March 25, 1968

LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

Mr. Chairman, first of all I would like to thank my hon. friend for his kind words and I apologize for not having met him at the reception in Trois Rivieres. Certainly I will see he is invited next time and will be most delighted to meet him there. It is also true, as he suggests, that I received a warm welcome. I was not surprised but I was certainly delighted with the degree of the welcoming warmth that I received there.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
IND
LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

Merci bien. So far as the question that he has raised is concerned, I did have an inquiry made earlier because of the allegations which had been made, and there was no indication that there had been any negligence. If my hon. friend has any evidence to the contrary I would be glad to see it. In the meantime I would undertake to send him the report which sets out day by day exactly what was done so that he can study it. Perhaps this will assist him in reaching some conclusion in his own mind whether or not everything possible that could be done was done.

There were unusual circumstances. It was one of the most severe winters in many years. As my hon. friend knows, the only thing that the department can do is break a channel and let the ice flow out to the sea. If in certain parts of the river there is very little current and there are adverse winds, the ice does not move toward the sea. Then we get a jamming condition which can produce very serious results. Sometimes it brings about flood conditions. When that happens it is due to the weather and is beyond the control of the department. This, to the best of my knowledge and belief, is exactly what happened. I would be pleased to send my hon. friend the information I have and I think it will satisfy him. If after having read it there are any further questions in his mind or he has evidence over and beyond what has been made available to me, then I would be glad to reconsider the question.

[DOT] (5:40 p.m.)

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
RA

Roland Godin

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Godin:

Mr. Chairman, the items before us now are public items and as we must consider ourselves as representatives of the

Supply-Transport

Canadian people, we must either accept or reject those estimates.

Now, when we consider the way those estimates will be spent, we find out that one part will be used in favour of a company operating under the aegis of this department, and I am referring now to the Canadian National Railways.

Therefore, I avail myself of this opportunity to point out to the hon. minister that our constituents are asking for details as regards the administration of this crown corporation. We know that grants enable it to make both ends meet. We also know about the means used to put it on its feet again. It is public knowledge. But when the time comes to tell us how those amounts are spent, it becomes a question of internal administration, and the matter is taboo.

I personally placed on the order paper a few questions concerning the activities of the Canadian National Railways. As an example, I shall quote one question I considered then as being in order and the answer I was given. It was question No. 1068 of August 29, 1966.

How many employees of the Canadian National Railway get a salary (a) between $4,000 and $6,000, (b) between $6,000 and $8,000, (c) between $8,000 and $10,000, (d) between $10,000 and $15,000, (e) between $15,000 and $25,000, (f) of $25,000 or more?

In order to support my previous statement, I will quote the answer given by the parliamentary secretary to the then minister of transport, the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Byrne):

The management of the Canadian National Railways gives the following information:

It was not considered in the best interest of the company to disclose information as required on the earnings of the employees.

I often placed questions on the order paper and an employee, responsible for its editing, gave me a phone call and said: Mr. Godin, I did receive your question, but do not try to place it on the order paper or to have it accepted. It pertains to internal administration and you will not get an answer.

It is a fact that it is the company's interest to prevent its administrative methods from becoming public knowledge and to keep certain details secret.

However, when the company is faced with a deficit, when it requires 50 or 60 million dollars in order to make both ends meet, then it becomes public business and they come before parliament to make up for the deficit. Then, the government does not hesitate to

March 25, 1968

Supply-Transport

make a grab for the handbags and pockets of Canadians. It is indeed revolting to learn about such things when we know how those deficits were created.

I wish, once again, to take this opportunity to point out to the minister how those deficits are created and what is their cause.

The main cause, I think, is patronage. When I speak about patronage, I refer to the ridiculous rates granted to certain companies by the Canadian National Railways.

I could name a member of the board of directors of the Canadian National Railways who is also an honorary member of a company in the province of Quebec. The company uses this official to obtain favorable prices.

Now the big companies contribute to election campaign funds, but I should like to point out to the minister that the companies' money does not always reach those funds, and that certain agents fatten their wallets with some of it. In fact, I know one of those agents who earns $1000 a month just by sitting as a honorary director of a company. Now, as soon as he goes back to sit on the board of the C.N.R., he can get advantageous prices for the company which pays him for his small services.

It is obvious then that the companies which do business in a territory other than that of the C.N.R., that is to say which must transport their goods by the C.P.R., which operates in a reasonable manner and with a profit, are left behind those which benefit from C.N.R. rates.

