March 16, 1921

UNION
L LIB

Thomas Vien

Laurier Liberal

Mr. VIEN:

I do not say that either

the argument or the evidence is new, but I belive that if the Minister of Railways had seen his way clear to paying operating expenses on that road he would have been anxious to please that section of the country because the Government have no sympathy to lose in the country at present, and if they could satisfy only one section of the country they would go to it right away. In view of the large railway deficits we have to meet this year, if the Minister of Railways had thought that the operation of this section of the road would have been a paying proposition, he would have taken advantage of the occasion and operated it so as to reduce the deficits, but he did not do it because he found out after his experiment that he could not even meet operating expenses. It may be possible that the hon. gentleman is right in saying that the road was not properly operated and that it did not traverse the country it should have, to get the traffic. It would be illuminating for the House and for the Minister of Railways to hear from the hon. gentleman on that point, but at the present time I do not think this House has sufficient evidence before it to show that the natural resources of the country to be traversed by that road would justify the expenditure. If it were otherwise, I would change my opinion, but even then there would always remain the question whether a three months' season of navigation, and of navigation that is impossible except with specially built ships, would justify the expenditure. For these two reasons I do not believe the House should be ready to express an opinion advocating any further expenditure on the road this year, and until such evidence as I have mentioned has been given, I am very sorry that I shall not be able to vote for the resolution.

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UNI L

John Flaws Reid

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. J. F. REID (Mackenzie) :

I just

wish to make a few observations on the resolution. First of all, I wish to quote a short extract from the evidence of Captain Bartlett of Polar fame. He says:

I would consider navigation on the Hudson bay route safe from the last of July to November, but ships constructed to contend with the ice and with a good ice pilot on board could navigate the bay from early in July until late in November.

I do not intend to discuss the feasibility of the water end of the Hudson bay route because I presume that is a matter that the Government settled before they launched on this enterprise. I understand that the late Minister of Railways himself went up to Port Nelson and selected that site.

I jotted down during the debate one or two items which I intended to bring to the attention of the Government. I had intended to ask what was their policy in regard to the Hudson Bay railway, but I need not ask that question now, because I have already been informed on that point by the Minister of Railways. I gather from what he says that even if he had the money, he would rather build other lines of railway, so I take it for granted that the policy of the Government is that the Hudson Bay project is a dead letter. To my knowledge this Hudson Bay project has been a political football at general elections in this country since 1882. I very well remember seeing in the city of Winnipeg in 1882 big placards to this effect "Vote for Captain Scott, who will

build the Hudson Bay railway."

Now, Captain Scott is dead and gone to his reward, and the Hudson Bay Railway project is still a political football, and I have not the slightest doubt that this Government is keeping this football in readiness for the next general election. I do not intend to take up much more time of the House. While the member for Nelson (Mr. Campbell) was speaking, it occurred to me that if he were a supporter of the Government and if his constituency were opened up in order that he might become a Cabinet minister, the Hudson Bay railway would be built.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Promised.

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UNI L

John Flaws Reid

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. REID (Mackenzie) :

Yes, of course. Now, when the Government required a Cabinet minister in Victoria the people there got a dry dock; and when they required a minister in St. John, what did the people get? Why, an expenditure for this year of $1,835,000. The simple fact is that the hon. member for Nelson is on the wrong side of the House. He ought to have got into the Cabinet, and then we should have had the Hudson Bay railway. However, it is too late now. We find that the Canadian Pacific Railway have obtained a charter- I think it was last session-running into Cumberland House. There is no doubt, in my mind, that the Canadian Pacific Railway, that energetic and successfully-managed transportation company, is heading

for the Hudson bay, and it is quite probable that it will get there first. My hon. friend, the Minister of Railways, tells us that the Welland ship canal will give relief in the West long before the Hudson Bay railway, but it will take a long time to complete that canal down to tide water at Montreal. I think, therefore, I am justified in coming to the conclusion that so far as this Government is concerned the Hudson Bay railway is a dead letter. However, as I said before, and repeat now, the people of the West will speak for themselves at the forthcoming general election.

