Thomas William Bird
I did not say so.
Subtopic: HUDSON BAY RAILWAY
Sub-subtopic: MOTION BY MR. KNOX FOR RECOGNITION OF PRIORITY
I did not say so.
Yes, you did.
Then I stand corrected, for
it was furthest from my mind to say what was not absolutely truthful.
It is all straightened out
I was simply trying to show
that during those three years the Liberal government did not succeed in advancing very far in the implementing of their promises, and I think that is an historical fact. In 1911 they were superseded by our friends to the right. Now, again, I want to do no injustice to the Conservative party. That party, for some reason or other, showed signs of greater activity than did the Liberals.
They stopped the work.
I am coming to that part
They stopped it the
moment they came into office.
Yes, I understand the Conservatives stopped the work for one year in order, with the usual suspicion between the two parties, to make the investigation all over again. I think that is the essence of the effete two-party system-they cannot trust each other sufficiently to carry on the work of the country in continuity. There was a lapse of one year for that reason. It may have been a purely political reason, or it may have been a business reason, but there was that hiatus of one year. But after that the Conservatives made up for lost time by proceeding with the work with great
Hudson Bay Ry.-Mr. Bird
rapidity, and anyone looking at the records can see that for the next three or four years they certainly wasted no time in trying to redeem their promises. But in 1918 the work did come to a stop, and here again I am not imputing any motives. I am not sure which party was to blame, but I think they were both to blame for the work stopping. Governments may not be consciously influenced by forces outside themselves, but I think it is well understood that their actions are apt to be the reflection of the latest influence brought to bear. At that time there was a very concerted opposition to the Hudson Bay railway rising in the country, and the reasons given for ceasing work were, I think, somewhat insincere. I use that word because the charge is general. But there is this evidence to show that it was insincere, because in 1918, I think it was, the then Minister of Railways said that the government had ceased work for want of 'ties. The next year the plea was that branch lines required prior consideration. Yet again, in the following year another excuse was found-the finances of the country were in such shape that it was not advisable to go on with the Hudson Bay railway.
Now, I believe that during this period the opposition to the Hudson Bay railway which had blossomed out in the last few years was just beginning to make headway, and to make its influence felt upon this House. It may not have been consciously so, but there is no doubt in my mind, connecting cause and effect, that the propaganda then going on in the country found its reflection inside this chamber. Why, the editorials and the specially inspired articles to which this country has been treated in the last half dozen years were bound to have their influence upon the political mind. And those articles, from whatever source they came, I believe, have had a paralyzing influence not only upon this government but upon its predecessor. There is no other way of explaining the present attitude of the Conservative and Liberal parties towards this project. Their attitude is altogether inconsistent with what they have professed in bygone years. There must have been some intervening cause, there must have been some influence working upon their minds. It has been this flood of newspaper articles, this deluge of editorials from inspired sources. And I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that if ever there was an act of sabotage committed in this country it was on that occasion. These people did not dynamite the Hudson Bay railway, but they might just as well have
done so. When workmen leave blast furnaces and mines to take care of themselves, that is sabotage. When a newspaper campaign paralyzes the nerves of government, causing a twenty million dollar proposition to moulder in the wilderness, that is but sabotage too, and that is what has happened in recent years.
Since 1918 the Hudson Bay railway would have passed into entire oblivion had it not been for the Farmers' organizations of the west. They have never forgotten it. At every annual convention each local has kept this thing before the public mind, and during the last parliament those organizations found what was perhaps a lone voice in this parliament in my predecessor. I must accord to him considerable merit for the manner in which he voiced the opinion of the west in that respect during the last parliament-[DOT] a voice crying in the wilderness; for so far as I can 'see he had a very unresponsive parliament to meet.
