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


Joseph Elijah Armstrong

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARMSTRONG (Lambton).

I have no such proposition in my mind. I do- not think it would be advisable for this government to go into the different municipalities in Canada arid attempt to own. control and operate these lines. In many foreign countries they 'have systems whereby they do control, own and operate all the telephone and telegraph lines in those countries, such as Germany, hut in other places, where they own and operate trunk lines and where they have connected them up with the municipalities they find that it is an altogether better system and that the conditions which arise in the different municipalities are such that they have an altogether better service.
We have in Canada some twenty-five wireless telegraph stations. Some years ago the late government entered into a contract with the Marconi Company for the construction by that company of a number of wireless stations in Canada. The Marconi Company agreed to build these wireless stations for $5,000 each and to include in each .station comfortable homes for the operators in charge. From a return which I asked last year we find that these stations have cost Canada from $10,000 to $20,000 each and that in addition to this we are paying tens of thousands of dollars to the Marconi Company to operate a large proportion of those wireless telegraph stations. But we are in this position with regard to these great utilities. As far as the telegraph system is concerned we own and control the lean end of it, the productive end is turned over to the great monopolies. It is the same with the telephone system. You find rural districts doing their utmost to gather together a sufficient number of people to organize independent companies in rural districts in order that they may have some of the comforts which accrue frorn a telephone system. But the productive end of the telephone system is owned, operated and controlled by the Bell Telephone Company in Ontario and Quebec and in some of the eastern provinces by other telephone companies.
The wireless telegraph stations are in much the same position. I want the House to recognize that we have some twenty-five wireless telegraph stations in Canada costing from $10,000 to $20,000 each. Fifteen of these stations are controlled by the Marconi Telegraph people. They are the profitable end' of the wireless- telegraph stations. The unprofitable end of that whole system is operated by this govern-Mr. ARMSTRONG (E. Lambton)
ment at a very great loss. I am a firm believer in wireless telegraphy being taken over as a public utility and placed under the control and operation of this government in order that not only our shores may receive the splendid advantages that accrue from having these stations established there but that, in the not far distant future, we may have stations throughout the Dom-minion of Canada and that the long distances that separate our east from our great west may be overcome by a system of wireless telegraphy.
I shall also endeavour to place before the House a number of statistics with reference to parcel post systems in European countries. The position of the parcel post system is similar to that of the other utilities to which I have referred. Our Post Office Department does the unprofitable end of the carrying of parcels in this country, the profitable end is done by the express companies, and they are able to pay dividends of 100 per cent and 200 per cent on their capital. The unprofitable end is done by the Post Office Department, but as soon as it gets up to a few ounces in weight the postal rate begins to be prohibitive and the express companies step in and take the remunerative end of the parcel post. I have no desire to urge upon the House the need of -establishing -a parcel post for Canada; I shall only urge the need of establishing a parcel post system in the rural districts, what you might term a rural parcel post. This parcel post system will be confined to rural mail or stage routes and only there so that the great departmental houses will not have the advantages that many of the people of our country are inclined to think they might have if we had a general parcel post system for the Dominion.
I trust that my good friend the Postmaster General (Mr. Pell-etier) will not think I am encroaching on his -duties as Postmaster General, in placing this resolution before the House. I hope that this commission, if it is appointed, will have the privilege of gathering in other lands material that will be of untold benefit to the Post Office Department -of Canada, and that they will Teport to the Po-stmaster General on the important matters of rural free mail delivery and parcel post in other countries. Our present system of rural free mail delivery is not only extravagant, but it is breeding -contention and strife in the different districts in which it is in operation, and I would throw out as -a suggestion to the Postmaster General that the time has come when the Post Office Department will have to make a separate branch for this service and place over it a man who is not only competent, but i-s willing and ready to further th-e interests of rural free mail delivery in 'Canada. I believe that

