March 7, 1932

CON

Isaac Duncan MacDougall

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDOUGALL:

The reason was that there had been imposed on the maritime provinces a 90 per cent increase in freight rates, and for years those provinces laboured under that handicap. I would suggest to my hon. friend that he confer with his colleague to his right, from whom he might receive substantiation for my statement.

Topic:   WESTERN FREIGHT RATES
Subtopic:   REDUCTION OF DOMESTIC RATES ON GRAIN AND GRAIN PRODUCTS
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PRO

Milton Neil Campbell

Progressive

Mr. M. N. CAMPBELL (Mackenzie):

Mr. Speaker, as the discussion on the original motion has been quite exhaustive there is very little left for one to say. The justice of the proposal is so apparent that no further comment is necessary. Two carloads of grain may be shipped from a given point in the prairies to the city of Vancouver. The ultimate destination of one carload may be China, while the other is to be used locally, either in the Fraser valley or in some other part of British Columbia. Although the two cars are coupled to the same train and arrive together in the city of Vancouver, one carries double the freight rate of the other, and really pays a bonus on export. The question whether or not the railway companies can afford to handle the grain at a given rate does not, in my view, enter into the discussion. If they can afford to handle grain at the export rate, then they are charging an exorbitant domestic rate. If they are receiving only a proper domestic rate, then they must be losing on their export trade, and the country, from the public treasury, is bonus-ing exports. Surely something is wrong one way or another, and the matter ought to be adjusted. We are faced with a condition under which the farmers in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia are consuming the coarse grain produce of the prairies, and are paying more to feed their stock than the farmers in Europe or China. Such conditions should not obtain. We have done a good deal of talking about securing the British market for our bacon, and competing with Denmark. As a matter of fact, we are bonusing the Danish product in the British market by selling grain to the Danish producer cheaper than it is sold to the eastern farmers. Surely such a condition ought to be rectified.

There can be no question that parliament is supreme over all the courts. The railway commission and the courts of law have their [Mr. Casgrain.J

respective jurisdictions, but in the last analysis the responsibility rests upon parliament. If the railway commission fails to act, parliament is responsible. A little more than a year ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) when visiting the western provinces announced that we would be given the Crowsnest rates on grain to Churchill. There was no question of referring the matter to the railway commission or to a court; the decision was made arbitrarily in the interests of the people and as a matter of plain justice. Moreover, the proposal was approved by the great majority of the Canadian people. Here is another case equally as if not more important, a matter of tremendous interest not only to the producer of coarse grains in the prairie provinces but to the consumers in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

I am not sure what the exact procedure should be. Perhaps the whole question should be referred to a special committee; I do not know. But I believe if such a reference were made, and if a conference were held with the heads of the railway systems, something could be done. At any rate there is no use evading the responsibility resting upon parliament to wipe out a discrimination which is a disgrace to Canada and to the whole freight rate schedule.

Topic:   WESTERN FREIGHT RATES
Subtopic:   REDUCTION OF DOMESTIC RATES ON GRAIN AND GRAIN PRODUCTS
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CON

Henry Alfred Mullins

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. H. A MULLINS (Marquette):

Mr. Speaker, although I am in favour of the proposed resolution of the hon. member for Qu'Appelle (Mr. Perley), advocating lower freight rates, I believe it does not go far enough. The live stock industry is not mentioned. I should like to see a reduced rate on live stock, and the old rates of the year 1900 restored. I am sorry the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown) is not in his seat, because I think he was in the province of Manitoba when the Conservative government brought in a rate much lower than the Crowsnest rate. From 1900 until 1917 the Crowsnest rate was forgotten, and then as a war measure it was taken away from the people of Manitoba. At one time we enjoyed a ten cent rate on wheat. To-day from Brandon to Fort William there is a sixteen cent rate. In those years we had a 60i cent rate on live stock from Winnipeg to Montreal; today we are charged 85 cents.

Wheat can be milled in transit. Suppose, for instance, we stop a carload of wheat at Portage la Prairie, and it is there milled. The miller receives the benefit of the through rate. But if you bring a trainload of live stock from western Canada and want to feed the stock in transit no such privilege is available. The old Manitoba rate applied on all commodities, and the Crowsnest pass rate was not

Western Freight Rates

to be compared with it. That old rate was secured by the Conservative party when they were in power in Manitoba. I think the hon. member for Lisgar will remember the occasion and will probably be good enough to give the Conservative party some credit for obtaining that rate. It saved millions for the province.

Now, if feeding-in-transit privilege could be secured for live stock shipments it would greatly help the live stock industry. During the past nineteen years the railways have earned a profit of $520,000,000 in the west, and $241,000,000 in the east. The capital investment in the west is half that in the east. In other words, the railways have earned twice as much in the west on half the capital investment that they have in the east. A statement to this effect appeared in the Manitoba Free Press of November 14, 1927. Anyone who has travelled on the branch lines in Manitoba is familiar with the old rattletrap cars that have been transferred to western Canada after having been withdrawn from service on the eastern lines.

