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


John Babington Macaulay Baxter

Conservative (1867-1942)


Was it? Then perhaps my hon. friends to my left will contrast the action of the autocratic government of my right hon. friend here (Mr. Meighen), as it has been termed, when its leader took the bit between his teeth and suspended the navigation laws in order to afford relief to the West, with the want of action on the part of a government so friendly to them, but which refrained from granting my hon. friends similar relief. I am not fighting my hon. friends to my left and I am not working with them, I am simply putting forward the case of the
potato growers of New Brunswick, and 1 am going to ask my hon. friends to my left to examine their consciences and say if the New Brunswick potato growers have received a fair, square deal.
In the parliamentary agreement of last year potatoes were not mentioned. Now, can you tell me anything that distinguishes the man who grows grain from the man who grows potatoes? Is there any reason why a burden should be even partially lifted from the one and yet allowed to remain upon the other? I know my hon. friends will not say there is any reason. Well, then, what happened? The government's action paralyzed the Board of Railway Commissioners, and the potato growers of New Brunswick could not seek relief in that quarter. Railway rates were so much reduced that the railway companies, which have to pay their bills like every other company, had to get money from some source and the only source of course, of their revenue is the passengers and freight they handle. Therefore the Railway Commission could afford no relief by lowering the freight rates on potatoes or lumber, except upon one commodity only coming under the classification of building materials, namely, bricks, and in this instance the reduction was very small.
Now then, the action of the government, in combination with my hon. friends to my left, shut out the potato growers of
5 p.m. New Brunswick from any redress at the hands of the Railway Commission, a tribunal whose purpose is to see that there is no unjust discrimination in railway rates. That is the tribunal to which we go for justice in transportation matters. The Railway Commission said: We cannot give you any relief by reducing the freight rates on potatoes or other commodities without reducing the revenues of the railways to such a point that they will not be able to meet their operating expenses, and such an unsound financial position would only bring ruin upon the railways of Canada a little sooner. Remember, the government interfered with the Railway Commissioners, otherwise they would have taken up the case of the potato grower, of the -lumberman, and of the shipper of all other classes of freight. No one class would have got all they wanted, but the most expert railway brains in the country would have been put to work upon the freight rates problem, and we would have got the best attempt possible to do equal justice to all classes of freight shippers-a far better attempt than can ever be made by any government or any parliamentary committee, no matter how able it may be.
The Address-Mr. Baxter

Denied that recourse, the New Brunswick potato growers put their case before the parliamentary committee. I do not say that that committee was unsympathetic, for even in its first report-the report that was suppressed- a chance was afforded for equal justice. But the action of the government deprived us of that chance. The rates on potatoes from June 7th, 1917, to December 1st, 1921, were laid before that committee, and I have no doubt it will astonish some hon. members to hear how these rates were increased in that period. These rates which I am about to quote are in cents per hundred pounds of potatoes, and are calculated on the same basis as grain rates. In 1917 the rate from the potato shipping points in New Brunswick of Debec, Hartland, Andover and Florenceville to Montreal was 19 cents; in 1921, 34J cents. In other words, it had been increased 81 per cent.

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