May 27, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)


Charles A. Stewart


Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

I have been greatly interested in listening to the discussion to-night in connection with this work. May I say first that if this is not to give employment, then I am against it. I have been given to understand that next to house building, this will provide more employment for unemployed men than will any other venture the government is proposing. If that is true and the unemployment situation is so serious as it is to-day, particularly on the railways and in the equipment shops, whether they are publicly or privately owned, then I am prepared to support this proposition especially on the statement of the minister that the railway companies are to be the arbiters who will make the decision. I have complained before about the interference of government in the management of the railways and I shall be prepared to complain about it again. It seems to me that the business of the government, so far as the national railway is concerned, is to see to it that proper management is provided and then let the management run the road. Interference from members of the House of Commons or from the parties would be disastrous to the operation of any enterprise of the size of the Canadian National Railways. If -we are going to give employment, as is the avowed object of this vote, and if it will give a larger amount of employment than almost any other vote that the government has proposed for relief purposes, surely it is a step in the right direction.
I have had communications from the railway shops in West Edmonton asking that a larger proportion of this vote be allocated to repair work and stating that a very large number of cars require repairs and that this would give a considerable amount of employment to men who have now been three or four years out of work, some of whom, having spent their substance, have had to go on relief and are anxious to get back to work. Naturally I would feel like supporting that position, but the minister has assured the committee-and I must take him at his word -that this is a matter that is left entirely in the hands of the management.

In regard to the Canadian National Railways, let me again say this: Whether national ownership is going to prove a good thing or not, the Canadian people who use these lines have the satisfaction, even if they are paying deficits annually, of knowing they are getting their freight and passenger rates lower than those charged on privately owned institutions in the United States. That is something we lose sight of every time we begin discussing this problem. If the rates on the Canadian lines were the same as those on the United States lines, with the traffic carried we would come much nearer to making our railways pay their way than they are doing at the present time. Therefore to my mind it is just a question whether it is better to take care of the deficits and pay the lower rates where we have a much sparser population than they have in the United States.
As the minister has pointed out, so far as this vote is concerned, it is a loan to the Canadian Pacific. I do not know what position the Canadian Pacific are in. I happen to know some of the stockholders of that company, who have received no dividends for the past few years, and I think that is a clear indication that the Canadian Pacific are not in an extremely prosperous condition. But I do not propose to go into that argument at all. If this will give as much employment as a housing scheme and will take up the slack of employment even for this year-and heaven knows the situation is bad enough- and until such time as we have a change in fiscal policy that will make it possible for our people to get employment without resorting to relief measures, then I am in favour of this vote and propose to support it.

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