October 1, 1903

LIB

Victor Geoffrion

Liberal

Mr. GEOFFRION.

I am well acquainted with the locality where this wharf is being built, and it is only right that I should say to the House, that at Sorel we probably have the best harbour in Canada; a harbour which it would not be in the interests of the country to allow to remain unimproved. This wharf at Sorel will give facilities for shipping then- produce to the counties of Yam-aska. Vercheres, Chambley, St. Hyacinthe, Bagot, and several other counties in the valley of the Richelieu, which have an extent almost as large as the provinces of Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. For years and years the people of these counties have been anxiously waiting for this accommodation. Sorel is their natural harbour, and I appeal to every member of this House who knows anything about the locality, if this is not a desirable and useful work. The ex-Mttnister of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Tarte) rightly thought that Sorel was destined to be one of the great harbours on the River St. Lawrence, and he was enthusiastically in favour of the scheme.

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CON
LIB

Victor Geoffrion

Liberal

Mr. GEOFFRION.

We have first to equip it for the trade of the surrounding counties, and when that is done there is nothing to prevent us building wharfs and elevators, and shipping from Sorel for export. There are already four or five railroads centering there. It is true that so far they have not been a success, hut every day we expect to make arrangements with other companies, and to get these railways into such shape that they will be paying concerns. What is an expenditure of two or three hundred thousand dollars, compared with the advantages that will be gained by making Sorel a first-class port ? We have spent larger sums on other ports which serve only the interests of small localities, but this port will serve a district almost a province in extent. Sorel is our natural port. It is more costly to take our produce to Montreal, and it is not natural we should have to convey our freights up against the current. At Sorel we have a deepwater harbour which only awaits proper facilities to make it a splendid port, and as we hope, an ocean

port When our railway difficulties are settled, I have not the slightest doubt, that a very considerable trade will be developed at Sorel.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hr. SPROULE.

If Sorel is going to be as important a port as the bon. minister intimates; then a great deal more money will be required than is provided here; but if it is to be an ocean port it must have over eighteen feet of water. The hon. gentleman states that the railways there are not paying at the present time, although he hopes that other companies will take them over. But is this not reversing the natural order of things ? Is it not usual to have trade at a certain port before we provide facilities for trade ? Are we to build these wharfs here, and then look for the trade afterwards ? Let me point out, that if elevators are to be built there, and if ocean going vessels are to trade at that port, you must have more than eighteen feet of water. If you have it planned out that it will be an ocean port with only eighteen feet of water, it simply shows that all ordinary business precautions are discarded in reference to this scheme.

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LIB

Victor Geoffrion

Liberal

Mr. GEOFFRION.

The money is almost all spent, and only a small sum is required to complete the work.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

If the object of this expenditure is to make Sorel an ocean port, all the circumstances show how unwisely the work was undertaken.

Mr. BRUNEAU (Richelieu).-(Translation) : Mr. Speaker, as a member for the

county of Richelieu, in which the town of Sorel is situated, I consider it part of my duty to offer a few suggestions regarding the item of the estimates now under discussion. I really fail to undertand what reason there can be for objecting, after the work has been going on for two years, to the grant which the government ask for the completion of the wharfs at Sorel. This is the more incomprehensible to me, that when the late Conservative government were in power they had surveys and soundings made, plans and specifications drawn, for the dredging of the harbour of Sorel. Their friends at the time urged again and again on the government the importance of earry.-ing through the work in the harbour of Sorel with a view to rendering it a suitable shipping port.

* When the present government came into power, we took up the scheme and we are at the present time carrying it through to successful completion. Consequently, I am satisfied that when the people are called to decide upon the action of both governments. they will be astonished to learn that the hon. members on the _other side have stood up against the development and progress of the whole region of the Richelieu.

My hon. colleague for Chambly-Vercheres (Mr. Geoft'rion) has given a very full presentation of the case; but I think it proper to |

draw the attention of the House to the geographical situation of Sorel. That town is situated at the confluence of the River Richelieu, which is, in the east, the only waterway leading into the United States. Our whole export trade passes through the port of Sorel, ascending the Richelieu and Lake Champlain up to the Whitehall canal. There are at present over 700 vessels on the River Richelieu, calling at Sorel, and carrying our traffic to the United States.

