March 17, 1922 (14th Parliament, 1st Session)


Alan Webster Neill



I thought that was what
the hon. gentleman would say. I am reminded by this incident how often we find in our course through life that the problems of human life can best be solved by resorting to the wisdom of the prophets of old. I think it was Solomon who said that in the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom. And in the multiplicity of promises is there forgetfulness! I leave it to you, Sir, and to the House to judge what a profligacy of promises he must have pledged himself to when he has forgotten such an extravagant promise as this. But, Sir, I must be frank-and I am always frank, especially when I cannot be otherwise-I will admit that the hon. member for Vancouver Centre did make a hit in one part of my constituency. In the city of Cumberland Mr. Clements, the government candidate, secured a majority of 181 out of a total vote of some 700 or 800, and for that result he was largely indebted to the actions of my hon. friend from Vancouver Centre. I may mention incidentally that outside of places with votes of not more than 50 that was the only place in the whole vast riding in which Mr. Clements did secure a majority. In places where there were only a few votes, composed mostly of government henchmen, he did get a majority, more particularly in some of the northern parts of the riding where I was not able to go because my campaign was very short; in those places where his cannery friends were located he invariably secured a majority. In this connection I should like to tell the hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Mr. Lapointe) that those same cannery men who worked so hard and gave their time,
influence and money in support of the then government candidates throughout British Columbia, are the self-same gentlemen who are besieging his office to-day asking for favours that they are not entitled to, favours which their then government friends on this side, to their credit be it stated, continually refused them. The voice may be a little different, it may be the voice of Esau, but the soul is the soul of Jacob. If you wish any concrete evidence of the way in which the hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries is being persecuted by this vicious lobby, you have only to look at his shrunken, wasted appearance to realize that the importunity he is subjected to hardly permits him to get his meals.
Coming back to the Cumberland vote, I should like to offer an analysis of the nature of that vote, because the hon. leader of the Government (Mr. Mackenzie King) might call Cumberland a Tory stronghold-a term which I would not use- and account for the result in that way; but the facts are very different. As a matter of fact, Cumberland is the last place, to my mind, for a Tory to expect favors from because it is composed of very intelligent electors. The class of men there, are miners and, as I said before, mostly Scotch miners. A great many of them are Socialists, and I may say that a large number of those that formed my committee in Cumberland were Socialists. I have the very greatest respect for the Socialism those men talk. Their brand of Socialism is nothing to be laughed at; on the contrary, it is a well thought out theory of economic laws which we perhaps sooner or later will have to consider. At any rate, I want to emphasize that they are a fine type of intelligent men. Why did such intelligent men vote for my opponent? There must have been a reason. Was it because the hon. member for Vancouver Centre assured them on his knightly honour that the hon. leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) was going to be returned to power? I do not think so, because they did not believe it. Well then, was it because he assured them in the most positive terms that he bad been here and found that the main support of the Conservative government would be withdrawn if Mr. Clements were not returned from the district of Comox-Alberni? I do not know whether that was the reason, or whether it was because he pledged his assurance that he had positive information that Mr. Clements would be elected on the 6th day of December-he was very nearly elected, had he got only 1,300
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*votes more he would have been returned. I do not think it was any of those reasons. I think it was primarily and directly because the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, speaking as a Cabinet Minister, pledged himself and the government that if they were returned to power they would put an increased duty on fuel oil. That was the inducement that caused those intelligent men to vote the way they did, and I for one am not inclined to blame them. Hon. gentlemen, after what I have said of these intelligent voters of Cumberland, will recognize the kind of economic pressure that must have been put on them before they would have voted contrary to their inclinations, and I believe that it was in order to get this necessary boon of an increased duty on fuel oil. I might say that Mr. Clements was persona non grata with them; it certainly was not a question of voting for the man but of voting for the promise made by a prominent member of the Government. I earnestly hope that he will from his place in the House uphold the stand he took in that riding and see that the increase is granted. So well do I know him to be a man of his word that I feel-indeed, I almost fear- that if the Finance Minister does not grant that increase, of duty the hon. member will deem it his duty to resign his seat as a protest against the policy of the Government-the only protest he can make because of the failure of the Government to carry out the pledges which he made on behalf of the government to be.
By the way, they gave me a banquet in Cumberland after the election, which was attended by many of my friends as well as by some of those who were against me. Among other things I asked a man who was there why they did not take my word for it rather than the word of the hon. gentleman, because I, too, promised that if elected I would press for an increased duty, and they might just as well have put their money on me as on my hon. friend. The explanation I got was something like this-I do not guarantee it, because it was only one man's opinion: "Well, we were in a hole economically; we were up against it; we had to help ourselves, and I am afraid the boys thought they would play a sort of safe game. We felt that if the Conservatives got into power, and we had supported them in Cumberland, for shame's sake they would give us what they had promised; but we feared that if they got into power and we had thrown them down, they have such a crude conception of statesman-

