September 23, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)

CON

William Rees Brock

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BROCK.

Before you put this motion, Mr. Chairman, I think a little more discussion of it will not be out of place. I shall endeavour to confine myself entirely to the resolution. The resolution is eminently business-like. We are about to plunge into an enormous expenditure through an unknown land, and therefore should obtain all the information possible before we allow this measure to pass. We were told by the Prime Minister that the government had mountains of information, and I am convinced that the right hon. gentleman would not have made that statement unless he really believed that he had such a mass of information as would justify his assertion. But we find that all this information is reduced into the compass of a small blue-book, in which we find a most remarkable compilation leading us through the centuries, but giving us very little information. According to the Minister of Justice, it is merely an index to that great volume of information to which we have been referred, but it certainly is a very meagre accomplishment of what we were promised. It is not even an index. This country, Mr. Chairman, understands what all that means. The Prime Minister was led into a mistake, and his followers, with that loyalty which has always characterized them, are endeavouring to let him down as easily as possible-much more easily than the practical business men of the country will let him down. If an ordinary farmer comes to town to buy a log chain, how does he judge its strength ? By the strength of three or four links ? No ; by the strength of the weakest link, and he will not complete his purchase unless the defect is rectified. The same test should be applied to the case in hand. We are told by the transportation expert of the government that there will be a weak link in this railway, if the grades should be more than four-tenths to the mile. My contention is that, In judging this matter, we should judge it by its weakest link, and not by a few extracts from the reports of geological explorations which were not made with the view of railway building at all. A great portion of the information, if you can call it such, that we get from this hook does not concern the territory through which this railway will run, and therefore the government will be justified in delaying their course. All we ask is delay sufficient to get the information which will justify the building of this road. We will have to wait for that information in any case, because the government are not going on to build their line without any knowledge. They must have surveys made, and it will only he a few months when tills House will be called together again. Why not wait until that information is before the House ? We were told that we should have this road built at once,-as our bonding privileges were in danger of being abrogated. In the course of his remarks the other day, the Minister of Customs put a supposi-

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titious case. He made the remarkable statement that the people in the North-west would be disloyal if they shipped their goods any other way than through Canadian ports, regardless of the expense. But, Sir, they will select the cheapest route, the one which will leave them the most money. Such an argument as my hon. friend the Minister of Customs made would be laughed at in the North-west. This easteru extension of the railway was started very .shrewdly. The company were perfectly satisfied to get a charter from North Bay into the wheat fields of Manitoba and the North-west, but they were jollied on to take a charter to Quebec and then to Moncton. It was never suggested by the company that they wanted to build that eastern division. No, they knew, as practical railway men, that it could not be done profitably, and they threw it at the government. The government snapped at the bait and hold it in their jaws now, and that is why this matter is being rushed through without a particle of the information which the people should have. One of the shrewdest men of the House, the hon. member for Brantford (Mr. H-eydj, acknowledged that he had not the Information he required and wanted to get it. That is what we all want. This is not a question of building a branch line a few miles, but of building a great transcontinental railway all through Canadian territory to Canadian ports. That sounds very big, and that is what took. I can understand the Prime Minister, with his lack of knowledge of railway matters, being taken in by such a grand flourish. But although a portion of this country may be fooled all the time, and although the whole of it may be fooled now and again, the whole of it cannot be fooled all the time.
And therefore, I urge, not only upon this House, but upon the country, that we should have a little more out of that mountain of information that the right hon. Prime Minister promised) us. It is said that we are going to do a great injury to the North-west if we do not build this road at once, that if it is not built at once the people of the North-west will ship their grain through the United States. Are they going to ship their grain through the United States at higher rates than they pay for shipping it through Canada ? Not at all. The only way by which the United States can take that traffic is by giving lower figures on it than the Canadian routes can give. How about tlie grain now ? Is it hanking up in the North-west ? No, the grain is coining out every day, and more grain is coming out through Canadian routes and tlie natural Canadian route at tlie present time than ever before in the history of the country. And so good is that route, so desirable is that route, that we do not find the American people preaching to the farmers on that side that they could not send a pound of Mr. BROCK.
grain over Canadian territory. As a matter of fact, American grain is coining over Canadian territory and is being shipped by way of Montreal and Quebec. I wonder that that is not an eye opener to hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House. Many of them want to he fair. It is not from personal interest that they are pushing this measure through parliament. I can only think that it is on account of the wonderful eloquence that hag captivated them in its flowing periods dealing with the bonding privilege. And yet I should) have thought, had the orator been any other than the right lion. Prime Minister of this Dominion, that he was really not in earnest but was making a statement merely for effect. The effect, I am quite sure, has not been a good one.
Another point that impresses upon me the desirability of going slow in this matter is the fact that we have not a single great railway expert in this country at tire back of this scheme. We have not the opinion of a single one of them favourable to tlie liroject, but quite the contrary. Engineer after engineer, and railway manager after railway manager, has condemned it. Why, they hardly seem to consider it, so clear are they in their opinion that it is impossible to he done. Why should we run our heads against a stone wall of this kind, when by waiting only one year we can find out whether we can or can not build such a railway as the expert of the government, the levelheaded business man who rose in this House to answer the late Minister of Railways, and who, deliberately, and after great preparation, made the statement, which I am bound to say he must have believed, that, unless we could get a railway with such grades as lie described, we should be throwing our money atway by building a railway at all. It seems to me that many hon. members are ready to throw the money away. The Finance Minister (Hon. Mr. Fielding), the man who above ail should endeavour to safeguard1 the finances of this country, says that we are going to build a road through that country anyway. That is not tlie spirit in which to approach a great business matter of that kind. We have great respect for that hon. gentleman but that respect is not increased by such statements as he made here this morning.
Another thing, I think, should make us pause is that we are not trying an experiment, the result of which we can wipe away to-morrow. If the contract is entered into and carried out, we have that road not only for fifty years, but we have it on our shoulders, like the old man of the mountain, for all time, hampering the progress of this country and making it more difficult for us to improve and get the benefit of, our best means of transportation. To find out wliat our best means of transportation are the government started out right, I believe, when they issued from the council chamber a manifesto that they were going to appoint

a commission expressly for the purpose of considering all the means of transportation. Carrying out that policy they
appointed a commission composed of most respectable and reputable men, men in whom the country will have confidence. Before these men we should
bring the evidence to enable them to arrive at a decision. They can call upon the best railway experts, and when they have collected the facts that are available, any recommendations that they make will be received not only by the House but by the country. This is of such importance that I wonder that the Prime Minister does not at once rise in his place and say that he has reconsidered this matter, that the plan suggested from this side of arriving at the proper information is the best one, and allow us to go on with other business, wipe this off the slate andt start anew after we have this information. But it is most difficult to acknowledge that we are in error. We all have in our composition a large amount of pride which, sometimes, will not allow us to do what we know we ought to do. And I can understand that this has actuated many lion, gentlemen on the other side of the House. Having once committted themselves, not only individually but as a party, they would rather face the country and go down to defeat at the poll than acknowledge that they were wrong. I have a certain respect for that feeling. I like to see firmness in the maintenance of a resolution, so long as those who are responsible are to be the only losers. But, in the meantime, as we contend, the country will be the loser. These lion, gentlemen should put the country before themselves and their feelings. If they insist upon pushing this scheme through, they must take upon themselves the blame, as they expect to claim the glory, if there is any. They cannot blame parliament or this side of the House. Therefore, I would strongly urge that the amendment moved by the hon. member for Bothwell is a most reasonable and fair amendment, as it is one that we believe will meet the approval of the country.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   ROBERT MEIGHEN.
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