Now, in 1921 this was an issue in the election. The record of the Liberal party and of the Conservative party was a factor in that election, as we who took part in it very well know. If one thing is more responsible than another for the obliteration of the old parties, especially in the northern parts of the provinces of the west, it is this one question; there is no doubt about that from one's memory of the last election. That being the case, naturally we from the west, especially those of us from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, saw to it that the feeling of the people in this respect was immediately voiced in the House. We raised it the first session in the committee on railway estimates. We had every courtesy from the Minister of Railways at that time. But in replying to us the minister showed that he had given the matter no consideration, and the indications were that the government as a whole had given less consideration to it. But at that time we were not unreasonable; we were willing to wait and see, because we felt that the government, coming into power when they did, had a situation on their hands which perhaps justified their paying little attention even to the Hudson Bay railway. Now, in the following year we broached the matter again. This time we had a real debate, and the mass of evidence accumulated on Hansard has never been equalled in this House in its convincingness and its completeness. The Minister of Railways that year-the present minister-in reply pleaded the financial condition of the country and would not promise the immediate completion of the railway;
Hudson Bay Ry.-Mr. Bird
nor did he outline any scheme for its completion. But he did promise that he would complete the first 312 miles-that is, restore it; and for that purpose he placed in the estimates an amount of $350,000. We were frankly disappointed, as the House will remember; but we were helpless and we had to await the pleasure of the government.
But I am travelling ahead of my story. In the previous winter an incident occurred which had a tremendous influence upon opinion in the prairie provinces. That was the order which went out from the department to tear up the steel along the Hudson Bay line. The order was carried out to the extent of sending gangs away up the line at immense expense to perform that task. The effect on public opinion was such that the government was compelled to rescind the order. At that time Sir Henry Thornton came on the scene and I think he was responsible for advising the government not to proceed; at any rate that is how the public took it. As I
12 m. say, that incident aroused public opinion in the west and caused more interest to be taken in the Hudson Bay railway in the session of 1923 than in any other. The minister responded to the extent of placing in the estimates the amount I have mentioned. That would have been satisfactory to some extent if the money had been expended that year. But I travelled over the whole length of the line in the fall of 1923, and all I saw was a few scattered gangs of men, not more than a hundred, perhaps, in all, laying a few ties here and there; and that is all that was done that year. I understand that considerably more work was done last fall. I may say I travelled over a hundred miles of the line last fall and I can add my testimony to that of the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Hoey), that the line for that one hundred miles is in pretty good shape. But what does it amount to? What does this putting in ties and dumping gravel here and there amount to? It is not completing the Hudson Bay railway. It is putting the Hudson Bay railway into such condition that the Canadian National can operate it for a few hundred miles, but that is not completing the line. These ties are being renewed on the most perishable part of the railway and in a year or two they will again have to be replaced at t.he same cost. I do not think it can be honestly said that the government have even attempted to carry out their promise of the session of 1923, because if they had been in earnest they would by this time have had the line completed up to mile 312 and we would have had various indications, by the disposition of material and so on, that the project
was continuing. That is the least we could have expected, and I hope the minister will have some satisfactory explanation to make of the delay.
