March 25, 1968

LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

Mr. Chairman, I think we might carry the other items. This would put us in the position which would seem to meet the pleasure of the house.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
NDP

Edward Richard Schreyer

New Democratic Party

Mr. Schreyer:

Mr. Chairman, I agree to passing 5c but I want to make some comments on 15c.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink

Item agreed to. [Mr. Gr£goire.l Railways and Steamships- 15c. Payments to the Canadian National Railway Company (hereinafter called the Company) upon applications approved by the Minister of Transport made by the Company to the Minister of Finance, to be applied by the Company in payment of the deficits, certified by the auditors of the Company, arising in the operations in the calendar year 1967 in respect of the following: (i) Canadian National Railway system (subject to recovery therefrom of accountable advances made to the Company from the Consolidated Revenue Fund) (ii) Ferry Services: Newfoundland Ferry and Terminals: Prince Edward Island Ferry and Terminals and Yarmouth, N.S.-Bar Harbour, Maine, U.S.A., $21,245,100.


NDP
PC

John Patrick (Pat) Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

Mr. Chairman, no one on this side has spoken this evening.

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:

I understand the comment made by the hon. member for Digby-Annapo-lis-Kings, but I point out to him that the hon. member for Springfield had already given notice that he wished to refer to this item. I will see the hon. member later.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
NDP

Edward Richard Schreyer

New Democratic Party

Mr. Schreyer:

Mr. Chairman, this vote provides for the allocation of $21 million to the Canadian National Railway Company. I think this is the appropriate stage to ask the Minister of Transport whether he has yet come to any decision on the requests that have been relayed to him by myself, by some Senators, by the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy' River and others asking him to study the allegations of a number of contractors involved in the construction of the Great Slave Lake railway. These contracting firms allege that the C.N.R. enforced the terms of the contract in a most unfair and onerous way.

It is over a year now since a request for an investigation into these allegations was made of the minister's predecessor. I note that on February 16 last an hon. senator was in communication with the present Minister of Transport, as was the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River, asking that he refer the subject matter of the allegations of unfair treatment by the C.N.R. either to a Commons committee or to co-operate in having them reviewed and investigated by a Senate committee. Before I say any more, Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask the minister whether he will indicate if he has made a decision about these requests.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

Mr. Chairman, I have not yet come to a conclusion on this matter. I hope to

March 25, 1968

do so soon, but it may not be possible during the next two weeks.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
PC

John Patrick (Pat) Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

Mr. Chairman, I thought there was some interest on the part of hon. members to pass these estimates tonight.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
PC

John Patrick (Pat) Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

I thank my hon. friends across the way for giving me a send-off. Perhaps I will have to delay the estimates, because they were too loud. I did make an impulsive comment, Mr. Chairman, but no real reflection was intended on the Chair. I merely wanted to be recognized. I did want the committee to know that since eight o'clock tonight no member of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition had spoken on the estimates.

I do not intend to speak on any policy matter involved in the estimates; I merely want to ask one question about a specific project, the Digby-Saint John ferry. In order to expedite this matter would the minister undertake to make a statement about the present progress of the negotiations between the C.P.R. and the government? I realize the minister may not be able to do so tonight, but perhaps he would by the end of the week. We may not be here all week, but I would ask him to make his statement before he moves on to other pastures; and wherever he goes I wish him well.

I realize this matter may not interest members from the west, but certainly we in the east do not want to have to go through another mutation process, or a change of ministry, to find out how far the negotiations between the railway and the government have progressed. I am not going to blackmail the minister about this; we have had enough blackmail in this house during the past three or four days.

This project has been kicking around for some 20 years. I have before me some 23 extracts from Hansard on the matter, starting with the leader of the opposition in Nova Scotia, Mr. Regan-a former member for Halifax in this house. The minister's predecessor did admit that this ferry was an integral part of the transportation system of Canada.

It seems that every time we reach a certain point of agreement between the government and the C.P.R. an election occurs or there is a change in ministry, and this means a delay while the new minister acquaints himself with the background. However, would the minister make a clear and concise statement

Supply-Transport

explaining where the negotiations have got to and what the present objections are. If he cannot make such a statement I will have to put some blunt questions to him.

I appreciate that negotiations are sometimes sensitive and delicate. However, it is time that the minister took the people of eastern Canada into his confidence. I understand from the clippings I have read of his speeches that the minister is espousing the new politics of the land by being frank and realistic. What I should like to know is how the negotiations are affected, if the company is taking one position and the government another. If the minister can answer that question I will say nothing more. In any event, I should like to ask a couple of questions later.

[DOT] (9:40 p.m.)

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

Mr. Chairman, my hon. friend has asked if I would undertake to make a statement within the next few days. My reply to that is that I should like to, but I am not in a position to guarantee that I shall be able to.

Negotiations have been going on for some time. They have reached the stage where only two points remain to be worked out. One of them, I am confident, can be worked out without much difficulty, but the second one is a little more difficult.

For obvious reasons I should be delighted if I could make a positive statement and have this question settled immediately. There would be some obvious advantages if that could be done, and I do not think my hon. friend needs to use too much imagination to know what the advantages would be for the people of New Brunswick as well as those of Digby-Annapolis-Kings, and others who are interested. But there is a course of responsibility to be followed, and that is to try to bring the project to a successful conclusion. Whether I can make the statement will depend on my assessment of whether that would be in the interests of a successful conclusion.