The port is almost wholly taken up by the boats of the Richelieu Company, of the Sincennes-McNaughton Comiiany and of the government. As everyone knows, Sorel is the winter port for about 300 boats. The whole river fleet of the province of Quebec takes up its winter quarters there; and for tile time being, there is no accommodation in the_ port for United States vessels trading with us. The new wharf referred to, while providing accommodation for those vessels, will at the same time be of immense benefit for the trade which will develop rapidly there.

The ex-Minister of Public Works spoke of the export trade which is being carried on at the port of Sorel. I may say that this year and last, one company has exported, ore in considerable quantities. That company had in the first place begun operations in Three Rivers, but finding subsequently !bat Sorel offered greater opportunities, they transferred their business to our side. They are exporting their ore through Sorel just now.

I may add that, a few miles away from the town, are to be found the Tourville mills, which 1 urn out yearly over two million feet of lumber. We have reason to hope that the Rutland, Canada Atlantic and Quebec Southern railways, under certain agreements, will contribute to develop trade at this point and will, before long, draw to it considerable traffic from the west. Reference has been made to some difficulties in connection with these railways. I may say that the roads m question are to-day in full operation and will increase the amount of business done in the port of Sorel, provided the improvements destined to develop the export trade are effected, and Sorel is made a seaport.

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LIB

Aaron Abel Wright

Liberal

Mr. WRIGHT.

It may not be clear to some hon. gentlemen in this House why a member living so far away from Sorel as I do, in the town of Renfrew, should have any special interest in the equiping of that port. As a matter of fact it is of great interest to us. Not over three months ago a trader in that section of my riding came to me and said : ' Look here Wright, if

there is anything you can do to assist us to obtain the full advantage of the Canada Atlantic Railway, we wish you would do it ; we do not have the same advantages shipping by that road to Montreal as we would have if that road were extended to Sorel.' I said : ' I have myself resided in

Berthier en hlaut, nlear Sorel ; I know something of Sorel, and anything I can do to assist in improving that port and in allowing the railway which goes through our town to be extended to it, I shall be glad to do, as it will afford very much better means of shipping from this district.' The small amount that wall be expended in the improvement of Sorel harbour will benefit the people not only of the Richelieu valley, *but of the valley of the Bonchere as well. The avenues of trade are far-reaching and those who take this narrow, small provincial view are not the men whom we want. I am glad to raise my voice and to do all I can in favour of this work.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

I want to say once more that it seems to me a most remarkable thing that the government proposes to enter upon this expenditure, which if the right hon. gentleman's views are carried into effect will involve over $1,000,000 without the slightest estimate being made of the trade which will develop there in the future. No one wants to minimize the importance of the country adjacent to Sorel or of Sorel as a harbour. My hon. friend from Chambly and Verch&res (Mr. Geof-frion) took the position that because tills was a good, natural harbour it must be equipped. I can tell my hon. friend that there are at least twenty-five harbours in Nova Scotia which are as good as this harbour of Sorel, upon which not one dollar of public money has ever been expended, and on which it would be absolutely absurd to spend money because the public interest does not demand such an expenditure. There are dozens of these harbours all around the maritime coasts, but because you have a good harbour it does not necessarily follow that you should spend $1,000,000 in equipping it. I would like to know before I go any further, whether or not the view suggested by my hon. friend two years ago, as to the railway situation, has been in any way realized ? The hon. gentleman, as reported on page 4799 of ' Hansard,' first explained that Sorel was a growing and thriving town of 8.000 people that at one time it had considerable importance, and he continued as follows :

That was previous to the era of railway transportation. Since the railways have been established. the trade of Sorel has gone down, and has been transferred to Montreal, which is allied with that section of country by railways. After the railways were built, the counties which I have named had no means of export except by railway to Montreal.

Has there been any complaint that that has resulted in any disadvantage to these counties ? My right hon. friend has explained that railway transportation is much better than water transportation, and therefore one would suppose that those countries could not be put under any such disadvantage for that reason. Then my hon. friend goes on v

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LIB

Aaron Abel Wright

Liberal

Mr. WRIGHT.

