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Close Ties

Close Ties: Railways, Government, and the Board of Railway Commissioners, 1851-1933

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Close Ties
    Book Description:

    The centrepiece of the Canadian government's regulatory strategy from 1904 onwards, the Board of Railway Commissioners is also central to Cruikshank's study. He describes the origins of this independent regulatory agency -- the forerunner of the National Transportation Agency -- and examines its efforts to resolve complex freight disputes.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6304-9
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures and Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. [Maps]
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    The moon was shining brightly on the tin roofs of Montreal’s many churches when a crowded train arrived from Toronto late one November evening in 1856. The passengers looked forward to some respite from the exuberant crowds who had mobbed the train throughout the day at each station and village along the route. The travellers had come to join the citizens of Montreal and thousands of other visitors from Ontario and New England in a grand two-day celebration honouring the opening of the Grand Trunk Railway. The festivities began the following morning with an impressive three-mile-long procession, featuring the Knights...

  8. CHAPTER TWO The Politics of Freight Rates
    (pp. 8-28)

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, Canadians experienced a transportation revolution. Before the Grand Trunk opened its line between Montreal and Toronto in November 1856, fewer than 900 miles of railway were in operation in Canada. By 1905, competition between railway corporations and the communities that frequently supported them produced a network covering over 20,000 miles. Steady advances in railway technology throughout the period transformed the service provided by those corporations. Railway managers acquired the technology to carry more and more freight without corresponding increases in the amount of work performed by their locomotives. As the railway network...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Public Money, Private Rights
    (pp. 29-45)

    “The moment one sets foot in the Territories the question of freight rates is raised, and your ears ring with the story until you reach Victoria,” wrote the Toronto journalist and intellectual J.S. Willison after returning from a tour of western Canada in 1895. He translated the protests he encountered into a series of articles for the TorontoGlobeand an 1897 pamphlet entitledThe Railway Question in Canada. While Willison adopted the western perspective on freight rate grievances, he rejected the west’s favoured solution. Canadians, he argued, must turn their minds to “the regulation of rates by statute rather...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Public Authority, Private Rights
    (pp. 46-64)

    The creation of competition and the enforcement of its benefits through contract did not challenge the private rate-making prerogative of railway companies. Indeed, governments implicitly recognized corporate powers by “purchasing” a limited measure of public control through formal contracts. Nevertheless, it remained possible for the Canadian legal authority David Mills to argue that “the State” stood in a different relation to railways than “to other species of private property.” Writing in 1872, Mills contended that railway corporations received generous government assistance and the sovereign power to expropriate property “upon grounds, not of private necessity, but of public utility.” The private...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Railways, Politics, and Administration
    (pp. 65-80)

    Late in 1901, Simon James McLean, professor of sociology and political economy at the University of Arkansas, turned down a job opportunity in his home town of Ottawa. A fellow student and acquaintance from the Universities of Toronto and Chicago, William Lyon Mackenzie King, was looking for a successor to Albert Harper, his second-in-command in the Department of Labour. The ambitious McLean frankly explained to King that he was reluctant to abandon his own area of expertise, railway policy, for “one in which your hand has shown its cunning.”¹ At that date, the bright railway economist saw better prospects in...

  12. CHAPTER SIX “A Board of Arbitrators”
    (pp. 81-102)

    With these opening remarks, Chief Commissioner A.G. Blair convened the first public session of the Board of Railway Commissioners on 9 February 1904. In subsequent regulatory proceedings, Blair and the other judges, lawyers, academics, and retired politicians who served on the Board of Railway Commissioners soon learned that in a competitive economy, restoring harmony among contending interests could prove to be a herculean task. Shippers in various communities and regions challenged the freight rates enjoyed by their competitors as discriminatory, and sought the marginal, but potentially significant, competitive advantage rate adjustments could provide. Railway officials defended much of their traditional...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN “A Question of Figures”
    (pp. 103-126)

    During the Board of Railway Commissioners’ first decade of operation, no other freight rate controversies matched the intensity and complexity of those of western Canada. The phenomenal economic and demographic growth of the prairie west and the continued expansion of the British Columbia interior between the turn of the century and World War I shaped the grievances. Merchants and manufacturers on the British Columbia coast, in Winnipeg, and in eastern Canada all competed for rate advantages that would guarantee them a substantial share of these attractive and land-locked consumer markets. At the same time, ambitious entrepreneurs in smaller prairie towns...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Casualties of War
    (pp. 127-155)

    The railway commission rendered its decision on the western rates inquiry on 6 April 1914. Within four months, Canada was at war. Neither the commissioners nor any of the parties to the western investigation anticipated the enormous changes World War I would produce in the Canadian railway situation. The war created substantial operating demands on the railway network, increased the costs of labour and materials, and dried up crucial sources of investment capital. This was not the type of economic growth on which railway promoters had been counting. The financial position of the Grand Trunk and Canadian Northern railway systems...

  15. CHAPTER NINE “An Equilator [?] Rather Than a Mathematical Equality”
    (pp. 156-178)

    Chief Commissioner Carvell’s controversial western tour in the spring of 1921 represented the first phase of a new inquiry into the equalization of eastern and western tariffs. In asking the board to undertake the investigation, Prime Minister Meighen hoped to overcome his government’s other liabilities in western Canada by championing a long-standing and widely shared regional grievance. Liberal leader William Lyon Mackenzie King, who succeeded Meighen in December 1921 and served as prime minister for most of the 19205, also championed the cause of freight rate “equality.” Regional rate grievances, embodied in a quest for equality, dominated the regulatory agenda...

  16. CHAPTER TEN Regions of Regulation
    (pp. 179-195)

    On 7 July 1924, officials of the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways introduced tariffs consistent with their legal interpretation of the Crow’s Nest Pass agreement. As they had warned, they applied the low commodity rates only from points in eastern Canada to points in western Canada that had been covered in the original agreement. The tariffs produced the intended effect – chaos. Manufacturers of agricultural implements, binder twine, paints, paper, and bar-iron in Brantford, Welland, Sarnia, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Sydney continued to pay 1924 rates while their competitors in Hamilton and Montreal received reductions of as much as fifty...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN Conclusion: The Limits of Regulation
    (pp. 196-210)

    “Wherever a railway breaks in upon the gloom of a depressed and secluded district,” the promoter-engineer T.C. Reefer told a Montreal audience in 1853, “new life and vigour are infused into the native torpor – the long desired market is obtained – labour now reaps her own reward – the hitherto useless waterfall now turns the labouring wheel, now drives the merrier spindle, the cold and hungry are now nourished; and thus are made susceptible converts to a system the value of which they are not slow to appreciate.” Bold prophecies of industrial progress and social order accompanied the coming...

  18. APPENDIX A Chronology of Railway Freight Rate Regulation
    (pp. 211-216)
  19. APPENDIX B Statistics on Railway Freight Operations
    (pp. 217-224)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 225-264)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-280)
  22. Index
    (pp. 281-287)