The question which has been raised by the last three hon. members is very broad, in that it has to do with the relocation or the construction of lines all across this country. The one naturally involves the other, because the Department of Transport and the Canadian National Railways have been receiving representations from various communities across the country in connection with branch lines which should be extended or proceeded with, f'hat brings me to a point raised by the hon. member for The Battlefords, namely that the railways should not worry in future about having deficits. That is one thing which I believe must be taken into serious consideration when we decide upon the construction of branch lines. I believe it was the hon. member for Saint John-Albert who the other evening pointed to the fact-and rightly so-that the operating expenses of the Canadian National Railways had gone up considerably in the last year, and he went into some detail in discussing what those expenses were. He said the Canadian National should be extremely cautious in the next few years to make sure that the over-all surplus it has at present is continued. I make that statement not desiring in any way to criticize what has been said to-day, but to point out to the committee that this is a matter which certainly must be taken into consideration when discussing new or abandoned lines of railway.
In reference to the gaps which have been mentioned, namely that between Heinsburg, Alberta, and Frenchman's Butte, Saskatchewan, on the one hand and between Beaver River, Alberta, and St. Walburg, Saskatchewan, on the other, I can say that many representations have been made to the Canadian National Railways and to me urging the completion of these gaps. I have received and read a large number of petitions. Many of them have been brought to me by the hon. member for Athabaska, and I know he has taken a keen interest in these two projects, as have other lion, members. My own view is^ that the gap between Beaver River and St. Walburg is one which deserves serious consideration. So far as the other one is concerned, I can make no statement on it. It is not a fact that it has been reported upon unfavourably by the Canadian National Railways. All I can say in this connection is that it goes through a certain number of Indian reserves where little traffic is anticipated. I
should make this additional statement, that the Canadian National Railways have set up a committee to consider and to review those two lines. They are making surveys, and those surveys are not yet completed. I understand it will be some time before they are completed, and until they have been, I can make no final statement.