Mr. JAMES ARTHURS (Parry Sound):
The hon. member for North Bruce will pardon me if I do not follow him through all his very strenuous effort to gloss over, shall I say, or to defend the action of the government of which he was a member. The hon. gentleman spent about thirty minutes of his first speech in defending the actions of the late government as far as the Canadian National is concerned, and spent about five minutes in attacking the financial policy of this government. Outside of that, I have not observed anything very constructive in what he said, no matter how eloquently and brilliantly his speech was delivered.
I would like to say that the people of this country at the present time are watching very closely this legislation, and the action of this house. And it is perfectly right that they should. In the first place the citizens of Can-
ada are interested in the matter as taxpayers of this country. They are the people who in the past have paid and who in the future must pay the bills or deficits of the Canadian National Railways. Then we must consider that they are also the shareholders of this railway system, and if the road succeeds they hope in the future, and I believe have reason to hope, that they will ultimately get back some return for the money which has been spent, perhaps recklessly, upon the system. There is another reason why they should be interested which I do not think has been brought forward in this house as prominently as it should be, namely that the people of Canada are the customers of both these railroads. The people of this country are entitled to value for the expenditures they make, whether for passenger service or freight service or anything else. Then another class of men interested in this legislation is the men who are at the present time employed by either of the great railroads, or those who have been for some time out of work on account of the cessation of such employment. All these should be considered in this connection.
In times of depression people are always looking around for some one or some thing to blame. In this particular case the blame has been largely placed upon the railroads. I agree entirely with the previous speaker, the hon. member for North Bruce, that our railways have not lost business in as large a proportion as many other trades. It is true our railway business has fallen from
8477,000,000 per year to 8260,000,000 per year in three years, but I would like to inquire what business has not fallen off more than that. Especially the external trade both of this country and every other civilized country has fallen in a much greater proportion. The previous speaker instanced the pulp and paper industry. Before the depression it was a good industry, distributed over the country at various places, and making money. Unfortunately like our railways it was exploited, we had mergers, plants were purchased by the syndicate and closed, far larger plants were built than were required at that time or than will be required for many years to come, and as a result the investing public in Canada lost hundreds of millions in that enterprise. Take the steel industry or the lumber industry, you find that in those trades there is less than 15 per cent of the business there was in the boom time, whereas the railways still have 54 per cent.
I might state, from a non-political viewpoint, the situation as it appears to me. Previous to the amalgamation of the roads in the national system, I was a member of
C JV R -C .P.R. Bill-Mr. Arthurs
this house. I remember well previous to the war we were forced to find scores of millions of dollars almost every year, if not every year, to keep two of the railroads afloat, I refer to the Grand Trunk and Canadian Northern. Very large amounts, my recollection is about 830,000,000 a year, were being voted by parliament as loans, never repaid, to these two roads in order to keep them afloat. This went on during the war, until as has been pointed out very ably by the Minister of Railways and the Prime Minister, these investments became larger and eventually we were forced to take over the roads. And this expenditure has gone on ever since. I am not talking politically when I say that during the last ten years very large amounts of money have been expended upon this system, which were unwisely spent, very unwisely spent. As a result the interest charges have been mounting from year to year, and you have the present situation. Personally I believe it is only a question of time, we hope a short time, until this road will be in a very different position. There is no doubt we have a good railroad, there is no doubt that even in less than normally prosperous times the road would pay, and the people of Canada instead of going into their pockets to pay deficits would have some little surplus. There is no question in my mind that that will be true in time to come.
Some people believe, and the view has been strongly urged in some sections of the press, that there should be a recapitalization of this railway. I submit that this would make practically no difference to the public. It makes no difference to us as Canadians whether the capitalization of this road is 81 or $1,000,000 or $1,000,000,000. We are the sole stockholders; the benefits, if any, and the trouble, if any, will be ours in any event. For bookkeeping purposes probably it is desirable to fix some capitalization, but it would have no effect on present circumstances.
As I said, we know that during the past years there has been extravagance, both on the-Canadian Pacific and the Canadian National. Wages reached a veTy high level, salaries were high, we know that in the case of the Canadian National there were a score of men who received a greater salary than the Prime Minister of Canada, and some of them a larger salary than the President of the United States of America. Those were the circumstances. Then, as I said before, we had the hotels, the steamship lines and the large terminals which were not necesasry either then or now.
Lately, Mr. Speaker, the cry has changed; both the railways and the public demand 53719-1845
economy. I should like to point out that the first economy practised was one which was highly undesirable in many ways; it was the cutting down of railway services even before the last crash. Then we had the cutting down of wages, which was opposed by many people, and perhaps it was unfortunate that the railways should have been among the first to take that action. The next step was the dismissal of many men, and I believe that in many cases the number of employees was reduced unnecessarily. No one can convince me that two section men can do as much work as four meq, or that two men can look after seven miles of track as well as four men could look after five miles. Before the reduction in staff we had four section men to every four or five miles of track, on the average. First that number was reduced to three and ultimately to two. As a result we have thousands of men out of employment and we are gradually losing the permanent effectiveness of our railways. That was what occurred during the war. We did not have enough men to keep our tracks in good shape; as a consequence the ties over whole sections of the road became rotten, and ultimately they had to be replaced at a cost of millions of dollars. The roads are alike in this regard. I should like to point out that when trade revives and traffic increases we should not expect these expenses to be kept down. Twenty trains cannot be run with ten crews. These railwaymen will be reemployed as traffic increases, and the same is true of the men who look after the maintenance of the road-beds, the men in the shops and so on. We hope the expenses of the railways will be heavier to-morrow than they are to-day and still heavier next year, because that will show that business is reviving and traffic increasing.
I think it would be very desirable to impress upon these trustees not only the necessity for making every possible saving- and no doubt a great deal can be done in that way-but also that this saving should not be made at the expense of the working men to a greater extent than is necessary, because I believe it is well to keep these men at hand.
Subtopic: FIRST READING