March 15, 1909 (11th Parliament, 1st Session)


William Melville Martin


Mr. W. M. MARTIN (Regina).

Representing as I do a western constituency, and a constituency whose electors are for the most part farmers, I must necessarily take

an interest in this resolution. As a matter of fact, in nearly all western constituencies a majority of the electors are farmers; this being the case, the resolution before the House is one that we must necessarily consider from their standpoint. I must, however, express some surprise at seeing a resolution moved by the hon. member for Macdonald (Mr. Staples), a representative of the Conservative party, calling upon the government to appoint a farmer to the Railway Commission. I have only to point out the fact that three of the Ministers of Agriculture under the Conservative government, were a brewer, a lawyer and a doctor.
I have no fault to find with those appointments, doubtless they were good appointments, but it does appear to me a little inconsistent for a Conservative member of parliament to move a resolution to force the government to appoint a western farmer on the Railway Commission. I think we ought to take a broader view of the resolution which is before' the House. So far as I can gather, hon. gentlemen opposite support this resolution for no other purpose than to make it apepar that they have the farmer's interests specially at heart, and they desire to gain a little political capital on that ground. That is a very narrow view to take of so important a question. If that is not the object of the hon. member for Macdonald, then the only other object he can have in view, it seems to me, is to force the government to appoint a man from his own constituency, which is a still more narrow view.
Now let us see what this resolution calls for. In the first place, it calls for an immediate appointment. Now, is there an immediate necessity for this appointment being made to the Railway Commission? I do not know whether any hon. gentleman opposite has any evidence that there is an immediate necessity for the appointment of another member of the Railway Commission, and unless there is such evidence, I think this House would be ill-advised in forcing the government to make an immediate appointment of any person. Let us see who compose at present the Board of Railway Commissioners. We have first of all, Mr. Justice Mabee, a gentleman of undoubted ability, and who stands as high perhaps in his profession as any other man in this country, a man thoroughly well equipped to deal with any question coming before that commission. Then we have Mr. Bernier, who was Minister of Inland Revenue in this government for some yeaTS, who was a farmer in the province of Quebec, and at the same time a notary public. Now if I understand the business of a notary, he is a man who has to do conveyancing and deal with other matters which bring him in close touch with the farmers. Then we have Dr. Mills, formerly principal of the Agricultural College at Guelph. Then 84
we have Mr. D'Arcy Scott, and Mr. S. J. Maclean, who helped to organize the Railway Commission in this country. So the farmers have already two representatives on that commission at the present time, and they are well represented by these two gentlemen. It is to be remembered that had it not been for the Liberal party coming into power in 1896, there would havfTBeen no necessity of bringing forward a resolution in this House to consider the appointment of a railway commissioner, for there would have been no Railway Commission in Canada. Prior to that time railway companies were allowed to do as they pleased. We had nothing but railway monopolies. Since that time conditions have been considerably alleviated owing to the foresight of this government and the administrative ability shown by the Railway Commission in dealing with railway problems.
The other side of this resolution deals with the appointment of a western farmer to the Railway Commission. We must all admit that we are dependent upon the farmers. Several hon. gentlemen have said so during this debate and there is no use of disputing that fact. The farming community represents a very much larger amount of capital than any other industry in Canada and it is the most important class as far as the production of material wealth is concerned. But, let us see where these appointments came from considering the connection of the word ' western ' with the resolution. Of the five representatives upon the Railway Commission four are from the province of Ontario and one from the province of Quebec. Members from the maritime provinces have just as good a right to move a resolution advocating the appointment immediately of some man from the maritime provinces as we who come from the west have. I think that we are all too much inclined, not excepting the members from Saskatchewan, to adopt a policy of sectionalism and provincialism when we are advocating any principle in this House. If a resolution is introduced you will find certain members from one province speaking upon it, when another resolution is introduced it will be discussed by another set of members, whereas we ought to approach these questions in a broad, national spirit and keep in view the interests of Canada as a whole. If we would devote our time to the consideration of large Canadian questions and forget that we are citizens of Saskatchewan or of Manitoba remembering that we are dealing with the affairs of a great country and are interested in building up a united national spirit, not forgetting our connection with the mother country, we would be doing something to promote the welfare of Canada as a whole. As far as the appointment of a farmer is concerned I do not care whether it is a farmer or a doctor or a lawyer,

a mercantile man or what kind of a business man it is as long as he is a man properly equipped to fill the position of Railway Commissioner if it is necessary to fill that position at the present time. I will say this however that in view of the importance of the transportation problem to western Canada-and it is the most important question in western Canada at the present time-and in view of the fact that possibly this question concerns western Canada more than it does any other portion of the Dominion, western Canada should be represented on the Railway Commission. I would urge upon the government the necessity, of- endeavouring, in filling that position, if it is to be filled at the present time, to appoint a western man. Since these are the views I have on this question I beg to move, seconded by the hon. member for Provencher, that all the words after ' that ' in the resolution be struck out and that the following be substituted:
The duties of the Railway Commission are such as to demand the appointment of the most capable man available who is acquainted with western railway conditions.
I move this amendment to the resolution having the fullest confidence that the government will exercise a wise discretion in making the appointment to the Railway Commission, and that it will select the very best man available, a characteristic which it has so well exhibited in the past.

Topic:   $531,000,000 COMMONS
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