Since transport is more and more important in a country such as ours, where it must be admitted that a large number of people owe their success to the C.N.R., I think that a little more consideration should be given to the generous offers made by the C.N.R. to a few companies. Whether we like it or not, this can cause irreparable damage to those who want to hold their own by using other services. This can also cause irreparable damage in the sense that certain companies will be forced to close down, being unable to get rates similar to those of their competitors.

Mr. Chairman, I suggest that this is dishonest and unfair competition, since all those companies must live, they provide work for Canadians and they do not receive an equal treatment. Some companies can benefit from ridiculously low rates, while others get the short end of the stick.

Some truckers are hard hit by that situation, and I would like to read a resolution I

received from the Federation des associations de camionneurs de la Mauricie Inc. It is resolution No. 11 passed at their general meeting held in Saint-Adolphe on October 12, 1967, a copy of which was sent to the then member of the administration (Mr. Chretien). I quote:

Inquiry concerning the reason why the C.N.R. allegedly has reduced its freight rates with regard to the transportation of hard wood logs from Rapide Blanc to Ste-Thecle, Laviolette County, and from Rapide Blanc to Garneau Jonction, Laviolette County?

As a result of such action, about 30 truck owners who are members of the Federation found themselves in a difficult situation. We would be much obliged to you if you could give us the reason of such a dractic measure, since the C.N.R. thus becomes an unfair competitor, which is unjustified since the C.N.R. is a crown corporation, therefore a company owned and subsidized by the people. We therefore ask you to take the necessary steps to remedy that state of affairs and to get things straightened out.

I can say that things have not been straightened out in that area, but also that other similar situations arose elsewhere and on a much wider scale.

Mr. Chairman, I would now like to bring up another matter. For the third time, I would like to tell the minister about the living conditions of the C.N.R. employees, especially those who work on mobile teams and must sleep in railway cars during the summer months.

During election campaigns, on great occasions, for instance last year for the centennial of confederation, some people expressed their appreciation in high sounding speeches to those who built our country. Of course, we counted deceased persons among them, because we know very well that they will ask us nothing; we also counted people who had worked on the construction of railroads.

Indeed, the construction of a railway is important, but I claim that its maintainance is not less important. In a vast country such as ours, which stretches for miles and miles, workers have to labour unsparingly and they must give service regularly, in extreme temperatures, while here, in parliament, where we have good heat and good lighting, we cannot imagine what it may be like for a man to work in all kinds of weather.

Now, many tasks are carried out by special machines, but machines will never replace manual labour, for accurate work for instance. There will always be impossible spots, where only a human being will do, and the worker will always be indispensable to operate the machine.

March 25, 1968

March 25, 1968

Supply-Transport

are merely asking for something quite in order for our own people.

Now, I should like to see the hon. minister at least make an effort to house the Canadian National workers in the same way he houses our soldiers, our sailors and our airmen. In any part of the world, even in the underdeveloped countries, we always find it possible to house them well and to feed them well, and I imagine that in our own country we could see to it that they all are well-housed and well-fed.

Mr. Chairman, may I call it six o'clock, because I still have a few remarks to make after the dinner recess.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

Mr. Chairman, perhaps there would be some disposition on the part of the committee to sit for a few minutes to see whether others wish to speak.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
RA

Roland Godin

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Godin:

Mr. Chairman, if the house will permit, my remarks will not take too long.

Since I was talking about construction, I have before me a document which could assist the minister. It is an article written by Mr. Jean Cote in La Semaine Illustree, in the June 5-11 issue, where he refers to the picnic car, and I quote:

In order to enlighten the public with regard to the extravagance of the C.N.R., determined also to bring about an inquiry, we shall deal with the specific case of the picnic cars or the private cars of the privileged few of the company. After describing the situation, we shall see that it would be possible to reduce the deficits if the PASHAS, integrated within an overall policy of restraint, did not live in style at government expense.

When referring to style and all the rest, Mr. Cote illustrates his article with some revealing pictures.

Throughout Canada, there would be more than 75 picnic cars, of which 25 are in Quebec. They are available to a small group of lucky people, vicechairmen, foremen and other officials, and are being used for various purposes.

Those luxurious cars, the building of which cost half a million dollars or more, are real palaces on steel wheels. By means of a masterly arrangement, all the modern-life advantages were gathered under the same roof, showers, kitchen, bedrooms, parlours, and so on.

About 15 persons can sleep there comfortably, and a hundred of meals may be served every day without the guests being obliged, on account of the lack of space, to keep their hands in their pockets.

