Mr. JAMES J.
HUGHES (King's, P.E.I.) Before that motion is carried, I desire to call the attention of the government, the House and the country to the intolerable condition of things that exists in relation to the telegraphic communication between Prince Edward Island and the mainland. I had intended to bring this subject up on the third reading of the Bill of the Minister of Justice dealing with telegraphs and telephones, but as it has been decided to leave that Bill over until next year, I am obliged to bring it up in this way and now. I have said, Mr. Speaker, that the position is intolerable ; and I think I have only to mention the bald facts of the case to have every hon. member in this House agree with me that that language is not one whit too strong.
The Anglo-American Company, which has its head office in London, is the only telegraph company doing business in Prince Edward Island, and is the only company that has a cable connecting the island with the mainland. That company closes its offices on Prince Edward Island at eight o'clock in SO
the afternoon, and does not open them again until eight or nine o'clock on the following day. That is a very great hardship not only to the people of Prince Edward Island but to all others who may have to do business with them. It was found to be a very great hardship during the early stages of the South African war when, no matter how important the message might be coming to Sackville, N.B., only a short distance away, if it came after eight o'clock in the afternoon It did not reach the island until after eight o'clock the following morning. Even with so many relatives and friends of young men engaged in that war anxious for news concerning them and with all the people desirous of learning the progress of events, yet, no matter how important these messages might be, they could not reach the island until the following day; they would not be printed in the morning-papers and so would not reach the country until twenty-four hours after the news had reached Sackville. This is the age of progress, this is the twentieth century. Yet to-day we have one whole province of this Dominion entirely shut off! from telegraphic communications with the outside world for twelve hours out of the twenty-four. '
But that is not the whole trouble. We on the Island are obliged to pay twice as high for messages as those on the mainland. This is a serious drawback to business men in Prince Edward Island and also to those who wish to do business with Prince Edward Island. I have here a letter from a business firm in Charlottetown, which refers to this point:
We find that our telegraph bill for November was $106.44, and if our rates were the same as on the mainland, we could get the work done for about one-half the amount, which would be a very material saving. But this does not, by any means measure our loss. You can quite understand that our customers, say at Sydney, would not think of wiring us for supplies as it would cost them twice as much to get information as to prices, &c., from Charlottetown as from Halifax or St. John. This is where the real loss comes in. Business that we should get passes us every day owing to the extra expense in wiring. In buying and selling goods, at least two or three messages must pass between the buyer and seller. First, an inquiry as to price, second an offer, third a counteroffer, and Anally a telegram to close the transaction. So it will be easily seen that the excessive telegraph rates become a serious tax on our business, and drive business away from us as well.
But even that is not the whole matter. This cable was laid many years ago, at a time when the making and laying of cables was not as well understood as it is now. I understand that that cable never was very strong, and it is liable to break at any time and leave us without telegraphic communication altogether. As a matter of fact, it did part last fall and was not repaired for about three weeks. If it should break during the late
autumn it could not be repaired until the following summer. But, even while the cable was broken, if any person went to the Anglo-American Company to send a message across the Straits to have it repeated to some point on the mainland, though the sending of it cost the company only two cents, and the answer might not come for several days, yet they charged the old rates that they were charging when they sent the messages across on the cable. Many tourists come to Prince Edward Island, especially from the United States, and they are simply astonished to find that they cannot communicate with their friends for twelve hours out of the twenty-four. And we as a people are humiliated that such a state of things should exist throughout a whole province of this Dominion. As I say, this is a matter that affects all the maritime provinces and all Canada, and I am glad to find that the people of Canada generally do not take a narrow view of the question. Let me read a resolution passed by the Maritime Board of Trade on this matter.
I believe that this resolution was sent to the government:
A subject brought to the attention of this Board is ' improved telegraphic communication .between Prince Edward Island and the mainland.' The facts of the case are, we believe, well understood by the government, and especially, by one member, Sir L. H. Davies. As briefly put before the board at its last meeting, they are substantially these, that :
' Telegrams could only be sent to and from the Island between nine a.m. and one p.m. and between two and eight p.m. The Anglo-American Company, though it has only one hundred miles of wire, controls the situation. A telegram to Boston costs $1-50 cents to Sackville, and 50 cents to Boston. Pressure should be brought to bear upon the company, whose head office is in London, to secure a better service. They get a subsidy of $2,000 a year. The island papers cannot get the press dispatches at night. There would not be so much objection to slightly higher rates than those on the mainland if it were possible to get messages and press dispatches through at any,time, or at least up to midnight. There are two steamers now every week from Boston to Charlottetown with crowds of tourists who stand amazed that they cannot send a message home, between eight p.m. and nine a.m.
We earnestly hope that this will receive that careful attention which its merits most certainly demand.
(Signed) M. G. DeWOLPE, President.