April 17, 1923 (14th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


Very well, the expiration of the suspension c^me in 1922 and then the Railway Commission-having already reduced the rates so far as they, felt they could until they knew the fate of the Crowsnest pass legislation, and having to hold their hands from further general reductions -which were due all over this country, until it could be known what was the decision of this parliament in respect of the agreement-came to the government and asked that the government declare, and that parliament declare, its position on the subject. The matter, as everyone knows, was referred to a committee and finally government legislation was introduced, the effect of which, was to restore the Crowsnest pass agreement in part and let the rest of it go by the board, for another year.
This legislation passed, the part restored being the rates on grain and flour moving eastward out of the western prairie provinces.
Now we must remember in this connection -though it is aside from my argument, and I ask that tfiis interjection be forgotten as related to my argument, as soon as I make it- that there is no question that whatever may have been the result of the imposition of the Crowsnest pass rates on grain and flour eastward out of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, whatever may have been the result, below what the Railway Commission would have felt it should have done, so far as Manitoba was concerned, there was nothing effected whatever below what the Railway Commission would in any case have done. I say this on the authority of the evidence submitted to the special committee, which went to show the railways were prepared, under the better conditions that had been brought about, to reduce rates until they would equal in Manitoba the Crowsnest pass rates. It is presumable, however, that in Saskatchewan and Alberta the rates imposed by this parliament in restoring that portion? of the agreement were below the rates which, under all the circumstances, the Railway Commission would probably have thought fair. How far below no one knows, but that they were below can be presumed from the subsequent judgment of the Railway Commission itself. As a consequence of parliament imposing those rates, in respect, we will say, of Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Railway Commission were prevented from doing what they otherwise would have done in rate reduction in other parts of the country.
Now the hon. minister argues as against the present resolution-why reduce these rates? He says there is a board which has jurisdiction in railway rates that we should not invade that jurisdiction, and that to do so is to act on a false principle. Then he immediately sees in front of him the act of last session in which we did invade the jurisdiction by restoring the Crowsnest rates on grain and flour, in a word by fixing rates on grain and flour coming eastward, and he says that is an exception, because there was an agreement and we had to bow to it. That agreement he says was made in 1897. Its rates have always been out of the jurisdiction of the commission and consequently there was an exception based on the sanctity of such agreement. Now I ask if such is the case, why in the world was not the agreement wholly restored and its integrity respected? If it is a sacred agreement, all of it is sacred and one part is just as sacred as another.
Railway Rates

If the hon. member wants to get behind the agreement as an agreement, let him get behind it. He wants to justify smashing the agreement in two, and then to be allowed to say " because it is sacred as an agreement, I will get behind a fragment of it and let the rest go by the board."

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