Mr. W. M. Howe (Wellingion-Huron):
Mr. Speaker, I should like to join with those who have spoken on this resolution which has to do with the transportation companies owned and operated by the government. I would like to go along with some of the remarks made by other hon. members who have spoken, including the hon. member for Perth (Mr. Monteith) in connection with the policy which has been adopted. Western Ontario and this part of Canada owes its development down through the years to the railroads that go to make up that great organization, the Canadian National Railways. I well remember the feeling that was stirred up last year when it was said that the mail contracts were going to be taken away from most of the railroads in our district, because so many of the people felt this was the thin end of the wedge-by the way, these mail contracts represented almost one-third
of the total revenue of those railroads-and that eventually the railroads would all be shut off and the lines to Kincardine and Southampton would be abandoned.
In that district we have many urban municipalities which are hoping that one day this idea of decentralizing industry and such things will lead to American and British companies coming to Canada and setting up new industries in these communities. I could cite many advantages in doing so, such as better living conditions and labour conditions that would be advantageous to companies doing that, and it would also be of great benefit to the railroad. I understand that the railroads do have a department to try to decentralize industry, to send industry out to districts such as that in which I live so these smaller communities may benefit from the advantage of having factories in their areas; but if these railroad lines are abandoned, and the service is cut off, the chances of these communities ever getting industry is pretty well done away with because most industries of any size demand a rail service.
In connection with some of the services that have been cut off, I may say they have cut off the passenger service from Palmerston to Durham. For two weeks they ran the same train with the same crew at the same time; but the caboose fell apart, or something. They put the same coach back on that mixed train and ran it up and down over that line with the same crew, but they would not let any of the people who went down to the station get on the coach and ride as passengers.
I don't know whether that is good public relations or what it is, but there were a few people who would have liked to travel on that train; the coach was there, and I don't see why they were not allowed to travel. Having been raised in a small railroad centre which, I can remember, was a very busy centre at one time with hundreds of men working in the freight sheds and in the shops, I naturally regret that this should have dwindled to a mere handful of men carrying on this work, and I find myself asking why the railroads should have lost all that business. I sometimes feel, as the hon. member for Perth indicated he felt, that if the railways improved the service up there they could get back a lot of the business in that district.
I was reading an article in a Canadian national magazine that came to our desks yesterday about a new train they were investigating in Sweden called the "Kort, Lag and Latt"-"Short, low and light"-and in this article it says:
The story behind the KLL is a familiar one. Alarmed by diminishing passenger returns, the state
railways took a hard second look at existing rolling stock, found that it had grown too fat and frilly.
After all, I do feel that if the railroads improved the service and gave a more specialized service they could get back a lot of this business. The final paragraph of this article says this:
With a polite bow in the direction of other lightweight builders, the Swedes are careful to say that the KLL is custom-built for local conditions inside a country that is only slightly bigger than the state of California, where quick turnaround and a flexible consist become of paramount importance.
But they make no secret of their belief that they've gone a step further-and in the right direction-than anybody else in the lightweight field.
I sometimes wonder how much investigation and research is being done by the railroads in this connection. We have heard about the trains that are being used on some of the branch lines and which are giving wonderful service, and I feel that if they were adopted more universally on branch lines many more people would travel on them. As the hon. member for Perth indicated, people are not too happy about driving their cars from outlying districts into the city of Toronto today because of traffic and parking conditions, and if they could get good service from the railroads I believe many people would go back to that type of transportation.
The railroads may say that the passenger service provides only a small part of the revenue, but I feel this is the same as any other kind of business; you don't make 100 per cent profit on everything you do. Yesterday we were talking about public relations with regard to a bill which was before the house, and I sometimes feel that if the railroads took this question of public relations more seriously they would do better. Sometimes they do not seem to realize that a man travelling in one of these old coaches may be a furniture manufacturer with a factory in one of these areas, and after one of these rides in not too pleasant circumstances he may say, "If this is the kind of service they are going to give me, my freight is going by road".
There is another idea that occurs to me, and that is with regard to a circular that came in today concerning "piggyback" transportation. I do feel that is something which could be given a great deal of research and investigation by the railroads. It is being used now from Toronto to Montreal, and it might become more universal. If we look at its origin, it seems that away back in 1855 the Halifax-Truro railway, a line built by the Nova Scotia government, inaugurated "piggyback" for the transportation of farmers' wagons.
A lot of the business that used to go on in the community where I lived was concerned
Committee on Railways and Shipping with stock. At 5.30 every day a stock train went out of that town, stock that had been brought in on the branch lines. That business is all being carried by truck today. Perhaps if the railroad went into this "piggyback" business some arrangement could be made whereby these stock trucks could be carried "piggyback" to Toronto and be moved from there to the stockyards.
However, I do feel that the railroads have an important place in the life of these smaller communities, and I hope the railroad companies will consider the suggestions I have made and take a second look at these small branch lines, because they mean a great deal to the people in those districts.
Topic: ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMITTEE ON RAILWAYS AND SHIPPING OWNED, OPERATED AND CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT