The speed at sea is about ten knots, and against that there is the delay at the islands. Undoubtedly, calling at many islands is a serious trouble. The principal markets of the West Indies may be described as Trinidad, Barbadoes and Demarara, British Guiana, which is on the mainland, though we commonly .speak of it as the West Indies. These are the principal markets. But there are a number of smaller inlands which have some little trades which we naturally desire to cultivate, and)
the British government being parties to the contract, also desire that the smaller islands shall be considered. We have been; working in harmony with them in a policy which would develop trade in the smaller markets as well as in the larger ones.
There is no local subsidy at all. But the point of view of the British government is not perhaps exactly the same as ours; ours would be purely the commercial view, the imperial government would have another view besides. Even though the islands might have a small amount of business, and though for ordinary commercial reasons the contractors might be willing to drop an island, it is conceivable that the British government, for imperial reasons, might feel that the little is-1 land should not be ignored. . That creates some little difficulty, and makes necessary some mutual negotiations in order to maintain co-operation between the British government and ourselves. I fear that if we started a line of steamers from Montreal and attempted to call at maritime ports' as well, we would but add to the disadvantage under which we now labour in our competition with New York. The voyage to a distant point, say Georgetown in British Guiana, would be long, and we would find ourselves entirely beaten in the race with the New York steamers. I am inclined to think that if it becomes necessary to den velop trade in the line suggested by my hon. friend, it would almost involve a separate service. We have been doing something in the direction of trade from Montreal this year by making provision for a line from Montreal to Cuba and Mexico, calling at Halifax, and that is one of the things that we have now in hand, and which it is hoped will be realized. I think if we were to insist on this line of steamers starting from Montreal, calling at the maritime ports, at one or both, and then go on to the West Indies, we would find ourselves at a great disadvantage in the competition; and that would lead to the conclusion that if there is a prospect of business at Montreal to the degree the hon. gentleman suggests. it would necessitate an independent service during the'summer months.
This West India service originated quite a few years ago. It was begun by St. John people and started from the port of St. John, and it is really a St. John conception entirely. The service up to the present time has been regularly proceeding to Mid from St. John. Lately the board of trade of the city of St. John made some complaints, and sent a memorial to the government in regard to this matter. They referred to the delays, which have also been referred to by the hon. member from St. Antoine Division, Montreal (Mr. Ames),
and the great number of lay days. They think that is a serious objection to carrying on successfully the business. It does appear to me that one of the difficulties with regard to this service is that the contractor, instead of fitting his steamers in size and accommodation to the business, is rather trying to make the business conform in size to the equipment of his steamers. The memorial which the board of trade sent to the government requested that the government, in asking for tenders, should ask for an improved service, with modern steamers, with greater capacity, from 3,500 to 4,000 tons, with a maximum speed of 13 knots an hour, with fan ventilation and ample cold storage for carrying perishable cargoes. We know that to do a successful business with a tropical country like the West Indies, steamers should be equipped with proper cold storage and fan ventilation facilities, not only on account of those products and commodities which we export, but also on account of those commodities which we import from the West Indies, especially fruits and things of that kind. We could only expect to do a successful business by having vessels properly arranged for that business. From the standpoint of the members of the board of trade in St. John, they complain very bitterly of the number of lay days at Halifax, and they state that in consequence of the large number of lay days, perishable goods on these steamers were injured very materially, and to that fact it is due to a large extent that we are not doing that extensive flour export business from St. John which would otherwise be done. That business is going to New York, whereas, with an efficient and proper service, the export of goods from the port of St. John would be very materially increased indeed. As a matter of fact, that business has increased in the port of St. John during the last three years from 17 to 24 per cent, and it is increasing all the time. The complaints that our people make there is largely on account of the unnecessary delays which this steamer makes in the maritime ports, instead of going rapidly to the port of destination. I hope that the government will not entertain any idea of throwing the port of St. John out of this business. I think it would be a mistake in so far as the business of this country is concerned. Not merely the commercial business of handling which accrues to the port of St. John would be increased, but if a proper service were inaugurated, the exports from that port coming from the west as well as from the immediate vicinity, would be very much increased. Now the contractor makes arrangements in order to increase the exports by his line from the port of Halifax, to pay the excess of freight on goods coming from the north shore of the province of New Brunswick to Halifax, which goods, on account of the
shorter haul and less freight, would nature lly find their port of export at St. John. The contractor ihimself pays the difference, and gets that business carried over the line to the port of Halifax ; whereas, under ordinary circumstances, that business would tind its way to the port of St. John and thereby increase the total export business from that port. However, if the hon. minister is not in a position to state to-day what the mind of the government is with regal'd to that matter, since I am very much interested in it as representing the city of St. John, I would ask that this matter stand over, and not be considered until the government has made up its mind with regard to what policy they will pursue. I think that is not asking too much.