Some of the lines of railway have been consolidated. The South-eastern Railway, the United Counties, and the Rutland system are all concentrated under one management.

Is that the case to-day '! Are they consolidated under one management, and has the statement been carried out ? I ask this for the sake of information, because I do not know whether that has been accomplished or not, but I have heard that it has not been accomplished and is not likely to be :

It is manifest that a great trade must be carried on by that system of railways to Sorel if, instead of finding entrance to Montreal over the Victoria bridge, it can find a harbour at Sorel.

The object of my right hon. friend seems to be to prevent the trade from going to Montreal, and to send that trade, for some reason, to Sorel. No one would object to that if he could show that it was to the public interest that trade should be diverted from Montreal and sent to Sorel, but unless you can show that it is largely in the pub-| lie interest, I do not see why we should undertake to spend a million dollars for that purpose. My right hon. friend continued :

This will be the case not only with the trade in agricultural products, which is large, but with the trade of several thriving towns on those lines of railway, such as St. Johns, St. Hyacinthe and Iberville. But above all things it is an agricultural country, productive of all cereals except wheat, as well as butter, cheese and hay. I do not believe there is a more thriving population anywhere in Canada than in the valley of the Richelieu river.

We must remember also that this splendid agricultural region has excellent communication by railway with the city of Montreal, that Montreal is being equipped as a port and his facilities for shipping, then consider whether you can find in all that any legitimate reason for spending a million or even a quarter of a million dollars at Sorel. Would it not be better in the interests of the people in that locality to spend it in some other way ? Can you not do more good to the people of that locality. Can you not spend a quarter of a million or even a million dollars to better advantage than by sending to Sorel the traffic which could just as well be handled at Montreal ? The hon. gentleman continued :

It is also connected with the Canada Atlantic, the Intercolonial and the South Shore Railways. Then, besides the counties I have mentioned, all the border counties of the St. Lawrence-Ya-maska, Nicolet, Lotbinihre-will be connected by railway with this harbour. When it has the facilities which it will have when this work is completed. It must have as a natural consequence a very large trade.

Then my right hon. friend refers to the fact that the province of Quebec up to this time has had only two harbours and that it is desirable that it should have more ; he refers to the fact that the maritime provinces have several. I do not think we can

deal with matters of that kind according to the number of harbours one province or another may have. The maritime provinces have natural harbours, not by the dozen, but by the hundred, yet no one in the maritime provinces pretends that it would be in the public interest to equip every one of these harbours so as to make them ports for export. I would like to know from my right hon. friend whether or not his expectation with respect to railway consolidation-and it was upon that that his scheme of two years ago was largely based-has been realized, or whether there is any reasonable prospect that that scheme will be carried into effect ? Some reference has been made to these matters by some other hon. gentlemen who have spoken, but we would like to know the exact situation.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

My hon. friend it seems to me takes a very erroneous view of this question. First of all he said that this involved an expenditure of over one million dollars. I repudiate that statement altogether. There is no question here of spending one million dollars. The hon. member for East Toronto (Mr. Kemp) a moment ago read a report of the chief engineer, to the effect that to complete the works at Sorel as he indicated it would require an expenditure of $1,900,000, but if I correctly understood the report, as I think I did, this was simply a preliminary report, and he said that before committing himself the figures would have to be revised and reduced, and further examinations would have to be made. I do not know whether that has been done by the Public Works Department, but he said that would be necessary before a final report could be made. But all this is very remote from the subject, and it is not germane to It.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

I think it is germane for this reason, that I distinctly heard my right hon. friend say only a few moments ago, what he had already said in 1901, that the object of this expenditure, In part at least, was to bring by means of the Canada Atlantic Railway, a considerable portion of the western trade in grain to the harbour of Sorel. Then looking at the estimate brought down to the House, I saw that an elevator was contemplated at an expenditure of $250,000, that crib-work and sheds necessary for the same purpose were to cost $430,000, and that in addition to that there was the expenditure which has already been entered upon. I do not see how you could accomplish what the right hon. gentleman has in view unless you would bring that expenditure up to about $1,000,000. If I am in error in making that deduction I shall, of course, be very glad to be corrected.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

