April 7, 1908 (10th Parliament, 4th Session)


William Erskine Knowles


Mr. W. E. KNOWLES (West Assiniboia).

Mr. Speaker, as has been said by an hon. gentleman opposite this afternoon the notice of this motion has been on the Order Paper since the commencement of this session asking that the government should take into their serious consideration the question of transportation' in reference to the Canadian west and especially in regard to the construction in the very near future of the Hudson Bay Railway. It had been my purpose to go on with that motion on the first available opportunity, and I have been watching for such an opportunity for weeks, but upon any occasion upon which I have been present it has not presented itself. Yesterday it was dropped that I might have the privilege which is open to every hon. member of this House of presenting views upon this and similar subjects on the occasion of our going into Committee of Supply.
The proposition which I desire to bring before the House is one which my hon. friend from Saskatchewan (Mr. McCraney) seconded last year and one which I believe he will still endorse. Over a year ago i brought to the attention of this'House this same problem. On that occasion I had a very strong case to make before the House in view of the very congested condition of the transportation facilities in the west. The House will recall that a year ago there was a very much more serious congestion than there is during this present year. Happily this year we have not had the vicissitudes in regard to weather conditions to cause a repetition of the very serious condition of affairs which prevailed a year ago, but I am sorry to have to say again this session that notwithstanding the condition of the season, the favourable weather we have had and the unfortunately small crop, there has still been a great deal of congestion. I have seen at different points in the elevator towns in the Northwest a condition of affairs where men were not able to ship the grain which they had raised for weeks this last fall because of the repetition of this congested condition of affairs, and I must say that I cannot too forcibly impress upon the members of this House the seriousness of a condition of that kind. When we find that men have worked their farms through the summer to the end that they may have the product of the soil to sell, and when we find that when they have that product ready for market they are not able to move it, they are not able to find a purchaser for their grain, it is indeed a most serious condition Mr. FIELDING
of affairs. I myself have stood at many elevator points along the different railway lines and I have seen farmers standing with their hands in their pockets looking up at the elevators and entirely helpless to raise one dollar upon their grain.
However, the condition of affairs this season was not nearly so serious as in the season before. But that does not in any way make me hesitate in my desire to bring this question again before the House during the present session, for I think it would be the utmost folly if we were to say that because last year wre had something of a failure in our crop, and because this winter has been so favourable in weather conditions there has not been the congestion that otherwise would prevail and therefore, we have considered the transportation problem solved. That would be a most foolish policy. I desire on the contrary to say that under these circumstances., while they ensure against a repetition this year of the serious condition of affairs that we had a year ago, at the same time instead of making us less anxious they should make us more anxious, because it is no exaggeration to say that as each succeeding year comes upon us there will always be a greater problem to solve than there was in the year before. The country is filling up by leaps and bounds, and unless, there is something undertaken by the government of Canada in the very near future I am at a loss to know how we will solve this great problem of transportation. We have had during the last few seasons an abnormal increase of our population by immigration. During the year 1906 there came into our country from Great Britain, 97,757 immigrants; from the United States, 63,782 immigrants and from continental Europe, 54,373; making a total of immigrants in 1906 of 215,912. In the year 1907 we had a total immigration of 277,376, a very material increase over the number of immigrants in 1906. And, I am happy to say that the class of immigrants which we have been receiving in recent years belong to the very best class of people we could expect to bring to this country.
I might cite as an instance of this that the settlers from the United States in 1906 brought with them settlers, effects to the value of 49 million dollars, and in 1907 they brought with them settlers, effects to the value of 52 million dollars. And, I may say to those gentlemen who are prone to talk about the balance of trade being against us, that if they consider such an item as this in their calculations it would go a long way to explain how it is that our imports are greater than our exports. If we take 52 million dollars worth of settlers effects brought from the United States alone, it will give us an average per capita for each immigrant of over $800. We are all aware that the immigration during the present year has been larger than it was last year,

and that during January and February of this year (1908) there has been an increase of 61 per cent over the immigration in January and February of the year 1907.
It is reliably figured that the lands in the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan w'hich are not yet tilled, will when brought under cultivation result in the reaping of the harvest of almost inconceivable magnitude ; that if we take the grain land which as yet is not settled and if we figure that on the basis of it producing only one half of what the present cultivated acreage does, even on that basis there will be 2,000,000,000 bushels of grain raised in the three new west provinces. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the outlook in that country is very bright, and that for the moment we are justified in passing on to this very urgent matter of attempting to solve the great transportation problem in preference to taking up the subject which the hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) wished to discuss this afternoon. I might also remind my hon. friends on both sides of the House that the facilities for handling the grain in the way of transportation accommodation are very little better than they were twenty-three years ago when the last spike was driven on the Canadian Pacific Railway. I fail to see how any hon. gentlemen on either side of the House can say that the government is going too fast, as they sometimes say when they talk about the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific. These hon. gentlemen may express themselves similarly with regard to this proposition that I have the honour to bring before the House this afternoon, and they may say that Canada can afford to go slowly, but I say that in view of the fact that we have very little more facilities for transportation than we had twenty-five years ago, the criticism is, in all fairness and justice, not properly advanced that the government of Canada has gone too fast in making provision along the line of transportation facilities. It comes to this, that with regard to the production of grain just as with regard to the production of any other staple you may have for the world's market, if you cannot find a reasonable and convenient market for the thing you are producing the rules of trade and commerce very soon cause the production to cease. You cannot for ever expect farmers in the Northwest to be producing grain they cannot sell. You cannot expect they will go on producing that for which they cannot find a ready market any more than you can expect the man who runs a factory to keep on producing goods when he is not able to find a convenient market for the product of his factory. And with regard to the Northwest Territories, Providence has cast our lot along agricultural lines just as in Ontario, to a very large extent, the lot of that province is cast along
manufacturing lines. The wealth of Ontario is largely bound up in the great cities where the manufacturing industries are centralized, while just as truly are our lines cast for us along agricultural pursuits. That is so ordained by nature and it is only by developing our resources along that natural line that we will be able to attain the true destiny for which the great fertile prairies were created. After all, without the slightest comparison that may be odious, I leave it to any hon. gentleman present if it is not a fair proposition to make, that if there must be any industry encouraged first in the Dominion of Canada, we first should encourage the agricultural industry. I recall reading in a recent life of Peel that he said : We would no doubt rather have com fields than cotton factories ; we no doubt would rather have an agricultural population than a population engaged in manufacturing industries, but Providence has decreed otherwise and statesmen are powerless to prevail against it. So I may say with regard to the Northwest Territories, that it is always going to be for the blessing of Canada that Providence has ordained that that country shall be a great agricultural country and the supporter of a great agricultural population which in morals, in intelligence, in industry, and in every desirable feature you like to speak of, is always recognized throughout the world as the best and most desirable population that any nation may aspire to possess. And, when we speak about solving the problem of the agricultural community the words can scarcely be out of our mouth before we learn that it is the transportation problem we have to solve, and that when we talk about agricultural problems in that country of great distance it amounts to the same thing as referring to the transportation problem. I must remark here that I read, very carefully the platform of the leader of the opposition announced in the city of Halifax, and it was with regret I found that for us in the west he had no utterance to make with regard to how we were going to solve that great problem. I should have been very pleased had he on that occasion taken hold of the great national question of the Hudson Bay Railway, or the great national question of transportation for the movement of our grain in the west, and if he had presented to us in definite words that we could have understood some solution by which he thought we could address ourselves to the carrying out of this great task which lies upon us as a nation. I say it was with regret, that in the platform of the leader of the opposition announced in the city of Halifax, I was not able to find any treatment of this important subject.

Full View