February 8, 1923 (14th Parliament, 2nd Session)

CON

John Babington Macaulay Baxter

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. J. B. M. BAXTER (St. John City and Counties of St. John and Albert):

Mr. Speaker, in rising to continue the debate on the Address, I would like to pause to say just a word with reference to those who were with us during the last session and are with us no more. Individual references to our deceased colleagues have been made by the leaders of the three parties in the House, and I could add nothing to what has been said. But, I would like to express the feeling that our late colleagues, no matter which party they represented came here as Canadians believing that it is part of a man's duty to do his share of the work in the public service of the country. And in these days it is all too necessary to impress upon the people who have time to give, who have ability to give, who have force of character to lend, that they should come, even through the dusty ways of politics, to this Chamber to help in the solution of the very real and very grave questions from which we shall not be free, perhaps, during the span of a generation. The men who have passed, saw their duty. No matter what feeling of personal ambition may have influenced them, they came here and did their duty according to their lights, and I trust that we may take some inspiration from their example, for there were among them men of strong character, men of real energy, and men, above all, of absolute sincerity. It was said by a great Imperialist in the last moments of his life: "So little done, so much to do!" That is true here and now as it was when uttered by Cecil Rhodes the Empire Builder: and it ought to be with some feeling of the gravity of that statement that we should approach the work of this session. And may I suggest, Sir, that in approaching the work of this session we get at it man-fashion and not consume merely three hours a day, or less, as we have been_ doing for the last five days? Real work needs real energy and real attention from real men; we cannot handle the problems of this country by merely playing with them, or dawdling from day to day and occupying our time in other