ship they would not deliver the goods; on the other hand, we felt that if you were elected personally and the Liberals got into power you would be decent enough to assist us and that the Liberal Government, having a wider conception of true statesmanship, would give us justice." So that after that striking tribute to the belief of these men in the traditions of the Liberal party I feel that I cannot do better than leave the case in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, with the assumption that they will give us justice- that is, if justice means an increase of two cents a gallon in the duty.
Now, Sir, we come to the question of railways. I note that the Government are going to make an honest trial of government ownership. Well, I do not deny them that right; I suppose under the circumstances it is the best thing they can do, the only line of policy they can follow. But for myself, Sir, I must confess to having no very hopeful anticipation as to what the result will be. The government is a body designed primarily for the administration of the country's affairs, not for the conducting of a business. The governmental body is unwieldy in itself and is poorly equipped for carrying on these business enterprises. Moreover, there is a constant change of personnel which makes a continuous policy very difficult to carry out. Members of government are too prone to respond to waves of popular feeling, and there is the ever present danger involved in political interest. Does any hon. member within the sound of my voice think that if there was an election to-morrow and the fate or even the prestige of the Government hung in the balance, and it was thought necessary in order to carry the election to promise a railway into some particular district, or a few additional stations, or a lower rate on wheat or potatoes [DOT]-does any hon. gentleman think that these promises would not be made? If there is anybody in this House who thinks that such promises would not be promptly made under those conditions, he has my sympathy, and I think his friends should consult an alienist.
Just as a little instance of how these things work out, I may say that those hon. members who have come here for the first time must all be struck by the manner in which the government offices are scattered around this town. You go down to see a Cabinet minister, and after much prayer and fasting you are admitted; then you find

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that the matter in which you are interested necessitates a visit to one of his deputies. You go to see the deputy, who is anywhere from half a mile to a mile and a half away, and the chances are that the other one is just as far off in another direction. One cannot help reflecting upon the impossibility of a corporation like the Canadian Pacific or a large steel trust conducting their business with their offices so distributed. It is not the fault of the present government, I know, or probably of the last. We heard a great deal from the right hon. leader of the Opposition the other day about the word " co-ordination." He wanted to know what it meant and how it could be carried out. There seems to be a good deal of doubt in the minds of hon. members as to just what co-ordination means. It is true that the Government themselves have not been in the co-ordinating business very long, but before they try their prentice hand at the co-ordination of the railways I suggest that it would be a good experiment to co-ordinate the government buildings in this city.
The word "co-ordination" has a fine sound; it reminds me of the experiences of my boyhood days in connection with the Shorter Catechism. Some of the phrases I still have in mind; "justification by faith; sanctification by grace; justification by works," and so on. All these sonorous phrases come back to us in times like these. As regards government ownership of railways, it may be that their state operation is justified by faith, but I very much doubt whether they will ever be justified by works.
There is another circumstance which makes me prone to doubt the advisability of plunging into a scheme of government ownership. As a young man I spent a number of years in New Zealand. There they had an even bigger white elephant than we have here, because their railways were not only government-owned-but,- Lord help them-politically constructed. A more disastrous condition it would be hard for the human mind to conceive. Well, they borrowed millions of pounds from the Old Country, 'and then, human nature being the same south of the equator as north of it, every member had to grab for his district as much of that loan as he could get. It did not matter whether his district already had a railway and did not need any more funds; he had to "make good with the boys." The consequence was that railways were scattered all over the country to a far greater extent than