There can be no objection to the item standing over. But I do not think it is profitable that we should enter to-day into the conflicting statements that have been made with regard to the amount of business that is offered at St. John. I offer no opinion, except to say that the contractors made representations as to the amount of business they had been able to get at 'St. John, and their representations do not harmonize with the information which my hon. friend representing that city has received. However, I did not think it was worth while our discussing it to-day, because we desire to hold the matter over so as to allow us to look into 'both sides of the question, and I will undertake to say that it will be thoroughly investigated before any decision is reached. In regard to the efficiency of the service it is well to remember that if you are calling at a number of islands there will be inevitable delay. You may get a vessel that in some respects will be better at sea, but not better suited to the different ports, and perhaps not so well, because, if you have a larger vessel with a heavier draught, she cannot approach many of these islands. You could not make some of these islands except with the assistance of lighters.
Yes, my hon. friend (Mr. Foster) has been over the ground and so have I, and we know' the difficulties of it. However, we all have a common desire that we shall encourage our AVest India trade as much as possible and if by a separate service by the St. Lawrence, or if by any arrangement w'e can make with this present line of steamers, we can get a better service I am sure the government will be no less desirous than my hon. friends opposite to accomplish it. Although we are told that this service is not a very efficient one, and that this is a liberal subsidy, we must still bear in mind that there is nobody chasing after it. Messrs. Piekrord & Black are not making a very large sum out of it ; in fact, they have been having a very uphill fight.
My hon. friend is correct in saying that the service originated in St. John, but my information is that the contractors who undertook it from St. John found it so unprofitable that they were glad to get rid if it. It has not been a very big bonanza for anybody. There is not a great deal of money in it.
The parties who originated the business at St. John undertook to do it with unsuitable vessels-vessels not sufficient for it in any way and the consequence was that they did not make it a success. The amount of business which this line has done during the past year is over a quarter of a million-$268,000 odd, I think is the amount.
In and out. I am quite aware of the case of the contractors. Air. Piekford supplied me with a complete statement of the case which he laid before the government, and 1 know the position he takes, but I think if the hon. minister will allow this item to stand it would be better.
Before the meeting of the congress of the Chambers of Commerce which was held recently in the city of Montreal the matter of trade with the AVest India Islands came up before our board of trade and a delegation was appointed, of which I was one to go to Alon-treal to meet the representatives of the AVest India Islands, particularly those from the island of Trinidad and see if we could not arrange to send them goods from our own section of the country. AVe had an interview with them and ascertained the tilings which we thought we could ship to the AVest Indies. Among other things we thought we could ship cheese, which we produce in large quantities, butter, flour and what they call bread. Perhaps I might inform the House that what they call bread is what we call shanty biscuit or sea biscuit, the flour to manufacture which we could supply. AVe could also send them pot barley which they use in very considerable quantities, boots and shoes and that kind of thing. AVe found among the other things that they required different grades of flour-low grade and high grade. It is sometimes very important that we should know where we can send our low grade flour which is not very easily sold sometimes. AVe can always sell the finest grade of flour, but sometimes, if we have a grade which is not very good, to get a market for that is desirable and important. After the representatives of the AVest India1 Islands had gone away we had considerable correspondence with them. I conducted the correspondence myself. I think the time is not far distant when we shall undertake to ship goods from our section of the country to the AVest Indies. But, our people have always urged
upon me that they did not like to go to the trouble of sending goods all the way to Halifax and shipping them from there. They thought there should be a service from Montreal so that they could undertake the shipment from there. I would like to draw the attention of my bon. friend the Minister of Finance to this fact too : There has been a great deal of difficulty in having our beet sugar factories maintained in western Ontario, and in fact in any part of the Dominion of Canada because they could not get a sufficient supply of beets to run these factories long enough to make it pay. My hon. friend from East Kent (Mr. Gordon) who is interested in a beet root sugar factory at Wallaceburg undertook to solve that difficulty. When the supply of beets became exhausted he brought in raw sugar from the West India Islands and has been using that instead of the beets and making a complete success of it. If we could get a supply of raw sugar from the West Indies and in this way secure facilities for sending our own goods back in the same vessels, I think it would be an advantage and I do not see why it could not be carried out. I wish to direct the hon. minister's attention to the fact, and when this question comes up for discussion again I may have something further to say upon it. If there is anything I can do which will assist my hon. friend from Montreal (Mr. Ames) I shall be glad to do it.
