RICHARDSON, Robert Lorne

Personal Data

Springfield (Manitoba)
Birth Date
June 28, 1860
Deceased Date
November 6, 1921
author, editor, publisher

Parliamentary Career

June 23, 1896 - October 9, 1900
  Lisgar (Manitoba)
November 7, 1900 - July 20, 1901
  Lisgar (Manitoba)
December 17, 1917 - October 4, 1921
  Springfield (Manitoba)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 2 of 168)

June 29, 1920


Mr. Speaker, I cannot afford to allow an occasion of this kind to pass without expressing my views, even although the hour is very late. When the Board of Commerce was appointed, I am quite sure it met with the general approval of the masses of the people of this country. Profiteering had been running rampant for months, and in my judgment that great strike in Winnipeg was to some extent caused by the spectacle of wholesale profiteering. When I reached Winnipeg during that strike, I found practically unanimous opinion amongst not only the better-informed people -but all classes, that an effort ought to be made, if not to control prices, at least to limit profits. When, as a result of the high cost of living inquiry and of the general feeling throughout the country, it was decided that a Board of Commerce should be appointed, I repeat, there was a general feeling of satisfaction that something was at last to he done.

The question came up-who should constitute the members of the Board of Commerce? The -name of Judge Eobson had been mentioned; in fact, I took the liberty of suggesting his name to members of the Government. The judge had said to me a year or two ago that he would like to be identified with some such work as that which was carried on by the Interstate Commerce Commission in the United States. I had remembered that statement, and I recommended Judge Eobson very strongly for the position of chairman. I stated then,-and I believe the opinion that I expressed will be endorsed by ninety-nine per cent of the

people of Manitoba,-that if you held a plebiscite in that province to find the ideal man, Judge Robson would have been selected. He had been a very successful practitioner at the bar; he had make a record for himself as judge, and when the Public Utilities' Commission was created in Manitoba, he was selected as commissioner. He made an admirable record in the service of the people in that high office. He resigned because of some reason of his own which I shall not state here, and he went back into the practice of law. When this position offered and I discussed it with him, he said at first that he would accept. A week or two later, he declined and gave out that he would not accept the position, but in another week or so he reconsidered his decision and communicated with me stating that he would be willing to accept the position. I took the liberty of mentioning the matter to the authorities, and as a result probably of that as much as anything else, Judge Robson was, appointed to the position. He continued in that office for some months. The work of the Board of Commerce did not seem to be as successful as might have been expected, and finally the judge resigned. J understand the reason he gave for his resignation was that he did not think the Act was a valid one, nor that the powers conferred upon the board by the Act which created it were constitutional. Be that as it may, it is my judgment that a man to whom the country looked as unanimously and as confidently as the country did to Judge Robson, should not have resigned upon that pretext, nor for that reason. If the judge came to the conclusion that the Act was not constitutional and did not confer upon him the necessary powers to make the board as useful as it should be, it was his duty to have iso- stated1 the case to the Government and toi have asked for additional powers. I felt extremely disappointed when the judge threw the Board of Commerce over, retired from Ottawa and went back to Manitoba.

Having taken as deep an interest in the board as I did, I conferred very frequently with the other members of the board, Mr. O'Connor and Mr. Murdock, and I may say that I formed a very set opinion that these gentlemen were perfectly sincere and desirous to make a success of the work. I have rarely met a man who seemed' more thoroughly sincere, who took himself more seriously and was mo-re anxious to be of service than Mr. Murdock. I met both him and Mr. O'Connor quite frequently because the control of newsprint had been

placed an the hands of the board!, and for a time I was brought into constant contact with him. I had learned of the Hugg letter; I had also learned that before Judge Robson retired-so these other commissioners informed me-he had made an arrangement with them to resign in a body, and thus put an end to the Board of Commerce. That is -the statement that both these other members of the board made to me. They said that they did not suspect Judge Robson at that time; they thought he was acting with perfect sincerity; but when this letter sent -by J. B. Hugg, K.C., of Winnipeg was found on Judge Robson's desk, they made up their minds that he was trying to betray the board, and consequently they changed their attitude, decided that they would not .resign, but that they would stand loyally by the board.

Full View Permalink

June 25, 1920


We cannot afford to give it. to the Canadian Pacific. We have already given them hundreds of millions of dollars. The Government was faced with

[Mr. Richardson.I

this vital problem: It had either to take over these roads or let the country go without transportation. That is the tragedy of the situation. There was absolutely no other sensible course for the Government except to take these roads over. It is all very well for the hon. gentleman to prattle about private ownership under public control, but we were faced with an issue, and that issue had to be met, and it was met in the only possible way it could be met. Hon. gentlemen will say, and they do say, and it is reiterated throughout the country, that we are piling up enormous deficits in the operation of these publicly-owned railroads. Surely we are. The deficit last year amounted, I understand, to $47,000,000. But let us remember that during all the years that have gone by, the people of Canada have continually contributed in bonuses and subsidies to keep these roads going. That policy of bonuses and subsidies went on for decades until the time came when the people would not stand for it any longer. I believe the feeling of the country was that they would sooner take over these roads and operate them themselves and know exactly what the deficit was. It is true we have this deficit, but that deficit, I repeat, is no greater than the amount it would otherwise be necessary for us to put up by way of bonuses or subsidies to keep these roads going. Let me say to those who denounce this deficit on the Canadian National railways that during the war the United States took over and operated the railways there, and their loss in operation during the war was almost one billion dollars. So we have not done so very badly in Canada. Now that we have the railways, il believe that we shall be able so to coordinate them, and bring about such vast economies in the running of freight and passengers trains and through the amalgamation of ticket and freight offices, that we ought to be able to make the roads pay.

