April 13, 1948 (20th Parliament, 4th Session)


James Sinclair


Mr. JAMES SINCLAIR (Vancouver North):

My colleagues, the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Reid) and the hon. member for Fraser Valley (Mr. Cruickshank), have already spoken in this freight rates debate, giving their views, as British Columbia members on the government side, so far as the present dispute is concerned, and I feel I should join them.
The matter of railways is, of course, of special significance to British Columbia, because we would not be in confederation today except for the promise of a railway for that province. British Columbia, after all, was tempted into confederation by the promise of the Dominion of Canada that a railway would be built to connect that province with the eastern provinces. With that promise we came into confederation, and immediately in, we began to develop our first grievance, the fact that the promise of rapid construction had not been fulfilled.
Long after the promised date for the completion of the railway, the railway had still not reached British Columbia. There followed, of course, further great land grants to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. Out of the construction of the railway in British Columbia the Canadian Pacific Railway Company got a twenty-mile belt, on either side of the line, of the choicest lands in the province and the greatest forests on Vancouver island, the greatest softwood forest in the world.
Once the railway was completed in 1886, there began our second and greatest grievance, the fact that, once completed, this railway, which was intended to unify this new confederation, was not uniform so far as rates were concerned. We were being charged double the rates of the prairies, while the prairies were charged 40 per cent more than the rates of eastern Canada.
That grievance has been an historic one in the short history of British Columbia. I first heard of it in my school days twenty-five or thirty years ago. It was impressed upon us at that time that it was because of this economic injustice that British Columbia was a province engaged mainly in primary production. We were the hewers of wood and drawers of water, and the east, because of tariff protection and freight rates, was the part of Canada engaged in secondary production.
Today, however, I feel quite sure that informed businessmen in British Columbia are agreed that the railways of Canada do need more revenue. They have only to look at their own businesses to find proof of that
Freight Rates

Mine is perhaps one of the largest heavy industrial ridings in British Columbia, with the shipyards, the oil refineries, sawmills, pulp and paper plants and mines; and in each of those industries which are directly affected by this freight rate increase the management know there have been substantial increases in their own labour and material costs which have added to the final cost of production of their product. In turning to the figures supplied this week by the Canadian National Railways in their annual report, anyone can see justification for the request of the railways for an increase, if not in rates as given, then certainly in revenue. On page 6 we find that in 1939 the average wage to employees was $1,566. By 1947 that had risen $816, or by 52 per cent. In other words, there was a 52 per cent increase in wage costs to the railways during the war years. The other principal operating cost of a railway, coal, climbed from $4.07 in 1939 to $7.50 in 1947, or an increase of 83 per cent.
The railways asked the board to examine their need, and they endeavoured to prove to the board that they had need of an increase in revenue. To my mind, as the minister explained this afternoon, the railway board are the only group in Canada competent to judge such matters; and after fourteen months of close study, after every province concerned had presented its case in the very best light and through the best legal and technical talent they could hire, the railway board did come to the conclusion that the railways had established need and that more revenue would be required. I contend that the individual members of this House of Commons are not in the position of the board of transport commissioners with respect to coming to a conclusion on whether there is or is not need as far as the railways are concerned. I think most of us realize that we have not the training, the time, the talent or the opportunity to give to this case the study which was given to it by the board appointed under the law of parliament to do this task; and it is significant that, aside from a slight mention by one hon. gentleman, no hon. member of this house has attacked the ability of the board to judge such a case.
However, hon. members have two or three indications which they can use as criteria. The first is the fact that there have been no increases in railway rates since 1922. What other industry or what other labour group can say they have had no increase in either the cost of their labour or the cost of production during that time? Then every year, when we have the Canadian National estimates before

parliament, this house has to vote very large sums of money to make up the Canadian National deficit. That, too, should be some indication to us that the Canadian National at least has need of additional revenue.
The third point to which I think we should pay attention comes from a rather extraordinary source. Mr. Mosher, head of the Canadian railway brotherhood, has said publicly that the railways must have this increase if they are to pay the wage increases the railway employees are now demanding. How different that is from the argument we so often hear, especially on the west coast, by labour leaders that companies can meet their demands for more pay without any increase in their price structure. Therefore I say that when Mr. Mosher, a respected officer of the railway brotherhood, makes that statement, to my mind that is significant. It has been said here that the C.C.F. are the political arm of that body, a rather broken arm one hon. member said today. If the C.C.F. are so determined that this increase should be suspended or dropped, then I think that, as the political arm of that brotherhood, they should have said to the brotherhood, "Since Mr. Mosher has said the increase is essential before we can get increases, we will also advocate that we stop the wage negotiations now in progress until some adjustment is made." So far I have not heard such a declaration. I represent two railway towns in my own riding. At Port Coquitlam we have the main yards of the Canadian Pacific in the Vancouver district, and at the town of Squamish we have the terminus of the Pacific Great Eastern. So I know some of the problems of the railway employees in trying to meet the cost of living in British Columbia; and I know I would not go before the railway employees in either of these towns and tell them they should now drop their applications for wage increases because the C.C.F. have moved a motion to drop or suspend this freight rate increase.
The British Columbia opposition is not to the fact that the railways asked for an increase and proved1 their need for more revenue. Our opposition as a province stems from the fact that this is to be a percentage increase on top of our existing inequality, the mountain differential. That, of course, is the real reason for the opposition of British Columbia. There are rftembers on this side of the house from my own province who have criticized Ontario and Quebec members for not pitching into this fray on our behalf. I do not join in that criticism. After all, this parliament consists of members from every province so that we may

Freight Rates
be able to intelligently bring before this parliament those particular problems pertaining not so much to the nation itself but to our own provinces; and if the British Columbia and western members are not able to present intelligently to parliament their special problems, they should not expect the Ontario and Quebec members to do so.

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