To-night we are again endeavouring to solicit from the government some statement as to its policy. We are not unreasonable dn our expectation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) in his tour of the west made a certain reference to the Hudson Bay railway. The Minister of Railways, in speaking last year, made a reference that has a bearing upon the utterances of the Prime Minister in the west la^t year. The Minister of Railways said that so long as the House was constituted as it is there could be very little hope for the Hudson Bay railway. That utterance of his was enigmatic to me at the time and has been ever since, because what does it mean- "if this House continues to be constituted as it is at the present time?" It can only mean one of two things. The minister may have meant that there might be some opposition as between parties in this House; that one part would block another in its attempt to complete the Hudson Bay railway. But after the declarations we have had from all parts of the House it is inconceivable that any party should attempt to block any effort to complete the Hudson Bay line. And so the minister must have meant that the cause lay within his own party, that there was some obstacle within the Liberal ranks. Now, I am not adopting any superior attitude in a party sense, because I realize that there are obstacles right in this party so far as that goes. But that is what the minister evidently meant,' that there was a disposition in the Liberal party to divide on this question. Now if there is any declaration of the minister that will cause division in his party I think it is highly to be recommended. We on this side find that it is a very healthy thing. When a divisive influence passes over this party we seem to emerge from it happier, and better, and stronger than ever; and I think on a great many things it would be healthy for the Liberal party to have an honest difference of opinion, to come out and say openly that they do differ. Because so long as they will not say it it is impossible for the public to see where they stand on any particular question. Now, where does the Liberal party stand in regard to the Hudson Bay railway? Who knows, who can tell? Nobody. It has never been uttered, never been said; and anything that has taken place in this debate so far does not make it any easier to tell where the Liberals stand. There is some paralyzing
Hudson Bay Ry.-Mr. Bird
influence within the ranks of the Liberal party which makes it impossible to proceed with this venture. The Prime Minister himself when in the west re-echoed that same view. The Prime Minister indicated in his speeches that to press the Hudson Bay railway at the present time might create a situation that might militate against that railway. That is arguing in a sort of circle. It really means: If you press the Hudson Bay railroad at the present time you will disrupt the Liberal party, and if you disrupt the Liberal party you will militate against the Hudson Bay railroad. You can see it is arguing in a circle and it comes around to the same thing. And I want to tell the House that is exactly the impression that the Premier's utterance left upon the west. They may not have said it in so many words but the west felt that the Prime Minister in saying what he did was saying nothing at all because they understood him to say: If you press the Hudson Bay railroad you are going to disrupt the party, and if you disrupt the party you are going to hurt the Hudson Bay railroad. I could have wished that the Prime Minister in his western tour could have said something that could have drawn the heart of the west-not to him, because that is not the thing we are wishing for, but had drawn the heart of the west more closely to the east as we hoped, but I think the Prime Minister failed in that sense. His tour throughout the west no doubt created immense interest. I had the pleasure of listening to one of his speeches, but it failed in the essential thing-in bringing any warmth into the western heart towards the east of Canada. The Prime Minister no doubt would have wished to do that but it is not an easy thing to do, unless there is a policy that contains some degree of definiteness that the average citizen can understand, that he can figure out, that he can meditate on and get some degree of hope out of.
Now I know that the old plea of economy will be put forward.
Will the hon. gentleman
permit a question? Is his argument founded on the assumption that the navigability of Hudson strait is proved, or that it is still a matter for fair controversy?
I believe that the navigability of Hudson strait is absolutely proved, and that no amount of investigation will get you one degree further in the direction of proving or disproving it; I believe all the relevant facts are known.
What is the length of the season each year?
That is indefinite, but I think four and a half months is a very good average for the moderate mind to accept. I was proceeding to say that the plea of economy is one we are constantly up against in this chamber.
In the last two lines of the resolution it says "recognizing the priority of the Hudson Bay railway with reference to other transportation projects started subsequently." Does that mean that the brandh lines now under way will not be finished and that no more will be constructed until the Hudson Bay railway is completed?
No, I would not read all that into the resolution. I think the resolution is merely a Knoxian method of saying it is a very desirable thing to go forward with the completion of the Hudson Bay railway at once.