The farmer pays the freight rate on screenings to Fort William. I should like to see something done to secure a lower rate on screenings from Fort William back to Manitoba and Saskatchewan, for it is very suitable feed for live stock. Under the old Manitoba rate Saskatchewan got the benefit through to the lakehead on every commodity coming in and going out. The Crowsnest pass rates that my friends talk so much about all over the country apply only on grain and flour.

All through the years I have been a champion of lower freight rates. No man can exist on the farms of western Canada to-day while the present freight rates continue in force. When you complain to the railway companies they say the rates are due to the labour costs. I take issue with that statement. In the early days fourteen cars of cattle constituted a train, the crew numbered five, and the rate was 60i cents a hundred pounds. What do you see to-day leaving Winnipeg? You see a seventy-car train in charge of the same number of men as formerly, five of a crew. True, the men are paid a little more money; true, there is a little more upkeep on their locomotives and track, but they are pulling a much greater tonnage, and it is not labour that is responsible for the present freight rates at all.

I am in favour of this resolution, Mr. Speaker, but I should like to see it go further and apply to live stock as well as to grain.

Topic:   WESTERN FREIGHT RATES
Subtopic:   REDUCTION OF DOMESTIC RATES ON GRAIN AND GRAIN PRODUCTS
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CON

John Anderson Fraser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. A. FRASER (Cariboo):

if that connection were .made Alberta would have the opportunity of sending to British Columbia down through the great central Valley, the Fraser river valley, her products which are required all through that country by the live stock industry. I believe in British Columbia we have nearly 250,000 head of cattle, of which about 110,000 are in the Cariboo district, that great central valley of British Columbia. This is one of the largest natural areas for the development of the live stock industry in Canada; it is capable of immense development, and I believe if the Pacific Great Eastern were connected up with the Canadian National at Prince George there would be a large amount of traffic in order to provide the live stock industry with coarse grains and other products of the prairies. I point that out as one of the things that seem to make Alberta and British Columbia fit in so well. It is a matter well worth the consideration of the house, and I hope it will be taken into consideration when the question of freight rates as between those two provinces is under discussion.

I did not intend to say very much, Mr. Speaker; I sympathize sincerely with the poultrymen and the dairymen of the Fraser valley, who use a large amount of the grain products grown in Alberta. They are paying entirely too much of a differential; the differential should be more like that existing in the rates between Winnipeg and Montreal. If we had something approaching that figure I do not think there would be many complaints, but at present in my opinion it is entirely out of line.

Topic:   WESTERN FREIGHT RATES
Subtopic:   REDUCTION OF DOMESTIC RATES ON GRAIN AND GRAIN PRODUCTS
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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Denis

Liberal

Mr. J. ARTHUR DENIS (St. Denis) (Translation):

Mr. Speaker, I have closely

followed the remarks made by the hon. member for Qu'Appelle (Mr. Perley) in connection with the resolution before the house, it strikes me, however, that there are, in this dominion, other provinces besides the western provinces. There is, for instance, the province of Quebec and that of Ontario, both of which are equally entitled to government favours. If the sponsor of this resolution had wished to be fair to all, he should have included, in his request for lower freight rates, the province of Quebec whose products are shipped to the western provinces, this would have helped to promote between the provinces an exchange of products and thereby put into practice the policy so strongly advocated of "Canada First."

For a number of years past, and even today, Quebec is called upon to stand the racket. The government, at the last session, thought first to grant the western provinces

fMr. J. A. Fraser.]

a rebate of five cents on each bushel of wheat exported. We requested a rebate for Quebec butter but we failed to obtain it, the government positively refusing to entertain such a request.

When a request is made to parliament care should be taken to avoid causing any prejudice to other provinces interested, but rather see that fair play to which they are entitled is observed and that they are not called upon to bear the extravagances of the others. Since the western people have but few products to dispose of on the Canadian market, it strikes me that the government should not bleed us to death to foster the sale of these products to the detriment of other provinces. Canada is at present in a very critical state, our railways are almost bankrupt, it is inexpedient to ask the government a rebate on freight rates. WTe should rather encourage them to practise economy and try to find work for the people of this country. The government instead of thanking employees for their services should, on the contrary, keep them at work, and make sacrifices in order that all may be given an opportunity to earn a living, it should moreover find them work, help in reestablishing the "bonne entente" which must exist between the provinces, and avoid all discrimination.

