Mr. FRANK OLIVER (Alberta).
It is not necessary to add anything to what has been said in proof of the necessity of a railway commission whose duty it would be to adjust fairly the rates as between shippers and as between different localities. All I wish to say is, that while a railway commission is necessary, in my humble opinion, towards remedying the present conditions, it does not and cannot, in the nature of things, provide a complete remedy for those conditions. Some of those conditions, I am afraid, have gone beyond remedy. But the fact that there are or may be such conditions as cannot be remedied makes it all the more necessary that we should provide against the recurrence of like conditions in all eases in the future over which we have control, and with the responsibility for which we are charged. The point has probably been alluded to by other speakers, but I wish to emphasize it, that the great difficulty we have, or shall have, in dealing with the question of rates on our railroad system is the fact that the railroads of the country have been permitted to be overloaded with indebtedness. In view of that circumstance, and in view of the facts laid before the House, I desire to place before hon. members the great and urgent necessity of providing against over-capitalization of all railroads chartered by this House in future. I hold that if this House allows railroads to be bonded on the basis of their possible earning power, instead of requiring that they should be bonded only on the basis of their cost, this House cannot
afterwards come in and regulate the rates below the point that will permit those roads to earn a fair interest on the amount of indebtedness which has been incurred with the consent of this House. We should provide in all railroad charters hereafter granted that indebtedness should not be allowed beyond the cost of the road. Then, we pay for what we get and we get what we pay for. We know that we cannot have railroads without money. Our complaint against present conditions is not that we are required to pay interest on the cost of the roads, but it is that we are required to pay interest on double and treble the cost of the roads ; and we ask that for the future we shall be ensured that, whatever the railroad may cost, it is only on that cost that we shall be required to pay interest in the way of railway rates.
Now, as there have been instances given of peculiar rates, I wish to draw attention to an instance also, the more particularly because this is in connection with the rates over the Crow's Nest Pass Railway, a railway the rates on which, we were given to understand, the government absolutely controlled. I have a memorandum placed in my hands which purports to give the local rates charged over that road, between certain points previous to May, 1900, and since May, 1900. I find that, from Lethbridge to Cranbrook, previous to May, 1900, the first-class rate was 99 cents per hundred pounds; second class, 82 cents ; third class, 65 cents : fourth class, 49 cents ; fifth class, 44 cents ; and tenth class, 22 cents. I find that since May 14, 1900, the rates have been : first class, $1.27 per hundred pounds ; second class, $1.06 ; third class, 85 cents ; fourth class, 64 cents; fifth class, 58 cents ; and tenth class, 29 cents. The people who live along that line of road very naturally asked the question, and I may tell the House and the minister that they asked it very pertinently during the election, how, if this government had control of the rates over that road, they permitted that increase to be made. I was not able to answer them, and I ask the Minister of Railways now : Has the government, as a matter of fact, control over those rates, and if it has, what were the reasons which led them to permit this increase of rates to take place 7 I think anybody will agree, upon comparing the rates previous to May, 1900, over the Crow's Nest line, with similar rates in other parts of the country, that those rates were certainly high enough. But they were increased very materially after May 14, and the people along that line, and I, as their representative in this House, want to know whether that increase was made in defiance of the government or with the consent of the government.