Mr. G. F. Higgins (St. John's East):
Mr. Speaker, I realize that at this stage of the evening, after a subject has been so well debated, it is exceedingly difficult to say anything that has not been said before. This subject, however, is of such great importance to the maritime provinces and Newfoundland that I think anything, even though it may be repetitious, may be fairly said.
As the minister said after introducing the measure, it is based on the recommendations of the royal commission on transportation. So far as I have read the bill, that part of greatest importance to the maritimes, and certainly to Newfoundland is section 332A dealing with equalization. When introducing the subject on April 5, as reported at page 1656 of Hansard, the minister said, referring to the report:
In the chapter entitled "Equalization" the commission is of the opinion that the time has arrived when there should be equalization of freight rates in Canada so far as that is possible. To say in a report that there should be equalization is one thing, and to put it into effect is another.
That, I think, is the gist of the whole difficulty with which hon. members find themselves faced today. In discussing the resolution the other evening, and again in introducing the measure today, I believe the minister endeavoured to lay at rest some of the worries
of maritime members with respect to increases in their freight rate structure. On Tuesday-night, when he was asked on one or two occasions as to the increases to be faced in freight rates, especially by Newfoundland, he said quite definitely that this legislation had nothing whatsoever to do with increases in freight rates. After reading his remarks and studying the legislation I must agree with him in so far as the measure itself is concerned. But, Mr. Speaker, at this point we diverge. Here I join with members of my party who have spoken this afternoon, and who have disagreed with the minister and with the senior member for Halifax (Mr. Dickey) in the interpretation they have placed upon the bill.
As the senior member for Halifax said, if you can read the king's English you must understand you are fully protected by the Maritime Freight Rates Act. I may not have quoted his words exactly, but that is what I understood him to say. That may be so, and the minister may be perfectly correct in what he says. But again I say that is a legal interpretation. While I have a high opinion of the minister's legal ability, with all due respect to him I would want a little more than an opinion. If we had a definite and positive undertaking by the government that there will be no increases in freight rates so far as our province is concerned, then I would have no further hesitation in taking my seat at this moment. But I know we cannot get that. With all due respect to what was said by the minister as to certain applications being sub judice-and he was referring to applications now pending before the board of transport commissioners-I say that such applications are based upon this measure. In my opinion any reference to them-and again I bow to the ruling that has been given-is not out of order in this discussion. It is the interpretation to be put upon this measure as to which the board of transport commissioners are now being asked by the railways to rule.
Equalization as we understand it, and as it has been explained to us, means merely that the western provinces, which have agreed to this theory of equalization and which have been complaining bitterly for years about high freight rates, will have their freight rates scaled down, while maritime rates will be increased. That is what equalization is going to mean. We had not long been a part of this dominion before we were faced with a freight rate dispute of another type. This involved an increase in freight rates for Newfoundland. At that time I made the brash statement that I would resign from this august company if we were not given justice. I was happy to 94699-30
note that my threat was taken into consideration and that I did not have to resign; because I can assure hon. members that I am not going to repeat the threat. I was young in the membership of the house in those days. However, there is another chamber in parliament, a chamber used to mild speeches, a chamber used to conducting itself in a more orderly manner; and I hope I am not using an improper word. Recently over there we heard very strong statements made by a Newfoundland Liberal senator.
Subtopic: IMPLEMENTING CERTAIN RECOMMENDATIONS OF ROYAL COMMISSION ON TRANSPORTATION
Sub-subtopic: MAINTENANCE OF TRACKAGE