Although the hon. Minister of Finance is going to keep the item over, probably, as we have commenced the discussion of it, it might be as well to say what we have to say to-day. I acknowledge, in the first place, the difficulties of establishing a satisfactory service with the West Indies. They have been greater probably than they are now. It may be that the late changes in the sugar business, in its aspect towards the governments in Europe, has made the conditions a little more favourable in that one direction, but favourable as they may be made in that way there are some very great difficulties in having a satisfactory line and establishing a satisfactory commerce with the West Indies. We have to take that in as the first idea, but right alongside of that we ought to put this idea : I do not know that there is any section of the world with which we ought to be, comparatively speaking more anxious to establish and sustain a good trade than with the West Indies. For various reasons. They form a counterpart to our temperate and cooler zones, they are kindred countries and the future may hold within its possibilities a union between Canada and these British West Indies of some kind or another, and ought to hold without doubt the possibility of closer and better trade relations as between the two. So, we ought not to be discouraged by difficulties to the point of discontinuing Mr. A. A. WRIGHT.
a service which does not seem to be as satisfactory7 as it might be. On the other hand you must take this into consideration : We give now $132,000 or $133,000 a year as a subsidy7. Everybody will admit that it is better to give a larger amount for a proper service with the view7 of establishing something which shall be self-supporting, or which will gradually grow7 to be selfsupporting than fritter away7 the very large sum of $130,000 a year and make a fair or reasonable progress towards a self-supporting service. Therefore, it would not be unreasonable to offer a larger amount for a proper service which would stimulate trade, w7hich would gather legitimate trade between the two countries wffiich is now carried by the United States of America and make the service self-sustaining in the end.
I think w7e ought to very carefully look over the whole matter. I do not want to find fault w7ith any department, but I know w'hat most of the departments chronically suffer from. They get into routine habits; w7e vote the money and they pay it out, and not very much activity is displayed towards bettering or even keeping track of these services. We are paying out over $2,000,000 yearly on steamship subsidies of this kind, and earlier in the session I found on inquiry that the Department of Trade and Commerce could not give to the House a statement of wTiat is done in the way of traffic by these different lines to which we are paying so much of the country's money every year. I made a plea then that the department should keep its hand on every subsidized service and be prepared to lay on the table of the House a report as to what these steamship services were doing in the way of developing trade, especially with a view7 of ascertaining w7hether it is ever possible to make themselves sustaining or whether the money had not better be given towards some prospective self-sustaining services. We cannot discuss this matter intelligently now ; w7e do not know the amount of commerce carried on between Canada and particular ports in the West Indies so that we may determine whether some of these that are useless should not be cut out. What I am pleading for is, that we should have a thorough supervision, so that parliament could have from the department all the information possible with regard to the expenditure of this $2,000,000. You cannot carry on such a service between Canada and a tropical country like the West Indies unless you have modern machinery in your vessels. Outside of salt fish, you may say that almost everything we export to the West Indies is of a perishable nature. Any one w7ho has been in the West Indies know7s how quickly things perish there, not only to satisfy the capacious appetites of the coloured population but from the efforts of the torrid heat. We will find it a very hard task with slow- vessels and no
refrigerating machinery to do any kind of a decent trade with the West Indies. If it is worth while doing this it is worth doing well, and if we do it well we must pay for it. Sooner or later I want to see every one of these services self-sustaining, or cut off. I have had a talk with Mr. Pickford, not to any very great extent ; my hon. friend has had all Mr. Pickford's figures and has gone through them. I understand the point of view of the contractors and they have a great deal in their favour, but I hope the minister will not make any change at present. I would suggest something like this : Let us utilize the good common sense we have in this country. If the department would gather together representatives of the Board of Trade of St. John Halifax, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and the western cities, and go into this whole question either here or in Montreal, with a view of solving how best we can increase our trade with the West Indies, I think good v ould result. That is the first point; there is another point which ought to come subsidiary to that hut which very often has taken precedence of it, and that is the question. Can anything be done for a particular town or particular city ? I confess