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UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. E. W. NESBITT (North Oxford) :

I should be very glad if the conclusion of my hon. friend (Mr. Reid) were correct; so far as this Government is concerned I hope they will not build the Hudson Bay railway. My hon. friend declares that this railway has been a political football for a number of years. Well, I cannot conceive how that railway could be mooted, unless it were for political purposes, to be made a political football of. The first report we ever had that I know of on the feasibility of navigation in the straits was by a man named Gordon, appointed by the Sir John Macdonald government, who put parties at certain points along the straits and left them there for a year, had the ice measured, and had a look-out as to the time that the straits were navigable. They were exchanged each year. I am speaking now from memory and probably may be wrong, but I believe that in 1896, or 1895, when the Liberal government came into power, these parties were discontinued. The report is most interesting and shows clearly that the straits are not navigable for more than three months of the year-that is to say, of course, reasonably and safely navigable. The captain who has generally gone up with Government ships through the straits and to the bay for the last few years has told me time and again that it would be necessary to keep two dredges working all the time while the water is open in order to clear the harbour at Port Nelson of the silt that washes down from the long stretch of river. If that be the case, and I think it is, any member of this House can calculate for himself what that would cost per year. Then we should have to build elevators if we were to ship wheat through that route, and if we could ship only three or four months of the year, hon. gentlemen will see for themselves what the proposition means. Navigation closes about the first of November, and we all know

that we do not get any great quantity of crops from the West in a condition to ship much before that time. It would therefore be necessary to carry crops over until the next year. Some of us at least have an idea what it could cost to carry over that grain in elevators for a year in the form of interest and waste.

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UNI L
UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. NESBITT:

It is said they do that

now at Fort William, but they have the opportunity to move it by rail if they want to, and in this case they would have no such opportunity. I believe it is an established fact, so far as investigation has demonstrated, that you would have to build a particular class of ships for this navigation-to navigate for how long? For three or four months of the year. You would require to have an expensive class of ships, wooden breasted, with a short range, capable of turning quickly in the ice jams, to get clear of the floes. These ships could not possibly compete on other routes with the steel ships built now for carrying grain. They would cost a great deal, purely and simply for three or four months' navigation. They would take out, in the summer months of 1921, wheat harvested in 1920, and in the meantime it would have to be carried over in elevators. I do not believe that it would be possible to reduce the cost of transportation one particle by the Hudson Bay route, and that is why I am opposed to this proposal. As to the feasibility of building the railway from the financial point of view, I absolutely agree with the Minister of Railways that it would be suicidal in the present state of our railway problem to add to the difficulties with which we are already burdened. We can hardly comprehend what this country is up against in the present railway problem.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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UNION
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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh!

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UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. NESBITT:

Not a bit. They were

forced into these conditions. As a Liberal I went out on the platform in 1904 and advocated the building of the Transcontinental, and if I gained any votes by so doing then I ought to be arrested and put into jail.

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UNION
UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. NESBITT:

It was a horrible mistake, in my judgment. As a Liberal, I voted in this House for the guaranteeing of the bonds of the Canadian Northern from Port Arthur to Montreal. Again let me say that if that vote had helped to guarantee those bonds I ought to be, not arrested, but executed, because there was built a line of railway that was absolutely unnecessary in this country. That is one of the positions in which we find ourselves at the present time. Why have we been obMged to take over the Grand Trunk? Because we owned a great mileage of railways without any feeders and with one end practically sticking up in the air. The Transcontinental railway, the Intercolonial, the Grand Trunk Pacific, and the Canadian Northern were lines without feeders. We are taking over the Grand Trunk Railway which practically touches every hamlet in Ontario and the probabilities are that if properly and capably managed the system will eventually assist in reducing the cost of operating railways in this country. The railway question in Canada is now of such a nature that I would like to see a committee of the House, representative of all parties appointed to thoroughly investigate every phase of the situation and, if possible, endeavour to find a solution of the problem. For it is a problem; and when hon. gentlemen get up here and blame the present Government for the position in which this country now is with respect to railways they are only doing so from political motives. Personally, I am not talking from a political standpoint.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, no.

