May 30, 1930

LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

It is a matter for experts to determine.

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DEPARTMENT OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS


The house in committee of supply, Mr. Johnston in the chair.


CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Mr. Chairman, I will now summarize the position. In 1910 Sir Robert Borden made a speech at Halifax outlining t'he platform of his party, and later in the west elaborating that he used these words:

The Liberal-Conservative party has been committed to the construction of the Hudson Bay railway since 1896, when Sir Charles Tu.pper embodied it in his policy. It will be built by the next Liberal-Conservative administration without one day's unnecessary delay. It will be

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operated by an independent, non-political commission on behalf of and in the interests of the people, with full control of rates, and it will not be handed over to the control of any railway corporation.

That was reported in the press and amongst other papers in the Yorkton Enterprise of July 6, 1911, when Sir Robert Borden was making his tour through that section of the country. When the government of Sir Robert Borden met the house for the first time in November, 1911, the speech from the throne contained this paragraph:

The selection of the best route for the Hudson Bay railway is engaging the attention of my advisers, and an announcement will be made to you of the result of their inquiry.

I had the privilege of moving the adoption of the address in reply in the House of Commons on November 20, 1911, and in the course of my remarks I said:

It is, therefore, of vital importance in the minds and thoughts of those who produce grain in the west that no mistake be made so far as the terminals at Hudson Bay are concerned, and we rejoice that the speedy completion of the railway will be one of the matters which will receive the most earnest consideration of this administration. It is a matter in which the people in the west are vitally interested, that terminals shall be constructed there under the control of a commission, and that no private corporation will have an opportunity to unnecessarily control or dominate those terminals. That will obviate the necessity, of course, of our having to expropriate them, as we may some of the terminals at the head of the lakes.

I have already indicated the action taken by the administration of Sir Robert Borden, and the journey of Mr. Cochrane to that section of the country and the selection of the terminus for the railway. The war followed and operations were suspended, but it will be within the memory of this house, if it has followed what I have said, that the railway was completed to within 92 miles of Port Nelson and within 179 miles of Churchill when the present administration came into power. It will also be recalled that in 1926, when the present Minister of Finance was in control of the Department of Railways and Canals, further investigations were made which resulted in the terminals being changed from Port Nelson to Fort Churchill where the terminals mentioned by the Minister of Railways and Canals are now being constructed.

I think that makes the matter perfectly clear with one exception. Between 1911 and 1926 the Senate committee had investigated the whole question, and the answers I gave to the questions put to me in 1926 were made subsequent to that report. I do not now recall whether or not the Minister of Railways and Canals referred to the report in the course of

his remarks, but all members interested in the Hudson Bay railway development will recall that that report was one of the factors, as the minister very properly said this morning, that brought about the further investigation as to whether Port Nelson should remain the terminus of the Hudson Bay line.

I have already recalled what took place in the election campaigns in the west, and I also desire to point out that the hon. gentleman from Yorkton (Mr. McPhee) the other day referred to an interview given by Mr. Clarence Graham a few days before-

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It was not an interview at all. A few days later Mr. Graham telegraphed to me as follows:

Hansard May 14 contains McPhee's quotation of alleged interview by me. Have given no interview this year anywhere nor on any subject nor in any manner whatever made public comment on or reference to Dunning budget. Utterance quoted made addressing Cosmopolitan Club here as guest 5th instant.

That is the incident to which the hon. gentleman must have referred. It was at a banquet at the Cosmopolitan Club and had no reference in any way, shape or form to the budget. Mr. Graham followed that with a letter in which he asked me that the misapprehension be cleared up. I also referred to the fact that during the election campaign of 1925 the right hon. Prime Minister is reported in the Regina Leader of October 8, 1925, to have addressed a public meeting in Saskatoon on the day previous. The quotation from the Regina Leader is as follows:

The next question is, how soon will Mr. King finish the Hudson's Bay line? Will he ask for the necessary appropriation at the next session? I am not going to evade the issue.

