January 31, 1912 (12th Parliament, 1st Session)


Joseph Elijah Armstrong

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. E. ARMSTRONG (East Lambton) moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, a commission should be appointed to investigate the systems of national telegraphs and telephones, wireless telegraphs and cables, also postal conditions, laws and regulations, parcel post, means of collecting and distributing Mr. SPEAKER.
mails, with a view to submitting such data and information to the Post Office Department as would help to improve existing conditions in all the above, and to further inquire into postal facilities in rural districts in other countries in order that a better [DOT]ystem of rural free mail delivery may be inaugurated.
He said: My object in asking for the appointment of this commission is to obtain definite data and statistics with reference to these great public utilities. In the Halifax platform, which was issued in August, 1907, the present Prime Minister of Canada used the following words:
It has been demonstrated in Great Britain that telegraphs and telephones can be successfully operated in connection with the Post Office Department. I see no reason why a similar system should not he inaugurated and carried out successfully in Canada. Few people realize that at the present time Canada owns and operates 6,586 miles of state tele-rraph lines. These lines have not been remunerative for the reason that they have been established in thinly settled portions of the country where private enterprise could find no adequate return. If we are prepared to invest national capital in thinly peopled and unremunerative localities, why should we hesitate in those portions of the country where operations can he carried on at a profit? I do not forget the necessity that our great railways must be equipped with telegraph and telephone lines, nor do I forget the principle of justice to invested capital which I have already invoked. Having regard to these considerations onr policy should include the establishment, after due investigation, of a system of national telegraphs and telephones under conditions which shall be just to capital already invested.
I feel satisfied, Mr. Speaker, that out of the Halifax platform have already come many great reforms in the Dominion of Canada, but none greater than the proposed legislation. I think we should go about acquiring these great public utilities under the common-sense business methods^ and there is no question in my mind that if they were nationalized they would become a source, not only of revenue, but of great advantage to the people of Canada. There are five great means of transmitting intelligence in this country: The telegraph, the telephone, wireless telegraphy, cables, and the post office. All these means of transmitting intelligence are of vital importance to every man, woman and child in the country. It is, therefore, our duty to investigate and gather statistics with regard to these important facilities, with a view to nationalize them, and make them part of the Post Office Department of Canada. I propose to give some reasons for asking for this legislation. For the past five years I have given considerable time and attention to gathering statistics | with regard to these great national under-| takings. Knowing as I do the success that

has attended the nationalization of these utilities in foreign lands, I feel confident that the time is not far distant when the people of Canada will demand, at least, that an investigation be made with a view to placing these utilities under the Dominion government. In the platform of the right hon. the Prime Minister, which I have quoted, he refers to these utilities. He calls attention to the fact that we had in Canada at that time over 6,000 miles of telegraph lines that were not remunerative. To-day we have 8,000 miles of telegraph lines, owned, controlled, and operated by the Dominion government; and these telegraph lines, instead of being a source of revenue to the government, cost this country last year the sum of $270,000. We have over 600 offices for the management of these telegraphic enterprises. The largest telegraph company we have in the Dominion of Canada, namely, the Canadian Pacific railway, control, own and operate over 12,000 miles of pole lines, and over 76,000 miles of wire; and their income, after paying all expenses, amounted last year to the handsome sum of $1,270,000.
That amount, according to the books which the Canadian Pacific Railway placed at the disposal of the Tailway commission [DOT]within the last few weeks, shows that they only invested in that enterprise, $6,600,000. You can readily see that within six years, by that method of calculation, the amount of capital invested would be returned to them in dividends. You will find that the Canadian Pacific Railway have been able to reaudit the statement of the audit office as placed before the railway commission. They have tried to show that there are certain charges which should have been included in the statement of the investment which came from their own audit office, but after investigating that you cannot come to any other conclusion than I have that, in so far as these statements are concerned, they are not worthy of consideration and that the actual income from the investment of $6,600,000 'amounted last year to $1,270,000.
Let us take the next greatest telegraph company we have in the Dominion of Canada, the Great Northwestern, with its 17,000 miles of pole lines and its 50,000 miles of wire. Thev have been able to cover up their earnings to a very great_ extent because a large portion of their stock is held in the United States and the enterprise is controlled and operated from that point. If you take into consideration all the other telegraph lines in the Dominion of Canada-and when I say that, l am speaking in reference to the telegraph lines of the railways-you will come to the conclusion that the Canadian Pacific Railway own, operate and control nearly half the miles of pole line and more than half the miles of wire in Canada and
if that company are able to place before the Railway Commission figures which go to show that they have only invested $6,600,000 in the enterprise, it is not too much to expect that if we were to attempt to purchase all the telegraph lines and wires in Canada the cost should not exceed $13,000,000 or $14,000,000. But then, you would have control of the telegraph wires that operate our railways; 'SO that you have to take from that the wires necessary to operate the railway systems. When you came to figure it ud you would find that you could not possibly invest more than, say $10,000,000, in order to enable you to own and operate the commercial telegraph lines. Ten million dollars is not such an enormous amount when you take into consideration the rates which have been charged against people in the east and in the west and at the same time the manner in which this public utility has been conducted. In addition to that the Canadian Pacific. railway are paid through our Own Cable board $65,000 per annum in connection with the cable service, which would help to pay the interest on our own capital.
Now, I desire to refer to the telephone companies and to call your attention to the fact that we have 460 independent telephone companies in Ontario while, in the Dominion, it is estimated that we have in the neighbourhood of a thousand telephone companies. In the United States they have 15,000 independent telephone companies operating over 4,000,000 phones and costing, as they claim, over $400,000,000. The independent telephone companies in our country are practically on their knees to the great Bell Telephone Company, especially in the eastern provinces and the proposal that I have to make to parliament is that we should own the trunk lines of telephone, that these trunk lines should go to the independent companies and let the municipalities or the independent companies own, control and operate these lines and make them local concerns. After investigating to some extent the operation of telephone lines in different foreign countries I find that the most feasible plan, as far as Canada is concerned, is that we should at once either take over the trunk lines and operate them or else build trunk lines in Canada in connection with the telegraph lines because we must recognize that the telegraph and telephone should go hand-in-hand. Wires that are used for one service can readily be used for the other. The provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta own and operate their own telenhone systems. We should, at the earliest possible date connect up the eastern trunk lines with that great northwestern country and with these great western provinces so that we will be able to assist in such a way as would be possible, did we own, as we should, the telegraph and tele-

phone lines running through that western country.

Full View