Robert Ross (Roy) KNIGHT

KNIGHT, Robert Ross (Roy)

Personal Data

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)
Saskatoon (Saskatchewan)
Birth Date
December 12, 1891
Deceased Date
September 11, 1971
farmer, teacher

Parliamentary Career

June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Saskatoon City (Saskatchewan)
June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Saskatoon (Saskatchewan)
August 10, 1953 - April 12, 1957
  Saskatoon (Saskatchewan)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 350 of 354)

October 18, 1945

Mr. R. R. KNIGHT (Saskatoon City):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to ask a question of the Minister of Justice. In view of the fact that it is getting very close to November 1, will the minister state if he is prepared to announce to the house to-day the composition of the Canadian delegation to the world conference on education to be held in London? Will he, in any event, give the house the assurance that the Canadian Teachers' Federation will be represented on the delegation?

Hon. L. S. ST. LAURENT (Acting Secretary of State for External Affairs): I am sorry I am not able to announce to-day the composition of the Canadian delegation. One of the gentlemen who had been approached to see if he could become a member of the delegation found it impossible to do so, and others are being approached for the same purpose. I would not care to give any commitment to the house in respect of any part of the delegation until it is possible to announce the composition of the whole of it.

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October 15, 1945


I have letters and correspondence which, if the hon. member would come to my room, I would be pleased to show him at any time. My information is that there is in Saskatoon a new Hudson bay route association. I did not want to interrupt an hon. member when he was speaking, but that is now the name of the main organization which is promoting this particular project; it is the heir of the previous "On to the Bay" association. I shall tell the hon. member quite candidly what my information is and which was contained in a letter the secretary wrote to me the other day. He said that he had approached the governments of the provinces on the matter, and that as far as he could see their consideration was favourable. They are also trying to work out some cooperative trade with the cooperatives in the old country. They are going to try to get together with the federated cooperatives of the provinces. They are going to try to persuade those cooperatives to appoint trade representatives to work this out, and if they refuse so to do they are going to persuade the governments of the provinces to agree to such trade commissions. I think that proves that the governments are also looking with a friendly eye upon the proposition. As a matter of fact, the letter stated that the reason the conference between the provinces and between the group of cooperatives was not already in effect was that Premier Garson of Manitoba is now bifty with the election and could hardly be expected to give his time to this project, which is not a political one. I do not know whether I have answered the hon. member's question, but I have done as well as I could.

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October 15, 1945


Before six o'clock I was

speaking in support of the resolution asking for sympathetic consideration and active support on the part of the government for the Hudson bay route. I had shown the importance of the route to my own community; I had discussed its importance from a national point of view, which to my mind is infinitely more important; I had pleaded for it as a means of bringing people and industries to my part of the country and to this nation as a whole, and to the best of my ability I had answered the arguments of the senior hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Isnor) in opposition. That attitude of opposition, Mr. Speaker, has done more injury than good to this country. It is the attitude which says, if we cannot have something for ourselves, then let no one else have it. What we need in this country, sir, are kindly hearts, open minds and, above all the vision that tells us that what is good for one is good for all, the vision that will make our country great. Good luck to Halifax as far as I am concerned; long may it prosper. For the hon. member who lives there I have nothing but best wishes and sympathy. I have been there twice. My own view is that it is rather depressing to think that between Halifax

Port of Churchill

harbour and Cape Race lie scattered the ribs of 280 gallant ships which have gone to Davy Jones' locker. I had hoped, nay I was almost convinced that such opposition had ceased. If you are interested in the opposite view I would recommend the reading of "Sea of Destiny" by Dyson Carter. He claims that a deliberate attempt to sabotage the route was made by eastern commercial and transportation interests and marine insurance companies, supported by the press. He even offers the terrible indictment that the sinking of the ship Bright Fan early in the history of the completed route was not altogether accidental. Of course I have no proof in regard to this statement, and he will have to take the responsibility for it himself. I do know there was joy in certain quarters in Montreal when the Bright Fan went down, but that joy was somewhat tempered some two weeks later by the news that the Pennyworth had gone down in a fog off Montreal. The Pennyworth had successfully cleared her cargo from Hudson bay just a short time before.

However that may be, shipping out of Churchill increased until in 1936 some fourteen ships steamed out of the port with

5,000,000 bushels of No. 1 wheat aboard. The Imperial shipping committee, investigating a wreck that occurred that year, declared:

As far as physical risks are concerned we are convinced that the Hudson's bay route is not more dangerous, and in some respects is less dangerous, than the St. Lawrence route.