I am not here to say that what I say will go, but I say this: Tou send me followers from Saskatchewan, let me have Mr. Dunning in the cabinet, and it will not take long to satisfy the people on this question.

A voice: How many miles per member?

Premier King: I am afraid if I said. "You

send me the limit and I will go the limit," Mr. Meighen might say I was trying to bribe you. 1 want to make the position clear. The go\ eminent wants to complete the road and to do it immediately. Let me also make this clear: how far we can go in that desire depends upon the complexion of parliament. Supposing alter October 29th such a calamity should happen that the Liberal party was in power but no Liberal followers from Saskatchewan. Do you think I could get the other representatives to do it?

A voice: What about the Progressives helping you?

Premier King: Let me answer that clearly.

When the Progressives take the attitude that

Supply-Railways-Hudson Bay

they will support us when we do what they want and we can go to blazes when we do not, you cannot get very far. You cannot get people to work together under that system. I have the greatest admiration for the motives of the Progressive party and am in sympathy with most of their policies as those of the Liberals are alike. But while I take that position my admiration stops when it comes to the methods.

I will not offer any comment whatever and just leave that extract as an indication of the policy pursued by the Prime Minister as outlined in his remarks at Saskatoon on October 7, 1925. Bearing in mind that at that time the railway was within 92 miles of Nelson and 179 miles of Churchill-query: How long will it take to finish it if in five years it has got to its present state? In five years the Minister of Railways instituted an investigation, changed the port from Nelson to Churchill, and began to construct the line. According to the present Minister of Railways it may be opened next year. Six years after the speech to which I have referred 179 miles will be completed, and probably trains will be running into Churchill.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

I do not wish to develop any controversy in reference to this matter except in regard to my hon. friend's remarks as to the sequence of events. His remarks have departed somewhat from my understanding of the sequence, and I shall be very brief in my reply. I think my hon. friend will agree that his last remarks regarding the length of time will call for some reply. Chronologically the position is stated approximately correctly by the leader of the opposition. The first sod was turned on the Hudson Bay railway in 1910, and work continued on it throughout the war period. In fact work was not stopped until a month or so before the close of the war. At the time of the cessation of work the railway had reached mile 332, some 90 miles from Nelson and 179 miles from Churchill. At that time it was the intention of the then government to build the road through to Nelson, but for a number of years after 1918 no work was done on the railway. Trains were operated once a month and sometimes not that often for a short distance along the line only. In 1926 as my hon. friend has stated I became Minister of Railways and in that session on behalf of the government I asked parliament for a vote of 83,000,000 for the rehabilitation of the existing railway. When asking for the vote I stated plainly that it would all be necessary to rebuild the line. My hon. friend has spoken of the 332 miles as if in 1926 it would have been possible to begin building the remaining portion. As a matter of fact in 1926 it was not possible for a train to get anywhere near the end of the existing steel because in the years which had intervened between 1918 and 1926 the road-bed which was built originally on muskeg had completely disappeared over large portions of the distance, particularly from mile 200 to mile 332. As a matter of actual fact so far as practical purposes are concerned it has been necessary to rebuild the whole of the former Hudson Bay railway in addition to constructing the remaining mileage to Churchill. With respect to the five years to which my hon. friend has referred I would like in the first place to place before him the actual facts. The date of the debate in this house was June 9, 1926, and on that date not one dollar was yet available with which to do anything. Shortly afterwards my hon. friends opposite came into office for a short time. I did not resume the position of Minister of Railways and Canals until some time in October of 1926. It is now the month of May, 1930, and at this point I wish to remind my hon. friend that September of 1926 is not five years distant. I think as a matter of fact he said it was six years.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No, I said it would be six years next year when it is completed.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

It will not be that long;

I would point out however that it was not possible to do any work on the rehabilitation of the existing line during the year 1926. It was only possible to assemble materials in order that a start might be made on the rehabilitation in the year 1927. As a matter of fact in that year substantial progress was made. What had to be done? As I have reported to this house on previous occasions a complete new dump had to be built over the major portion of the mileage concerned.

