March 20, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

I wish to convey to the House as complete a view of the general scope of this legislation as I can. The Bill is substantially the same as that which was introduced last session. There have been a few changes, but those changes, I think, are not material and do not essentially affect the main principles of the measure as introduced last year. I think the Bill has been simplified, it has been considerably condensed, and in its general reconstruction a good deal of thought has been given to it in order to perfect it in every possible way. The proposal is, as it then was, to abolish the existing Railway Committee of the Privy Council, and to substitute for that body a railway commission composed of members independent of the government, independent of parliament in a practical sense, though not in the broadest sense, and capable, as we think and hope they will be, by experience and ability, of making thoroughly effective the legislation we are now proposing to place on the statute book.
There are various kinds of railway commissions, as hon. members know. Commissions have been constituted in other countries, not possessing any controlling or executive power, but of a purely advisory character. Other commissions have been created, particularly in some of the colonial dependencies of the Crown, which have had under their management and control the government railways in those colonies. Commissions have also been established-and it is to this type that the one we are proposing to constitute will belong-not for the purpose of operating railways themselves, but for the purpose of exercising control over the operation of railways, in regard to rates, the manner in which the trains shall be equipped, the manner in which crossings shall take place, and generally the manner in which the public shall be protected in the use of the railways.
In constructing this Bill, we have naturally availed ourselves of the experience of those countries in which railway commissions of this kind have been established. In Great Britain a railway commission was established first as far back as 1873. Some material and important changes took place in the constitution of that commission, in the direction of enlarging and extending its powers, in 1888, and it practically exists to-day as it was then constituted. In preparing this Bill, we have availed ourselves of the experience of that railway commission. We have also turned our attention to the legislation which has been adopted in the various states of the union, as well as the general legislation of Congress. We have also, as the House knows, availed ourselves of the results of the inquiries which were made by a special commissioner appointed by us for the purpose, Mr. McLean, who made to the government two reports upon his inquiries in the United States and his investigation of the existing railway troubles in Canada. We have based some of the provisions of the Bill upon the results at which he arrived -we think correctly-in his study of these various problems, and we have sought generally to turn to useful account the best features of the legislation of Great Britain and the United States. It has been found in the mother country that the operation of the railway commission, though not removing all troubles, and though not a complete and effective remedy for all difficulties, has been on the whole fairly satisfactory. Mr. McLean points out that it has exercised a useful influence for the prevention of arbitrary exactions by railways, that it has been recognized as an unbiased arbiter in railway disputes, and that it has much improved the position of shippers. The defects generally recognized are defects which are incidental to the legislation and the lack of hearty co-operation on the part of the judiciary of the country. In the United States similar defects and others have been discovered, which he points out. He says that there political considerations play a great part in the choice of commissioners, even when they are not elective, and they are elective in a great many cases. He says the term for which the commissioners are appointed is too short ; in none of the states it it more than five years, while in many it is less. Another defect admitted by thoughtful men is that the salaries paid to the commissioners are too low, and in consequence it has not been found possible to secure men of the quality required, by training, experience and general fitness, for the successful operation of these commissions. He says-and this is a question which has attracted a great deal of attention in the United States, and has been discussed in a great many works treating of the subject-that frequent appeals and the enormous amount of litigation arises in connection with the working out of their scheme, been most detrimental to the successful operation of the measure. Litigation springs up on all sides and in respect of all questions. The judicial interpretations of the various clauses of the law and the judicial decisions in respect of the findings of the commission upon the question of facts, have been so conflicting that practically the powers of the commissioners are absolutely

nullified. In this connection, an eminent judge of the United States Supreme Court, Judge Harlan, says : ' The Inter-State Commission has been shorn by judicial interpretations of the authority to do anything of an effective character.' It has also been pointed out that the American legislation respecting the inter-state law was arrived at by a compromise between the transportation interests on the one hand and the producing interests on the other, and apparently there was no fixed aim in view in the establishment of these tribunals. One side probably contended that there was no need at all for such tribunals, and the other side insisted that it was imperative in the public interest that they should be established, and between the two a compromise was reached whereby, while these tribunals were established, they were not endowed with powers which all agree are imperatively necessary if they are to do effective work. But notwithstanding the defects admittedly existing under the system in force in the various states of the union and the United States as a whole, many men who have studied railway questions believe that these railway commissions have done much good. Mr. Blanchard, a well-known authority on railway matters, points out that the foi-lowing good results have been achieved through this legislation :
1. It has secured more publicity of rates.
2. It has lessened open rate wars.
3. It has tended to equalize long and short haul rates.
4. It has exercised beneficial warning or police powers.
Meaning by that, that the provisions incorporated in the different railway bills imposing penalties for the omission to do or for the doing of certain acts has had a most salutary effect, by acting as a warning to companies that if they violated these conditions they might be made suffer the consequences.
5. It has silenced much unjust clamor against the railways.
6. It has been mutually educational.
7. It has been judiciously administered.
8. It has benefited the smaller shipper.
9. By obtaining a better classification it has afforded a more uniform basis for rate making.
10. Its statistical work has been of great value.
11. It has exercised important supervisory functions in regard to the application of automatic couplers and safety appliances.
Now, Mr. Speaker, all these objects are aimed at in the present Bill, and in order that we may if possible successfully achieve them, in the face of difficulties which will constantly arise, we have strengthened the hands of the commission we are constituting. We are investing it with larger powers, we are giving it more executive authority, and we have in this respect perhaps gone beyond any legislation which has been passed in any other country up to the present day. The commission, under

Topic:   MAKCH 20. 1903
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