I said, sir, I had hoped the opposition would cease. I am afraid that, like the poor, propoganda persists in being with us. I have in my hand a little pamphlet which just came to my desk. I do not know who sent it; no one knows. It just came. It did not cost a penny; I was very welcome to it. As a matter of fact, they hope I will read it. Perhaps it was sent to be received in time for this debate. Again, I do not know; but at any rate it is free. It represents this selfish viewpoint, this one-sided idea about which I was talking. It reminds me of certain other pamplets which you will remember were sent around in this country prior to June 11, except that this one is white in colour. It should have had a bit of that red mail-order paint on it to dress it up a little. No one knew who sent those other pamphlets, either; they just came, and we were welcome to them. Hon. gentlemen opposite did not know where they came from; hon. gentlemen to my right did not know where they came from, and they are all honourable men. Let me read a little from this pamphlet, choosing a 47696-70

place almost haphazardly. The writer seems to be interested in railroads; so am I He


We can realize that the C.P.R. made western Canada . . .

Well, that is a good sentence; it reads equally well in reverse. Then he goes on to


Public opinion on the prairies forced the gov- eminent into backing great and even unwise ventures in providing competition for the C.P.R.

Then a little later comes the line that caught my eye; this is my reason for introducing this pamphlet into this debate:

Perhaps one day the line to Hudson bay will be available.

He goes on to speak of other railway ventures and then adds:

However, mistakes were made.

Then another line:

. . . and it is now taken for granted that we shall, forever, have two railways in western Canada.

The gentleman looks a long way ahead. He is also interested in tariffs and says:

As a matter of fact, even good free traders are apt to doubt whether a tariff which has been on for any length of time can be taken off completely, and overnight, without making things worse than they were . . . However, as things are, the fact has to be faced that there will not be a sudden and general removal of all tariffs . . .

He is also interested in the Winnipeg grain exchange, and say$:

Unfortunately, western wheat grower opinion, still worrying about the depression of the thirties . . . has backed the idea of suspending open trading on the Winnipeg wheat market. This has almost certainly involved a heavy loss to the wheat growers.

And he feels very sorry for them.

To get back to the more serious question, although I believe what I have read has some bearing upon it, for a moment I should like to discuss the question of the danger to shipping, which of course is a vital factor in the situation, because the success of this project depends upon getting reasonable rates in marine insurance. Even before the war the dangers of the route, like those of the St. Lawrence, had been progressively mastered by scientific advance, with the installation of gyro compasses, radio direction finders and the employment of icebreakers. During the last war many devices must have been evolved making for the safety of ships at sea, devices which can be applied to the occasional fog and ice conditions encountered in Hudson bay. As some of the previous speakers have said, I imagine

Port oj Churchill

radar holds immense possibilities in this connection and will open a whole new field of navigation.

The other day in this house I asked that the Minister of Transport produce copies of reports furnished by the United States government in regard to a survey made during the last war by that government of meteorological conditions over the route. We were told that 6uch a survey had been made, and I understand that both the waters and the air were thoroughly investigated. I was promised a copy of the report and I know it will reach me in due course. Unfortunately it is not available for this debate. I expect and hope it will contain information encouraging the use of the Hudson bay route. Let me draw one thing to the attention of hon. members. During the war the Americans took no chances on leaving unguarded that great body of open water which leads directly into the heart of this continent. They know the potentialities and the virtues of that great route, and so they took that survey. I am told that the Americans went in there to Hudson bay, to a frozen sea as it has been called by so many people, in the heart of winter. I am not vouching for the truth of that statement, because I was not there; but I am offering it for what it is worth. I hope to get the information from the minister later on.

With all this new information, and with all these new inventions, surely the price of marine insurance will come down. If so, the success of the route will be assured, and the wish of the people in the prairie provinces will be fulfilled. I suggest lo the government that if marine insurance is not cut down proportionately as, in the light of new inventions, it should be, the government should be doing something about it, and should say to the marine insurance companies, you will have to bring your rates down, proportionately, or we will see that there is some other company operating, or some manner in which marine insurance rates may be made reasonable.

The wish that the Hudson bay route be opened was expressed in a recommendation of the United Farmers of Canada, Saskatchewan branch, to the dominion-provincial conference, in a memorandum of August 4, 1945. May I quote the following from that recommendation:

We recommend action to make full use of the Hudson Bay railway and all facilities at Port Churchill for shipment of products from, and oods to, Canada; that Canadian trade agents e appointed to facilitate trade through the Hudson Bay-Port Churchill route; that Canadian^ trade agents established in other countries be instructed to develop trade through the Hudson Bay-Port Churchill route, and that the project be operated under a board of western management.

This request for a western board, about which some curiosity has been shown here to-day, in conjunction with the governments of the prairie provinces, is also put forth by the Hudson's bay route association, an organization which is leaving no stone unturned to bring about the resumption of traffic over that route. The board's being of that composition would procure action forthwith, I am sure, and would remove any suspicion that may linger in the west that pressure was being brought to hinder operations.

