April 17, 1923

CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Then the Crowsnest pass agreement and legislation was, so far as rates are concerned, a dead letter until 1917. But 1917 coming, the war conditions then prevailing necessitated a general rise in railway rates or the paralysis of the whole railway system of this country. So the Railway Board came to the government, and the government came to parliament, and asked that the Crowsnest pass agreement be removed and that the Railway Commission be free to fix such rates, everywhere in this Dominion, as, under all the conditions, were reasonable and fair. That step the government took.

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I know the government suspended it but the government's legislation in the first place, if I remember correctly-I 'will be corrected if I am wrong- was for the abolition entirely of the agreement. There was an amendment proposed, I think, in the Senate-I am not quite sure of that- and the government as a compromise agreed to it; but the government adopted the principle which had always been in effect until then, that there should not be hampering restrictions upon the board when dealing with the general subject.

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PRO

John Livingstone Brown

Progressive

Mr. BROWN:

Why the necessity for parliament suspending the rate, as you contend, if it was already suspended or abrogated under the original Railway Act?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The hon. member has not quite understood me. Legally the agreement was in effect-that is to say legally it existed

Railway Rates

-but it had no practical effect at all until 1917. In 1917 it came into practical effect because the time had come when rates had to be raised. Consequently then was the time, and the only time when if there was any need for it to be dealt with it would have been dealt with and dealt with by parliament. Because, I say again, I do not believe for a moment it was ever intended by the Railway Act of 1903 giving the Railway Commission this power, ever intended that there should be any exception under the Crowsnest pass agreement or any other agreement inconsistent with the provisions of the act. Remember I wholly agree that under the Railway Act by reason of another clause which had been always in effect-another clause intended to apply to legislation incorporating companies, the Crowsnest pass legislation was saved. It actually did save the Crowsnest pass agreement legally. However, I am now at the year 1917 when the suspension took place, the intention being at that time to remove the agreement so that the Railway Commission should be free. Then came the expiration of the suspension of the rates in 1922. Now I come to the argument advanced by the Acting Minister of Railways.

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LIB

Frank S. Cahill

Liberal

Mr. CAHILL:

Was not the suspension for two years in the first place, and then for a further period?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Possibly so.

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I think we asked to have the agreement removed first of all, but there were objections to that and the government agreed to the suspension instead.

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Very well, the expiration of the suspension c^me in 1922 and then the Railway Commission-having already reduced the rates so far as they, felt they could until they knew the fate of the Crowsnest pass legislation, and having to hold their hands from further general reductions -which were due all over this country, until it could be known what was the decision of this parliament in respect of the agreement-came to the government and asked that the government declare, and that parliament declare, its position on the subject. The matter, as everyone knows, was referred to a committee and finally government legislation was introduced, the effect of which, was to restore the Crowsnest pass agreement in part and let the rest of it go by the board, for another year.

This legislation passed, the part restored being the rates on grain and flour moving eastward out of the western prairie provinces.

Now we must remember in this connection -though it is aside from my argument, and I ask that tfiis interjection be forgotten as related to my argument, as soon as I make it- that there is no question that whatever may have been the result of the imposition of the Crowsnest pass rates on grain and flour eastward out of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, whatever may have been the result, below what the Railway Commission would have felt it should have done, so far as Manitoba was concerned, there was nothing effected whatever below what the Railway Commission would in any case have done. I say this on the authority of the evidence submitted to the special committee, which went to show the railways were prepared, under the better conditions that had been brought about, to reduce rates until they would equal in Manitoba the Crowsnest pass rates. It is presumable, however, that in Saskatchewan and Alberta the rates imposed by this parliament in restoring that portion? of the agreement were below the rates which, under all the circumstances, the Railway Commission would probably have thought fair. How far below no one knows, but that they were below can be presumed from the subsequent judgment of the Railway Commission itself. As a consequence of parliament imposing those rates, in respect, we will say, of Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Railway Commission were prevented from doing what they otherwise would have done in rate reduction in other parts of the country.

Now the hon. minister argues as against the present resolution-why reduce these rates? He says there is a board which has jurisdiction in railway rates that we should not invade that jurisdiction, and that to do so is to act on a false principle. Then he immediately sees in front of him the act of last session in which we did invade the jurisdiction by restoring the Crowsnest rates on grain and flour, in a word by fixing rates on grain and flour coming eastward, and he says that is an exception, because there was an agreement and we had to bow to it. That agreement he says was made in 1897. Its rates have always been out of the jurisdiction of the commission and consequently there was an exception based on the sanctity of such agreement. Now I ask if such is the case, why in the world was not the agreement wholly restored and its integrity respected? If it is a sacred agreement, all of it is sacred and one part is just as sacred as another.