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pursuits, letting the business of the country wait until we can rush it through some months later on when wre are all anxious to get home and are a bit tired of-shall I say?-passing our time rather helplessly here. There is much to do, and I would ask of those who have the programme in hand that they should let us get at the doing of it. We are going to differ, we are going to disagree, about the doing of it; the people of Canada are going to differ and disagree about the way we are going to do it; but let us get at it for we come here for the purpose of settling or solving problems, and we can only do that by being in action.
I would like to be able to refer to the Speech from the Throne in happier terms than it was referred to by the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Hoey), who once again donned sacerdotal vestments and inveighed against the barren figtree with traditional severity. He found it barren, and I do not think that, the group which sits to his right will be able to gather any more figs from it than they could even from the thistles which adorn the wayside. He gave it a good eurs-ing; and I hope that my hon. friends opposite will realize that, after all, there comes an end sometimes to the hopes-the dazzling, sparkling, scintillating hopes-which may be held out before the eyes of even the most trustful of mortals. My hon. friend from Springfield, after one session's experience of the scintillating hopes, comes back this year, gets on mount Ebal and gives the cursing which always came from that celebrated spot. Of course, he gives a little flicker towards us, but I did not think the group of which I am a member had been doing anything in particular, I did not think we had been irritating him, I thought that we had left him alone pretty well this session. We had not, as yet, reminded him of those most unfortunate results which I predicted last year would flow from that morganatic alliance into which he had plunged. However he has perhaps discovered something about the Conservatives-he may think he has-found something such as has been found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. I may tell him that we are not yet quite buried, and that he will find that, even with us, we endure for a good many years, and that, like the celebrated Pharaoh, we have remained in the same place. He may look around about, and he may find another party which has not stayed in the same place with regard to its policy. I think he has already discovered that fact. Or, if he would like something a little lighter, something in the poetic vein, he might be induced to look up the quotation given by our dear
friend the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) when he was not occupying his present position, but when he was a critic of the then government, and quoted, I have no doubt with admirable zest and fervour, some lines that, although not appropriate then, are at least very much in place to-day. We can quote them back. They were as follows: - They promise, prepare, propose, postpone,
And end by letting things alone.
I trust that my hon. friends to my left can fully appreciate the vagaries of government policy which in two sessions have gone through the whole course indicated so pathetically by the hon. Minister of Finance. One hon. member says he does not appreciate it. In last year's Speech from the Throne I find the following paragraph-
It is intended at an early date to co-ordinate the Government-owned systems in the manner best calculated to increase efficiency, and to effect economies in administration, maintenance and operation.
And I have just had the pleasure of listening to a very interesting speech from the other side of the House in which the effect of economies in administration, maintenance and operation has been set forth in a most salutary manner for the government to hear. I learned, however, with surprise the other day from the hon. Acting Minister of Railways (Mr. Graham) that this co-ordination had not been effected. I judged from what he said that there was some serious legal obstacle. What legal obstacle there could have been that was not in existence when the Speech from the Throne was delivered last year I utterly fail to conceive, but apparently things are put in the Speech from the Throne without very much reflection, and possibly in the hope that the ambition of the late P. T. Barnum may be comfortably realized, in fooling all the people at least part of the time until the next session. My hon. friend apparently did not know there was an obstacle, but they had a whole session in which to find out and introduce any legislation which was necessary and we come here and find, I think it was after the opening of this session -I am not sure of the exact date, but very close to it-that they did get through the order in council co-ordinating these systems. Why the delay? I do not want to be misunderstood. I never speak as an enthusiastic advocate of government ownership. I look upon government ownership as an unfortunate necessity, as something that cannot be avoided, as something that we have got to make the best of. It is no use to go back into the reasons that led up to it. There is no use travelling through the years when my hon. friends were in power, and when their
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unwise acts with regard to railway building rendered ultimately necessary the steps that had to be taken with regard to these railways. But we are facing, as some one said the other day, a condition and not a theory-we have the railways. I would like to hear something-and I speak in all seriousness; if we are going to face, this problem from a national standpoint, I would like to hear something more hopeful, something more helpful and more trustful than I have heard from my hon. friend the Minister of Finance the other day. He did not speak of this, and I had assumed, perhaps wrongly, that he was an ardent public ownership man. He certainly did not speak as such. I would think however thak-it would be better, for the education of the people of this country as to the necessity of vital co-operation of all interests in this country, to make the best of the amalgamated roads. I would think it would be well for a man of the high standing of the Minister of Finance to give us some hope and some light in dealing with this problem, instead of rather reprobating it and treating it as if it were something nobody could ever hope to accomplish. If that is the real view of the government, if they have made up their minds on this important subject, if they feel we can never make a success of these railways, then I would invite them to put an end to the farce at once and let us proceed to get rid of these railways before the burden on the country becomes more and more intolerable. There are just the two courses to pursue, one is to go ahead and make good with the railways, and the other is to get rid of them. Whatever course the administration sees fit to pursue, let us have energy and force back of it, and do not have any cold water thrown on the proposition by any member of the administration. The order in council has been passed, and we have co-ordination to some extent. Whether we have within the system the real desire to make it effective I do not know.
I am not going to criticise the choice made by the government of the administrator of the railways. I believe every man has a right to a chance to make good, and I propose to reserve any remarks or any criticism of that appointment until we get a full, fair opportunity for a demonstration and see what the gentleman can do. Let him be judged by his works. In the meantime I might enter a little plea for somewhat more action and somewhat less speech. This country is probably unknown to Sir Henry Thornton, and I trust he will be able to grapple with the tremendous problems that he has to face. But I would rather hear him
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tell afterwards, if that will be necessary, what he has done, than hear quite so much about what may be done. While touching on this subject, I do not think that the attitude, perhaps, of some public men is altogether wise, when they tell us, both in this House and out of it, that you cannot keep the railway system out of politics, or rather, that you must have politics in the railway system. I am going to be extremely candid and say that I am afraid they are right. But I would rather have them say to the public the thing that they do not mean than say the thing that they believe. They do so on other occasions, why should they not do it on this? They are telling you, or they are telling us, that there is this higher class of politics, this general direction of the affairs of the railways, that is necessarily political, and that this House which, after all, means the government, must control. I cannot quarrel with that. The administration for the time being, must settle things. I think, perhaps, our criticism is that they do not quite settle things enough. What I do object to are the suggestions that come in this very chamber, and that I have heard in Sir Henry Thornton's presence at public meetings from prominent members of the Liberal party, that you cannot keep the road out of politics; that the country is paying for the services of the men who are on the road, and that they are going to have some control. That means just this to my mind: perhaps not all the leaders, but certainly those who control the political activities of the party, have made up their minds that, under the guise of public declarations that there shall be no politics, there shall be a very effective and very operative political programme permeating the whole course of the National railways. We have some evidence of this in the province of New Brunswick. I do not care how far they go; all I want is that the thing shall come out in the daylight. If they are right in what they say, that you cannot keep the railroad out of politics, then we ought to get together in this House and get the railroad out of the hands of the people as quickly as possible. If you can run the railway without politics, then we ought to use the whole force of all political parties in this House to keep politics out of the railway administration.
When, a little over a year ago, the party of which I am a member was making efforts to obtain or to retain the confidence of the people, in which effort we were not as sucess-ful as we would like to have been, in the Maritime provinces we told the people frankly wbat our programme was, not that we had the direction of the railway system, but that as

