November 3, 1919 (13th Parliament, 3rd Session)


William Findlay Maclean


Mr. W. F. MACLEAN (York South):

I trust, Mr. Speaker, that the House will bear with me for a short time while I address myself to the question at present under consideration, namely, the acquisition of the Grand Trunk railway by the Canadian Government, for the Canadian people, for the purpose of creating, in connection with the railways that we already have, a great national system of transportation. During the brief time that I shall occupy the attention of hon. members I shall speak from the standpoint of one who believes in the public ownership of railways, and I think that my position will be borne out by the indication of the times, for this is the age of democracy. While my hon. friend (Mr. Copp) is of the opinion that it is undemocratic to take over the railways, I am convinced that the trend of present public opinion in this great country, as indeed throughout the world, is that democracy is ready

to assert its conviction that there, is no way of satisfactorily handling the transportation problems of any country except from the [DOT] standpoint of national convenience and expediency. This position is being taken everywhere to-day, and in the Old 'Country this democratic tendency is shown in the fact that legislation is now before the Imperial Parliament for the purpose of establishing a great National Department of Transportation which will take over and control transportation not only by rail but also on the sea and in the air. This new department under the direction of Sir Eric Geddes has evidently caught the spirit of these democratic times and realized that it is absolutely essential in the interests of the Empire to bring the various means of transportation under public control. The people in the Mother Country are also in favour of public ownership. Labour is favourably disposed to the principle, and I have no doubt that the business interests will take the same attitude. The same is true of the United 'States. It is all very well to assert that experience of public ownership in the United States is against it, and that the government administration of the roads since the war has been expensive and unsuccessful. But it must be borne in mind that if it was expensive the fact was attributable directly to the war, and if the administration of the railways in the United States under government control has not been the success it ought to have been it is because the railway systems there were muddled and wrecked as a result of private control. In the United) States a proper policy has been outlined. In that country there is a body known as the Council of Agriculture, very much similar to the Council of Agriculture in western Canada, an organization which, by the way, is now established in Ontario. The Council of Agriculture, representing the farmers of the United States, at their last meeting in Washington, declared in favour of the public ownership of railways, and the great brotherhoods of the United States, who operate the railways, speaking from their experience, have gone on record in support of the principle. In our own country we have a Council of Agriculture, representing tlfe farmers of all Ganada, who will meet in the West probably within the next two weeks. I have no doubt that that council, representing the farmers, not only of the West, but of Ontario, will express themselves in accordance with the views of the grain growers of the West, in favour of public ownership. Another democratic reason why there should
be public ownership in Canada is the fact that the people have paid for the railways over and over again. Their attitude is this: " If we found the money to pay for these railways, in God's name it is time that the people themselves ran the railways and not outside magnates." In other words, the feeling is that the railways ought to be operated in the interests of the people who pay for them. That is the new doctrine of democracy in this country, and it is the doctrine that is shaking Canada from one end to the other. It is what is at the bottom of the farmers' movement that we witnessed in Ontario the other day. The farmers feel that if they have paid for these railways they ought to have something to say in their management. They are the people who not only paid for the railways and will have to continue paying for them, but who helped to win the great war and make the world safe for democracy. They contend, and rightly so, that if they could shed their blood in order that the great principles of democracy might prevail on the face of the earth-and Canada did her noble share in this high duty-they should administer the affairs of these railways for which they have paid so much. And if it is possible under public ownership to counteract and obviate many of the mistakes that have been made under private ownership, it is their intention to endeavour to effect a remedy. Year after year the people have voted money in this Parliament for the support of one decrepit railway or another. They have given millions of dollars at a time, but the railways have not succeeded, and the people are convinced that they never will succeed, and they intend to see if something better cannot be done. This is the attitude of the people, and I am prepared to go on any platform whenever I have the opportunity and justify the propriety and efficacy of public ownership. Public ownership is being instituted throughout the world, and you cannot satisfactorily deal with transportation otherwise. Adequate transportation also demands more than railways, and we are building ships. England is taking full control of her ships, having created, as I said a moment ago, a great Department of Transportation. She is re-organizing the country and the Empire through the control of transportation in order to off-set to some degree German aggression which was made possible by State control not only of land but of sea transportation. It is palpable to every nation now that public ownership of transportation systems is not only democratic but highly essential in the

interests of the people. We have spent considerable sums of money in the past and enacted legislation for the regulation of our railways, and we must also give our attention to maritime transportation.
If we have not got control of transportation by sea, it must end in failure. All the advantages that we have gained hitherto by reason of building additional roads and by the making of loans to existing roads have been taken away from us by the excessive charges of the shipping monopoly that did control transportation before the war. There was no way out of the war, or to win the war or to succeed in the war. except by the national control of transportation. That was the lesson of the war. To win the war we had to have national control. For the reconstruction of the world and for the reconstruction of Canada to-day there is no other device open to us. If we are to achieve a proper reconstruction, we must have public ownership and public control of the transportation system of the country. That may be a broad proposition to lay down, but that is the line upon which the world is moving.
We have been told about transportation in the United States. It has been said that conditions are bad over theje and that the reason for the failure of the transportation system is that it is being managed as a public proposition. That is not so. If the railway administration of the United States is failing it is largely due to the men who had control of the railways in their hands. They used that control for purposes of exploitation; they used it for securing profits for their companies; they used it for speculation in Wall Street and all things of that kind. Those who are opposed to public ownership in the United States to-day are the Wall Street operators and the magnates who heretofore controlled these railways. Who is it that is demanding public ownership in the United States? The demand is coming from the people who have their money invested in the railways. They see that there is no hope for their investments hereafter unless the administration of the railways is taken away from those so-called railway magnates and from Wall Street and something more in the interest of the public is put in the place of speculation in railway stocks and contracts.

Full View