May 12, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)


William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative


I was- just about to deal with that. I hardly need to tell the House what my cure is, my cure is public ownership, and now is the time to apply it. I give the Government credit for saying that public ownership may have to come, and that they intend to look into it by means of a commission appointed to investigate and advise. I do not need any

advice from a commission of this kind on this subject, and the people of Canada have made up their minds what they intend to do. They are ready to assume the responsibility of applying this cure of public ownership to the transportation situation which has arisen at this time, and which has been aggravated by war conditions. Public ownership of railways, when it was first suggested in this House, was described as being almost lunacy; the best that could be said of those who favoured) it was that they were enthusiasts. But the whole history of progress in relation to railways is a history of advancing public ownership. Britain to-day is a public ownership country practically, so far as her railways are concerned, and she never intends to part with the control of those railways that she now has. I shall be asked: If we are to have public ownership, what practical suggestion have you to make as to these railways -granted that the time is opportune? A friend behind me says, " That is the point." I say that the worst thing that can befall us in this matter is a continuance of the present system; and the best thing is that, having faith in public ownership, we should try it out. I am told that this would involve an immense sum of money. Perhafps it would. It involves taking over commitments that already exist. But, as a matter of fact, we are committed to these commitments and must assume them whether we will or not. The very reason why this difficulty has arisen is that the railways are in such a state of misfortune that they must be rescued. There is no other way than by the assumption of these liabilities by the country. We are called upon to perform a work of salvage, nothing else and the question is whether we are to make it a temporary salvage or a permanent salvation.
How are we to proceed? I would assume the duty, whatever it involves; but there are various ways of procedure. For my part, I am willing that we should first deal with these two lame ducks, the Grand Trunk and the Canadian Northern. But the really easy way to proceed, the one that should be followed if I had my way, would be to nationalize the Canadian Pacific. I am willing, however, to proceed in the other way for the present. I would treat the Grand Trunk, perhaps, a little differently from the Canadian Northern, for the Grand Trunk has confessed bankruptcy in connection with this proposition. It says it is not able to continue the business and

wants to hand the railway back. It wants to get its money back and be forever absolved from the engagements and commitments it has made in connection with the situation. The first thing I would say to the Grand Trunk-that is the Grand Trunk proper-is: "Mr. Grand Trunk,
we will not release you from your engagements unless you propose to turn over not only the Grand Trunk Pacific but the old Grand Trunk." This is the Grand Trunk that we know in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario as the greatest railway of its kind in Canada. There is no such fine railway in Canada as this Grand Trunk. It runs through the settled portions of the country and it reaches the factories. It touches the city of Quebec, it runs opposite Three Rivers; it has great facilities in Montreal; it reaches Ottawa, and it runs to Toronto, Hamilton, London and nearly all the cities and towns of southwestern Ontario; it reaches the two international rivers, the Niagara and the Detroit; and it has important terminals on Georgian Bay giving access to the West. This Grand Trunk is so good a railway proposition that, even though it has made some mistakes, it will pay. It was getting out of the woods at the very time it made these commitments in connection with the Grand Trunk Paci-fiic. It is the greatest railway in Canada, the one that can earn the most money, if it were administered from Canada, as Mr. Hays had begun to administer it; and it would have achieved success and been a paying proposition to-day, notwithstanding the enormous mistakes made in its early construction, had it not been for these unforeseen difficulties. I would leave the early shareholders to look after themselves. The road is admitted to be bankrupt. If the Grand Trunk Pacific is absolutely hopeless so is the old Grand Trunk proper, facing default, and ready for liquidation.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
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