April 18, 1901

LIB
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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

While saying that the service is generally in a good condition between these points, I would be very sorry to commit myself to the statement that we had reached perfection. I hope we will go on improving the beacons. If my hon. friend (Mr. Bickerdike) can show me an additional beacon light which is necessary to the safety of the navigation of the river, it will only be a pleasure for me to see that his suggestion is carried out.

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CON

Thomas George Roddick

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RODDICK.

Has it not been the subject of complaint that the lights below Montreal are hardly sufficient for the purposes of the trade and that ships are obliged to lie at the foot of the current for a whole night unable to get into the harbour ?

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

I am not aware of it.

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CON
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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

I am coming to the evidence directly and we will see exactly what weight should be attached to what is termed by courtesy the evidence. I want to make this particular statement : that the evidence in the Department of Marine and Fisheries, the testimony we have received from shipowners and captains, the evidence gathered by the engineers who went there last year and the year before and who have traversed the river in the presence of delegates for me shipping interests and the insurance interest, is conclusive that in fair weather the river is well lighted from Montreal to Quebec. and very little complaint can be found with it as a general case below Quebec. More powerful lights and the introduction Of gas buoys would be of no use in foggy weather. But, so far as clear weather is

concerned, the river is well lighted, even from Montreal to the Atlantic Ocean. I want to say to my hon. friend (Mr. Bicker-dike) that I do not think any good is accomplished by belittling the service at Montreal or on the Montreal route. We are only playing into the hands of the enemy. We are only adding comfort to our rivals in the United States. They will quote every statement made here derogatory to the system we have to show that the system is no good, and the insurance companies will justify themselves in charging four or five prices for insurance on that river. I contend that during the last ten years there lias not been a vessel lost in the St. Lawrence through any defect in any of the lights or buoys.

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Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE.

Will the hon. member (Sir Louis Davies) allow me to ask him a question ? It was stated here by a minister of the Grown yesterday that the Scotsman was lost owing to a defective light in the Straits of Belle Isle.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

1 am going to deal with the Scotsman directly. Perhaps it is well to deal with the Scotsman here and now. The Scotsman was wrecked in the north-east corner of the Straits of Belle Isle at a very early hour in the morning, between darkness and dawn. The Scotsman went on there, as the evidence showed, by crass negligence on the part of the officers. There was no lead thrown from the deck of that vessel till she struck on the rock. I have gone through all the evidence and I have never heard it charged before that the Scotsman was lost on account of defective lights or the absence of lights. Mind you, she went through a thick fog. She rushed recklessly on that island without having thrown a lead. Let me make one statement here that I make on the authority of the officers of my department and from a personal examination of the evidence in regard to the loss of many of these vessels, that in 90 per cent of the eases the loss occurs because the captains deliberately refuse to use the lead. The Castilian was lost on Gannett rock on the south-east coast of Nova Scotia, where she was lost through no defect of the lights. She was going from Portland home to Great Britain, and she ran upon Gannett rock. The crassest negligence that ever was proved to exist existed amongst the officers of that vessel. They never threw a lead once which would have shown them that they were altogether out of their course. They rushed on recklessly until they ran on the rock. The insurance companies are quoting this loss as if the lighthouse service of the Dominion was in some way to blame for it. My hon. friend the Minister of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Tarte) reminds me of something I had almost forgotten, and it is that the officers of the Scotsman had not seen the sun for forty-eight hours, and they rushed recklessly

on tliat rock without using the lead and iu j a thick fog running full speed in the Straits , of Belle Isle. If there were a dozen lights it would never save them from such negligence as that. I repeat my statement to the hon. gentleman (Mr. Bickerdike), that I have never been able to ascertain that there has been one single vessel lost on the St. Lawrence route for the last ten years through any defect in the lights, and 1 challenge him to prove that the contrary is the case.

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Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE.

I do not wish to insist upon it, but I simply repeated what one of the ministers said yesterday.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

I have given an answer to my hon. friend and we will have to leave it there. There were two or three notable losses, one the loss of the Dominion line steamer Labrador which is charged against the St. Lawrence route. She went ashore on the Skerrymore rocks in Scotland and notwithstanding the fact that the loss occurred there and that it had as much to do with the St. Lawrence route as if she went down in the Indian Ocean, the Lloyds persist in charging it agaist Canada as one of the losses on the St. Lawrence route. The Castilian was lost on the Gannett rock on the south-east coast of Nova Scotia, and the Scotsman was lost in a thick fog in the Straits of Belle Isle, the officers not having seen the sun for forty-eight hours and rushing on without throwing the lead.