We hope, and have reason to believe, that the government will act upon the idea expressed in this resolution, particularly in respect of the first part of it. In that event the second part would not be necessary. I have in my possession correspondence which shows that the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. MacKinnon) attempted to find shipping to bring out of Churchill the grain that is held there. A letter from the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier) states:

The policy of the government in the matter of Churchill is to facilitate the use of ithis port in every way possible.

Good! We will look for action-and not next year when shipping opens up, but now, to prepare for the time when shipping opens up. May I add in passing that this has been one of the great drawbacks in the past. The authorities would wait until the weather was changing, and when ships might have been coming in there it was found that preliminary investigation and preparations had to be made. By the time that was done, the season was over.

The road is built and ready. In fact, it is now in use and it has been paid for out of the proceeds of western lands. There is at the port a fair nucleus of equipment with which to start business, and the government has assured us that the ban on shipping, which they say was a necessity owing to war, is now lifted.

We have hope of support from hon. members in the house. I hold in fny hand an interesting pamphlet, somewhat yellowed with age, for it is dated 1926. This pamphlet deals with the Hudson bay route. May I quote haphazardly from the speech-for that is what it is:

The problem of transportation is the great problem of western Canada . . .

Since we are a democratic country governed by the wishes of the majority, and since all the produce of. western Canada before the opening of the Panama canal had to move eastward, every attempt to open up new trade routes has met with opposition which has often been successful . . .

Nor is the Hudson Bay railway the project of the west. It is national in its interest.

Port of ChurchUl

In this fashion the then premier of Saskatchewan, now the federal Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) proceeded to prove his point with earnestness and precision. In an eloquent conclusion he states, prophetically, in the light of recent inventions:

Those seamen . . . will find ways and means to stretch the four month's season set down by tenderfoot engineers into six or more months.

So that in support of this cause we shall have within the government, and as an influence upon his colleagues, the driving force of the Minister of Agriculture. I have never heard it said of him-and I have heard plenty-that he has shown either reluctance or a lack of ability in fighting for a cause in which he believed.

There is another point of interest about this now historic pamphlet published by what was known as the "On-to-the-Bay" Association of Canada. On its reverse side we find the list of patrons, headed by the Hon. John Bracken, then premier of Manitoba. I do not believe that the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bracken) changed his beliefs in regard to this route when he changed over to his present company. I hope he will give as aggressive leadership in the right direction to his Ontario cohorts as he did in Manitoba to his western gentlemen, and that in his important capacity in the house he will assist in stirring the government to action in this matter, for which there is strong support both in the house and in the country.

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October 15, 1945


The headquarters of the federated cooperatives which I have just mentioned are also at Saskatoon. It is a business whose expansion has been phenomenal. The

wheat producers are operating a tremendous business there this year. I do not know whether hon. members are aware of it, but the wheat pool is making an attempt to start an industry there. They have started a project to build factories which are to produce grain alcohol and to extract oil from flax and to make paint and plastics.

The ground has been broken this year by the provincial government for the building of a medical school in connection with the university. Saskatchewan has never'had a medical college, but it will have one soon, and the same provincial government has done a great deal to promote and encourage home industries of which we are greatly in need. A great airport with a rutiway a mile and a half in length is at this moment being constructed and we are to have a great air centre in a world air route. Now, to connect all this up with the port of Churchill, I must relate that the distance from Saskatoon, all rail, to Churchill, is 814 miles, and from Saskatoon all rail to Montreal is 1,828 miles. Hon. gentlemen across the way can compute for themselves how much more it would fake to get to Halifax. By rail and water, the distance to Montreal is 2,133 miles. Therefore it will be seen from the point of view of distance why we are. so much in favour of Churchill.

As to the water distance-and again I did not wish to correct hon. gentlemen who spoke previously-it has been said that there is a great deal of difference between water distances. As a matter of fact, the water distances from Churchill to Montreal and from Churchill to Liverpool are practically the same. There are of course optional routes, but the average distance is practically the same. There is not a hundred miles in the difference either way. [DOT]

It would be just as reasonable for us in. the west-I think hon. gentlemen from the east should listen to this-to expect people in Toronto and Hamilton and points between Toronto and Hamilton and further west to ship their stuff out west by railway, take it through Churchill and ship ft to Liverpool by that route as it is to expect us to use the St. Lawrence waterway down from our home. That is literally true from the point of view of distance.

