A proposal has been made which would involve the dropping of the port of St. John and making some arrangement for carrying the St. John freight by rail to Halifax, as one alternative. That suggestion is under consideration, and up to this moment nothing has been done with regard to it. If that arrangement should be made before this item is finally passed, it would necessitate a change in the wording of the item. For the present we are following the same wording as before.
My hon. friend will see that he cannot ask for a change in the wording of the item unless he has first made up his mind what the policy is to be. If this item is voted, it will be impossible to cut out St. John. It would seem to me to be much better, if the minister has not made up his mind as to the policy, to let the item stand until he has, because I imagine that it would raise a pretty brisk discussion were he to propose to cut off the service to the port of St. John and leave the St. John shippers to run their freight around to Halifax in whatever way they could. It would be a radical change, and I think it had better be decided by the government before they ask for the vote.
I think the wording of the item would admit of the change if the change should be determined on, although when I spoke a moment ago I did not contemplate that. What I thought was that if a change in the wording were required, it could be made in the Supply Bill before the items were finally passed. What the tenderers propose is either to carry out the service as in the past, or as an alternative, In order to have a more rapid and more frequent service to the West Indies, to have the steamers call at Halifax only, and to have the St. John freight sent to Halifax by rail. Upon that no judgment has yet been come to by the government. If there is a desire to hold the item over, I do not 228
suppose the Prime Minister would have any objection; but we are at present taking the vote with the same wording as in the past.
Have any offers for this service been made by other steamship companies than Pickford & Black ? Have the Royal Mail Line or the Elder-Dempster Company during the past six months entertained the possibility or made an offer for this service ?
I would like to say a few words as to this service, because the manner in which it is at present carried on is unsatisfactory, to the merchants of the city of Montreal at least. Either that service should be made purely a mail service and paid for accordingly, or else it should be made a truly representative freight service, which would collect all the freight that could be taken from Canada, the inland as well as the external ports, with a view to the expansion of the business with the West Indies. The merchants of Montreal are of the opinion, and I think then-opinion can be very readily endorsed by facts, that if the terminus of this service could be made at Montreal, in summer at least, a very large amount of freight could be sent to the West Indies. That would not necessitate cutting out the maritime province ports, it would only necessitate adding Canadian ports in order to cieate a larger amount of business. I wish to call the attention of the Minister of Finance to a communication on this subject from the Corn Exchange of Montreal, which I think has been forwarded to the Minister of Trade and Commerce. On the 10th of December last the Montreal Corn Exchange passed the following resolution :
Resolved, That understanding that the term of the present subsidy for a steamship service between Canada and the West Indies expires in June next, the committee of management of the Montreal Corn Exchange Association urges upon the government the great desirability of adopting measures for the establishment of a new service to the West Indies, especially to Bar-badoes, Trinidad and British Guiana, the steamers to run from Montreal in summer and the maritime ports in winter ;
That the West Indies import from the United States a large amount of products and goods which Cam*da could supply, and that, moreover, much of the present limited export of Canadian goods to the West Indies is now handled by United States Arms, owing to the frequent steamship communication between those islands and New York and other United States ports ;
That the circumstance that so many steamship lines find freight between American ports and the West Indies would seem to show that a line from Montreal would secure enough business to warrant its establishment ;
That there is no doubt that the reason that Canada is exporting so little to the West Indies is the lack of direct steamship communication from Montreal, the present service from the maritime ports being too far removed from -Montreal to ensure its successful operation in the summer months.
In connection with this resolution a statement was prepared and submitted to the Minister of Trade and Commerce, in order to show the freight possibilities of the port of Montreal for such a line ; and from this statement I make the following citation :
Canada's trade with the West Indies is not as extensive as it was thirty years ago, although the trade of the West Indies has increased enormously in that time. I wisti to cite from ' Industrial Canada,' which, as is well known, is the official organ of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, which body has given considerable, study to this matter. Here is what they say of the Pick-ford & Black Line, and I think it is worthy of consideration :
The Pickford & Black boats that call at only the important Islands have nine days' delay in
Statement for the year 1903-4 of the principal imports into British Guiana, Barbadoes and Trinidad of products that are produced in Canada.
In addition, there are large importations of lard, oil cake, boots and shoes, live stock, machinery, cement, hardware, cottons and potatoes.
While only four of the islands are mentioned above, many of the others might be made ports of call If trade offered. There are no stocks held at St. John and Halifax from which to make shipments, and there being no steamers from Montreal to the West Indies, Ontario shippers prefer to ship by way of New York rather than via St. John or Halifax ; hut with a ilne from Montreal such shipments would naturally come here, the more especially that advantage could be taken of cheap water rates from the west to Montreal.
Last year raw sugar to the aggregate value of $13,000,000 was Imported into Canada by way of New York, refiners preferring to import by that route rather than by St. John or Halifax, because they can get better railway rates and quicker dispatch ; but with a line running to Montreal these importations would of course come direct.
