March 16, 1933

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Mr. MBRQIER@St. Henri) (Translation

A slippery one.

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CON

Charles Napoléon Dorion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DORION (Translation):

This bill is

a national affair, and should be studied in that light. When we examine the present railway situation in Canada, we quickly conclude that radical remedies must be applied, without further delay. It is futile, for the moment, to seek the origin of such a situation and place the responsibility of it on such and such a political party. This question has been before the public for the last twenty-five years. Already, in 1925, a special committee of the Senate was selected to hold an inquiry and report, on the means to be taken to relieve the country of the heavy expenditures in which our railways had dragged us. A number of plans were proposed and these form the nucleus of the Duff Commission's report.

We are bound to acknowledge the fact that, of all the difficulties prevailing in the various spheres of our national activities, the transport industry of railways is certainly the one which affects us the most. The situation of this industry is most alarming. No more than in the various fields of activity were our railways spared, however, what makes the settlement of the problem more difficult, is that it embraces our entire national life.

Personally, I do not think that the remedy proposed by the present bill can entirely restore the finances of our railways, although it will perhaps, improve the conditions now

prevailing. Even after this measure is enacted, we must discontinue the operation methods used heretofore.

No doubt we will be called upon, before long, to again legislate in order to rescue what can be saved by merger, in connection with the management and operation of the railways, namely the colossal sums invested in the railways by the Canadian government and shareholders of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Let us be frank, is this not the beginning of a liquidation? Is it not our duty to endeavour to make this liquidation the least burdensome possible for the Canadian people? If we do not stem the tide of this crisis, it is the entire structure of our financial system which will be shaken.

In a message to the United States Congress, President Hoover pointed out the immense danger threatening the United States railways, and I think the same may be said of our Canadian railways.

The railway problem, he stated, is, among all, the most pressing one. The prosperity of our railways is closely linked to that of all the country's industries. The financial stability of the railways is of the utmost importance to the United States, and all improvement in the economic situation is subordinate to its maintenance.

This weighty statement, I repeat, might also have been made to the 'Canadian people. Our railways had and still have to contend with numerous defects: too numerous lines; double or triple services without any profit possibility; exaggerated and ruinous competition with one another for over forty years; lack of a sound policy generally in the railway management; numerous duplication of lines, etc. But what has caused more trouble in the railway transport industry are the senseless expenditures as, for instance, the building of large hotels, many of which cannot meet their cost of operation; also the continual and unrestricted borrowing, either on long or short terms, without providing for a sinking fund to meet these liabilities. I shall not quote what the amounts of the liabilities of our two railways are, they are on record. Without the continuous and repeated help given by the state to the Canadian National Railways they would have been bankrupt long ago.

Again, I state that I am doubtful of the complete efficiency of the remedy proposed by the bill under discussion. With the fixed charges which burden the national railways, the enormous capital which must be refunded, and the mortgages they are burdened with, their operation becomes almost impossible.

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LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. J. A. VERVILLE (Lotbiniere) (Translation) :

Mr. Speaker, I closely followed the

speech which the hon. member for Quebec Montmorency (Mr. Don on), has just read to

the house. From his viewpoint, his speech is a vindication of the bill under consideration, it is also, to a great extent, a censure of the measure. So far as we can judge by the provisions of the bill, we must readily recognize that it lays down a principle that we must either accept or reject. Must the government exercise a control over our railways? This question is clearly stated in the bill.

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LIB

Joseph-Alexandre Mercier

Liberal

Mr. MERCIER (St. Henri) (Translation):

Hear! hear!

Mr. VERVILLE .(Translation): My reply

to this question is that I cannot answer for the Liberal party; however, as a member of the opposition, I state that the government should not divest itself of the responsibility which it assumed when it took over the administration of the railways of this country.

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LIB
LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

If, at the time, the government were justified in assuming the responsibility for the administration of our railways, it behooves them, to-day, to carry on this administration, and, I wonder why the government tell us: Let us set aside this responsibility, because the Senate requests us to do so and wishes us to act in such and such a way. Who is responsible to the people? The House or the Senate?

