Mr. Chairman, the question of freight rates is one of the most important before this House and the country, especially in view of the fact that the government owns the greater part of the railway mileage of the country, and when the Canadian National Railway system does not earn sufficient to pay its bills the people are called upon to meet the deficit. I think it is well that we should know what part of the country's business is paying its way, whether that in the east, the west or the centre; and, furthermore, what part of the country is paying the greater proportion of the taxes. Consequently I shall take up some little time to explain my views.
The Crowsnest pass agreement, which we have heard so much about, was entered into in 1897 between the Canadian Pacific Railway Company on the one side and the government of Canada representing the people on the other side. Under that agreement it was provided that the rates-now known as the Crowsnest pass rates-should not exceed certain maxima. I presume it never entered into the minds of the parties to the agreement that conditions would ever change. At that time wages, materials, and other costs that enter into the operation of railways were very different to what they are to-day. That arrangement continued for many years, and the Canadian Pacific Railway and other roads kept their rates much below the maxima fixed thereunder. Ultimately during the war railway operating costs went so high that the Crowsnest pass agreement had to be suspended for a period of years. At the expiration of that period there was a clamour, especially from the west, for a reversion to the Crowsnest pass rates. Unfortunately the cost of railway operation at that time did not
9 p.m. justify the restoration of these rates. In 1922 this House appointed a committee to investigate the freight rate question, and that committee summoned before it not only all the railway magnates
of Canada but also many from across the border. Mr. Beatty, of the Canadian Pacific Railway, usually acted as spokesman for the railways. He made several propositions, the final one being for a general reduction of 20 per cent in the rates on all basic commodities to all parts of Canada. That committee finally, by a small majority, passed a resolution recommending the acceptance of this proposition. But the western members rebelled and said they must have the Crowsnest pass rates regardless of what any other part of Canada might get. Naturally they might be expected to take this course, but I did not quite agree with the government's yielding to the demand The outcome has been that whilst, the prairie provinces have secured the restoration of the Crowsnest pass rates, which represent approximately a 35 per cent reduction in the freight rates on grain to the head of the lakes, the rest of Canada got a reduction of only 6 per cent in - the rates on basic commodities.
Topic: RAILWAY FREIGHT RATES
Subtopic: BILL TO AMEND THE RAILWAY ACT, '1919