May 12, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


George Brecken Nicholson



I was just coming to that. The second suggestion one hears is that we should merge all the railways of Canada into one great system. There are two schools of thought in regard to that suggestion. One school advocates putting all these lines into one great system and operating them as one publicly-controlled concern; another scholool says that we should combine them all into one system and operate them privately. And in that connection we have the suggestion, in a letter to the Right Hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Meighen), from Lord Shaugh-nessy, to turn them over to the Canadian Pacific Railway. Any statement made by Lord Shaughnessy on the railway question in this country must be given some consideration, because-and I do not believe I am overstating the fact-he is one of the most outstanding railway organizers and operators that the American continent has ever produced.
I shall deal with this question of merging all the Canadian railways into one great system, both from the aspect of public ownership and from that of private control. The country, Mr. Speaker, requires something more than the mere earning of operating costs by its railways; it requires service. Service means as much to the Canadian people in connection with the operation of the railways as does the wiping out of the deficits on the Canadian National railways. Unless we can be assured satisfactory service, I have very grave doubts as to whether we should gain very much by reducing the deficit. Now, I just put this question: What has made the Canadian Pacific Railway the success which every one looks upon it as being today? You say at once that it is the efficient management and operation which it has had. Well, I agree absolutely with that. And what was it that produced that efficient organization? It was the stern, determined competition which the Canadian Pacific railway encountered right from its inception, and which made it absolutely necessary that it should develop just that kind of organization; otherwise it could not have carried on successfully. The question is, if you put the whole of the railways

of Canada into one great merger and operate them, either under private control, or under public management-private control, with dividends to the stockholders guaranteed for all time to come,-is it reasonable to expect that we are going to get that type of service which we should receive as a result of the competition that at present exists? My personal judgment, so far as that is concerned, is that while it may be ideal-there are a great many things that are ideal, but are not practical -that all these railways should be put into one great system and be operated under either private or government control, it is wholly impracticable, and if it were done the Canadian Pacific Railway would deteriorate and ultimately become what the Canadian National Railways are to-day.
Another suggestion is that a new company be formed and given a block of stock in the Canadian National railways, and that the operation be under private control. Weill, if some one will find a group of practical railroad men anywhere who will be willing to pledge forty, or fifty, qr sixty millions of their own money in this enterprise, and undertake to operate the Canadian National railways as co-partners with the people of Canada, risking some of their own money in the venture, then, so far as I am personally concerned, I would have no great objection to the experiment. But I have great doubt as to whether it would be possible to find such a group of men.
Another suggestion is that we abandon the Grand Trunk altogether, leaving it just where it is; that we retain the Canadian National railways as they are and endeavour to operate them as we are doing at present. My position with regard to that is simply this: The Canadian people have been betrayed a great many times in connection with railway problems in this country, but I would look upon it as the greatest possible betrayal of the public in connection with railway matters if we left the Grand Trunk in the hands of the present owners, relieving them of all obligations in connection with the National Transcontinental and the Grand Trunk Pacific, allowing the shareholders of the Grand Trunk to retain that portion of their lines that has some potential advantage, while the Canadian people have foisted upon them those parts with their terminals so to speak, up in the air, and without any prospect of efficient operation. Any one who will look the situation in the face at all, cannot escape the conclusion
that as a railway project the Canadian National railways, the Transcontinental, the Grand Trunk Pacific, and the Canadian Northern cannot be operated without the eastern connections. Why should the Canadian people be asked to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in producing these connections and let the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada, who at least were partners with the Canadian people in bringing about this situation, get away with all the advantages while we carry the load? I say again, I would look upon that as the greatest betrayal of the Canadian people that has ever been perpetrated in connection with the whole railway situation; and that is saying a good deal.
Now, the last proposition is the coordination of all the present lines of the Grand Trunk, the Canadian Northern, the Grand Trunk Pacific, the National Transcontinental and the Intercolonial into one system operated under government control. Whatever my personal opinion may be on the merits or demerits of government control of railways, I say, what I have said a good many times, I see no other possible solution than this last proposition. I do not believe it would be possible to bring about a merger with the Canadian Pacific railway such as Lord Shaughnessy suggests, even supposing such were accepted as the solution. I believe the only solution is the proper co-ordination and organization of these systems. Get the Grand Trunk linked up with the Canadian National railways just as quickly as possible and organize the whole system efficiently.
I am not going to criticise any individual or any group of individuals; I am not in a position to do so. I do not know what the exact situation is. I have not had the opportunity, and would not have the capacity if I did have the opportunity, of determining what the facts are. I am confident, however, that there is something wrong somewhere, and I say to the Government, with all frankness, that the time has come when they should find out what that difficulty is: I do not believe that
there is any reasonable justification for the operating deficits that we have had in the last year, and previous years, on the Canadian National Railways. And just incidental to that I would refer briefly to something said by my hon. friend from North Cape Breton and Victoria (Mr. McKenzie) with regard to the Canadian Northern Railway when he remarked that a gentleman from Western Canada had told him nobody would use that railway.

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