While I am on my feet I want to say a word with reference to a proposed increase in freight rates. In the debate on the speech from the Throne I spoke on this subject, because I believed this Parliament should hesitate before authorizing or recommending any increase in freight rates. Let us look the conditions squarely in the face. The country has been loaded with an enormous railway liability. I believe that we have no less than $500,000,000 in value of roads that should never have been constructed.

The Transcontinental I have already alluded to. Is it a fair proposition that freight

rates should be increased in order to pay operating expenses on that vast capitalization? An enormous portion of that capitalization never should have been expended, and the users of these railroads, those who travel or send freight over them, would be obliged to pay these high freight rates if we granted the increase. Why .should a limited number of people be saddled with that cost? Are not the entire people responsible for the situation? I am not here to charge one political party or the other with responsibility; they are all to blame. I remember twenty or twenty-five years ago, when I sat on the Railway Committee day [DOT]after day as a .member, how the exploiters and those who wanted charters to build railroads in various parts of the country, brought their supporters to that committee and presented arguments in order to secure those charters. Only in rare instances did the promoters ever propose to build the railroads themselves. They intended to dispose of the charters, and Parliament, through its Railway Committee and of its own accord, for the last thirty years continued a policy that ha.s brought such a grief to the country in connection with the railway situation. The only cure is that we should take our medicine. Railing against one another in this matter will avail us nothing. We have all been responsible. Let us all take our medicine and realize-and the sooner the better-that an amount should be written off the public ledger in connection with public ownership sufficient to make up for the enormous expenditure in the duplication of railroads. The capitalization of the nationally-owned railways must be cut down to an amount which would just about, cover cost, if constructed under proper auspices. Then you are in this position. You need only charge freight rates sufficient to pay operating' expenses and interest on .a reasonable capitalization. Until the crack of doom I do not believe that in Canada we would be able to pay on our nationally-owned railways sufficient to take care of operating expenses and upkeep and the interest on the vast capitalization that never should have been put into this enterprise. We must start right if we are going to make a success of public ownership. With regard to increasing the freight rates, let me point out that if you increase the rates the Canadian Pacific Railway will get about two-thirds of the amount that will he collected. Does the Canadian Pacific Railway need this amount? Does it need an increase in freight rates? If you look at

their statement you will find that they have from one to two hundred millions in reserve-I think, to be accurate, it is one hundred and fifty million dollars. So that to give them an increase in freight rates would be but a tragedy to the people of the country. But if you grant an increase on the nationally owned railways you must grant it in connection with the Canadian Pacific. Is it not far better, in the interests of the whole people, that we should suffer a loss in the operation of our nationally owned system, as we must suffer a loss for the reasons I have advanced,- I say, is it not far better that we should suffer a loss of forty-seven millions a year than that we should increase the rates and thereby call upon the people to shoulder some $200,000,000 of a burden, the greater portion of which amount would go into the coffers of the Canadian Pacific Railway? This is an important question and one which hon. members should carefully consider, because an increase in freight rates would simply mean that you would pass on the cost to the people. Surely the people of the country are now just about taxed to the limit; and if you add such a vast amount as I suggest by way of an increase in freight rates it will only increase the burden of the people to an intolerable extent. It seems to me that under all the circumstances the people of Canada have reason to congratulate themselves at the present time on what has occurred. I believe that we are co-ordinating all these railway systems under one public management that will operate to the advantage of the system. I believe-and my belief is founded on observation-that this great system is steadily growing in favour and is improving all the time; and it is my conviction that we should encourage the nationally owned system of railroads. The time is not far distant, if we do so, when we shall have a system of which we can well be proud. I have not heard in this country during the last year or so, since the Canadian Northern was taken over, any charge that has been substantiated by reasonable evidence against the management of these publicly owned railroads. The president, Mr. Hanna, is very well known to me, and has lived in the West many years. He has told me, and has repeated in public, that no attempt has ever been made from any quarter, political or otherwise, to influence his appointments in connection with this great system. That is a highly important statement. It is true or it is not

true. If it is true I think the people of Canada have reason to he grateful that out of the railway chaos that has existed in this country for twenty or thirty years,, we at last have a reasonably efficient and honest administration in our nationally owned system. I believe we have reason to thank God. Look at what has been going on in connection with privately owned railroads. They have been one of the greatest debauching influences in this country for the last thirty or forty years. No one ever hears any talk about crooked work in connection with the railroads now, and I believe that is one result of public ownership.

