March 1, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)


This is the second time within a week that the transportation question has been before this house. The other day a committee was appointed on the Canadian National Railways estimates. What that committee will do I do not know, because no questions can be asked in the house.
This second transportation bill was before another body last year and I notice that the minister is dropping one of the main features of regulation, that with respect to motor buses and trucks operating on the highways, which are to-day robbing the railways of their business and are in considerable measure responsible for the railway deficit. These deficits are accumulating. The railway commission is not a transport commission at all. In England they have a transport department headed by a transport minister, who has

Transport Commission
jurisdiction over many matters which were included in the bill introduced here during the session. This is a different resolution. The government should be prepared to tell the house before the second reading of this bill what it is going to do about one of Canada's chief problems, the railway problem. We have no money for ordinary expenditures owing to the deficit on one railway system. What is the government going to do about it? Is it going to have a new transport commission similar to the railway commission which does not now regulate anything?
The minister proposes now to widen the powers of the board of railway commissioners along the lines indicated. We have had three or four royal commissions investigating our railways, including the Duff commission and the Drayton-Acworth commission, and their recommendations were ignored. Now it is proposed to give these new powers to the transport commission. I doubt that that regulatory body will be able to regulate anything. Are you going to include in its jurisdiction all forms of transportation? We had a debate in the house the other day about what they are doing in England along this very line, not only in respect to railways but in respect to motor trucks and buses, reducing the railway deficits and putting the British railways in a condition of efficiency which is a credit to the mother country. Is the minister prepared to put all the cards on the table, or is he going to hearken to another body which discussed this bill last year and take out of it what should be in it, namely the power to regulate these means of transport which are taking the cream of the business from the railways? In England a hundred years ago the railways ruined the canals; now the motor trucks are ruining the railways. If this body is not prepared to deal with the problem in Canada some other body will take our place in 1940. I am not prepared to say what should be done, but this resolution does not go far enough, and I am sorry to see the minister dropping some of the clauses which should be in the bill if we are to have anything other than merely remote control. We know what the railway commission is; we know what the Duff and Drayton reports showed about the way it regulates.
Last week we sent the railways and shipping accounts and estimates to one committee, and now we are to have another body. Look at what the Duff report says about passes. Talk about deadheads on the railways!

I do not wonder at their having deficits. If by this measure we are going to give up control to
outside bodies as vre have been doing, then responsible government is at an end in this country. We meet here week after week and month after month, yet one of the most important problems facing the government is not dealt with; in fact a private member is almost afraid to mention it. But I intend to keep the matter before the house and before the government because something must be done. We had a similar situation in Toronto and the county of York and adjoining counties, where the Mackenzie and Mann interests had an intolerable grip on the people. They had light, power and transportation franchises all over the three counties, beyond any public control. But the city grappled with that situation and cleaned it up. If they could do that, surely this federal government can do something about what I suggest. I hope we shall have some definite proposals and explanations before the second reading.

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