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


John Crawford



May 11, 1885. The order provides that they can build from any point and in any direction that may be considered advantageous to the company and that the minister is to he sole judge as to the selection of the land.
Now, I will leave that feature of the situation. This proposed railway is the foundation of practically everything in connection with the business of the west at the present time. Its construction not only affects the moving of our grain but it affects the marketing of it as well. During a discussion which took place in connection with the working of the Grain Inspection Act the other day the bankers of the country took the position that owing to the condition of transportation they were not prepared to make advances and they gave that as a reason for cutting off credits to the grain dealers. The grainmen stated that before my hon. friend the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) made his announcement at the beginning of the session with reference to the assistance which the government had given to the banks the whole grain trade of the country was practically tied up because the grain dealers who were buying grain throughout the country could not get a dollar from the banks on account of their inability to get the grain which they had purchased and stored in interior elevators moved. When the announcement was made by the Finance Minister that he had made certain arrangements to assist the banking institutions to provide funds for the removing of Mr. CRAWFORD.
the grain.it relieved the situation immediately. Anything that is going to bring about better transportation facilities is of the greatest importance to the people of the country. As to the question of what advantage we may derive from the construction of this road it does not appeal to me from the point of view of dollars and cents quite so much as it may to other hon. gentlemen. It may present itself to them in that light owing to the parts of the country from which they come. I cannot see that we are going to derive an advantage even of 10 or 15 cents a bushel in connection with the shipping of our crop. I speak of the Manitoba part of the situation.
To the more western part of the country it would be of greater benefit but taking it on the whole I do not think the project would result in as large a gain in the matter of reducing freight rates as has been represented by some hon. gentlemen. The fact is that at certain periods grain is being taken from Winnipeg to Liverpool for about fifteen cents a bushel and it is not at all probable that it can be carried much cheaper than that by the Hudson Bay route. It is far more probable that when the Grand Trunk Pacific is in operation the result will be that the eastbound freight rates will be lower than they are to-day. I see that the rate quoted from Chicago to New York, a 900 mile haul, is sometimes as low as ten cents a hundred pounds when navigation is open, and there is water competition, and fourteen cents per hundred during the winter months which is about the highest rate charged for that 900 miles of railway transit. If they can haul wheat from Chicago to New York at a rate of about 8 -40 cents a bushel it would seem that the railway rates in wheat in this country should be lower than they are to-day. When we remember that the Grand Trunk Pacific will have practically a level grade, especially going eastward, there is no doubt that the cost of transportation will be reduced, and it is therefore not likely that the construction of the Hudson Bay route will give us the advantage in the reduction of of about 8'40 cents a bushel it would seem to anticipate. At the same time the construction of this railway will be of great advantage to us, for it would give us more facilities for moving our crops and that is a most important feature. It would seem to me that if the road were constructed from Calgary to Edmonton or any other point in the west to Churchill, the grades obtained would be such that the cost of operation would be extremely light, and the freight rates would be as lowr as you could possibly expect in any railway haul. No doubt there are certain seasons when the navigation on Hudson bay will not be as favourable as in others, but undoubtedly in some seasons the weather will be so open as to allow our moving the greater portion of the season's crop by this route. I believe the undertaking to be feasible and that the country need have no hesitation in assuming

the responsibility for it. In fact the whole western country demands it and the people will not he satisfied until it is carried out. As to providing the means for constructing the railway, the idea suggested last year by the Minister of the Interior when he was discussing his land Bill is nearer to my view than the scheme suggested by the ex-Minister of the Interior (Mr. Sifton). I am not in favour of tying up the lands in this country from settlement in any form, and in my opinion the sooner we get settlers on the land the better. If there is one thing more than another which in former years retarded the progress of the west it was the fact that the Conservatives adopted the policy of reserving the odd sections for these railway grants, thus necessitating sparse settlement and driving out many of the early settlers who would otherwise have remained in the country. I am inclined to favour the policy of the Minister of the Interior under which the sale of lands at so much per acre would create a fund to build this railway; I would certainly prefer that to reserving large tracts of lands for railways for any length of time. Then I am of opinion that the government should construct the railway and own it. However, I am not in favour of government operation and I think the line should be leased and running powers reserved so that it may be kept practically as a highway for the people of Canada. As to the terminals at Fort Churchill, I think they should be built and maintained by the railway companies who interest themselves in the trade there. I would remark that the conditions in western Canada have a direct effect upon the conditions in all other parts of the country. The manufacturers of the east suffer if the farmers in the west are depressed, as we could see last year when the little damage caused to the crops was so exaggerated as to bring about financial stringency in the country. . The fact is that there was more money made out of the crop in the west last year than any other year's crop we ever had. There was more money made to the acre than was ever made before, but the slight damage done to the crop was made use of to the detriment of the whole country. There are no hard times in the west to-day, and if you consult the loan companies there they will tell you that they never had their interest paid as well as it was paid last year. I have a statement taken from a Winnipeg paper to the effect that two or three loan companies collected 90 per cent of their interest before the first of March this year much better than they did last year. When I was in the west a short time ago I was told by some of the bank managers that their accounts had never been in as good shape as they are at the present time. There is no danger for the future, conditions vary so much in different sections it is hardly possible to expect any reverse affecting the 203i
whole country. I think the future of the country is assured, and we cannot too soon meet the necessity of providing for that future. It is coming faster than we can provide for it, and nothing that we can do will go further to serve the people than increasing the means of transportation.

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