I do not wish to refer particularly to my hon friend's Portage speech. I did not hear it, and I have no quarrel with his statement as to what he said. Under those circumstances I usually allow a man to state what he said, and am content to take his word for it. I take my hon. friend's interpretation in this particular instance. However, in reference to his remarks about the discussion which took place in this chamber on June 9, 1926, I think I owe it to myself to point out to my hon. friend that his remarks on that occasion indicated his position not as to the choice of ports-my hon. friend did not indicate anything about a choice between Nelson or Churchill.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Did he not; we shall

see.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

I am not quarrelling with my hon. friend. His words are recorded on

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Hansard and they speak for themselves. He was referring to the feasibility of the whole route, and repeatedly be so stated. Until he had further assurances along that line he would not feel justified in voting for the extension of the railway one single mile beyond its present terminus, and he was satisfied to vote for the sum then being placed before the house for the reason that it contemplated only the rehabilitation of the existing mileage. In that connection my hon. friend referred to the expenditures which had been made, and at page 4293 of Hansard he said:

As a matter of business in an ordinary transaction most men would consider an expenditure of S3,000,000 somewhat large for the purpose of saving an investment of $20,000,000 amounting as it does to 15 per cent of the whole. I do not think it will be necessary to spend $3,000,000 for that purpose; less money than that will recondition the road and restore it to proper working condition. That is my view after hearing the estimate of the work that has to be done to put the road into shape.

And then after a reference to decayed ties, he said:

I therefore support the vote as it is proposed by the government. But from the information I have I could not under any circumstances vote to extend the railway a single foot beyond the present end of steel. I could not vote to send the railway to Nelson. I say that because I have not adequate information that would convince me that the expenditure of the money necessary, some $29,000,900 or $30,900,000, would be in the public interest. We have no such data as would warrant a board of directors, in the ease of private corporation, speaking for intelligent, sober minded shareholders, in arriving at the conclusion that the expenditure now proposed was justifiable.

And as I have frequently observed, we in this parliament in relation to railway matters are in the capacity of shareholders. We are shareholders of the Hudson Bay railway. Speaking from that point of view I should not be prepared upon the information which has been submitted to us, to vote if I were asked to,-I am not as a matter of fact called upon to vote at the moment-in favour of an extension of the Hudson Bay raliway to the boy.

Then my hon. friend goes on:

My mind is open; I have no preconceived notions, no prejudices and no bias with respect to this question. On the evidence as I have read it-I have read all the evidence that has been available-'there seems to be a marked conflict of opinion. These points are apparent: first, that since the opening of the Panama canal and the movement of wheat from as far east as Maple Creek, and perhaps a little further, to the Pacific slope there is no longer that urgent demand for the movement of grain west of that point to the Hudson bay or Fort William. Rather the desire is to move it to Vancouver. In the second place it must be

remembered that the population of the country is not expanding as we should like, and that any movement that takes place of grain toward Hudson bay must necessarily involve a corresponding diminution in traffic on the two roads that now operate. And the Canadian National Railway system cannot afford at this juncture to lose any traffic.

And then further on;

I do suggest to the minister that inasmuch as-if he is permitted to remain in his office as I trust fie will not be-

By the way, I was;

-he proposes to submit to parliament some day a vote for the construction of the road to Hudson bay, he takes steps immediately to demonstrate beyond any peradventure the feasibility of navigation in the straits.