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far as we could exercise influence, we thought there ought to be large regional divisions of the government railways for the purpose of effective administration. That was approved by the then general manager, the president of the road, and a statement was made publicly; but our statement, I will be frank enough to say, was absolutely beclouded and derided, and the people apparently did not believe it. It was, however, like all our other public pronouncements upon the platform, or of the platform of the party, absolutely true and sincere. The other side were prepared to go to any length, and a railway millennium would dawn if they got back into power. Well, they got power as regards the province of Nova Scotia, got it abundantly; they got it as regards the province of Prince Edward Island to the full extent that that province was capable of giving it. And you have heard the result to-day. They did not get it quite so largely in New Brunswick; but they did get many of the counties in which the old Intercolonial operates, and I will say that, in the city of Moncton and through the counties of Nova Scotia where that railway runs, the people had absolute faith and belief that a Liberal administration would give them a regional administration that would extend at least as far as the city of Montreal; that that portion of the railway would be managed from the common centre of the city of Moncton. Hon. members will recollect that originally the Intercolonial railway. ran only to the city of Quebec; but that under the administration of the late Hon. Andrew G. Blair, when he was Minister of Railways, the Drummond County line was bought and the road was extended to the city of Montreal Now, I am told to-day-my hon. friends will correct me if I am wrong-that this eastern region is to end at Riviere du Loup. * I am sorry the Acting Minister of Railways (Mr. Graham) is not in his place, but I would like to know whether that statement is or is not correct. On the assumption that it is correct, I want to point out something which is_ of a good deal of importance to us in the Maritime provinces. If the bookkeeping of that railway system is to charge up against that particular region the overhead expenses of the general staff, that will be just one nail more in the coffin of the Maritime provincial railway administration. If you take a lin' from Halifax to Montreal, you can administer, as regards the supervisory portion of the management, with exactly the same number of men as if it were merely from Riviere du Loup to Halifax. But, if you are going to pay as many men for a smaller portion of the road, why necessarily the overhead is distributed over a smaller amount of receipts and a smaller mileage of the railway. We do not, after all, want something for nothing in the Maritime provinces, but we do want the most efficient use of that railway which was built for us as part of the compact of confederation. We do not want to put an unnecessary dollar of burden upon the country to do that, we want it to be as self-sustaining as it may be, having regard to the absolute necessities of the people in the Maritime provinces, and having regard to conditions of Canadian business as well. But we do not want to have any part of the system loaded Tip with more unnecessary expense than any other. I think that is a fair business proposition, and I trust that before the session ends, I shall hear from the Minister of Railways whether this statement is a correct one and if so, what reasons have prompted the Government to allow that limited distance to become a regional system.
Last year my hon. friend, whose absence from the House this year we all very much regret, the hon. member for Cumberland (Mr. Logan), wanted the Intercolonial railway to be restored to its former status. I do not know that I agree with that. I want to see the Intercolonial railway of the best possible benefit to the Maritime provinces, and I believe, whether in public hands or in private h: nds, it would be better that the whole
22,000 miles of railways should be under one and the same management. I believe that in that way we can get better results, and I believe the people of the Maritime provinces will have faith that under one system or the other we shall get better results by having unified management and control, provided that the local necessities of the railway situation are given fair and sympathetic consideration by that management, whatever it may be. My hon. friend from Cumberland, however was probably relying on the Speech from the Throne for that year, which said:
Conferences have been arranged between the railway [DOT] authorities with respect to the reduction of rates upon basic commodities.
Last year the government had a programme until the Speech from the Throne was delivered. Then that programme, whatever it may have been, was put under the table and the whole matter was referred to a committee. On the 22nd of June that committee adopted a report which never saw the light in this chamber, and a portion of which was as follows: -
Your committee therefore recommend a suspension of the Crowsnest pass agreement for one year, from sixth July, 1922, with power to the Governor in Council to
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suspend for a further period of one year, if in its judgment the then existing conditions justify the same. And your committee recommend that suitable legislation be enacted to make effective this recommendation.
That was, in clear terms, a recommendation for a general suspension. It carried out the provisions of the Railway Act, which otherwise would have expired on the sixth of July, 1922. The recommendation of that committee was made, as the report stated, in view of the great necessity for a general reduction in freight rates on basic commodities as a whole, and in what was considered to be the general public interest, and not in consequence of the proposals for rate reduction made by the railways. We had that point of view, then, from the committee, that there was a great necessity for a general reduction in the freight rates on basic commodities. Our friends in the West were, quite naturally, striving to hold an advantage that they had, an advantage which had been purchased not by them alone but by all the people of Canada, and purchased under conditions very materially differing from the post-war conditions in connection with the railways. Now, the very fact that we meet here in a parliament duly convened emphasizes this other fact, that there always is, always will be and of necessity must be, sectionalism. I do not mean sectionalism in the improper sense by which one section tries to get something to which it is not entitled. I mean sectionalism in the fair sense in which it ought to be used in parliamentary institutions,-that sectionalism which presents its local difficulties, and its means or want of means of meeting these difficulties, and comes to parliament in a general conference to decide what can best be done in the common interests of the whole country, from east to west and from north to south. We do not always accomplish that, but I trust that, even though there are misunderstandings, we always have that point of view in mind. And it is with that point of view in mind that I address some remarks to this Chamber this afternoon. As I say, the West came here feeling that they had a right to something, to wit, certain rates lower than anybody else in the country could enjoy for the movement of commodities. They felt it was not fair to deprive them of that advantage. They felt that it was a difficult matter for the people of the West to market their wheat crop, and that, transportation being so vital an element, they ought not to be asked to give up the privilege they had been enjoying. Now, I am not saying that their point of view was correct. Indeed, I do not think it was wholly correct, but I say it was a point of view that had a right to be presented and to be taken into consideration in framing any policy. But it had

