Sir THOMAS WHITE:
The point of my argument is that there was -a very large sum, some $5,000,000, invested in the Quebec and Saguenay railway, and if it is desirable that the Government should complete that road, as we submit it is, it is absolutely necessary that we should acquire the Quebec, Montmorency and Charlevoix railway in order to have a continuous line. These are the considerations that have appealed to me in connection with this transaction. So far as the Quebec, Montmorency and Charlevoix line is concerned, there are $2,500,000 of bonds issued some years ago, and bearing 5 per cent. The Government takes over that
line and assumes t'be obligation of the bonds. So far as the Quebec and Saguenay line is concerned, the Government is acquiring that railway on a basis of actual cost, not to exceed some $4,000,000, which, as a matter of fact, is much less than the actual construction cost. That is the situation, and it all comes back to the question whether "it is in the public interest-in the interest of that large section of the province of Quebec which lies to the north of the St. Lawrence, that the Government should come to the aid of this road, acquire it, and complete it in order that the district may be served; or whether, on the contrary, the road bed of the Quebec and Saguenay line should he allowed to deteriorate from year to year at a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, and, ultimately, of all the capital invested.
It seems to me that that is the question. My right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition dealt with it very fairly. He had no objection to our acquiring the line. He knows the district down there, and my hon. friend from Rouville (Mr. Lemieux) also knows the district. I doubt very much if either of those hon. gentlemen would stand up and say that it is not in the public interest that the road should be acquired in order that that district may have railway facilities. If you look at it from the standpoint of a railway promoter desirous of making a large amount of money out of the enterprise, that is one thing; but if you look at it from the standpoint of the people down there, who belong to one of the oldest settled districts in Canada, who are, I suppose, among the worthiest people in Canada, and who are debarred from getting to the city of Quebec for so many months in the year, I think these are considerations which would appeal to any public man. Take the National Transcontinental railway, built at a cost of $150,000,000, or $160,000,000, or $170,000,000. No one would stand up in this House and say that that would give a return on the investment. A return of four per cent on that investment would be some $6,000,000 or $7,000,000 per year. No one will say that the Government is obtaining a return upon that railway. Private enterprise would not build a road of that kind, and yet it was built-I am not passing upon the merits-it was built, and hon. gentlemen opposite will defend the building of that road. They will not say that it is immediately profitable. They will say it was built for the purposes that
have been so often mentioned in this House.
I do not want to make any speciah argument on this question. It is a matter involving the expenditure of a large sum of money, and the considerations which have influenced me favourably are that it is in the public interest of that northern district, lying along the St. Lawrence, to have railway communication with the city of Quebec. We are acquiring these railways for the Dominion of Canada. We are not making loans; we are not giving guarantees; we are not subsidizing. We are buying these roads, and when they are bought they will belong to the Dominion of Canada. The price is to be fixed by the Exchequer Court, and it is not to exceed a certain amount, which is much less, in the case of the Quebec and Saguenay railway, than the amount that has been spent upon it. These are the considerations which have had weight with me in this transaction.
Subtopic: LSI 3. II.