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E.W. Beatty on Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways Western Branch Construction

he branch-line construction programme of the Canadian Pacific will be based on the traffic necessities and the future prospects of the country, and will be governed by what we believe to be sound business principles. It constitutes no challenge to any other railway company, having been framed by our officers after careful examination of territory not now possessed of railway communications, and after proper appraisal of the areas affected.

With respect to certain areas in connection with which difference of opinion has arisen, no disposition to build was ever displayed by other railway companies until our plans became public property. If our proposals conflict with plans, conceived in the remote past or very recently by the Canadian National, or by the promoters of railway projects subsequently acquired by the Government, we are quite prepared to see each and every item subjected to the closest scrutiny by Parliament, confident that the ultimate decision of that body will be born of a desire to serve the best interests of the country, and particularly of the great undeveloped area in the western province which lies north of the Saskatchewan River.

In some press notices issued the hope is expressed that our programme and that of the Canadian National will not involve wasteful duplication of branch lines. The question of duplication need not enter into this particular controversy, as two railway lines would not be justified in any of the areas over which there might be a difference of opinion. The question to be determined will be as to whether or not the Canadian Pacific will be permitted to build according to its programme, or whether the territory will be reserved until the Canadian National is ready to provide for it.

In some quarters there has been revived the thought that the three Prairie Provinces should be divided into spheres of influence, as the two railways are concerned. This accompanied by the suggestion that Mackenzie and Mann, and the Grand Trunk Pacific had filed a caveat covering all the northern portions of the provinces, and that the Canadian National as their successor is the only power authorized to release that caveat. This proposal made its appearance after these competing railways had invaded all the territory in the southern and central portions of the provinces which had been developed by the Canadian Pacific.

It is a doctrine to which the Canadian Pacific cannot subscribe. Any division on east and west lines would, according to the proponents of the scheme, confine the Canadian Pacific in its construction activities to what is left of the territory in the south, which area has now almost reached its maximum development as far as transportation is concerned, and would create for the Canadian National a vast reserve in the north, where the full extent of the natural resources is as yet now even known, and only the fringe of which is now served by the lines of the Canadian National. Apart from its effect on one or other of the railway companies, such a policy would not make for the rapid development of the country. It would mean that within these artificially created zones large areas would lie fallow until it was convenient to provide service.

In accordance with the suggestion of the Minister of Railways, the officers of the two companies have frankly discussed the situation in so far as future construction is concerned. While there has been the best of feeling on both sides, there are several important points where our interests conflict. We fully appreciate the duty imposed on the President and officers of the Canadian National to protect the present and future of that property, and the grave sense of responsibility which they feel, but the Canadian Pacific cannot afford to accept without question the decision of its competitor as to how and when its railway lines are to be extended.

In our opinion, the development of the north country in a transportation way is likely to be of such extent and character as to require the attention and the efforts of both railway companies. For that reason, and because the success of both railway companies is a matter of national concern, we believe that Parliament is the proper tribunal to make the final decision as to conflicting claims for the right to build.

Source: Canadian Railway and Marine World, February 1929.