Now, coming back again to the question of economy, I noticed in the debate on the Speech from the Throne and also in the debate on the budget, that members of the opposition proved, and I think almost conclusively, that we had reached rock bottom, that it is difficult to economize in such a way as to make any appreciable difference in our national debt at the present time. The hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George (Mr. Marler) in his speech on the Address went to a lot of trouble to show that we had reached rock bottom, and I think the Prime Minister also enunciated the same view in his speech on the budget. If that is the case where do we stand in regard to the Hudson Bay railway? The plea of economy seems to be no longer relevant, because if we have reached rock bottom the average membe; must see that for the next twenty years there is going to be no appreciable change in our financial condition, nor for the next forty years; and does the government propose to postpone the Hudson Bay railway indefinitely? It seems to me that if we have reached rock bottom the only sane thing to do is to build the Hudson Bay railway immediately, because if our financial condition cannot improve for the next twenty years it would be folly to wait; with every year that passes the Hudson Bay railroad depreciates at least a million dollars-at least it has done so for the last few years. So I think the plea of economy is entirely irrelevant to the argument. Knowing that, we all realize-I think even the Conservative opposition, believes-that we have pretty nearly reached hardpan in connection with our national expenditures.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have endeavoured in as moderate a manner as I could, and without
Hudson Bay Ry.-Mr. Graham
retracing the old ground, to bring this matter before the government once more. As to the tendency to asperity which has been pointed out to me I hope it will be abundantly pardoned because it is not in my nature to descend in these arguments to such low methods as that would seem to indicate. I have great admiration for the hon. gentleman's personality but I hope that he will not let us go home to-night without making clear beyond peradventure what the government intends to do in the next two or three years or so with regard to the Hudson Bay railway, if the government are to be so fortunate as to remain in power during that time.
Hon. GEORGE P. GRAHAM (Minister of Railways and Canals): This is a subject which has not only been debated for the last four years, but for the last forty years, and I will just make a running comment on a few of the things that have been said.
In the first place, I desire to say that the debate on the whole has been very fair indeed, and the mover of this resolution set a good example to all his brethren. He talked to his resolution, and he did not insinuate that any of us were controlled by infernal powers. It is late in the night now, and I know I will be pardoned for telling a story. I seldom tell one in the House, but when I heard some hon. gentleman, not following the lead of the mover of the resolution, attributing motives to us villains whom providence has placed in the eastern part of the country, and to others, I could not help but think of this story. It was about a horse-trader and he had a deal on. Professional horse traders usually have one on, but he was asked to come in and kind of oversee a trade without being apparently interested. So that he was standing in the stall of the barn, and the chap that came in. wishing to trade his horse, commenced to feel round the spavin joints of the horse in the barn, and he felt down to where there might possibly be a ringbone on the horse. Not satisfied with investigating the hind legs, he went to the front legs and looked for splints. The adviser called up the man that owned the horse and said, "Do not trade horses with that fellow", and added, "Any man that looks at another fellow's horse for ringbones, spavins and splints,- sure his horse has got some of them." It always struck me that the man who is imputing motives to others-well, he could spend some moments in what we call introspection. There is a weakness somewhere in a man who thinks all his fellowmen must be wrong because they do not think as he does.
Now I did speak rather sharply to my young friend from Nelson (Mr. Bird). Hon. gentlemen will realize that if it had been some other hon. gentleman who was not accustomed to the effect of words and had not such a perfect understanding of what a word meant in a sentence, I would not have come out so boldly, but when I was accused of playing with the Hudson bay matter after the election of 1908, between that and 1911,
I resented it very much, because the opposition of that day told me I went too fast in letting this contract. In fact I went so fast in letting the contract that when they got in power they held it up. They thought there must be some campaign fund or something of that kind in it. I thought I went very rapidly. Then in addition to that I had some trouble in letting the contract for the bridge in his constituency, that he walks over quite likely now, and I was told that I rushed that too rapidly. I would suggest to my hon. friend, as an old man to a young man, in a case of that kind, always be sure; it is better than being sorry afterwards. Then some hon. member. I think my hon. friend from Lisgar (Mr. Brown) referred to some talk about secession, and stated that some other gentlemen were talking about freight rates and secession. Where were they going to secede?
I want to make it abundantly clear that I think the whole proposition in regard to secession is wrong.