Now, I make these citations because this is a matter that has been very seriously considered by the Montreal Corn Exchange Association. The memorial was presented to the Department of Trade and Commerce fully six months ago, and I hope the memorial was considered, because I think the matter is well worth the attention of the department. The present service is wholly inadequate and unsatisfactory, and it seems that the time has come when the service should be either a mail service and paid for at mail-subsidy rates, or it should be made an adequate freight service and paid for accordingly. An article in ' Industrial Canada ' is authority for the statement that Mr. AMES.
Demerara before starting on the homeward trip, and nine days' delay in St. John or Halifax before starting again for the islands. The explanation is that the boats are under contract to carry malls to the islands at stated intervals, and the smaller islands are passed by to give the more important ones a faster service.
I am informed that if the delay at each end of the right trip was done away with, the existing boats could give a ten days' service to the large islands at least and a twenty days' service to the other, which would be a decided improvement, but it is plain that until we have a weekly service to all the islands, we will be handicapped in our competition with the United States manufacturers, unless we are able to secure equally favourable freight rates via United States ports.
And again, in this same magazine, 'Industrial Canada,' in the issue of April, 1904, we have another reference to this Pickford & Black service, written by Mr. Cooper, the secretary of the Manufacturers' Association, who made a special trip to the West Indies for this purpose :
There is one great obstacle to a growth of direct trade ; I refer to the inferior steamship conneotion. While due credit must be given to the company now operating, for the energy they have shown in developing the trade, it must be pointed out in the interest of the public generally, that the West Indian merchants regard the Canadian line (in the words of one gentleman whose opinion I esteem highly) as ' running to little purpose.' For each trip to Demerara and return the company is paid by the imperial and Canadian governments about $4,S85. and from all I have learned in the West Indies, if that amount cannot secure a more frequent and superior service, with cold storage accommodation for fruits, it would be advisable to
follow the example of the United States government and pay out the subsidy in the form of a fee for carrying mails. There would at least he competition where at present there is none. The chief results of the present contract under which the subsidy is paid are (1) to prevent the establishment of a competing line ; (2) to make the route a slow one for the principal ports, Barbadoes, Trinidad and Demerara, by forcing the boats to call at all the northern British islands. At all events it is hopeless to expect the boats now running to compete with the larger and more modern ones running from New York with a comparatively smaller coal consumption.
The present service does not do the work properly, but it takes enough of the work to make it impossible for a competing line to live and thrive. In the report of the Department of Trade and Commerce published in 1904 you will find this comment on the transportation facilities in connection with Jamaica :
Messrs. Bickford & Black's steamship ' Beta ' has been making her usual monthly trips with regularity as regards time, and as far as this end is concerned has accorded every satisfaction in keeping with the terms of the contract. Good care seems to be taken in handling the cargo both ways and consignees' claims when arising, are usually liberally met.
When all the above, however, has been said, there is still a persistent wail regarding inadequacy of the service. And this will certainly be more keenly felt in the coming year when the demand for space will be decidely multiplied. However, with the coming of the new contract it is confidently expected that all defects and drawbacks will be remedied.
Now, if it is the intention of the government to renew the present contract with Messrs. Pickford & Black, making no modification further than to render it less efficient than it is to-day by cutting out the port of St. John and leaving only the port of Halifax, in my opinion the government is making a mistake. It seems probable that this trade with the West Indies can be worked up to a considerable business and one that will be valuable for Canada. It would seem worth while for the government to ascertain whether a first-class service of proper frequency and calling not only at the maritime ports but at the head of navigation on the St. Lawrence, could not be created which will give satisfaction to the exporters and merchants of the Dominion.
There is no doubt that if you like to pay for it you can get such a service as my hon. friend (Mr. Ames) suggests. You can get the ' Lueania ' and the ' Campania ' in this service if you are willing to pay the price. But, being Finance Minister, I have to sometimes consider the financial side of these questions.
Well, my hon. friend (Mr. Ames) is a business man and knows something of the effect of the law of supply and demand. One hearing my hon. friend's remarks would naturally think that steamship companies should be running after this grand privilege. But, instead of that, you find that Messrs. Pickford & Black are practically the only company willing to do the work at that price. So, it does not seem that we are paying too much when they are allowed to hold a monopoly and, when the opportunity of competition comes, nobody is ready to take over the work.
No, we publicly advertised for tenders for this service in accordance with the practice of the past. My hon. friend argues that it is desirable that we should have communication with Montreal. In what I say, I do not wish to be understood as arguing against that. But I am afraid it will not be found convenient to combine this service with the one that exists. The paper the hon. gentleman quoted from points out that there is considerable delay, that these steamers call at a number of places and make a rather long voyage. That is one of the difficulties compared with the New York steamers. After some correspondence, it was proposed by the contractors- and it is a point we have not yet decided upon-to shorten the voyage by cutting out some of these ports of call, thereby creating v more efficient service for the remainder of the ports.