I do not think it would suit the merchants as well. These vessels, not being- vessels of any great size, cannot maintain a very rapid rate of speed. If you were to add to the length of the present voyage, say a couple of days for Belfast and a couple of days for Dublin each way, it is quite clear they could not perform the number of trips they are now giving, or take anything like the length of time they assert to be necessary in calling at St. John.
How long do they spend in these ports now ?
I understand that as a rule they have to spend in St. John and at the point they reach on the other end, between three and four days. Of course, it would depend a great deal on the amount of cargo they might happen to have. I won't say it has been the case all the time, but I think of late most of those vessels have had pretty full cargoes. Of course, if we were to employ larger and swifter vessels something of the kind may be done, but that would mean very considerable expenditure.
If there are large cargoes why need you give them subsidies ?
I admit that that applies to all these concerns. The truth is that we have been trying to create a trade from these winter ports and the plan we have adopted has been to engage them to go to various ports on the other side of the Atlantic where there were considerable populations likely to consume our products. I think that this money is probably as well spent as any of these subsidy moneys usually are, and wTe have certainly increased our export trade from St. John during the winter very considerably within the last three or four years.
Do each of these vessels carry the mail ?
They nominally carry the mail, but you are quite right that you cannot call these mail subsidies in any sense of the term. They are freight subsidies in reality. They are called here ' mail subsidies and steamship subventions,' but I do not pretend that these are of any value at all for mail purposes ; they could not be.
Do you expect them to continue ?
The MINISTER OF TRADE AND COM-
MERCE. That is for the House to say.
Mr, WILSON. What is your opinion ?
My opinion is that we must be governed by the state of trade and the sac-cess in developing our winter port service. That service is very properly regarded by both sides of the House as a matter of very considerable national importance, and all these subsidies are for the purpose of aiding and sustaining it. The hon. gentleman knows very well that ports like Glasgow, Dublin and Belfast are not merely considerable cities, but they are centres of a very large population, and everything that contributes to bring Canadian products into active consumption there is worth a considerable deal to the people of Canada. That is the chief reason which induced us to do this, and the chief reason which, I suppose, will induce the House to continue it.
Is the amount of trade rapidly increasing at St. John ?
It has increased very considerably. Of course it will greatly depend on the amount of grain that comes forward. Last year they did not send as much as the year before, but that was very largely due to the shortage of the American corn crop which affected all the various lines of transport very materially. As a rule it has been a very rapid iucrease during the last four years at any rate.
Has the minister any figures that would give an approximate estimate of the quantity of grain handled at St. John ?
The MINISTER OF TRADE/ AND COMMERCE. I can obtain that for my hon. friend if he wishes-does he mean by these particular lines or In a general way ?
I mean from all lines that sail from that port.
Perhaps my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Blair) would know that.
Hon. Mr. BLAIR.
I cannot say what the exact amount of the trade is. I have the figures at home, but I am sorry I have not them here at this moment. The1 statement made by the Minister of Trade and Commerce is correct that last year it fell off, but the year before it was the largest we have had, and the year before that was larger than the preceding year.
Of course that information is of no use whatever because it does not indicate whether there was 1.000,000 bushels or 50,0000,00. It is desirable that we should know what advantage is taken of these winter ports especially in the case of grain, for that must have an important bearing on the future as to whether this grain can profitably be shipped by rail to St. John during the winter season.
We should also know what proportion went over the Intercolonial Railway and what proportion went over the Canadian Pacific Railway to St. John.
I have been told by people who ought to know that the Canadian Pacific Railway has not been able to carry grain to the seaboard except at a loss and that then it was used for ballasting ships that they had to furnish cargo for. .The government ought to be able to tell us whether that is true or not.
The hon. gentleman is correct thus far ; that the Canadian Pacific Railway has probably carried the grain without profit, but I do not think it has carried it at a downright loss.
I have my information from pretty good authority.
They are not very fond of that St. John line and their views may be a little pessimistic. I do not think they carried it at a loss, but they certainly did not make a profit on it.