Section 35, which introduces part V of the bill, contains a distinct departure in the matter of transportation control. I am not going to argue the matter at length because the bill was discussed thoroughly in the committee on railways and canals. However, when the bill was under consideration in the committee I made it clear that I was opposed to this part and particularly to these four sections, and indicated that I would oppose them when they came before the committee of the whole. I should like to state briefly the reasons for my objection to this part and to this particular section.
This section is a distinctly retrograde move. The board of railway commissioners was set up in 1904. For years previously chaos and discrimination and unfairness had existed in the railway transport business, both in Canada and in the United States. It will be recalled that powerful corporations in those earlier days would frequently secure privileges and advantages from the railway companies which were not open to smaller shippers or sometimes to other large shippers who were in a competitive position. These abuses were done away with in the United States by the appointment of the interstate commerce commission and the application of its code of laws, and in Canada by the appointment of the board of railway commissioners and the enactment of the Railway Act, with the various amendments that have been made since 1904.
I do not hesitate to pay tribute to the boards of railway commissioners that have been sitting in this country for the last thirty or so years. Almost always they have been presided over by able and distinguished men, sometimes by very distinguished men. Because of their findings a sort of case law has been built up which I believe is accepted. Their rulings are now recognized, generally speaking, as equitable and fair. The public interest has been well protected. It has been argued in support of this measure, which will set up a board of transport commissioners, that they will administer the law in the same manner as it has been administered in the past. I have no doubt they will, but the point is that by this part the board is instructed to permit agreements to be made 51952-229
between the railway companies and individual shippers.
Something that has been prohibited for years, something that has been recognized on no occasion, is now to become law: a private shipper and a railway company may enter into an agreement. I am quite aware it will be argued that this provision has been surrounded with the necessary safeguards, but the principle involved is a serious one. Under the Railway Act through the years unjust and unfair discrimination has been defined and its application guarded against. Furthermore, any discriminatory, competitive or special rate has been open to all shippers along the lines affected by the rate. Under this bill an agreement may be made with an individual shipper, and then provision is made to permit those who object to come before the board to State their case. If they can make good their case, there is no doubt in my mind that the board will do justice, but this is a reversal of the principle that has obtained in. the past.
Furthermore, this part limits the application of this provision to those who are defined in the bill as carriers. A carrier is defined as follows:
"Carrier" means any person engaged in the transport of goods or passengers for hire or reward to whom this act applies, and shall include any company which is subject to the Railway Act.
This bill does not apply to highway transport. I think it is quite clear that the intention of part, V is to give the railway companies a weapon which will enable them to compete with the trucks on the highways. The trucking companies are not to have access to this court in order to present any grievance they may have, nor will private individuals who are not carriers under this definition be allowed to appear. My submission before the committee was that the word "carrier" should be changed to "persons," that any person in Canada should be allowed to appear before the board in the same manner as he is permitted to appear before any court for the purpose of securing redress of grievances. As I have Stated already, under this bill a carrier is limited to those licensed under this legislation. This makes a definite distinction and limitation and is another reason why I am opposed to this part.
My main objection is that this bill introduces into our legislative control of railways the principle of granting permission to a railway company to make an agreement with a special shipper. Whether or not the agreement is unfair is to be decided after the agreement is made. If one will study the
section carefully he will find that these are the words which control the possibility of a complainant making good his case:
Being the same goods as or similar goods to and being offered for carriage under substantially similar circumstances and conditions as the goods to which the agreed charge relates.
I submit it will be extremely difficult for a small shipper ever to demonstrate that he is prepared, although in competition with the big shipper, to ship goods under substantially similar circumstances and conditions as would the large shipper. For example, a large shipper may have outlets all over Canada. He makes an agreement with the railway company to carry all his freight, because that is the suggested excuse for this measure, that the railway can bargain to get all this shipper's freight and thus get away from their highway competitors some of the traffic the railways are now losing. So the shipper engages to ship all his freight over this line, and he gets in return a flat rate over different zones. Then the smaller shipper comes along. He perhaps serves only one section of the country. He is in direct competition with the large shipper so far as his goods are concerned, but he cannot show the same circumstances and conditions. The answer that will be made to him is obvious: You ship only a small quantity and operate only in a certain territory, while the large shipper ships all over Canada; therefore as the circumstances are not alike and the conditions are not similar you have no case. Yet, Mr. Chairman, the competition is there, and the small shipper will thus be more or less ruthlessly driven out of the market.
Subtopic: AUTHORITY TO CONTROL TRANSPORT OF PASSENGERS AND GOODS BY RAILWAYS, SHIPS AND AIRCRAFT