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


Ira Delbert Cotnam

Conservative (1867-1942)


Before the Easter adjournment I had occasion to present to the house and the Minister of Railways a petition from the residents of the village of Beachburg and township of Westmeath requesting the board of management of the Canadian National Railways to build a small new station there. I pointed out that for the past four years there has been no station in that locality although about $80,000 worth of freight traffic originates at that point, and I do not know how much express and passenger traffic. The Minister of Railways was kind enough to refer the petition to the trustees of the Canadian National, and he received from them a letter in reply which reads in part as follows:
Beachburg is seventy-four miles from Ottawa on the main line to North Bay and fifteen miles east of Pembroke. The station at this

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point was destroyed by fire on February 27, 1931, and since then a combination baggage ear and coach has been used for the accommodation of the agent, passengers and freight.
Although the board of management have had four years to deal with this question they have left the people of that locality with practically no station accommodation at all, and according to the tone of this letter they propose to continue that condition. I understand that where the management of the Canadian National Railways have been requested to provide elsewhere in the country a coach or baggage car as a station at some wayside point they have refused to do so, on the ground that it would be unsightly and not in accord with the ideas of the management; yet they have continued that condi-at this point for the past four years. This accommodation is unsanitary; I believe that if the local board of health wished to take action they could compel its being closed. Two transcontinental trains, one each way, arrive there during the night. The management of the railways say that they provide for heating at night. That statement is not in accordance with the facts; the people tell me that this baggage car is not heated at night, and frequently women and small children arrive during the night and there is no fire and ' no accommodation whatever. Sometimes the trains are two or three or four hours late, and people have to wait. The railway people say it would be easy for people to telephone to Pembroke, a distance of fifteen miles, and find out whether the trains are late. But during the winter months people have to drive with horses perhaps ten or twelve miles to meet the trains, and they do not know just when the trains may arrive.
I also pointed out that it would be possible for the Canadian National to provide rapid transportation on the main line between Pembroke and Ottawa. There is no question that if the management were willing they could give a service between Pembroke and Ottawa in two hours or two hours and a quarter, yet when they had the diesel engine car on that route it was taking three and a quarter and three and a half hours to cover the distance. Then they say they discontinued the service because the people had taken to buses and automobiles. To show how little they know about the circumstances, there is no bus service in that locality. Of course the people use automobiles as they do elsewhere.
We had a peculiar spectacle in Pembroke a little while ago when an application was made by the Canadian National to close the branch line twenty-two miles long from Pembroke to Golden Lake. Although the board of management of the railway had absolutely refused to give us certain information requested prior to the sitting of the railway board, when the sitting came on and they were compelled to produce the information required, the chief solicitor of the railway came to Pembroke and said: "We are willing to give you all the information you want." Another peculiar thing was that the solicitor of the Canadian National Railways sat down with the railway board and tried to find out where people could get alternative routes by the use of country roads. He said: This road would be suitable for trucks; some other road would be suitable for trucks. I pointed out at the time that I thought the Canadian National existed for the purpose of giving service to the people of this country, not of diverting traffic to the bus or truck services. It seems to me they are pursuing a very short sighted policy in curtailing and restricting service on the branch lines at a time when service should be their motto. If we are going to provide money under this unemployment relief scheme to build new coaches, perhaps the management would at least consent to give us a new railway coach to serve as a station at the village of Beachburg. For my part I intend to protest most vigorously against this measure until accommodation is provided in that locality. I do not think the board of trustees sitting in Montreal and getting reports know the local situation at all. This whole letter is filled with inaccuracies. I intend to protest and to continue to protest until they give the people of that section the service they are entitled to. No one there can understand why they took off that day coach between Pembroke and Ottawa. I do not know whether they have an agreement with the Canadian Pacific to slow down their service, but they have a run of ninety miles from Pembroke to Ottawa and if they speeded up their service they could carry passengers over that run in two hours or two hours and a quarter. Instead of driving passenger and freight traffic to alternative methods of transportation the railway management should be looking for means of bringing that traffic to the Canadian National. I hope the Minister of Railways will, with me, continue to lodge protests with the management until the conditions existing there are rectified.
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