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UNION
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. NESBITT:

As a matter of fact,

business matters should not be discussed from a party standpoint; I never look at them in that way myself. We are supposed to be business men in this House. Whether that is true or not, and regardless of whatever party is in power, I want to see the country governed in a businesslike way and not in accordance with politics. I care nothing about the getting of votes. I do not like to pretend to advocate something merely because it is popular, and nobody in this House can accuse me of doing anything of that kind during the time I have had a seat here. I was surprised and sorry to hear my hon. friend who has just taken his seat (Mr. Reid, Mackenzie), suggest that there was politics behind this project, and that the road would be built if there was a by-election going on in the West. That may be true, I am not saying it is not, but what I maintain is that politics should not be interjected into the discussion of a business matter in this House. Projects of this kind should be discussed absolutely and purely from a business standpoint; and if any hon. member can prove that the Hudson Bay railway will be a paying enterprise for this country I will vote for it no matter what the ordinary expenditure will be. But I do not believe that such a thing can be proved. I do not believe it is possible to derive a paying revenue from the Hudson Bay railway in the life time of any man in this House.

Therefore, as we now have deficits in the operation of our railways amounting to probably fifty or sixty million dollars, without counting the interest on the investment, we may just as well make up our minds, so far as the railways are concerned, to face the situation. The first phase of the situation we have to face is this: We must ask the labour unions and the railway unions to get together themselves and reduce the cost of railway transportation so that railway rates can be lowered in Canada. Because the rates now charged on the Canadian railways, both freight and express, are such as to render it impossible to make a business enterprise succeed. We have to face the situation and the quicker the railway unions themselves recognize that fact the better it will be. They must recognize the fact that if they do not get together and agree to reduce the wages that are now being paid by the railway companies they will kill the goose that lays the golden egg, because the companies will be forced to cut the railway services to such an extent that thousands of men will be turned out of employment. I repeat that we may just as well face the situation. It is up to this House no less than to the Government of Canada-because we are all in a sense part of the governing body-to face the situation. It is up to this House to see that the transportation charges of this country are in some manner reduced. The wages that the railway companies are now paying under the McAdoo award are impossible if we are ever going to lower the cost of transportation. When any business man in Canada ascertains what the freight rates to Vancouver or to Calgary are he will be astonished. If he is not astonished then it is not possible to astonish him. The railway rates must be reduced

in order to lower the cost of living in this country. These charges affect the price of every article that enters into the cost of living no matter what it may be. Let me repeat, hon. members may just as well quit playing politics and get down to business. They may as well face the situation and in some way find the means of making these railways reduce their operating expenses, and thus bring about a reduction in the cost of transportation. [DOT]

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UNION

Thomas Hay

Unionist

Mr. THOMAS HAY (Selkirk) :

I wish to say a word on this subject before the close of the present debate which is of very great importance, at any rate to Western Canada. I do not agree with some of the remarks made by the last speaker, particularly his statement that even were this line then completed it would not be possible to take out the grain crop of 1921 over the route. I think that is a mistaken impression, an impression that a great many people in Canada entertain at the present time with respect to the Hudson bay route. I believe that the great bulk of the grain crop of Western Canada could be shipped through this route the very year it was grown. We know, particularly those of us from the West, that this has been one of the established trade routes between the Old Country and Western Canada for something like two hundred and fifty years. During that long space of time the straits and the bays have been navigated, often by vessels of a very antiquated type, and with very few accidents indeed. I maintain, and I think I am safe in making the statement, that in the case of the type of vessels especially designed for a route of this kind, there would be no difficulty in navigating Hudson straits for a period of perhaps five months in the year. The bay itself is accessible for a much longer period of time; the difficulty about navigation is on account of the ice that accumulates in the straits. I do not, however, agree with the mover of the resolution that it is wise to commit, the Government to the expenditure of so many millions of dollars in advance of the provision of other facilities. I do not think there would be very much use, for example, in completing the railway unless good terminals were provided. There is very little traffic of a local nature along that line, consequently its completion to the bay would be of very little use to the people of Western Canada unless the harbour was also completed. Therefore I do not think it would be wi$e in the face of our present financial difficulties and the deficits on our national railway system to

commit the Government at this time to a further expenditure of $10,000,000 or $15,000,000 in connection with this work. But I do want to say that I am in favour of the completion at the earliest possible moment of the Hudson Bay railway and terminals, because I am satisfied that the proper development of Western Canada rests largely upon that completion. Therefore I would urge upon the Government the necessity as soon as financial conditions permit of doing something to complete this railway. In view of the reasons given, Mr. Speaker, I beg to move the following amendment:

That all the words after the word "railway" in the second line of the resolution be struck out and that the following be substituted in lieu thereof: "shall be resumed as soon as financial conditions permit, and that the project be completed with the least possible delay."