a right to be taken into consideration only along with the requirements, the difficulties and the needs of all other portions of Canada served by the railways. And in considering this matter it was for the government to formulate a policy which should do as equal justice to all sections as it is possible for any policy to secure. The government shrank from taking up that burden. They felt they were not strong in the House, and they proceeded to make a bargain with my friends to my left, by means of which they got all the political support they could obtain and gave in return-I will not say lavishly, but nevertheless they gave-rights or privileges in utter disregard of the Maritime provinces, of the province of Quebec, the province of Ontario and the province of British Columbia.-That may sound harsh, and I do not want to put anything bitterly; but it seems to me that it is just a fact. I am going to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to follow me, while I discuss the case of my own province of New Brunswick although I can only do it in the most imperfect manner. Without trying to get anything for New Brunswick that it should not have.
I think it is my duty to put before this House the difficulties under which that province labours because of that very bargain which the government entered into for the purpose of obtaining political support. If that agreement did not hurt the province of New Brunswick, I suppose I would not say anything -about the matter; and I presume that some hon. members may say that New Brunswick was not hurt. Now, I think that, from the very evidence taken by the committee that considered this matter and which was then shut off, I can demonstrate to the House that New Brunswick in some particulars was rather cruelly hurt. We do not pretend down there to be grain growers. On the other hand, we do not allege that grain growers have no rights; we think they have a right to fair treatment; But we think we have a right to fair treatment ourselves, and we cannot see why a large section of New Brunswick-I will refer particularly to the counties of Carleton and Victoria, where potato growing is largely carried on-should be injured by reason of any agreement with any other part of the country. We cannot see why any 'man in this House possessed of a fair mind should vote to destroy, to hamper or to impede the potato growers of these counties in order that some [DOT] portion of the middle West might derive a tremendous advantage. One hon. member from the province of New Brunswick belonging to the group to my left did vote so, carried away, again, by the party spirit. The party meant more to him than his constit-

The Address-Mr. Baxter
uents, and he voted to sacrifice the potato growers of his own constituency in order to help out the, no doubt unfortunate, grain growers who were, in the higher circles, pocketing the spoils in the way of overages, shortages and these other things.

Topic:   THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH ADDRESS IN REPLY
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