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LIB

Joseph-Alexandre Mercier

Liberal

Mr. MERCIER (St. Henri) (Translation):

The people.

An hon. MEMBER (Translation): Louder.

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LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

I put the

question, whether I do so in a loud voice or not, the question is put and let hon. members answer it.

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LIB
LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

I am in

favour of the bill inasmuch as no merger of railways is contemplated or the national railways, do not become the property of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

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LIB
LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

I should

like to use an expression which is commonly used-however politeness and the rules of the house do not allow us to disclose all our thoughts. I shall simply state: The bill

such as it is, is very indefinite as to what may become of our railways. The government

C.N.R.-C.P.R. Bill-Mr. Verville

will appoint three commissioners-designate them as you please-however, let us proceed rationally; there is no intelligent member who does not foresee what will happen. The government will appoint some one to represent the Canadian National Railways, there is no doubt that it will he a person connected with the -Canadian Pacific Railway. The latter will naturally recommend also, that one of its men be appointed, both will then choose a third person who will again be a Canadian Pacific Railway man. We shall then have three Canadian Pacific Railway men to manage the Canadian National Railways. The bill states that there will be no merger; however, the bill embodies all the necessary provisions to safeguard the Canadian Pacific Railway bondholders-there are a great number of them on the government side and they will appoint their own men to carry out the merger of the Canadian National Railway, with the Canadian Pacific Railway; not officially, as this merger practically took place two years ago.

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LIB
LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

To better

illustrate what I have in mind, may I state that, if one has travelled the least between Quebec and Montreal-the railway distance is not a long one, 170 miles-

An hon. MEMBER (Translation): It is a tedious trip.

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation); -one knows that the Canadian National Railways gave us a very efficient train service between Quebec and Montreal. It has now been discontinued. This train afforded people, who were travelling to Montreal, an opportunity of arriving early to pass a quiet evening.

Some hon. MEMBERS (Translation): Cooperation ! co-operation!

Mr. ST-PERE (Translation): What train

does the hon. member take?

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LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

I always

took the train on which I could get service, that is the one which was taken off. Now, each time I have to travel to Quebec, I take the Canadian Pacific Railway because I get better service, for which the officials of the Canadian National Railway became responsible when they discontinued this train service to the benefit of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

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LIB
LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

I should

like to ask the government a question-; however, I know the government will refuse to answer it: When the Grand Trunk was purchased by the government so as to permit the bondholders to save whatever money they * had invested in this enterprise, is it not a fact that the higher officials of the Grand Trunk were transferred to the management of the Canadian National Railways? After putting, first, the Grand Trunk into bankruptcy, to-day these same officials are responsible for putting the Canadian National Railways into bankruptcy! And to thank them for this service, positions are created for them! They are told: we shall merge your company with the Canadian Pacific Railway; however, you must keep it quiet; the bill stipulates: no merger, fair competition.

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LIB
LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

One complains that the government railways are costly, that they do not meet their liabilities, that the country must disburse millions and millions of dollars yearly to meet their deficits. I wonder how it happens that this was only discovered since our friends opposite have assumed power. Have hon. members opposite noticed that a crisis existed throughout the country? Have they noticed that there was a business depression? They stated when they were endeavouring to get in power, that there was nothing abnormal. Do they notice anything now? They were wrong, they expected that the crisis would only last a year; it is lasting too long for them and, to-day, instead of admitting that they were wrong, they confess their incompetence.

Mr. ST-PERE (Translation); It will destroy them.

An hon. MEMBER (Translation): Hear, hear.

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LIB

Joseph-Achille Verville

Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE (Translation):

They have made quite a find to replace the word merger; fair competition. Is there anything which would lead us to believe that our hon. friends are in favour of fair competition? Let them state it openly! We belong to the people, we live among the people, we are not capitalists. We might make suggestions which would improve the lot of our railways, however, they state that they could not accept them because their leaders, the front benchers, would not wish to invest their millions in any enterprises we might suggest.

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March 16, 1933