to a weakness with regard to particular cities just the same as other people, but the prime idea should be as to what is best to make greater the commerce of the entire country. Then, as far as you can, utilize such place as will best suit that plan. But I do not think we should lean altogether to the sentimental idea in reference to a city which wants a steamship service. The department should next year keep its hand on this and other services and find out exactly what we are doing ; which are the ports that give most return and what they give, and then in this conference of level-headed and wideawake business men a conclusion could be come to as to the service between Canada and the West Indies which would be best adapted to our needs. If it is impossible for us ever to have a self-sustaining traffic between the two countries, then perhaps we should reconsider our policy. If the conclusion should be arrived at that not only for trade reasons, but for national and imperial reasons we should persevere in this policy, then let us persevere along proper lines! These are some thoughts that have been running through my mind ; I have not given expression to them in the way of captious criticism for I would be very sorry to see the service between Canada and the West Indies fail. Its record has not been as good as it ought to be. There may be some reasons why we have not a larger commerce now than we had 15 years ago, but it is not very encouraging, and it ought make us pause to consider whether or not we can do better.
One last word before leaving this subject. I should like very much if the government would take into serious
consideration the idea of endeavouring to obtain offers from some responsible steamship company for a service between Montreal and the principal commercial points in the West Indies. I believe that the amount of trade now offered and that will offer at Montreal for a service of this kind, and which now passes to American ports, would be sufficient to induce responsible lines to put on a good service. For a great many years we have been carrying on via Halifax and St. John this service to the West Indies, and our steamers have been stopping at many points at which there is little more than mail matter to be left off. That is an accommodation train service accomplished by boats that have been in this trade for 30 or 40 years. It seems to me that the time for such a service is about over, and that we should now consider the establishment of an express service from the principal shipping port of the Dominion to the most important shipping ports of the West Indies. Just by way of ascertaining what may be done in that respect would it not be advisable for the department to put themselves in communication with some possible tenderers to ascertain whether a new line of this character might not be established largely as a commercial enterprise without such immense assistance from the government as the minister has intimated may toe necessary ?
and that is the cause of the falling which was reprobated by the member for Montreal, to endeavour to secure markets and also to endeavour to obtain services through all these islands. Although the speed of the ships may not be very great, they are adapted to the carriage of the articles. If you have boats of high speed you run extreme risk, and also the increase in the carriage of freight is material. The next desideratum is to have the nearest port of shipment, and we all know that Halifax is the nearest point in Canada to any other part of the world.
The discussion is a very Interesting one, and I am sure will prove advantageous to the Minister of Trade and Commerce in considering the action to be taken. I may say that some portion of the information which the member for North Toronto suggests is already in the possession of the government, and we could, if necessary, furnish statistics showing the volume of business annually done by these particular vessels. But if it is thought well to have that branch of the departmental work made broader and fuller in the future, I have no doubt we will be able to get somewhat fuller statistics and interesting information. There is one other thought worth remembering, not as a reason for doing nothing, but to enable us to realize the difficulties, and that is that the West Indies are not large customers for the class of products which Canada is most anxious to make. Canada is making a high grade of goods, but the West Indies, after all, can only be a limited market for that class of goods, because, as is well known, the bulk of the population of the West Indies are coloured people who are not very wealthy, and they are not seeking for Manitoba hard wheat and the finest bacon and cheese which Canada makes. There is a limited demand for these things, but if we are to have a very extended trade in the West Indies for these goods, I am afraid we will have to work down instead of up and be prei>ared to sell goods cheaper. That is a difficulty in the way ; the bulk of the people there are poor. There is a smaller number of wdiite people who desire a better class of goods, but the merchant who sends goods to the West Indies is made aware of the fact that the people are generally poor. Many shippers will tell you that it is not profitable to send goods to the West Indies, because the people will not pay the prices they want. I suppose we are only human ; and if they desire cheaper goods, we will find some one in Canada to make them.