I want to call attention to the condition of the lights and buoys between Quebec and Belle Isle. I acknowledge that the lights and buoys are not up to the degree of perfection that I would like to see them. I think the improvement of the route justifies almost any expenditure of money. The object I have in view is to make our lights on that great route equal to the lights in Great Britain, the United States, or France. I think they ought to be, and we will see directly how far we are going in that direction. We have not been idle since the present government came into power. In the first place, owing to the influence of my hon. friend the member for Quebec West (Hon. Mr. Dobell), wTlio holds a seat iu the cabinet without portfolio, wre built, at a cost of $50,000, a permanent pier at the Traverse, one of the most dangerous stretches in the navigation of the St. Lawrence. This has been a work of very great benefit. We have established a powerful revolving light at Flower Ledge, in the Straits of Belle Isle, so that, when a vessel leaves the Gulf of St. Lawrence taking her departure from Greely Island, wiiicli is the usual point of departure, and runs down easterly to the Straits of Belle Isle and does not find Point D'Armour light on the north, she is almost certain to find the new light on Flower Ledge to guide her on the south side.

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LIB

Louis Henry Davies (Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Sir LOUIS DAVIES.

With these two lights, I have been told by captains commanding ships that sail along that route that there is no danger whatever and they look upon the establishment of the Flower Ledge light, which we built at a cost of $8,000 or $10,000, as an enormous improvement. The characteristics of the lights in any of the gas buoys below Quebec which showed pink lights have all been changed, and the lights have been made fixed or occulting white to increase their power. The lamps in many of the lighthouses have been increased in size with a view' of increasing the power of the light shown.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

Did I understand one of the ministers to state the other day that vessels had sometimes to lie over three or four hours at the Traverse for the purpose of getting a sufficient draught of water to pass ?

The MINISTER OF MARINE AND

FISHERIES. That cannot be correct.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

I thought it was not.

The MINISTER OF MARINE AND

FISHERIES. There is some mistake about that.

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The MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS.

That must refer to Crane Island.The MINISTER OF MARINE AND

FISHERIES. Oh, yes, I will explain that afterwards. Let me continue to refer to the marked improvements in the lighting of the lower St. Lawrence, and I shall not speak of the minor improvements we have made, but of those which may be considered of greater importance. A first class double siren was put in operation in September. 1899, at Belle Isle light station, and it cost $40,000 or $50,000. This is the most powerful instrument that could be obtained in England, and it is the best fog alarm on this side of the Atlantic. I make that statement after having consulted with several engineers. I state on the direct authority of the chief engineer of my own department that there is not a fog alarm on this side of the Atlantic equal to the one which we have put at Belle Isle.

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Some hon. MEMBERS

Hear, hear.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

In addition to that the frequency of firing the explosive fog signals at Green Island station has been increased; signals are fired now every fifteen minutes, and every five minutes if vessels are known to be near. At Cap Rosier the horn previously used has been replaced by a more powerful one. These are the main improvements we have made, but we have by no means exhausted the improvements we have in contemplation. My hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Haggart) calls my attention to the Traverse.

The navigation of the Traverse is perhaps the most dangerous in the St. Lawrence river below Quebec ; the tide runs in that narrow passage at the rate of 71 or 8 knots an hour. At the western end of the Traverse we have built this fixed permanent light at a cost of about $50,000, and provided my hon. friend the Minister of Public Works i Hon. Mr. Tarte) determines that the southern channel shall be continued and not the northern channel-about which I shall say a word in a moment-we intend to build another permanent pier at the eastern end of the Traverse, for which I have asked parliament to vote seventy thousand odd dollars. But. if the channel is changed there may be no necessity for the construction of that pier. I do not say whether it will be or not. It is contended by some engineers (it is now under the consideration of my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Tarte), who has had representations made to him by his own engineer), that it is possible to change the channel from the southern side, where it now runs, and let it cross over at the eastern end of Orleans Island into what is called the north channel. There will have to. be a great deal of dredging done for that, but nowadays we have these marvellous suction dredges, and the soil there is sand which can be easily dredged out. If my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Tarte) can do that he will succeed in revolutionizing the whole of the navigation of the lower St. Lawrence. You will then avoid the Baubien bank and the St. Thomas bank and all the dangerous navigation of the Traverse, and it will not be necessary, in my opinion, to spend the $75,000 in building that second pier. I know that my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Tarte) has had this in serious contemplation, because he has been talking to me several times about it lately. I gave him the suggestion made by my own engineer, and he said it confirmed the report made to him by the chief engineer of his own department. As far as I am able to judge, if this improvement can be carried out, I repeat that it will largely revolutionize the navigation of the river below Quebec.

