Sir ROBERT BORDEN:
but there is something else to be said about that. If you begin the construction of steel ships when the cost is at its highest, and are not sure -that you will have these ships .available at a time when tonnage is mostly needed, there is room for consideration as to whether the enterprise should be entered upon. At least, it has impressed the members of the Government that way, and I am inclined to think it would impress any hon. hon. gentleman in that way who would give to it much reflection. If we are to build ships when they cost at least double what they would under ordinary conditions, and if, after paying double for them, or subsidizing them to the necessary extent, at a time they are not
to be available when tonnage is most needed, of what advantage would a proposal of that kind be? The want of tonnage has been felt by all nations of the world, more or less, during the past eighteen months. On the whole,
10 p.m. however, the arrangements by the Allied nations aimongst themselves, particularly by the British Admiralty, have helped the situation a great deal, and I think, on the whole, the available supply of tonnage has done all the work that we could expect it to do. During the past winter I have had occasion to refer to the daily reports sent out by the Department of the Naval 'Service with respect to Halifax and St. John, and I have found eight, ten, sometimes twelve, transports loading at each of these ports-I think hardly ever fewer than half a dozen-except within recent weeks. So that the supply of tonnage, considering all the conditions imposed by the war, has been better than we could have anticipated, although not all that we could have desired.
If such action could be taken at once as to insure the delivery of ships at the time when tonnage is most wanted, no one would hesitate very much as to the question of the cost, because the importance of transportation is most imperative at this time, notwithstanding all that I have said as to the arrangements made by the Admiralty. But in what form, one might ask, should that action be taken? The Government itself might embark in the project of constructing ships in Canada. But all that could be constructed in Canada at the present moment, with any possibility of making them available before the conclusion of the war, would not amount to very much in proportion to the needs of the country as a whole. On the other hand, the Government might consider the proposals of corporations or syndicates which have come forward with the idea of building ships if subsidies were granted by the Government. Up to the present time we have not received any proposals of that kind which were of so reasonable a character that we could feel ourselves justified in proceeding with them further.
Then the hon. gentleman speaks as if, when the war is over, the demands for tonnage and the lack of tonnage will be very much, as they are at present. I do not speak at all with the authority of an expert, tout I think that any of us who desire to apply common sense to the anticipation of conditions as they will then
exist must reach one conclusion. Two considerations impress me-doubtless other considerations would impress those who speak with more authority on the subject than I can. One of these is the enormous amount of tonnage now diverted from commercial purposes which will be released and will be then available for commercial purposes. That will take place within a very measurable period after the conclusion of the war. In the next place, the world's demand for tonnage will, I suppose, be reduced also by the termination of the war, for the reason that an enormous quantity of stores and enormous numbers of troops must now be transported for the purposes of the war, and such purposes take precedence over all others. With the conclusion of the war there will, for a time, be less work, I should think, for the tonnage of the world to do. So that, looking at it in that way, you will have a much greater amount of tonnage available, and on the other hand, I suppose, you will toe confronted with a smaller demand than confronts the nations of the world at present. So it is not absolutely clear that there will be a dearth of tonnage when the war is over-although the considerations that have to be taken into account are so vast, so intricate and complicated in their character that one, speaking with as little authority as I do on the subject, would not venture a very confident prediction. This, in one sense, is beside the really important question the hon. gentleman has raised.
Leaving out other considerations, I agree with the view the hon. gentleman has put forward, that Canada ought to be a country in which the business of building steel ships will be carried on. We have the material for it, and we can soon train our men, I think, to undertake the work. In the past the difficulty has been the cost. Some four or five years ago I met delegations of the shipbuilders of Canada and discussed the subject with them. There has always been the suggestion of a tonnage subsidy. About eight or nine years ago, I think, I asked them frankly to give me a statement as to whether or not they could name any period within which the industry could be made self-sustaining, so that after that we might expect the business of building ships in Canada to be carried on without any tonnage subsidy. I cannot recall that on either of those occasions they were able to give me a definite statement on that point, which I regarded as a somewhat
important one. There is this to he said in that connection: the impression which I got from those with whom I discussed this subject upon the occasion of a visit to several shipyards in Great Britain four years ago next summer-I discussed it with a great many of the leading shipbuilders- was that the cost of building ships in Great Britain and the cost of building them in Canada would yearly tend to approximate. One very experienced man with whom I discussed the subject told me he believed that within twenty years at the outside the cost of building steel ships in Canada would be approximately the same as the cost of building them in Great Britain. If that opinion could be relied upon, it would afford an answer to the question which I put to some of the shipbuilders of Canada on the occasions to which I have alluded. However, the Minister of Trade and Commerce has been giving the subject very careful attention, and I am under the impression that he expected to make some statement to Parliament before the conclusion of the present session. He is chairman of the subcommittee of Council, which has been de-' voting a good deal of attention to the subject, and I hope that on some other occasion before we prorogue he may be able to speak at greater length and in more detail than I have been able to do to-night, as I was not aware that the hon. member for Pictou intended to bring the subject to the attention of the House to-day.