I understand that, and I
want to exculpate my hon. friend from Lisgar. But I am talking about the other fellow. He was going to secede from Canada, and where was he going? I want to tell him that if he secedes from Canada to the United States he will pay great deal higher freight rates than he pays in Canada, and that is an important point according to my hon. friend from Lisgar I want to tell all those who talk about seceding that they will pay 30 to 40 per cent more freight rates if they go away from Canada than they have to pay in this country. _
I am aware that some of the speeches which have been made will make votes for the hon. members who spoke. I feel confident of that, but I submit with all modesty that these speeches will not make friends for the Hudson bay project. I thought it was a mistake last year to move a vote of want of confidence in the government and press it to a conclusion. I think so still, and I think that made it harder for them to get friends-I say frankly-in the Liberal party for the Hudson bay project than if that resolution had not been moved and pressed to a conclusion.
Hudson Bay Ry.-Mr. Graham
That is a matter of history. Hon. gentlemen
can do as they like.
Now to come to the project itself. My hon. friend the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell) is going to move us on to Churchill. I will state the reasons for taking the port of Nelson. We base all our action, every bit of it I might 6ay, on information brought to us by engineers of the department who were sent to investigate, added to information that they gave us in connection with those who had had sea-faring experience. I will admit this: That I think the necessity of the construction of a much longer line of railway to Churchill may have had considerable influence in the selection of Nelson. But just at the time the selection was under discussion, or practically had been made, the government changed, much to the detriment of the country, and my successor was neither satisfied with the contract nor with the port of Nelson; so he stopped the contract, and stated he would see whether there was any-think wrong with it. Then he made a trip to Nelson himself, and came back enthusiastic about that being the proper port. I refer to the late Mr. Cochrane. I do not pretend to be practical myself, and I simply based my selection on the information given by the engineers at that time. This was confirmed by my successor in office, Mr. Cochrane; but, as I said before it is possible the shorter mileage of railway construction might have had something to do with the selection of Nelson.
As regards the Hudson strait, I do not know anything about the strait, and I think if I were to go around the House I would have a good deal of company. We have formed ideas from what we read. The information that I gleaned from the reports I read and reports that were given to me was, if I remember correctly, that the season was as short as six weeks and that it ran to four months. But in all this I suppose there is not much information which my hon. friends are looking for. The resolution itself does not call for any real information. I have some notes here but I do not propose to elaborate them, because hon, members want to get through with this debate as rapidly as possible. I want to read the resolution of 1923. This is not the vote of want of confidence; this is the resolution of 1923, which reads:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government of Canada give further consideration to the report. of the Senate committee on the Hudson Bay railway with a view to safeguarding the investment of public moneys made in the construction of that portion of the work completed to date.
Down to that point every hon. gentleman who has spoken to-day admits that we have made good-and that is nearly all of the 1923 resolution-that we have protected the investment made in the portion already constructed and put into operating condition the line as it exists up to mile 214. That has been done. The hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Hoey) says that that is in good condition. There is 118 miles that is not in extraordinary good condition, although he went over it at thirty miles an hour. I think from what I know of the road, he should have been arrested for speeding. Before I get through, I will show hon. members that we propose at least to carry out at once the resolution up to the point I have named and, in fact, that is nearly done now.
One thing that I cannot understand is how hon. gentlemen object to the Welland canal expenditure. If it is not to aid in the carrying of grain from the west, it is not for anything; it might as. well never have been constructed. It is not for the products of the east. Let me point this out to hon. gentlemen again. Although hon. members take a different view now, when I was in the west in 1910, one part of the west wanted the Hudson Bay railway and the other part of the west, with every deputation, without a single exception, asked for the deepening of the AVelland canal. I remember when I was leaving one point with Sir Wilfrid Laurier we were told: Now, the next place you stop at, the deputation will ask you to build the Hudson Bay railway; they are not so much interested in the Welland canal. When hon. gentlemen criticize the late government and this one with the deepening of the Welland canal, they are criticizing an action which was founded primarily upon the request of the western people and I am speaking of what I know.
Would the minister say that
there has been as much pressure for the Welland canal as there has been for the Hudson Bay project?
At that time before
either one of them was begun, there was far more pressure for the Welland canal than for the Hudsoy bay project. I say so advisedly.