May 18, 1931 (17th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. J. MANION (Minister of Railways and Canals):

I am rather glad the hon. member has brought up this question, because during the last few hours I have been inundated with this statement from various people in the west. I see according to one newspaper sent me that Premier Bracken made the statement that large numbers of men were being taken to Churchill from the east, and the mayor of The Pas is reported to have made a similar statement. I was looking into the matter, without knowing anyone was going to bring it up, so I think I can give a fairly intelligent answer.
The number of men taken to Churchill as working on the line from The Pas to Churchill amounts to approximately one thousand, but of that number about one half are men who have been in there for a number of

years, who have some special qualifications and who have been reemployed. In round figures, some four hundred men I am informed have been taken from The Pas, or about a third of the total number employed. The men taken from other sections of the country, and certainly those taken from the east, with very rare exceptions, were men who had been there in previous years and who had some special qualifications. There were some men taken from Renfrew county, men who have been there for a number of years. They are called adze men; they have special qualifications for working timber. Other men were taken from the maritime provinces; they were steamship men, who have been there for some years. I do not think the numbers of these men have been increased.
With regard to The Pas, there is no doubt that many men went there looking for work this year. I am informed by people in the west that hundreds of men vrent to The Pas on freight trains and in other ways, in the hope of getting work. Of course it is impossible for the Department of Railways and Canals to supply work for all these men. They went in on their own. responsibility, and we have taken as many as we can take. Probably 90 per cent of all the employees on the line from The Pas to Churchill and at Churchill have been taken from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and I think that is a very fair proportion.
There may be very good arguments advanced in support of the contention that men should not be brought from other sections of Canada, but only those men who have special training or who had previous knowledge of the work were taken from other parts of the country, and their numbers are very small. I think it well that this fact should be made known to the people of western Canada. I can assure my hon. friend and the country that The Pas and western Canada have been treated very fairly in this matter. It may be pointed out that Winnipeg, for instance, has thousands of men unemployed. We did take perhaps 150 men from Winnipeg, but surely that city has some right to be considered. There were a few men taken from Regina, a few from Selkirk and a few from various other sections, and I may say that I was approached from all over western Canada, asking me for positions at Churchill. I suppose for each position we had to offer there were from ten to twenty applications.

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