May 9, 1928 (16th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)


Hon. C. A. DUNNING (Minister of Railways) :

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to follow the hon. member (Mr. Church) who has just sat down in his travels from Toronto to Mexico and back via Germany and then across Canada. I rather agree with the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) that detailed discussion of Canadian National Railway matters can most effectively take place when we are in committee of supply. To attempt to follow the lengthy address in which all sorts of statements regarding the system and its management are made, is not in my view the most effective way of dealing with business of such importance. If when we are in committee of supply my hon. friend has any questions which it is within my ability to answer, I shall endeavour to deal with them. I would, however, commend to all hon. members the study of the reports of the select standing committee on railways and shipping owned, operated and controlled by the government, in order that before the house does get into committee of supply with regard to Canadian National railway affairs there may be a general understanding of the work which that special committee endeavoured to do and also of the information which was placed on record for the use of hon. members.
In connection with Canadian National railway affairs the house adopted a number of sessions ago a practice which has been many times advocated by hon. members in relation
to the estimates of other departments of government. The house adopted, rightly or wrongly, what might be called the budget committee system, with respect to the accounts and estimates of the Canadian National Railways. That practice has been followed for a number of years, and was adopted again this year with the full consent of the house except, I think, of the hon. member who has just sat down. I think almost every other hon. member is convinced of the practical value of the investigation which can be made, and which is made, by a special committee of this character with respect to an enterprise such as the Canadian National Railways. Therefore I again commend to hon. members the study of the reports and evidence, which are all printed and at their disposal.
I desire to make reference to only one matter mentioned by my hon. friend from Northwest Toronto. I will not enter into his disagreement with his colleague from Toronto West Centre (Mr. Hocken). I am quite sure that that hon. gentleman is well able to take care of himself. But my hon. friend did make reference to what is a very serious matter if it is true. He stated, if I heard him correctly, that free transportation was issued to the newspapers of this country by the Canadian National Railways. He made a further statement which appeared to indicate that he had evidence that the Canadian National Railways illegally issued free transportation to people in the Dominion. Statements have been made in various places throughout the country touching upon this matter, and I should like to say to the house at this juncture that the provisions of the Railway Act with respect to the issuance of free transportation are very specific. The method provided by the Railway Act for the audit of free transportation is clear and definite. The Board of Railway Commissioners is the body that conducts the audit and certifies that the provisions of the act have been complied with. I have on many occasions investigated rumours of the improper issuance of free transportation by both our great railway systems, and I must say that I have never yet had an instance brought to my attention which turned out to be a contravention of the law. My hon. friend makes a direct statement in that regard, and, as minister, I would appreciate it if members who believe that transportation has been issued illegally by either of our great railway companies would bring it to my attention or to the attention of the Board of Railway Commissioners, which, as I have said, is the body responsible for the administration of the Railway Act in regard to free transportation.
Railways arid Shipping-Mr. Dunning
Now, with reference to newspaper transportation, my hon. friend spoke of transportation issued to newspapers as if it were free transportation. No free transportation, Mr. Speaker, is issued to newspapers either by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company or the Canadian National Railways. But for many years before the institution of the Canadian National railway system it had been the practice of the railways to issue transportation to the newspapers in contra account for advertising. That is to say, every newspaper in Canada is from time to time in receipt of an order from the Canadian National or the Canadian Pacific to insert a certain advertisement. That advertisement is inserted. The newspaper has an account against the railway company. With respect to that account the newspaper can draw transportation to an equivalent amount.

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