Railway Rates

If the hon. member wants to get behind the agreement as an agreement, let him get behind it. He wants to justify smashing the agreement in two, and then to be allowed to say " because it is sacred as an agreement, I will get behind a fragment of it and let the rest go by the board."

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Then the Railway Commission would have been free.

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LIB

Frank S. Cahill

Liberal

Mr. CAHILL:

No, because the Crowsnest pass agreement would go into effect.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Oh yes, but if parliament had done what I said then, and say now it should have done, it would have left the commission free to reduce everywhere in accordance with the conditions obtaining, and to be absolutely fair between all parts of the Dominion. Now, let parliament do that, let parliament cease to hamstring the commission, let it remove the chains, and then representatives from all parts of the Dominion can fairly be asked to go with these questions to the Railway Commission of this country. But while parliament handcuffs the commission in order that it may fasten certain rates, how then can it ask members of this House, and representatives of other parts of Canada, to go to the commission-a commission which is tied hand and foot by the government itself?

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PRO

Robert Forke

Progressive

Mr. FORKE:

As far as I can follow my hon. friend's argument, it is that the Crowsnest pass agreement did not do very much good to the West at all, and how did it hamstring the commission so very much, if the rates were infinitesimally lower through the fact of the Crowsnest pass agreement being restored? .

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The hon. member is pleading that we may have done wrong but we did not do very much wrong because we did not make the rates very much lower any way. The fact of the matter is that parliament tied the hands of the commission. If we did not by so doing put rates below what the commission would have done anyway, what good did we do?

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PRO
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

No, I said in Manitoba we did not put them lower than the commission would have done. I said they put the rates in Saskatchewan and Alberta presumably lower than the commission would have done. How much I did not say It is the principle that is wrong-the principle

of tying the hands of the commission before which all parts of the country are asked to come, and by whose decision all parts of the country are asked to abide. The government having taken the responsibility of doing that must answer to representatives of other portions of the country when those representatives come to this House and ask the government to do the same in respect to their provinces.

Next they have argued-though the minister did not do so this afternoon-that valuable consideration was given for this sacred agreement of 1897. Well, consideration was given by this Dominion but similar consideration was given by one hundred other acts, and there would be just the same reason for statutorily fixing rates in lieu of that consideration. But if in the Crownsnest case there was any given, it was given by the whole of the Dominion of Canada and was not given by any one single portion.

Now I would come to the subject referred to by the hon. member for Pontiac (Mr. Cahill) the agreement with the province of Manitoba made by the Canadian Northern Railway Company, an agreement for which consideration was given in lieu of control of rates being exercised by the province which gave the consideration. The province of Manitoba in 1901 made an agreement with the Northern Pacific to take over the Northern Pacific lines at a certain fixed rental for 999 years-a certain rental for ten years, a certain rental for another ten years, another rental for a third ten years, and then a rental of $300,000 for the balance of 999 years. The province immediately re-leased the lines to the Canadian Northern, and in that agreement re-leasing the lines they provided that Manitoba should guarantee the bonds of the Canadian Northern Railway Company on its line from Port Arthur to Rainy River, 290 miles, at $20,000 a mile, a liability of $5,800,000, and in consideration of such liability the Canadian Northern Railway Cdmpany gave to the province of Manitoba full control of rates on all its lines in Manitoba and on all its lines from Manitoba to Port Arthur, and from Port Arthur to Manitoba.There was valuable consideration and the^e was a sacred agreement, and the consideration came wholly out of the credit and out of the pocket of the people of Manitoba themselves. Now then, if agreements are sacred,surely they are sacred chiefly to thosewho give the consideration for them.

Manitoba stands to-day with all its rights under that agreement intact. I call on the government of this country to restore the validity of that agreement to undo what was done by this House in 1903 and allow the

Railway Rates

people of Manitoba, through its government to exercise full control of rates as they have a right to do under the terms of the agreement. If this government comes in and says the Crowsnest pass agreement must be respected, then why not the Canadian Northern agreement? If the Crowsnest pass agreement must be respected, or a part of it, a piece of it, torn and extracted out of the rest, for the benefit of a portion of the country which contributed no more to the construction of the road than all the rest of the Dominion, how much more should the Canadian Northern agreement enure to the benefit of, and be restored fully to the taxpayers of the province who paid the whole of the consideration themselves?

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LIB

Lucien Cannon

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

Does the hon. member contend that the provincial government of Manitoba would constitutionally have the right to fix rates?

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April 17, 1923