And so on. Without quarrelling with my hon. friend, there may be some justification for those who understood his remarks to indicate doubt of the feasibility of the Hudson bay project as a whole. I say there may be in those remarks some excuse, and if proof of that is required I may point out that in that very debate one of my hon. friend's own colleagues at that time, the then member for East Edmonton, Mr. Bury, said in his address on page 4459 of Hansard of June 9:

Now, I cannot let that statement go unchallenged, because there is iat least one member-and indeed the bouse has heard another in the person of the member for West Calgary (Mr. Bennett)-who does not believe in the project of the Hudson Bay route as a grain route. I cannot concede that it will be an economic grain route.

Evidently Mr. Bury understood my hon. friend the leader of the opposition as lacking belief in the Hudson Bay route as a grain route. I will admit quite frankly that my hon. friend's observations regarding what should 'be done from the point of view of investigation and so forth were good suggestions.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

They were adopted, as a matter of fact.

Mr. DUNNING; As he himself pointed out this morning, they were suggestions which were acted upon, whether or not that was done because they were his suggestions. I really rose to my feet, Mr. Chairman, on account of my hon. friend indicating some criticism of the speed with which the work has been prosecuted since it was commenced. It is generally conceded among railway men and in the world of engineering that a very remarkable piece of work has been accomplished by the engineers and the staff of the Canadian National Railways in dealing with the work.

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LIB
LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

My hon. friend is very

kind to say that, but as a matter of fact the actual conduct of the work of rebuilding and extending the railway was in the hands of the Canadian National construction forces, and during my time as a minister I cannot but acknowledge the whole hearted and effective cooperation which I received from that organization in prosecuting the work. Far from it being delayed in any sense, I can assure the house and the country that it was expedited every minute of the time by the Canadian National organization. I can also say that the departmental staff in charge of the work at the port, labouring as they did for a number of years under the great difficulty of carrying on operations without a railway behind them, with no rail connection, with only a sea connection, in my judgment have done remarkably good work in advancing the project as far as they have. Certainly so far as I know the people of western Canada believe that the work has been sincerely pushed forward by those in charge of it to the full extent of economical possibility.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Mr. Chairman, there is

just one extract which I think my hon. friend might have read from my discussion of this matter which shows what was in my mind at that time. It will be found at page 4294 of Hansard of 1926, as follows:

Have a careful investigation made of all the circumstances-the nature of the port and the channel: the shifting character of the sand bars; the possibility of erecting proper docks; the availability of material for the construction of such docks: the cost of elevators; the time required in the movement of grain from Port Nelson to Liverpool; the dangers that would be encountered in transportation, so that the insurance rate might be determined; and other allied questions. All these questions could be studied at first-hand by men specially deputed to carry out the investigation.

This, I submit, is not an unreasonable suggestion to make at this time. I will concede that the minister is as desirous as any other hon. member to avoid any unnecessary expenditures. I believe my friends who support so strenuously this route are just as anxious as I am that public money should not be wasted, are just as desirous as any person could be that this route, if established, should be a success. But I do ask them to support the representations to the minister that we should not rush into this enterprise without having that measure of information, that extensive knowledge which private business men as directors of a well-defined body of shareholders would be required to have before they would recommend to their shareholders the expenditure of these sums of money.

I do this to-night because, fortunately, it is not that vote which is being considered by the committee

Previously, as the hon. gentleman has said,

I had given my unqualified support of the expenditure of the money required for the purpose of rehabilitating the enterprise, and I think the minister has done one other good service which I commend to one of the hon. gentlemen who interrupted me. That is this: The government itself has not been carrying on the contract. The contract was put in the hands of the Canadian National Railways, and the government as such has not been carrying on the work. The government merely put it in the hands of a first class contractor to carry into effect-

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Not technically at all.

The hon. gentleman, when dealing with this matter, dwelt upon that fact at great length, but he will recall that the government said that the Canadian National Railways,. as contractors in this matter, were free to pursue any course they pleased and to employ whom they desired.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Pardon me, not to pursue any course they pleased.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I mean any course with

respect to the work.

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LIB

May 30, 1930