Mr. J. P. TURCOTTE (Quebec West).
(Translation). Mr. Speaker, before you
leave the Chair, I wish to draw the attention of the government to a state of things which seems to me detrimental to the public interest.
Last session, the Canadian Northern Railway Company was granted, by statute, the right of building a line of railway from a point on its line at or near Hedleyville, in the immediate vicinity of the city of Quebec, thence in a generally easterly direction to a point on the Montmorency river.
That statute was assented to in due course and I presume that the Act was passed, subject to the ordinary conditions, namely that in return for the power of expropriation, the right of way on the property of other people, the company should assume all the liabilities which result from such a state of things.
What happened? Last summer or last fall, the company constructed that line, secured the right of way or made the expropriation. Whenever disputes arose as to the price tendered by the company and the amount asked for by the owner, the sum fixed by the judge was paid into the office of the court, according to law, and there was a temporary right of way. I know whereof I speak, as I served the interests of the company upon that occasion. Thanks to our combined efforts, and in view of the fact that a railway line always results in increasing the wealth of the country thus accommodated, the road was put in operation late in the fall of the year, in November. But, instead of running passenger and freight trains, they kept freight trains in operation, without any stop, from Hedleyville to Montmorency. People said that the road was not in a proper condition to be operated in the winter season. It was only in April that the trains began to run in the same direction, but under similar conditions. The trains leave the main line at Hedleyville and run without any stop to Montmorency; there they take pulp wood and come back to Quebec. The line is out of repair to such a degree that serious accidents have taken place, and trains have been ditched.
Last winter, we made representations to the company, and in view of what had happened last fall, I was urged by my constituents in the parish of Beauport to go and meet them. I heard their grievances and as it was announced that the company did not wish to use that road for anything else but for the lumber operations that are carried out on the Montmorency river, I then formally undertook to communicate with the Railway Commission in order to reach some practical result, so that there should be freight and passengers run by the company, with stations between the termini, and that the railway should be worked not only for the personal benefit of the company, but also for the accommodation Mr. TURCOTTE.
of passengers and the carriage of the goods of farmers on the line.
The answer I got from the commission not officially but officiously, was that they had no power to order the company to build stations on the line nor to give a passenger service. Those lines are called spur lines; they are intended as feeders for the traffic of the main line. I was told, moreover, that the farmers could by no means require from the government or the company that there should be stations built between the termini and that a regular passenger service should be established for the convenience of the public in general.
Well, Sir, I have undertaken to bring the matter to the attention of the government, and in case the Act should not provide for such an emergency, I invite the government to bring down some amendment. At any rate, I have undertaken to leave no stone unturned to reach the desired end.
I should have raised this question before to-day, but as the new service began only in April, the opportunity did not offer before.
Now, I bring this question before the government and before the House. Should it be found that the Railway Commission has no power to order the company to operate passenger and freight trains, for the accommodation of the public, it would mean that under the Railway Act, as it is, a railway company would be entitled to all the powers of expropriation and could vex and annoy the public; that it could take private property and convert it for its own use into money.
I believe that such a situation is abnormal. If the Railway Act is such as one of the members of the Board of Railway Commissioners holds it to be. it ought' to be amended.
I have taken advantage of the occasion to discharge what I deem my duty not only to my constituents but also to the general public. For, should such a construction of the Act be placed on the case I have brought before the House, there is nothing to prevent its being applied elsewhere, and then other sections of the country will be liable to suffer from a state of affairs, things which seem to me quite prejudicial to the general interest.
I hope, then, that the authorities and particularly the hon. Minister of Railways, will see to it that an investigation be held into the facts I have just stated; and should my statements prove true, I trust that means will be taken to force the company to dicharge its duty, or should the Act be found inadequate, iet it be amended in the direction I have suggested.
Subtopic: THE CANADIAN NORTHERN.