that in my opinion this question as it is being

Railway Rates

handled is nothing else but politics, first and last.

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CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

Does the hon. gentleman think that it should be the subject of political play, as he says it has been?

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PRO

Levi William Humphrey

Progressive

Mr. HUMPHREY:

My remarks are addressed to the statement made by the hon. member for Vancouver South that this railway rates question was made the subject of politics last year. I repeat that in my opinion the matter is being handled now as nothing more or less than a political question, and the result is only to prejudice the interests of the people of British Columbia and to bring about a state of chaos so far as their attitude on this question is concerned-and their opinion is now a unanimous one. They are unanimous in their opinion on this question and are giving united and loyal support to those who are taking a sincere and genuine interest in it. But I feel it is not right for any member to bring this question into parliament at this time to be made a political football of at the expense of the people of British Columbia. My experience as a member of this parliament has been short. Perhaps I have not contributed, as much as many others to the debates. Nevertheless I have endeavoured as far as I could in my humble way and to the best of my ability to follow the questions that have arisen and to give my best judgment upon each, and particularly with respect to the questions affecting the Dominion. I compare this question to one that arose in the Chamber something like a year ago respecting the returned men of whom I am glad to say, without boasting at all, that I am one. Certain interests of the returned men were under consideration at that time, and I place this particular question on a parallel with that. I think this resolution has been introduced simply to further certain political interests. It has been brought in at this particular time and in this particular way not to further the interests of British Columbia because, however it is decided, it would not do that. If this resolution was carried by the House, we as residents of British Columbia would not gain anything. On the other hand would we gain if the resolution was not carried? I cannot see how in either event, from the point of view of those favouring the resolution, anything is to be gained. The question is entirely in the hands of the powers that have it under their consideration. I do not treat it as a want of confidence motion in any shape or form. I have little concern in that respect for the position of the government on this question, but I have a great deal of concern 125

regarding the people whom I am endeavouring to represent to the best of my ability upon each question as it arises, and taking that stand I cannot in any way support this resolution as it has been brought forward by the hon. member for Burrard.

Amendment negatived.

Motion agreed to and the House went into Committee of Supply, Mr. Gordon in the chair.

Progress reported.

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PRIVATE BILLS SECOND READING


Bill No. 107 (from the Senate), to incorporate Montreal Finance Trust.-Mr. Papi-neau. Bill No. 10S (from the Senate), for the relief of Violet Gardiner.-Mr. Sheard. On motion of Mr. Fielding, the House adjourned at 12.29 a.m. Wednesday. Wednesday, April 18, 1923


April 17, 1923