March 6, 1928

PRIVATE BILLS

FIRST READINGS


Bill No. 58, to incorporate the London and Port Burwell Railway Company-Mr. Taylor. Bill No. 59, to incorporate The Federal Loan Company.-Mr. Lang. Bill No. 60, respecting the Canadian Surety Company.-Mr. Hocken.


REPORTS OF COMMITTEES


Second and third reports of the select standing committee on agriculture and colonization. -Mr. Kay. First report of the select standing committee on standing orders.-Mr. Morin (St. Hyacinthe-Rouville).


CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS


Hon. CHARLES A. DUNNING (Minister of Railways and Canals): Mr. Speaker I desire to lay on the table a preliminary statement of the accounts of the Canadian National Railways for the year 1927.


RAILWAYS AND SHIPPING COMMITTEE

LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING moved:

That standing order 63, of the House of Commons, relating to the appointment of select standing committees of the house, be amended by adding to the select standing committees of the house for the present session a select standing committee on railways and shipping owned, operated and controlled by the government, to which will be referred the accounts and the estimates of the Canadian National Railways and the Canadian Government Merchant Marine for the present session, for consideration and for report to the house, provided, however, that nothing in this resolution shall be construed to

curtail in any way the full right of discussion in committee of supply; and that the said committee consist of Messrs. Bell (St. Antoine), Cantley, Chaplin, Drayton, Duff, Dunning, Fiset, Goodison, Harris, Jelliff, Jenkins, McLean (Melfort), Milne, Power ai*l Stevens.

He said: The resolution is identical with resolutions of former years in this regard.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition) :

The statement tabled by the Minister of Railways (Mr. Dunning), purports to be a preliminary report, and I think we should have the final report if we are to deal with the matter effectively. In addition to that, the motion refers the estimate to the committee, as in previous years, and I think it might also be desirable to refer the report to the committee. Otherwise there may be some difficulty in dealing with it, and I think it was so intended in the first instance.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The motion does not

say so.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

As I indicated last week, the government requested the Canadian National Railways to supply the accounts as soon as possible, and this preliminary statement merely lacks the certificate; some of the checking is not finished as yet, but I hope by the time the committee gets to work next week the final audited statement will be ready together with the estimates. As my hon. friend has suggested, both these documents are submitted to the committee, and I must confess that I adopted precisely the form of previous years without scrutinizing it at all closely in that regard. The intention certainly is to submit the report as well as the estimates to the special committee.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I think, perhaps, the

motion ought to read that the report of the company and the estimates for the current year be referred to the committee.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

The motion certainly

ought to read that way.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Shall the motion pass

subject to this understanding?

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CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

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

Motions similar to this have been made every year for the past three years and the Minister of Railways, whoever he happened to be, has always offered a plausible excuse for adopting that plan, namely, that an opportunity would be afforded for discussion when the report of the committee was presented later on. But that is not the way the matter works out in practice. There is no more reason why a select committee should be appointed to consider the estimates of the

C.N.R.-Railways and Shipping Committee

Department of Railways, or of the Canadian National Railways, than there is for pursuing a similar qourse in regard to the estimates of the Post Office Department, the Department of National Revenue or any other branch of the public service. The proper way to consider the estimates as a whole is to appoint a number of estimate committees to supervise the estimates of the various departments, then summon the officials before those committees and ask for detailed explanations of the public expenditures. The present system of trying to audit the estimates in oommittee of the whole is an inefficient and antiquated one and is only a post mortem method. One of my reasons for objecting to the present motion is that when the course which it recommends is adopted the report of that committee does not come back to the house until an advanced hour in the morning of the day of prorogation, when there is not the faintest possibility of intelligent discussion. The committee is just a whitewashing one. When it is appointed and is carrying on its sittings you cannot get any information there of real value in regard to this great public undertaking known as the Canadian National Railways. Not only should the capital expenditures of the system be thoroughly investigated, but the entire administration of the railway, and the operation of those deficit-producing lines in the United States with which it is affiliated, should be brought under review. But nothing of that kind occurs. Really it seems that the president of this system, Sir Henry Thornton, has very little to do. Recently he took a month's holiday in Mexico. Tomorrow he may be on a mission to Peru, or to Bogota. In the course of time he will have visited the seven seas and whatever capitals are located on them. It is useless for a member of parliament, acting in the interests of his constituents, to try to get any information with respect to the operation and administration of this railway. In the Ontario legislature, where the estimates of that great public undertaking the Hydro Electric Power Commission are under review, they would not think of passing any such resolution as this and shunting it all off on a committee on whitewash. The functions of this committee are purely and simply of a whitewashing character. Its report will be brought down in the dying hours of the session and no opportunity whatever will be afforded of criticizing the railway policy of the government. In connection with the administration of the Canadian National Railways one would think that if any appointments needed to be made Canadians would 56103-66i