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The MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS.

It will change the whole thing.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

It will change the whole thing. But we contemplate more than that. My hon. friend has referred to what is called the evidence published in that book there. I have one complaint, and I think it is a serious one, with reference to that volume of evidence which has been submitted to the members of this House. I refer to the volume of evidence purporting to attack the administration of the Departments of Marine and Fisheries and of Public Works. Neither of these departments ever had the slightest notice that any such examination was going to take place. It was carried on ex parte during the whole summer without our having the slightest opportunity of cross-examining or examining one of the witnesses. The witness was just taken into the office of Mr. Meredith and asked to give a statement. He was not cross-examined from the departmental standpoint, or from the standpoint of the facts which we have. I say that such statements are not to be received with the same weight as evidence taken before a proper commission would be, where witnesses were examined on both sides. And I will tell my hon. friend why I say that. On four occasions during the last four years I have had the opportunity of passing through the Straits of Belle Isle on my way to England, and on each and every occasion I have gone to the captain of the vessel and told him I was very desirous of knowing whether the existing aids to navigation were in his opinion sufficient, whether there were any other aids to navigation he would recommend, or whether he thought any of these existing aids could be improved. The first gentleman I went to was Capt. Moore, who commanded the Parisian. I made this statement two years ago in the House with reference to Capt. Moore. He told me he had been for twenty years engaged in this service with the Allans, and that he had no recommendation to make. He said : If you build a proper light at Flower Ledge, then I think you will have completed the light service, and I have no further suggestion to make. The next I went to was Capt. James of the New England, and I asked him the same question. I said : Capt. James, with reference to the aids to navigation existing in the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Belle Isle, can you tell me whether any of these aids ought to be improved, or whether there ought to be additional aids to navigation. Capt. .Tames replied to me that he did not know of any. He could not give me any advice as to improvements or any suggestions as to improvements. He acknowledged, mind you, that great service was being done by the establishment of the new double fog siren at Belle Isle and the building of the Flower Ledge light outside Point D'Amour. Capt MacNicholl, who commanded the Bavarian, made the same reply to me, but he added one qualification. He said : I do not want to confine my

answer to the St. Lawrence route, but I want to call attention to the light at Baccaro on the south-east coast of Nova Scotia ; I think you ought to give ms a much better light there, but. outside that. I have no objection or observation to make. I came out last year with Capt. Wallace of the Parisian, and I asked him the same question, and got the same answers with regard to the St. Lawrence route. I had on board the Parisian with me two colleagues. I said: Capt. Wallace, I am asking you these questions,

and if you will permit me I will use your answers on tlie floor of the House of Commons ; I want you to be careful as to the statements you make, and I will ask you to permit me to bring in my two colleagues to hear them. Capt. Wallace consented, and I brought my colleagues to the chart room. Capt. Wallace, who is one of the most experienced navigators of the gulf, was asked by me then : Do you know of any existing aids to navigation which I can improve, or any aid to navigation not existent which I ought to put on the route. Capt. Wallace replied: I do not know of any, but I have been watching with the first officer that light off Point D'Amour, and I really think there is something the matter with it ; you should send your inspector for next spring to look at it. I told him, ' Of course I will ; it will be the very first thing I will do next spring.' With that one exception he was not able to make any suggestion to me. Now, I put this to the House and the country : If those four experienced navigators, at different times on board their own ships, sailing up and down the river, made those answers to me, am I not justified in saying that if the ex parte statements made in the city of Montreal behind my back were made to somebody who would cross-examine them, a very different complexion would be put upon them. I think, therefore, that those statements which were published ought not to be received with the same weight as evidence given before a proper tribunal, with the witnesses cross-examined.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

I suppose those four captains were not cross-examined either ?

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

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April 18, 1901