March 25, 1902 (9th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Thomas Osborne Davis



Then we do not want to own any railways, if such ownership is going to entail a rate of taxation amounting to $38 per head. But there is such a thing as regulating the railways without government ownership. I do not think that it is advisable for a government to run railways, but it is high time that the government had control over them and forced them to treat the people as they should. In every state of the American union there is a railway commission which controls the railways, and there is besides the Interstate Commission which settles all disputes between the states. But on this side of the line, although our exports are greater per head than on the other side, we are still without any means of controlling our railways, and I hope the government will take action for the appointment of a railway commission. We are told that the Railway Committee of the Privy Council attends to this matter. No doubt, Mr. COMMONS
Speaker, that has been a very-efficient body during the last five years.
Take for instance the railway rates on coal oil. In that case the committee did their duty to the people. I know that in other cases they have proven themselves to be an efficient court. But this country is growing, new transportation companies are being started, we are going ahead by leaps and bounds ; and the time has come when we must have somebody, as they have in England and in other countries, to regulate the traffic on the railroads of this country. I pointed out in this House last session, that, west of Lake Superior we were paying double what they were paying in the east as a local rate. We do not expect, in a country like that where there is little local traffic, to get a rate as cheap as in this part of the country. But we do expect fair treatment, and I believe that we cannot get that fair treatment until we get that railway commission. There are a hundred and one things for that commission to deal with. The cattle-guards question for instance, should be under their control. Such a commission should take means to find out the kinds of cattle-guards in use in the United States and other parts of the world, learn which is the best form of cattle-guard and make a recommendation to the government accordingly. This done, the government would be in a position to legislate intelligently upon this important question. Then there is the question of shortage of cars. There is an evil which we have felt very keenly in the west this year. For, after all, the. grain bill has nothing to do with it. I do not blame the railroads for the shortage of cars altogether. We raised two crops in one year in that country, and it was not to be expected that any railroad could take that out of the country in a month or two. But what I do complain of is that the railroads discriminate against the farmer and small dealers in favour of the elevator man and the man who was in a position to ship large quantities of grain. But the railroad people say that they did this in the interest of the country, because cars in the hands of big shippers were loaded more quickly and so there was less delay and, on the whole, more grain was shipped out than could have been shipped out if the cars had been given to the farmer. It may be that there is something in that argument. But I have known cases where the railroad has refused point blank to give a man a car. These things need to be inquired into and regulated. And the sooner the government take steps to appoint a commission to control the transportation companies, the better it will be for all concerned. Another thing that the commission should do is to see to it that a uniform system of book-keeping is adopted by the transportation companies, so that the public may know exactly how much capital these companies have invested in their enterprises. Nobody wants capitalists to put Mr. DAVIS.
money into railroads without getting a fair return. But we want to know how much they have put in, so that we may know what is a fair return. They may say that they have, for instance, $65,000,000 worth of stock, but we may know that that is half water, and still they are paying five per cent on the whole, and, in order to do that, charging rates which, we contend are too high. The commission should be empowered to examine the books of every transportation company, to ascertain how much money has been invested, and allow them to charge such rates as will give a fair return.
Mr. Speaker, I have taken up more time than I intended to. I hope and believe that, in the season now opening, we are to have a great influx of population into the western part of this country. I hope that, in dealing with all the questions I have spoken about, the government of the day will recognize the fact that we are ' getting a big boy now ' in the west, and that, when it comes to questions of taxation and other things of that kind, our interests must be consulted. When delegations of manufacturers come for increased duty, or delegations of promoters come for subsidies for Georgian Bay canals and other works, the government must take into consideration that their friends, and not their friends only but the people, the great producing people of the west, are interested in these questions and that the position and interests of those people must have consideration at the hands of the government of this country.

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