Let me say in conclusion that I believe it is the solemn duty of the people of the country, and especially of the members of this House, who are supposed correctly to represent the feeling of the country, to stand loyally by the publicly owned system; for that is the only solution of an enormous difficulty. You will not get all that you may expect; the work may not be perfectly done. But if it is reasonably done, and if we have an honest and reasonably efficient administration, we shall have reason to be thankful. If we secure an honest administration we have reason, I reiterate, to be deeply thankful; and I believe that we have that administration at the present time. Members may talk about changing the system, but let me tell hon. gentlemen opposite-and as an old Liberal I sometimes feel rather sad to see many of my friends opposing this democratic principle of public ownership-that this system is the only one that will work in Canada today. There is no other solution for our railway problem, and if my hon. friends were in office to-morrow and undertook to hand over the administration of these now publicly owned railroads to private ownership they would meet with a storm of indignation and opposition throughout the country such as they could not withstand. You may just as well make up your mind that public ownership in Canada has come to stay. Let us realize that fact and aim at securing the best, the most honest, and the most efficient administration in connection with that system. That, and only that, is the policy that is sure of success in this Dominion.

Full View Permalink

June 25, 1920


I want to make one or two observations on the subject of transportation in this country, because it has a very deep interest for me. The hon. member for Pontiac, who opened the discussion, expressed a preference for private ownership under public control. I cannot quite understand what the hon. gentleman was driving at, because we have had private ownership in this country under semi-public control, through the Railway Commission, and it has not proved a wonderful success. It. passes my comprehension how any hon. member of this House who has made any serious study of the railway question in this country can take a position opposed to public ownership. Very frequently we hear it charged-I have heard it charged session after session in this House-that the Government voluntarily embarked on this public ownership policy, and that it was sure to prove a national disaster. Now I think it cannot be too frequently repeated that the Government did not voluntarily embark on a policy of public ownership. Private ownership came to a disastrous end in this country, and it probably could not have been otherwise, because, as you will' find by the records, every railroad in this country-even including the great Canadian Pacific, which cost such an immense amount of money, was subsidized by the people of this country to an extent that Sir John Willison in an article in a newspaper described as "an outrage on a free people"- was practically paid for by the people. We need not go back to discuss the Canadian Pacific railway, but every dollar that road cost has been put up by the people of this country. After that road had been built, we undertook to embark on another great transcontinental railway, the Transcontinental, which was to have cost the people of this country some $13,000,000. As a matter of fact, the road has cost us $250,000,000. It is true it is a splendidly built road, extending 1,800 miles, but I do not think it has sufficient traffic to pay for its axle grease. The question is, should that road be abandoned? There are many people who think it should, because it is a charge on public ownership. The old Grand Trunk, which by its contract undertook to operate the road, positively refused to do so, and the road is now thrown on

our hands. Should the Government or this Parliament decline to operate the road and let it fall into disuse? That is a very serious question. We have to face this fact: great vested interests have been created all along the line. Settlers by the hundreds of thousands have gone in there and are making their homes in the towns and villages that are being built up along the line, and to abandon the road would be a great hardship upon these people. It would therefore seem to be the desirable thing that this country should operate the road, but the road cannot be operated properly, except at an enormous annual deficit, The same remarks will apply very largely to the Grand Trunk Pacific, which was driven through tlie mountains at an enormous cost. This country has spent, I believe, no less than $400,000,000 or $500,000,000-let hon. gentlemen mark those figures-in unnecessary railroads paralleling each other in this country. Witness the tragedy between this city and the great city of Toronto. The old Grand Trunk, fifty or sixty years ago, had a monopoly of that territory. It had a double track between the two cities and was entitled to the traffic derived from that great territory. It was able to take care of all the traffic, but the territory has since with the consent of Parliament been invaded by the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian Northern. It is no wonder when you duplicate lines in this way that railroads do not pay, and that there is an annual deficit. All the railroads that we have taken over have been forced upon the country. We must have railroads. Transportation is almost as great a necessity as bread and butteTj and consequently these railroads must be kept in operation. The Government was faced with this position: These privately owned roads came to an end. The Grand Trunk refused to operate the Grand Trunk Pacific, and absolutely refused to take over the Transcontinental. What could the Government do? Could it allow the hun. dreds of thousands of people who had settled along these lines to go without railway service? Why, if that had been done, there would have been a rebellion in the country.

Full View Permalink

June 25, 1920


Mr. Speaker, I was not present when the motion. was put to the House. I said to my hon. friend the member for Yarmouth (Mr. Spinney) as I came in: "I am afraid I am late," but he informed me that under a ruling given two or three days ago, it would be all right for me to vote. I assume my vote was not counted.

Full View Permalink

June 18, 1920


Has the minister

any information as to the proportion of land that was alienated to the pirates prior to 1914 and how much remains in the possession of the Crown at the present time?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Full View Permalink