March 21, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


John Power Howden


Mr. J. P. HOWDEN (St. Boniface):

I could not very well claim to represent the constituency that sent me here if I failed to say a word on this occasion. The shop that will perhaps be most largely affected by this lay-off is the Transcona shop. When the Grand Trunk Pacific railway was built the starting point was made at a point about five miles from Winnipeg, called Transcona. Extensive shops were built there, and a plant established covering between a quarter- and a half-section of land. A town of about 7,000 inhabitants grew up around the shops. As Ottawa depends on the seat of government and the civil service for maintenance, so the town of Transcona depends on the shops of the Canadian National Railways. North Winnipeg and south Winnipeg, and to a very large degree the city of St. Boniface, from which I come, also have considerable numbers of men working in the Transcona shops.
The government have stated time and again that there shall be no political interference with the management of the Canadian National Railways. But years ago the government assumed the role of government ownership of this railway, and it makes little difference what attitude may be proclaimed from this house or elsewhere; the government is in some degree held responsible for the welfare of the railway. When the last administration was in office an advance of some $15,000,000 was made to the two railway systems for the purchase of equipment. We naturally thought that this money would be expended largely by the railways directly in their own shops, but a very large proportion of it went to contract shops. I have heard quite recently that the Canadian National Railways are expending a further $6,000,000 or $7,000,000 in railway contract shops. The government ought to be consistent in this matter; having adopted government ownership of the railway, they should see it through. It is true that the men who work in the contract railway shops need to live, the same as the employees of the Canadian National Railways. But that is not so much a direct concern of the government as the continued operation of the shops of the government owned railway.
As has been already pointed out by previous speakers, if these men are thrown out of
employment there will be thrown on Transcona and St. Boniface and Winnipeg and other municipalities an insupportable burden. I feel that this matter can be readily adjusted, and therefore I wish to add my word of protest and appeal to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Howe) and the government in this connection.
Mr. A. MacG. YOUNG (Saskatoon): Mr. Speaker, so far we have heard from hon. members who live in or near the city of Winnipeg. I represent a constituency in which there is a very large group of Canadian National railway workers, and I might add that I know of no finer group of people anywhere. It has been and must be recognized that the government has not direct control in connection with this matter. This railway is under a board of management, who in turn have under them officials of the road, and I have always been very proud to think that by and large there has not been political interference at any time in the management of the Canadian National Railways. I do not think we should urge the government or the management of the company to do something that should not be done, but I do believe that in times like these, particularly in western Canada, to take away employment from men under the conditions which exist there is something which, if at all possible, unquestionably should be avoided.
In regard to Saskatchewan in general we have heard in this house very much about the general difficulties that exist, and it will be recognized that when men are laid off work it is going to add to an already intolerable burden. My suggestion to the government is that if there is work that can properly be done, particularly in these western provinces, by all means let us advance to the railways whatever money will be required in order that such useful and proper work may be carried on. I would very much rather see public works constructed than have men receiving the dole. I have never advocated the construction of public works merely for something to do; they must be of a type and kind which will be useful, and which will not thereafter add to the burden on the state. I believe that in these railway shops useful work can be done, and I am going so far as to ask the government to urge the officials of the Canadian National Railways to go the limit in providing work during these very difficult periods for the men who are engaged by that company.

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