Mr. Chairman, the items before us now are public items and as we must consider ourselves as representatives of the
Canadian people, we must either accept or reject those estimates.
Now, when we consider the way those estimates will be spent, we find out that one part will be used in favour of a company operating under the aegis of this department, and I am referring now to the Canadian National Railways.
Therefore, I avail myself of this opportunity to point out to the hon. minister that our constituents are asking for details as regards the administration of this crown corporation. We know that grants enable it to make both ends meet. We also know about the means used to put it on its feet again. It is public knowledge. But when the time comes to tell us how those amounts are spent, it becomes a question of internal administration, and the matter is taboo.
I personally placed on the order paper a few questions concerning the activities of the Canadian National Railways. As an example, I shall quote one question I considered then as being in order and the answer I was given. It was question No. 1068 of August 29, 1966.
How many employees of the Canadian National Railway get a salary (a) between $4,000 and $6,000, (b) between $6,000 and $8,000, (c) between $8,000 and $10,000, (d) between $10,000 and $15,000, (e) between $15,000 and $25,000, (f) of $25,000 or more?
In order to support my previous statement, I will quote the answer given by the parliamentary secretary to the then minister of transport, the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Byrne):
The management of the Canadian National Railways gives the following information:
It was not considered in the best interest of the company to disclose information as required on the earnings of the employees.
I often placed questions on the order paper and an employee, responsible for its editing, gave me a phone call and said: Mr. Godin, I did receive your question, but do not try to place it on the order paper or to have it accepted. It pertains to internal administration and you will not get an answer.
It is a fact that it is the company's interest to prevent its administrative methods from becoming public knowledge and to keep certain details secret.
However, when the company is faced with a deficit, when it requires 50 or 60 million dollars in order to make both ends meet, then it becomes public business and they come before parliament to make up for the deficit. Then, the government does not hesitate to
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make a grab for the handbags and pockets of Canadians. It is indeed revolting to learn about such things when we know how those deficits were created.
I wish, once again, to take this opportunity to point out to the minister how those deficits are created and what is their cause.
The main cause, I think, is patronage. When I speak about patronage, I refer to the ridiculous rates granted to certain companies by the Canadian National Railways.
I could name a member of the board of directors of the Canadian National Railways who is also an honorary member of a company in the province of Quebec. The company uses this official to obtain favorable prices.
Now the big companies contribute to election campaign funds, but I should like to point out to the minister that the companies' money does not always reach those funds, and that certain agents fatten their wallets with some of it. In fact, I know one of those agents who earns $1000 a month just by sitting as a honorary director of a company. Now, as soon as he goes back to sit on the board of the C.N.R., he can get advantageous prices for the company which pays him for his small services.
It is obvious then that the companies which do business in a territory other than that of the C.N.R., that is to say which must transport their goods by the C.P.R., which operates in a reasonable manner and with a profit, are left behind those which benefit from C.N.R. rates.
Since transport is more and more important in a country such as ours, where it must be admitted that a large number of people owe their success to the C.N.R., I think that a little more consideration should be given to the generous offers made by the C.N.R. to a few companies. Whether we like it or not, this can cause irreparable damage to those who want to hold their own by using other services. This can also cause irreparable damage in the sense that certain companies will be forced to close down, being unable to get rates similar to those of their competitors.
Mr. Chairman, I suggest that this is dishonest and unfair competition, since all those companies must live, they provide work for Canadians and they do not receive an equal treatment. Some companies can benefit from ridiculously low rates, while others get the short end of the stick.
Some truckers are hard hit by that situation, and I would like to read a resolution I
received from the Federation des associations de camionneurs de la Mauricie Inc. It is resolution No. 11 passed at their general meeting held in Saint-Adolphe on October 12, 1967, a copy of which was sent to the then member of the administration (Mr. Chretien). I quote:
Inquiry concerning the reason why the C.N.R. allegedly has reduced its freight rates with regard to the transportation of hard wood logs from Rapide Blanc to Ste-Thecle, Laviolette County, and from Rapide Blanc to Garneau Jonction, Laviolette County?
As a result of such action, about 30 truck owners who are members of the Federation found themselves in a difficult situation. We would be much obliged to you if you could give us the reason of such a dractic measure, since the C.N.R. thus becomes an unfair competitor, which is unjustified since the C.N.R. is a crown corporation, therefore a company owned and subsidized by the people. We therefore ask you to take the necessary steps to remedy that state of affairs and to get things straightened out.
I can say that things have not been straightened out in that area, but also that other similar situations arose elsewhere and on a much wider scale.
Mr. Chairman, I would now like to bring up another matter. For the third time, I would like to tell the minister about the living conditions of the C.N.R. employees, especially those who work on mobile teams and must sleep in railway cars during the summer months.
During election campaigns, on great occasions, for instance last year for the centennial of confederation, some people expressed their appreciation in high sounding speeches to those who built our country. Of course, we counted deceased persons among them, because we know very well that they will ask us nothing; we also counted people who had worked on the construction of railroads.
Indeed, the construction of a railway is important, but I claim that its maintainance is not less important. In a vast country such as ours, which stretches for miles and miles, workers have to labour unsparingly and they must give service regularly, in extreme temperatures, while here, in parliament, where we have good heat and good lighting, we cannot imagine what it may be like for a man to work in all kinds of weather.
Now, many tasks are carried out by special machines, but machines will never replace manual labour, for accurate work for instance. There will always be impossible spots, where only a human being will do, and the worker will always be indispensable to operate the machine.
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are merely asking for something quite in order for our own people.
Now, I should like to see the hon. minister at least make an effort to house the Canadian National workers in the same way he houses our soldiers, our sailors and our airmen. In any part of the world, even in the underdeveloped countries, we always find it possible to house them well and to feed them well, and I imagine that in our own country we could see to it that they all are well-housed and well-fed.
Mr. Chairman, may I call it six o'clock, because I still have a few remarks to make after the dinner recess.