be chosen but they have been ignored. The graduate of a law school in connection with Yale university, Mr. Gaston, was brought over to fill an important position which could have been filled just as efficiently by some one of the many returned soldiers affiliated with Canadian law firms. If you pass this resolution you might just as well pass the whole of the estimates without any inquiry at all. The people of this country are not satisfied with the entire administration of this so-called publicly owned road. It is not a publicly owned road at all, and the head of the system makes a political football of the fuel question in the interest of coal barons in the United States. It has become a popular method on the part of this government to refer embarrassing questions to special committees and courts. And what is the result? You cannot get information from ministers in the house, and you cannot get it when you attend these committees. The St. Lawrence waterways question is also being made a political football. That question has been referred to the run of the law courts, and the Lord knows when it will come back; perhaps two or three months before the next general election which will likely take place two or three years hence. In France and in the United States the estimates of the public departments are considered by certain special estimate committees, and as a result those estimates are carefully scrutinized. The estimates of the national railway are referred to a special committee, and nothing further is heard about them. The report is brought down within an hour or two of prorogration when intelligent consideration or discussion is out of the question. Personally I prefer the system followed in France and the United States and it should be made to apply to all departments generally. The practice we follow is simply to hold a post mortem after the money has been spent. Parliament, under the plan followed here, has no control whatever of the estimates of the Canadian National Railways. We want to overhaul our methods of considering estimates and adopt the committee system as a whole brought up to date as in France where the officials can appear before these committees and give information and not single out the Canadian National Railways for this special treatment.

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CON

Horatio Clarence Hocken

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. H. C. HOCKEN (Toronto West Centre):

With regard to the hon. gentleman's objection to the estimates of the Canadian National Railways going to this committee I have nothing to say, but I do resent on behalf of my constituents his continued attacks upon the administration of that railway. I can

1044 COMMONS

C.N.R.-Railways and Shipping Committee

tell the house that the many speeches my hon. friend has made against the national railway do not represent the sentiment of one .per .cent of the people of the city from which he comes. I can state without hesitation that the people of Toronto, to the extent of 99 per cent, are favourable to the national railway. When, my hon. friend gets up and denounces the administration of the railways, as he has done not only to-day but on former occasions, I feel that it is my duty to inform the house as to the real sentiments of the city from which we both come. He can curse Sir Henry Thornton as much as he likes; that may be his opinion of him; but I do not want to sit, and I do not think I should, sit here quietly, and let it go abroad that the opinions he expresses are those of the people of the city of Toronto. To me it comes as a surprise that my hon. friend who has represented himself as the great protagonist of the public operation of utilities, who on almost eveiy occasion that he stands in this house praises the great work of Sir Adam Beck-and I entirely agree with his sentiments in that regard;-should attempt to belittle and discredit the operation of the greatest national utility we have in the Dominion of Canada. If there is under public ownership and management any organization that should receive the support of the people of Canada, it is the national railways. We have over a billion dollars invested in that enterprise, and it is our duty, as I see it-and I know many manufacturers and freight shippers in Toronto feel it to be their duty-to do what we can to make this railway a success. I think it will be found on examination of the freight traffic from Toronto that that city has contributed as much if not more than any other part of the Dominion of Canada to the success of this railway. I am not speaking of the west which has enormous quantities of traffic, great bulk cargoes of grain to ship, but I am speaking of a city where there are innumerable men shipping freight and travelling as passengers on this railway. If the people of our city were not sympathetic to this enterprise; if they did not really desire its success, they would not patronize it to the extent they do. That very fact refutes the attacks which my hon. friend makes upon the management of the national railways. I have no brief for the railways, but I have a brief for the city of Toronto and I do not want it to go abroad uncontradicted that the sentiments expressed by my hon. friend are held by any considerable number of the people of Toronto.

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CON

March 6, 1928