The picnic car is a skilful version of the luxurious cars of the regular lines where, for a few dollars, you can take it easy whenever by chance you board a train for a restful trip to a distant city.

Of course, the marquess' friends will spend unforgettable hours as guests on fishing or hunting trips in the most remote areas of Quebec.

We are told that the cars are not entirely new. The old can be made new.

Today, palaces on wheels are no longer made. Rather the old is made new, that is to say existing cars are converted into picnic cars, which is just as costly.

There is not enough space to give details on this scandalous situation, to give some names to our readers, to tell about some nice fishing parties amongst people who appreciate comfort and some spicy adventures that would be the talk of the town.

I do not intend to linger on this subject. I only wanted to show the minister that old cars could be made quite modem without adding all that was added to those picnic cars.

Mr. Chairman, since I would speak for ten more minutes, I would point out that it is six o'clock.

[DOT] (6:00 p.m.)

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
LIB

Herman Maxwell Batten (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

It is my duty, pursuant to provisional standing order 3 9A, to inform the house that the questions to be raised at ten o'clock this day are as follows: the hon. member for Brandon-Souris (Mr. Dinsdale), Indian Affairs-request for reconstitution of parliamentary committee; the hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway, (Mrs. Maclnnis), Consumer and Corporate Affairs-investigation into increase in price of milk.

It being six o'clock I do now leave the chair.

At six o'clock the committee took recess.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink

AFTER RECESS The committee resumed at 8 p.m.


RA

Roland Godin

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Godin:

Mr. Chairman, it is true that I am the one who called it six o'clock upon consideration of item 2c, regarding the acquisition of railway cars and other equipment.

Now, I have other remarks to make but they will mainly deal with the other item.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
IND

Gilles Grégoire

Independent

Mr. Gregoire:

Mr. Chairman, does item 2c not involve a general debate, as the-

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

-No.

March 25, 1968

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
?

Mr, Gregoire:

Otherwise, Mr. Chairman, I could go back to another item which I see here, item 5c.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Carried.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
IND

Gilles Grégoire

Independent

Mr. Gregoire:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to get some information: Does item 2c, the first one to be considered at the present time, as in the case of other departments, not authorize a general debate on the overall policy of the Department of Transport, or do we have to wait for a specific item on this matter?

The Assisiant Deputy Chairman: Order. At the present time the committee is considering a specific item.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Barnett:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask a question or two directly related to this vote 2c which has to do with the acquisition of railway cars and other equipment. The supplementary amount being asked is $76,500. In checking the main estimates for the fiscal year that is about to conclude, I find there is an item for $200,000. The comparable amount asked for in 1966-1967 period was $610,000. Turning to the main estimates for the coming fiscal year, which have already been tabled, I notice that $200,000 is indicated as the amount required.

I wonder if the minister can explain just what this supplementary vote is for? Following that, perhaps he could explain whether the vote results from the termination of a certain program and, in being asked to vote this amount of $76,500 are we, in effect, only being asked for this amount for the current fiscal year, or will the full spending for this year be $276,500? As I asked earlier, does this indicate the completion of a certain program of acquiring equipment?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

This additional amount is required to pay for the replacement of the Governor General's cars Nos. 1 and 2.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
NDP

David Orlikow

New Democratic Party

Mr. Orlikow:

I wonder if I could use discussion of this item to ask the minister a question which is becoming of increasing concern to railway workers across Canada? Some months ago there was a very sharp lay-off on both railways, but we are concerned particularly with the Canadian National. Several thousand railway workers across the country were laid off and there were protests from every part of the country. Last week I think there was an announcement in Winnipeg by

Supply-Transport

both the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National repair shops that they would be closed for a full month this summer. This means of course that every railway worker who works there will get at least one week's holiday without pay. Some of course will get more. There are recurring fears among railway workers that the lay-offs which I mentioned just a moment ago are going to continue.

The Assisiant Deputy Chairman: Order, please. The committee is not studying item 2c and there is nothing in that item related to working conditions or lay-offs. I ask the hon. member to confine his remarks to the subject mentioned in vote 2c.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
NDP

David Orlikow

New Democratic Party

Mr. Orlikow:

I have almost completed my remarks, and I am only going to ask a question. I assume that if the companies acquire railway cars, at some point those cars are going to need repair. Has the minister a statement to make as to whether we can expect more lay-offs of Canadian National Railway workers? This is the point I wanted to raise. If this is the wrong item, I can of course raise the matter farther along the line. It really does not make much difference.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
?

@Deputy Chair(man)? of Committees of the Whole

Shall vote 2c carry?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink

March 25, 1968