March 23, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Otto Buchanan Elliott

Social Credit

Mr. O. B. ELLIOTT (Kindersley):

canals therefore approximates $70,000,000, which is slightly more than the deficit of the Canadian National Railways.
Taking it from another angle, Mr. S. W. Fairweather, Canadian National Railways economic expert, speaking at Toronto on December 6, 1937, stated that in percentages of national income Canada's total land transportation bill is approximately as follows:
Per cent
Steam railways 9
Motor vehicles and highways.. .. 20Street and electric railways.... 1Airlines
He goes on to say that if an attempt were made to perform with the motor vehicle the services now rendered by the railways we would spend forty per cent of our national income.
We are subsidizing export shipments of wheat by low freight rates, while at the same time wheat for consumption in British Columbia is charged almost double the export rate. Competitive rates by freight and express to meet motor competition as well as passenger rates, are much below the published rates of the railways, which would indicate that by an increase in passenger and freight traffic a general revision of tariffs could be accomplished. I know from personal experience that in a certain city in the west the railways attempted to reduce their rates in order to meet highway traffic competition, but on every occasion the motor trucks reduced their rates below those of the railways, which in turn compelled them to carry freight and express at much below cost. If the principle is right that highway traffic, canals and ocean shipping can be subsidized effectively. it appears to me that a proper system of railway freight tariffs applying on bulk shipments of heavy commodities having to be transported great distances would have a beneficial effect on Canadian business and industry generally.
We all recognize that transportation is essential to our national life in peace, and perhaps particularly in war, and it is essential that the problem be solved to the advantage of all the communities in the dominion. It is my belief that a system of transportation rates under which the delivered cost of all necessaries of life would be uniform at every point in Canada reached by the transportation system is desirable. I venture to say that, as a result, in the course of a few years Canadian business and municipalities, as well as the railways, would be the most prosperous in the world. For example, putting the Canadian National Railways to work hauling coal to tidewater, to western Ontario,
Saskatchewan and Manitoba points, at a rate not exceeding $2 a ton, so that shippers could deliver a good quality of coal at perhaps $5 a ton from our Alberta and Saskatchewan fields, would go far to solve the railway problem at the present time. It would pqt many thousands of men into permanent employment and do away with the necessity of a debate such as we had here on Monday regarding large numbers of men being laid off by the railways.
In cities like Winnipeg, Regina, Moose Jaw, Vancouver, or Prince Rupert, if fuel costs were cut in half it would immediately offset the burden of taxation. Take for instance an industry requiring four tons of coal a day. At $10 a ton, which they have to pay at the present, time, the industry is unable to operate, but at $5 a ton it could flourish, keeping men in employment, giving the community the satisfaction of added business, and the railways perhaps sufficient profit. This I think would warrant the railways adopting such a policy and earning dividends, instead of bemoaning their troubles and unloading their deficit on the government.
Lumber, coal, grain, fruit, etc., are geared to give the railways real money on an equalized rate basis. At the present time, when the prairie people are so urgently in need of building material, transportation costs on lumber from British Columbia to the prairie provinces are equivalent to if not greater than the price of the lumber. Houses are most urgently needed throughout the prairies, and elsewhere in the dominion so far as that is concerned. Owing to the curtailment of their earning power, people have not been able to make good the depletion of their resources. I understand that Winnipeg during the last two years has had about 5,300 marriages, with no increase in housing accommodation.
The purpose of the bill, as I see it, is to assist transportation agencies in meeting their financial obligations, as well as to prevent discrimination between different types of transportation. I foresee the possibility in the near future of amendments to this bill to make it include the whole of our transportation system. I hope this will be possible, but I see no reason for delaying action at this time towards the solution of our railway problem until we can coordinate all kinds of transportation. I suggest a policy of bringing the necessities of life and of industry to every community in Canada reached by rail or water, on a uniform cost basis fairly approximating world values. With such a policy I am convinced that Canada would soon be the richest country per capita in the world. By making Canada prosperous we would soon

Trans-port Commission
overcome the handicap of our small per capita population in regard to railway mileage. I was interested in checking up the population per mile. I find that in 1901 we had a population of 5,337,000 with 18.100 miles of railway, or 300 people per mile. In 1916, with 7,500,000 people, the railway mileage had increased to 40,584, or 185 people per mile. In 1932 with 41,024 miles of railway we had 224 people per mile, and in 1937, with 42,000 miles of railway, that had increased to 261 people per mile.
It might be interesting also to note how the population is distributed according to provinces, as follows:
Railroad Per
Population mileage CapitaP.E.I 92,000 286-05 322Nova Scotia . . . . 537,000 1,397-21 384New Brunswick. . 435,000 1,871-22 232Quebec 3,090,000 4,777-45 648Ontario 3,090,000 10,746-06 343Manitoba 711,000 4.S59-57 146Saskatchewan. . . 931,000 8,023-52 108Alberta 772,000 5,686-44 136British Columbia. 750,000 3,907-37 192Yukon Territory.. 4,000 57-72 693Total 11,028,000 42,212-61 261
Saskatchewan, as will be noted, has the smallest population per mile of railway, but much of this mileage was constructed to connect with the sources of raw material, such as coal in Alberta and fish and lumber in British Columbia, and latterly great quantities of oil and salt in Alberta, in addition to agricultural products. For years the railways struggled against high tariff walls in the United States, but even worse than those high tariffs was the policy of keeping in effect a destructive system of freight rates which neutralized the existence of favourable grades for freight handling on the Canadian National. One instance is that portion of the Canadian National which reaches the Pacific ocean at Prince Rupert, which is three days less steaming distance to oriental ports than any other north Pacific point. The million dollars tied up in the Prince Rupert branch of the Canadian National is kept dormant because the rate on coal from the mountain coal fields, for example has been fixed and kept at an amount higher than the value of the coal at tidewater.
We have other coal resources which are not being exploited. I refer to the Groundhog anthracite coal fields, which of course would require a connection with the Peace river district and an outlet on the western coast. The Groundhog coal fields contain the largest compact body of anthracite so far discovered in
the world, sufficiently close to Pacific ports to permit the coal to be delivered to any port on the coast at a very low freight rate. It is estimated that it can be delivered to any trading port in the world at less than $8 per ton. This in my estimation is a national prize that is worth taking, but after reviewing the coal situation in various parts of the world I believe it should be handled as a public utility, which eventually would develop into a great national asset.
In conclusion I should like to direct a question to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Howe) with regard to tolls on our canal system. I should like to know if in any way this bill will inaugurate a system of canal tolls.

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