Topic:   WESTERN FREIGHT RATES
Subtopic:   REDUCTION OF DOMESTIC RATES ON GRAIN AND GRAIN PRODUCTS
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CON

Follin Horace Pickel

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. F. H. PICKEL (Brome-Missisquoi):

I should like to say just a word or two on this subject, Mr. Speaker. This matter has a great many angles. Probably the differential between export and domestic rates is necessary in order that our wheat may be exported in competition with the other countries of the world, but the people in my riding suffer from that differential. In the town of Richford, Vermont, twenty miles south on the Canadian Pacific railway, Canadian mill feed, shorts, bran and middlings, can be bought for less than they can be bought in my own home town. I am told that is so because the people in that city are able to buy full carloads or trainloads of mill feed while we have to rate a local car and pay a special domestic rate from Montreal. That is one of the disabilities under which the dairy farmers of the eastern townships are suffering to-day. It is hard for us to buy mill feed at these high prices and compete with the people across the line. If that price could be reduced; if we could get a domestic or a through rate from the west right to my town, we could buy mill feed for a great deal less. As it is the trains come to Montreal from the west; they are broken up and distributed to different parts of the province, and we have to pay the

Western Freight Rates

domestic rate. That is something which I should like the government to take into consideration.

I am very much in favour of having the question submitted to a competent body of men who will deal with the matter intelligently. I think the suggestion of the Minister of Railways (Mr. Manion) was a good one, namely, that the House of Commons is not in a position, has not the expert knowledge, to deal with the question in the manner in which it should be handled, and so far as the Board of Railway Commissioners is concerned,

I am not in a position to say whether it is a competent board to deal with the matter or not. Certainly the rates should be adjusted in the best interests of the majority of the people.

Topic:   WESTERN FREIGHT RATES
Subtopic:   REDUCTION OF DOMESTIC RATES ON GRAIN AND GRAIN PRODUCTS
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CON

John Thomas Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. T. SPROULE (East Lambton):

Mr. Speaker, I believe the house would welcome a reduction in rates all the way around. I notice hon. gentlemen opposite have stated that they would be very much in favour of rates being reduced. It seems to me freight rates at present are so high that many commodities cannot be moved. For instance, it is impossible to-day to move straw and hay and some other commodities of that nature. If therefore, the rates could be reduced, much benefit would ensue. One of the previous speakers pointed out that the statement has been made that the rates cannot be reduced because the railways are losing money now. On some of the branch lines there are trains going out drawing four, five or six cars although they could haul ten or twelve cars at the same cost. If the rates could be reduced, there are many commodities that could be moved, thereby giving occasion for the employment of a great deal of labour.

For instance, take potatoes. What can be done with them at their present price? You can take almost any form of produce you like and you will find the freight rates are almost as high as the price of the commodity itself. Does it not sound reasonable that if those freight rates were reduced, a great deal of labour would be involved right along the line? An hon. member on this side of the house pointed out how the introduction of the penny postage had brought about an increase in revenue. I have noticed that since the reduction in the week-end passenger rates most of the railway coaches are crowded and the railway is deriving a great deal of revenue in that way. I have heard many people say that at those rates they would rather take the train than drive their cars. Similarly, there is moving by truck to-day a great deal of

freight that would go by rail if the freight rates were within reason. Would the railways not be justified in making the experiment? It has been said that the railway men have figured the matter out, but at the present time there is a good opportunity to make the experiment in order to try, by reducing the rates, to move some of these commodities to the places where they are required.

Let me go a little further. A great deal of live stock to-day is being moved by truck. In our locality they have trucks that will hold almost as much as a cattle car. I have seen a truck that contained seventy hogs and ten sheep. If any more than that were put in a cattle car, the chances are that some inspector would come along, and if there happened to be a dead animal in the car, the man who made the shipment would be fined. But that truck carried those animals 175 miles without one dying; it landed them at their destination about eight or ten hours sooner than by train, and with that much less shrinkage. What does that mean? It means that the railroad must develop a very fast service and reduce the rates if it is going to compete with the trucks.

Take the case of a man who raises hay and is prepared to sell it for $5 or $6 a ton. The freight rate from around my district to Toronto is S4.50 a ton. Do you mean to tell me the man who owns the land, raises the hay, cuts it, presses it, draws it to the station and puts it into the car, is not doing more labour than the man who hauls it from that station to Toronto? Is there any comparison? Yet I can mention different localities where hundreds of tons of hay that were lying in the stack a year ago are still there to-day. Why? Simply because the farmers cannot afford to sell it and pay the freight on it. These are the conditions.

Topic:   WESTERN FREIGHT RATES
Subtopic:   REDUCTION OF DOMESTIC RATES ON GRAIN AND GRAIN PRODUCTS
Permalink

At eleven o'clock the house adjourned without question put, pursuant to standing order. Tuesday, March 8, 1932


March 7, 1932