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


Arnold John Malone

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Malone:

In the Province of Alberta he was the Minister of Highways and the good people of his area, and throughout the whole Province, I might add, always referred to having "Taylor-made" roads in that Province.
It is with that wisdom, I am sure, that he tells us something very important which relates to this amendment, and that is that the fundamental issue which we are talking about is the question of efficiency. The New Democratic Party has used the word "efficiency" and I intend to use it also. The NDP believes it is efficient to keep a railway system because it wants to keep the railway system. I submit, Sir, that efficiency is not desire. It is the bottom line as measured in dollars and cents.
I would like to use an example which I believe even the NDP can understand. In a nearby constituency there is a branch line which serves one community. In that community they use four trains a year to remove the grain. Calculating a train at 100 cars, it would mean that train would have to make some 66 trips on the average of 4.5 cars per stock lot. An engine, Sir, is around 80 tonnes. In addition to the engine there is the caboose, plus the cars, plus a whole network for fixing up the railway bed. In virtually everyone's judgment, that rail line is not likely to stay in service ad infinitum. What is the answer of the NDP? When the line is abandoned there will be no service for the farmers, although the NDP claims it is looking after the farmers. The reality is that trucks are more efficient in some instances. In the majority of other instances, the train is more efficient.
Surely it is not difficult to comprehend that to have a rail line which moves only grain, which has sometimes as many as four 80-tonne engines, would be a cheaper way of moving grain. The actual data indicate that a train can move grain at one-fifth the cost and one-twentieth the pollution. However, surely on the short hauls in some directions, to have a whole network which services the train, its engine, its caboose and all of its line people, may not be as efficient and trucks may be more viable.
That is the data I have and I submit, Sir, that when those situations come into play, obviously the farmer ought not to be the one denied the service, but rather Government should opt for different modes of transportation. There is a $651 million subsidy, not for transportation but for the railways, and under what philosophical judgment should the railways receive that support from the Government at the expense of any other mode of transportation?
If it could be clearly demonstrated that many persons with little baskets could carry the grain to Vancouver, the Port of Churchill, or the Port at Thunder Bay, cheaper and more efficiently and our economy could be enriched, then all those social arguments which the Hon. member for Bow River said were for naught would in fact come into play in the argument

October 13, 1983
Western Grain Transportation Act of the NDP. There is always a dollar left over as a result of efficiency, so there can be a social heart and concern. It is just utter nonsense to hear people say we should spend more money to keep up inefficient policies because of a social conscience. One does not have to be a socialist to have a social conscience. But one must be able to recognize that if one can operate a society with efficiency, then the wealth in the nation is assured and one is able to have that social conscience.
We must look at the fact, then, that it takes approximately 60,000 bushels of grain per mile to make a railway efficient. We do have some branch lines in which trucking would operate very efficiently. That gives different options and alternatives. From 1974 to 1979 the then Minister of Transport, Otto Lang, removed 2,300 miles of branch lines from the Prairies. I submit to you, Sir, that had the NDP policy been in place then, none of those people on the abandoned branch lines would have had any option. Their railway would have been gone. There would have been no support for trucking. Those communities would have shrivelled and died. That would have been the answer of the NDP.
When the facts dictate it is more efficient to move by truck, and the Grain Transportation Authority makes that judgment, then the trucking mechanism should be available. There is lots of business for the railways. There can be flexibility. It may well be that farmers will not easily be able to get rid of some of their wheat because it will not sell for export or for flour, but he will then have the choice of selling it to a nearby feedlot and he will be able to use the trucking system to deliver to a place where the railway does not run.
I submit to you therefore, Sir, that the argument which has been put forward by the Hon. Member for Broadview-Green-wood (Ms. McDonald), as well as other Members of the NDP, that what the Government is really doing is shedding itself of a federal burden and transferring it to the Provinces, is not the main point. It is not the dispute between the federal and provincial governments; it is the case that there is only one taxpayer. That taxpayer wants the most efficient transportation system irrespective of how it is accomplished.
The argument which should be made is that, while we will pay a certain amount of money for the maintenance of railway beds, the railway grain lines move one commodity. When one spends money for highways, one not only moves grain but uses those highways for many other purposes.
Basically, Mr. Speaker, the rail system is used today when carload shipments are made. The lumber train hauls a full load of lumber, the potash train hauls a full load of potash. The same with coal, grain and the like. The days of a train hauling mail, groceries for the store, parts for the machinery shop and a few cream cans are long gone. I submit, Sir, that the cost burden which must fall on the grain producer for the shipping of grain in less than trainload quantities is such that, if there is a more economical option available to the Grain Transportation Authority, then surely the NDP would not deny that saving to the region involved.
The bottom line, Sir, is efficiency. We need to have the greatest level of efficiency possible, and rail is demonstrably most efficient only when you can move larger volumes. Many farmers will be denied service unless they are able to use the trucking option. It increases their ability to deliver products to markets other than export markets.

Full View