My hon. friend from Chambly and Vercheres (Mr. Geof-frion) gave an answer to my hon. friend (Mr. Borden) ; he said a moment ago that

this harbour of Sorel would get local and ocean traffic, and so far I agree with him, but it is also reasonable that local traffic will have to be accommodated first, and perhaps it will be necessary to go on with th(is /further expenditure later on; But the purpose of this vote is to complete a work which will cost $300,000. I cannot understand the object of this criticism in anticipation. Hon. gentlemen criticise these figures as if we were rushing into this expenditure before the trade was contemplated. Even if we were to rush into this expenditure, as has been hinted on the other side, I am not sure whether such action would not be justified and proper, although we do not propose to do so. The hon. member for East Grey (Mr. Sproule) stated that it would be very unwise to take such action, because this would be creating facilities before the traffic was created. My hon. friend should not forget that in order to create traffic it is sometimes sufficient to create facilities. Let me call his attention to a fact which has been mentioned on the floor of this House more than once, and which was brought out in the discussion on another matter. That is that the Canada Atlantic Railway was created for the purpose of anticipating traffic, and creating it; it was taken to the shore of Georgian bay where there was not even a hut of an Indian, in the anticipation that traffic would develop. If we should go into this expenditure now with the view of developing the traffic of the Canada Atlantic at Sorel, I do not know that we would be far wrong. However, we do not propose to do so at the present time, although we may think it advisable to do this very thing in the future, and if we do so, we will be prepared. to meet criticism of our course. In the speech which I delivered upon this subject some two years ago, to which attention was called by the hon. leader of the opposition, I recalled the fact that in the early history of the colony, the valley of the Richelieu was the centre of communication for the province of Quebec between the east and the west, as the east and the west then existed, and enjoyed a trade greater than in recent times. But when railways were introduced, a good deal of the trade left that valley and went to Montreal. My hon. friend asked whether the communications with Montreal are not sufficient and whether there has been any complaint. There has been none, but while it is true that some forty years ago, when the era of railway construction was inaugurated in Canada, the Richelieu valley was left and, the trade went in a direct line from Montreal southwards, since then there has been considerable railway development in the valley itself, and roads have been constructed all along the river from its source almost to its outlet in the St. Lawrence. Shall we be told that these railways are not to be furnished with the necessary ter-

minal ? If my hon. friend takes this position, we differ with him and on that ground we will have to be judged by the masters of us all. It is true that the expectations we had of a consolidation of the different railways from Vermont through the Richelieu valley have not been realized, owing to the failure of .the project of the Webb Syndicate, but no doubt that consolidation will take place at an early day. At all events, whether it takes place or not does not alter the importance of the position we take. These railways will go on doing their work, though not so successfully as though consolidated under one management. My hon. friend says that there are twenty-five harbours in the maritime provinces just as important as Sorel which are not developed and which have not received any railway facilities. That is very true, but railways are being built everywhere in the maritime provinces, and no doubt at an early day we will have to do there what we are now doing in the town of Sorel.

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The MINISTER OE PUBLIC WORKS.

My chief engineer informs me that the depth of water is thirty feet now. I do not know where my hon. friend gets his eighteen feet depth.

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CON

Albert Edward Kemp

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. KEMP.

Does the Minister of Public Works say that we have thirty feet of water at the wharf and that the approaches to the wharf from the channel of the St. Lawrence are also thirty feet deep ?

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The MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS.

That is what I understand.

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The MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS.

The report to which my hon. friend refers is a provisional report, and not directly connected with the work as carried out, and I think it was to be subject to surveys to be made. This wharf has been built on a different plan and according to a different report. The engineer informs me that the contract provides for thirty feet of water, that the work is nearly completed, and that there is thirty feet of water now at the wharf.

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CON

Albert Edward Kemp

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. KEMP.

There were three reports. The one I read to the committee is the one I understand the engineer recommended as giving the most feasible way of doing the work.

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October 1, 1903