There are 10,500 members at present, with 3,600 retired and on this pension and some 90 who are in some kind of military service. But the entire 14,000 are still affected by the mechanics of that particular legislation within the national railways.
The point is this. This organization was maintained within Canadian National Railways by means of the check-off. The dues were collected in that way, but as of January this year the dues will be no longer collected in that way. It will be impossible to collect dues on a voluntary basis from coast to coast and that means that the association, the existence of which extends over a number of years, will go out of existence as a result of this oblique action taken by the railways. There is a death benefit from this fund as well as a sickness and accident supplement. The plan itself, designed at the time it was, served a useful purpose and could still serve a useful purpose.
I think when Mr. Gordon comes before the committee we should have an opportunity of obtaining a full explanation as to why this particular line of action was taken. I can understand the differentials in wage rates and classifications for different types of employees, but in the matter of social security provided by a system on a contributory basis I cannot understand why it is not on an industrial basis rather than broken into classifications. Everyone suffers equally during sickness, and there should be no differential in payments of that kind, either on the national railways or anywhere else.
In so far as this matter of the airways being a monopoly is concerned, I am sure no mature member of the house would refer to it in that way at this time. I listened to several hon. members, and I am glad to hear that the private companies are pulling up their socks; that they have now arrived at the point where they have the finances and the type of equipment that will enable them
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Committee on Railways and Shipping to maintain the safety standards established by the government regulated company on the main trunk lines. There is plenty of room for any company that has the money and can put the type of equipment in the air that will maintain the safety factors demanded, and rightly so, by the air transport board.
I am glad my hon. friend raised that question, because the question of monopoly no longer applies. We should be very thankful we had a body in Canada that had the foresight to put the type of equipment in the air that we have today and to bring about some regulation of air travel. Despite the fact there are a lot of precautions taken from time to time we do have accidents. Conditions could have been much worse if we had had a lot of topsy-turvy systems growing up without regulation, and without the necessary finances to put the proper type of equipment into the air.
There are many questions I should like to ask, but I will not do so now. I should like some more information about this coal-fired gas turbine development at McGill. What progress is it making? It has to go on the rails some time. I leave that question to Mr. Gordon. Of course, the answers to all these questions will have to be given by Mr. Gordon. I should like to find out something about future markets for coal within the Atlantic region of Canadian National Railways. Is it possible to provide subventions in that area that would guarantee the market over a long range period?
I do not expect the minister to answer these questions. I am merely putting them on the record now as a warning to Mr. Gordon that we will expect him to give us the concrete information necessary to solve some of these problems. However, I shall have an opportunity to discuss these matters personally with that gentleman when he appears before the committee.