October 13, 1983 (32nd Parliament, 1st Session)


James Ross Fulton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Fulton:

The Hon. Member from Alberta says the first thing you know is somebody will be making a profit. I have watched with some degree of pain what has been happening in my area as certain products have been shifted from rail on to the road. For a very short period of time it appears there is some kind of job creation going on, that the truckers are getting more jobs, that there are more trucks on the road and there are a few more service operations open. But you have to look at it in a more global context in terms of what happens when a branch line is abandoned. I think Mr. Justice Emmett Hall's Royal Commission's evidence on this made it quite clear. When the branch line closes and the country elevator goes, what happens? What is associated with the country elevator? There might be a butcher shop and a little grocery store, perhaps a gas station. If those go, then what happens? Kids have to be bussed farther to school because the small school in the community has moved. What you have is a complete reconsolidation.
A very dramatic facelift on the Canadian Prairies would occur if there are not changes made such as the one that we are making. It is all very good for the Liberals and the Tories to say, "Well, trucking is more competitive". I would be the first one to be calling for an amendment if all that we were talking about was making it more competitive. We have to look at the global and social costs of these kinds of massive changes. It is abundantly clear that if trucking corporations in certain areas-I am not saying in all areas-of the grain trade are to get this kind of subsidy, we will see branch line
abandonment; and immediately behind that, as demonstrated historically decade after decade already, we will see elevator abandonment and the pools will start to lose their own members from the existing elevator system. The trucks will be going right by into the centralized inland pool operations.
It will have a direct impact on the largest and one of the most efficient grain elevator systems ever constructed in the world, namely the one now being constructed in my constituency of Prince Rupert. Both of the main pools, the Alberta and Saskatchewan pools which are the key components of and key financial participants in that elevator system which will cost about $300 million, stand to lose if the Liberals and Tories continue with their existing position on this amendment. We stand to lose with Motion No. 34 by allowing the subsidies to go to the trucking operations, because the majority of the grain that is going to be moving through the Port of Prince Rupert comes from the northern and rural areas of Alberta and Saskatchewan, areas that are now served in some sense by branch lines and by rural pools. They will simply no longer operate in that way.
If we were more sensitive, we would be calling for a much broader and careful articulation and evaluation of what the impact of the over-all Crow legislation is going to be four or five years from now. The farmers are saying that they will lose 30,000 or 40,000 rural farms. If this amendment does not carry, we will lose X number of country pools, we will lose more branch lines and we will see increased costs shifted to municipalities to keep the roads open and provide the depth of pavement required for the axle weights needed for hauling grain by rubber.
The costs to Canadians generally of not being very careful with amendments such as this and including them in the Crow legislation go far beyond what a Liberal or a Tory Member might say. We might hear them say: "Well, all we are saying is that if it is more cost competitive to go by rubber, then go by rubber." That is true, Mr. Speaker, very true. What we need to do in this country is to become more efficient and more cost caring. But at the same time we have to take a look at the history of what has happened in the farming community by not being very careful about applying principles that are in the long-term interests of the farming community, which are in the long-term interests of the Port of Prince Rupert and to a balance of trade in this country which is $6 billion a year from grain. I think all Members of this House have a responsibility to look very carefully at this amendment and to support it.

Full View