they are here. Not only were they put where they were not wanted, but they were laid out in a most peculiar manner. Suppose, for instance, that a railway was to be constructed from my seat to that of the hon. leader of the Government, and it had suddenly been discovered that the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Crerar) had some political pull with the Government- indeed, perhaps that is true to-day. Well,, the railway would start off with the honest intention of going direct from my seat toward that of the hon. leader of the House, but when it got a certain distance within influence of the magnetic attraction of the hon. member for Marquette it would proceed to his residence' or estate, and then come back. It was no uncommon occurrence in that country for a man to lose the train at one station and drive on a few miles further and pick it up somewhere else. These are actual conditions, Sir; I myself have seen them. As was the case in Canada, rates were jumped when the squeal of the politicians was heard, and the farmers were actually hauling their wool in wagons-ox wagons in many cases-distances of thirty, forty or fifty miles, at the same cost as that of transporting it over the railway, as a protest against the methods employed. In fact, conditions got so bad that the people of New Zealand actually contemplated- it was advocated in the press and on the platform-the repudiation of the whole railway indebtedness. As a matter of making a fresh start they sent to the Old Country for an expert railway man and gave him full control-a ten or twenty-years' job. They said: "Go to it"-and he did go to it. He closed off the inefficient and unnecessary lines, dismissed one-third of the government officials, cut down the expense of operating, and ran it like a business man's railway; and eventually it did pay a small interest on the money invested. To my mind, only by doing something of that kind with our railways in Canada can we really accomplish anything. Go to the States and get an expert railway man. I am not decrying our railway men when I suggest that we should go to the States for an expert; I only say that because I believe it would eliminate the suspicion that would otherwise attach to any Canadian railway man, of representing a political party or association or group, who should endeavour to carry out this work. Get an expert railway man from the United States, put him in such a position that he would only be removable
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by the joint vote of Parliament, and give him a free hand to see if he can possibly make it pay. I shall be only too pleased if the Government can make this thing pay. Miracles happened eighteen hundred years ago and there is nothing in theological dogmas to forbid them happening again, but I rather fear it will be like the answer given by the Scotchman who, when asked if prohibition was likely to carry in Scotland, said, "Well it might, but it's no likely."
One honi. gentleman drew a comparison between the profits to be derived' from the railways and the profits made by selling liquor. I am afraid the two do not coordinate very well together. It is true that if you take enough of the one you will feel competent to run the other, but I do not think the comparison is otherwise a good one. As you know, the railway is a necessity, and the other thing is more or less of a luxury to mo-st people, and a very expensive one. We all know that it is a peculiar trait of human nature that we kick to the last cent about the cost of our necessaries, but never kick about the cost of our luxuries. It is for that reason we make a fuss about the price of coal, and the amount our wives burn, but very little about the consumption or the cost of the cigars we burn. It is a peculiar psychological fact in human nature that we do not mind any price for our luxuries, but are very stringent in the matter of necessaries. Now the railway is a necessity, and the other thing is a luxury.
My hon. friend from South York (Mr. Maclean), speaking the other day, said-and this fact comes home to some of us in the West-that they had had trouble in Ontario where boat and rail service met. He said that as the Railway Commission reduced the rates on the railway, the boat service put up its rates. We have somewhat similar conditions in the West. Not long ago when the people of Alberni kicked about their railway and boat service to Vancouver-it is partly by boat and partly by rail, both services being under the one company-they were told unblushingly, first of all by the railway, that they could not control the boat rates, and then they were told by the Railway Commissioners that the Commission had1 no control over the boat service. The way to remedy that is that advocated by the hon. member for South York-bring our coastal boat service under the control of the Railway Commission, and it would then be able to handle a situa-

tion of that kind where a joint service is being run in an inadequate way. In order that I may be able to obtain some support from the British Columbia members in advocating such a step, I might say that if this step were taken the railway pass given us by the Government would be good on the Canadian Pacific boats, which they are not at present-but that, of course, is only incidental.

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