I have said that this is a matter of national and not of local concern. Canada has ports and, whether it be wise or not, she has a great mileage of railways per capita. She has a vast system of transportation, and what we need in this country, and particularly in the west, is more people. The people we have

Port of Churchill

now are divided too unevenly and the resuh is that we have an unbalanced economy. That is not altogether due to geographical conditions. In Saskatchewan, owing to the increased mechanization of farming, and owing to increased modern improvements in farm machinery, only a fraction of the people are now needed to grow the wheat who grew it before. When I first threshed in that province thirty years ago twenty-six men ran the threshing outfit; now an old1 man and a boy of eleven will do more work in a day than all of us did, put together. ,

The average age of the Saskatchewan or the western farmer, hon. members may be surprised to know, is very high indeed. The young men marched off to the war, in spite of the fact that they were farmers' sons, and boys and girls came east to get war work. Let me ask hon. gentlemen from the east this question: Have they ever considered what it would be like to have their sons and daughters going 2,000 miles to get a job? I wonder how those who come from Quebec would like that? It is an honest fact that if a boy wants a job in industry he has to go at an early age 2,000 miles from his own home and his family influences.

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October 15, 1945

Mr. R. R. KNIGHT (Saskatoon City):

I rise to support the resolution:

That, in the opinion of this house, the government should take into immediate consideration the advisability of encouraging the fullest possible use of the harbour and port facilities at Churchill, Manitoba, or the transferring of the management and control of the said port to a joint Board appointed by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

I should like to point out to the senior hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Isnor) who has just spoken, that this resolution is divided into two parts, and that his assumption is not necessarily correct that the hon. member for Churchill (Mr. Moore) wants to put the second part of the resolution first, namely, to put the cart before the horse. The resolution states:

That . . . the government should take into' immediate consideration the advisability of encouraging the fullest possible use of the harbour and port facilities at Churchill, Manitoba, or . . .

You see, sir, the people in that part of the country have had a good many disappointments in regard to the port of Churchill, and they find it is better to have that "or" in the resolution. In other words, if the government is not prepared to do something about it, we have people out there who are prepared to do something about it in their stead.

Geographically speaking, this debate seems to have moved considerably east. The senior hon. member for Halifax suggests that vast sums of money are now being asked for. We are not asking for vast sums of money; we are asking for a sympathetic consideration from this government to handle our own business. The building of the railroad and the opening of the port are fait accompli. What we want is sympathetic encouragement from the government, and I am proud to be able to say that I believe we are going to get it.

The senior hon. member for Halifax said that only 24-5 ships arrived the year round. If that is true then there are certain other reasons for it and they are not all geographical. I would draw the attention of the hon. member to the fact that the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras) pointed out

FMr. Castleden.]

that the route had not been used at all, or practically not at all, in the last four years. That, of course, is perfectly understandable, seeing that the British government, I am led to believe, requested that the port should not be used because they did not have the ships available to convoy commercial ships. Therefore those years cannot be counted in any calculation of that kind.

The senior hon. member for Halifax said that since the hon. member who spoke before him had praised Churchill he should be allowed to praise Halifax. By the same reasoning if the hon. member who spoke before me had the privilege of running down Churchill, I, too, have the privilege of saying a word to the detriment of Halifax. So far as westerners are concerned I would say this to him: the long rail haul to the Atlantic prohibitively raises the cost of production on all bulk commodities to such an extent that we cannot get very much benefit from using Halifax as a harbour. Another thing that was very well recognized by the United States government during the late war is that the port of Halifax is somewhat vulnerable during war time. It has a disadvantage there that Churchill has not. If shipping into Churchill were properly organized it could be more easily defended. _

The argument of the hon. member breaks down when he compares Halifax with Churchill. Even speaking on the advantages of Halifax his argument is a very shortsighted one, because we believe that if our hopes are fulfilled in the years to come a healthy shipping trade will spring up between Churchill and Halifax.

I shall not speak, and the clock so reminds me, at any great length on this subject, because I had something to say on this subject when I made my maiden speech some time ago. Those remarks are recorded at page 199 of Hansard.

It is fitting that the resolution concerning the Hudson Bay route should be introduced by the hon. member for Churchill, because his port is the one that is under discussion. As the member for Saskatoon City, I could not allow the opportunity to go by without raising my voice in behalf of the development of this route, a development which is so vital to the people of my constituency and to the people of the northern and, indeed, of all parts of Saskatchewan. It is not purely a provincial project; it is one that on many counts should be classed as a national problem. Saskatoon is a city which is the centre of a large tract of fine wheat growing country. It has wholesale houses and supply houses for innumerable towns and villages, country stores and post offices. It is a distributing point for farm

Port oj Churchill

machinery. It has two great flour mills which process a considerable part of the grain grown in that country for the export trade. It is the natural trading centre for that part of Saskatchewan, and it is in a position to benefit enormously in the way of trade by a lively increase in traffic over the Hudson bay route.

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