One thing I shall undertake for my hon. friend. In so far as the continuity of this question is concerned, I shall take a direct personal interest in it, so far as I am able to in the weeks ahead, to make sure that it comes to a successful conclusion. I am as anxious as he is to see that after all these years something happens and that we just do not continue debating the question. On the other hand I hope the hon. member will be generous and co-operative enough to realize that it might prejudice the situation if I

March 25, 1968

Supply-Transport

undertook to do something which I did not feel later was in the best interest of those involved.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
PC

John Patrick (Pat) Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

I appreciate the minister's partial statement. Regardless of his future capacity, and I know he will be busy in the next few weeks, I appreciate his personal interest in the matter. That certainly will help. I would appreciate it if he would consider this matter as a burr on his backside and be prompted to stand up and say in the committee tonight whether the two objections in question, or the two points in question, still have to be clarified. Incidentally, were those points raised by the Canadian Pacific Railway or by the government? The minister knows I know what the points in question are. Perhaps he could say a word about them.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

They are raised by the railway, and the railway is asking for certain concessions in exchange for building a new ship and carrying on a service. I think they want greater concessions than have previously been indicated. The question, of course, is fair and reasonable in the light of all circumstances. That is the question to which the government is addressing itself at the present time.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
PC

John Patrick (Pat) Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

I have another question to ask. Considering the minister's answer, is the Canadian Pacific Railway asking for any concession that has not been given to the Canadian National Railways, or will terms be negotiated that will affect the Canadian Pacific Railway and not affect the ferries run by the Canadian National Railways. Or is the government trying to resolve it by having the same rules apply to both bodies?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
LIB

Paul Theodore Hellyer (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Hellyer:

If my hon. friend were not a member of this house I might engage him to try to get for me the answer to that question. Unfortunately, because he is a member of parliament, he is barred from giving that kind of service to a government department. That of course is one of the things that is being examined and I cannot answer that question at the moment. Perhaps I shall be able to before the matter is resolved.

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:

Shall vote 15c carry?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
NDP

Edward Richard Schreyer

New Democratic Party

Mr. Schreyer:

Mr. Chairman, a few minutes ago I asked the Minister of Transport whether he had decided to refer the subject matter of the Great Slave lake railway construction to an appropriate committee. He replied that unfortunately he could not do so yet, because

the briefs involved were luminous and he had not had time to study them in sufficient detail. I do not want to be unfair, but I suggest that is not good enough. It is not good enough for the minister to say that he hopes to make a decision in about two weeks. That will take us to April 6, and who knows what the fate of the Minister of Transport will be? He might have a different portfolio.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
?

An hon. Member:

Or be the Prime

Minister.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink
NDP

Edward Richard Schreyer

New Democratic Party

Mr. Schreyer:

He might perhaps be that. The point is that it is more than a year since the complaint was directed to the Minister of Transport. I admit that originally it was directed to the minister's predecessor, Hon. J. W. Pickersgill. But the officers of the department have had ample opportunity to consider in depth the allegations and complaints made by the construction firms that were engaged in the construction of this railway.

Though the circumstances are complex I might summarize them for the minister. The majority of the 13 or 14 construction firms involved in the project lost heavily, half of them being forced into bankruptcy. If that had happened to only one or two one might say, "Well, it was a case of poor management, or of poor bidding." But when half the firms-seven firms involved-go into bankruptcy, it is safe to assume that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark and that the contract conditions must have been onerously enforced. Or perhaps the C.N.R. specifications were sloppy in the extreme and grossly inaccurate. Many elements could enter into the matter.

It is not as though our group, the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River, or I, were asking for an adjudication of the claim; we are only asking the minister to submit this matter to an appropriate committee for investigation or to agree to co-operate with a Senate committee investigating the matter. Or, failing that, perhaps the minister might submit the matter to an inquiry. It could be a one-man inquiry commission, or something like that, and it could look into the alleged injustices that we are told prevailed during the time in question.

The minister, I understand, has been a minister of the crown since 1956 or 1957, and he must be familiar with the construction of the northern Ontario pipe line. In that matter we have a precedent for investigating claims by contractors which have worked for the crown or crown agencies. I have been

March 25. 1968

informed that in seven instances with respect to the construction of that pipe line, contractors made additional claims, either because specifications as given in tendering were inaccurate or for other reasons. I might place on the record some of the firms which claimed, to show the minister that there is a precedent for the sort of investigation we ask for.

With respect to the construction of the northern Ontario pipe line, Mannix Company Limited submitted a claim for about $16,000 as additional compensation and eventually received, in settlement, about $6,600. Mat-tagami Construction Company Limited submitted an additional claim of about $27,900 and eventually received a settlement of about $17,900. Mannix Construction Company claimed for $972,000 and received $420,000 in settlement; Canadian Comstock claimed $96,969 and settlement was eventually obtained for $65,243; Dutton-Williams Brothers submitted a claim for $2,776,731 and a settlement with the crown was eventually reached at $692,496.

[DOT] (9:50 p.m.)

So there are precedents. I do not want to take up the time of the committee any longer just now in this connection. I do not wish to be unfair by suggesting that the minister has been derelict in his duties. On the other hand, I do not think the hon. gentleman is being quite fair when 14 months after a request has officially been made to his department he comes back to say he still needs more time. Who knows whether two weeks from now he will be in a position to reach any conclusion in connection with this request? I do wish he would be a little more fair.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Permalink

March 25, 1968