many of the inspectors in the department to-day are not anxious to further the interests of rural mail delivery, they do not like to assume the added responsibilities that it entails. I sincerely hope the day is not far distant when the Postmaster General will undertake these reforms, and that he will see' that these inspectors will do their duty in this regard and will carry out the wishes of the people in reference to this great national undertaking.
I would: like to place before the House some figures with regard to the telegraph systems of Canada.
Canada owns in government-owned telegraphs and -cables, 8,406 miles, of which 8,150 miles are telegraph lines, or l-and lines. She has 603 offices, -and the number of mess-ages sent in 1910-11 amounted to 249,915. The expenditure in 1910-11 amounted to $432,970.04, while the revenue amounted to only $169,585.15, leaving a deficit of $263,384.89.
The Canadian government get the lean end -of the telegraph business. In the same w-ay they get the lean end of the cable, telephone and postal business, while the monopolies h-ave control of -the profitable end of -these systems.
Note the fact that the Dominion -has 603 offices with only 8,000 mates of line, white the Great Northwestern Telegr-aph ComPany, the only -one that competes with the Canadian Pacific railway in extent of mileage, own, as they -did ini 1910-11, 11,234 miles of pole lines, and 50,092 miles of wire line, and sent 2,907,495 messages, having only 1,183 offices, or le-s-s than double the number of offices- run -by the Canadian government, -and -send three times as many messages.
The Canadian Pacific railway in that
year ^operated 12,257 miles of pole lines, with 76,175 mites of wire, sending messages to the extent- of 3,431,493, and the total number of th-eir olfic-es is 1,372, or a little over double the offices now operated by the government.
The Western Union, the third largest of the chartered -companies, in 1910 had 2 639 miles of telegraph pole line-s, with 11,024 miles of wire, sending 551,764 messages with 217 offices.
The North American Telegraph Company, Limited, in 1910 operated 605 -miles of line and 783 miles of wire, and sent 38,015 messages with 83 offices.
The Grand Trunk Pacific r-ailway in 1910 operated 1,699 mile-s of pole lines, 5,081 miles of wire, and 71,154 messages, with 73 offices.
The Ailgom-a Central railway in 1910 h-adi 130 miles of lane, 174 miles of line wire, sent 3,639 messages, -and had o-nl-y four1 offices.
The Temiscaimingue and Northern Ontario r-ailway in 1910 had 265 miles of pole line and 1,865 unites of wire, and sent 131,-lu6^ messages with twenty-two offices.
The total number of miles of pol-e line owned by -all the companies in Canada is 28,729.
The total number of m-i-le-s of line and wire operated by telegraph, telephone and cable companies in 1910 was 145,997.
The total number of messages taken and delivered over -all these lines, not including press messages, was 7,134,665.
T-he -total number of offl-ces was 2,934.
You will readily see that the 'Canadian Pacific Railway Company own- and operate nearly half the total number of -miles of pole line in the Dominion, and -over half the miles of -wire, -and send nearly hal-f the me-s-sages; so that with -an estimate placed before you by that company of 1-es-s than seven million of -dollars -as- the value of their pole -lines, lines of wire, etc., the estimate I have made of $15,000,000 would be m-ore t-han sufficient to purchase all the telegraph lines in -existence in Canada to-Qiay. The annual eliarge (for this amount of money -at three per cent would be $400,000. In ord-er -to make the proposition pay interest at three per cent on $15,000,000 you would need a surplus of $400,000 per annum. The -surplu-s of the Canadian Pacific Railway telegraphs operating half the proposed mileage has been over one anil-lion per year on the average for th-e past -six years. I-f, on the other hand, we were to buy the Canadian Pacific Railway system -and charged them so much for operating -their trains over that system, the government getting the rest, there would be -a still greater revenue. At the present rates of messages the government could count on a profit of -on-e million dollars per year. So on an investment of $7 000000 the government -could count on having their -m-on-ey returned in at least six years or the earnings could be applied to -a reduction of rates.
I -have some figures which have been placed before the Railway Commission within the last fe-w weeks by tile Canadian l-acihc Railway Company, and I will ask tne House to be -allowed to place them on Hansard.5

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