January 29, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)


The telegram to which my hon. friend refers was received by me, and I at once asked the Board of Railway Cbmmissioners for Canada for any information that they might have with respect to that or like matters. I have a memorandum from the Chairman of the Board, Sir Henry Drayton, which has just been handed to me. It is as follows:-
The practice of commandeering- coal byrailways is the occasion of great annoyance and frequently positive loss to consignees. It is a practice which is not covered by the Railway Act, one way or the other, nor authorized by any regulation of the Board. The practice is very similar to the practice of general average applicable at sea, and the taking of necessary cargoes, belonging, of course, to consignees, in case of emergency. It is justified by the railways in that it is better that some freight should move rather than that no freight should move at all. .
Railway companies, of course, ought to lay in their own coal; they ought to have supplies ; they ought to be able to carry on their business without commandeering coal; but, at the same time, it has to be recognized that the coal shortage is very acute, and that railways in some instances have been entirely unable to obtain supplies of coal which they in due season contracted' for.
The Board has already had up the question of coal confiscation with the railways, andl everything has been done to minimize it. The complaints on this score now are very much fewer than they were, and the situation is being got in hand.
The Board has not been advised of any confiscation of coal belonging to the Nova Scotia Underwear Company, but the matter will be immediately taken up.
My hon. friend will bear in mind that the telegram reached me only this morning, and that the Board of Railway Commissioners, to whom I referred it, have had only a few hours to consider the situation. The hon. gentleman will note the statement in the concluding paragraph of the memorandum, to the effect that the board will investigate the matter at once and give me further information. I am very much obliged to my hon, friend for giving me an intimation in advance that it was his purpose to ask a question in the House upon the subject.

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