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UNION

Fred Langdon Davis

Unionist

Mr. F. L. DAVIS (Neepawa) :

Mr. Speaker, as a Westerner I can remember taking part in an election in the city of Winnipeg in 1886 in which this Hudson bay railway question was the foremost issue. We then had the promise that the rails were on the ocean, telegrams to that effect being produced from the Cumberland Steel company,-which afterwards proved to be forgeries. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. This railway was started by the Laurier Government. It is not going to be finished by the Meighen Government; that is quite evident. This Government has fiddled along with this proposition until some of us have ceased to dance to the music. I have in mind a meeting of a delegation with the Minister of Railways (Mr. Reid), which was highly amusing to some of us western members. He first gave us as a reason why the road could not then be continued that it was then impossible to buy rails. Well, information that had been widely disseminated from a world-wide known firm of New York brokers was produced showing that rails could be bought in unlimited numbers at $64.50 a ton. This information surprised the Minister of Railways and he shifted ground; he told us that even if rails could be got ties were not obtainable. It was then the month of March, 1919, and of course ties were got out in the winter, so we could not get them. Another setback occurred to the minister-a member produced from his pocket tenders to get out a quarter of a million ties and have them on the road by July. We were then told by the minister what to western men was the most surprising thing of all,

that all railway contractors had dismantled their outfits in the past five years, and that a track-laying outfit could not be got on the road in time to do anything in 1919. For the benefit of those who have not seen a track-laying outfit, I may say that it is a flat car with a little derrick at one end and attached to it are half a dozen other flat cars with conveyers bolted on their sides on which are carried the ties and rails to be laid. Under pressure any railway contractor would put one together in twenty-four hours, and quite leisurely in six days, so as to be ready for use on the road. Then the minister tried to tell us that this Government was really in earnest in its intention to build this railway. If we went away dissatisfied and incredulous, do you blame us?

Now, perhaps that sort of experience has something to do with the dissatisfaction in the West to-day with regard to the building of this railway. I will say here and now that if we were beginning this enterprise and involving ourselves in an expenditure of $25,000,000 to $30,000,000 I would unhesitatingly condemn it, for I yield to no man in the House in my desire for economy. But when we see the Minister of Finance (Sir Henry Drayton) bringing down a Budget which involved a deficit of $50,000,000 to $100,000,000, and expenditures being made, as the hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Reid) has stated, for purely political purposes, I think the West has a right to look to this long deferred hope of seeing the railway completed. It is a matter now of an expenditure of $3,000,000 or $4,000,000, and not of $20,000,000 or $25,000,000. And remember, the funds have been provided and are ear marked in the sales of pre-empted lands-$28,000,000, without counting the interest, was provided to look after the financing of this proposition.

At this stage of the matter I am not going to argue that the straits are navigable. That question was looked into by the Government before the project was entered upon, and we have acted upon their judgment. So I will take that question as concluded. Now, it is a question of using what we have got there or else seeing it rot-of preserving it from destruction and making some small use of it-and of finding out whether the resources of the bay and the country that would be opened up are worth an expenditure of $3,000,000 or $4,000,000.

Last year, with two other members of this House, I was out in that country half

way from Norway House to Hudson bay. There are great areas of pulpwood. True, the trees are not large, for the country seems to have been burned over within the last forty or fifty years, but with proper fire regulations there is a pulpwood industry available for development. We crossed fifty to one hundred miles of clay belt. There is a clay belt on the Hudson bay railway 100 to 125 miles wide very similar to the land in which Cochrane lies and capable of future development. Only last night I was talking to one of our geological men, and he said: Climb a hill in any part

of that country and it looks as though quite half of the expanse that is disclosed to view is water. The waters of all those lakes swarm with fish. At one portage a ground sheet eight feet square was let down a foot or two into the water and lifted up again, and the whitefish were so thick that four of them were brought up on that sheet. The waters there teem with char or lake trout. There is a big local industry available all along the lakes and rivers contiguous to that railway. There is no reason to doubt-indeed there is every reason to expect, from the reports that Mr. Stef-ansson brought back of life in our northern waters-that the fisheries of the bay will at least equal the fisheries of Labrador, which are among the best in the world. By the carrying out of the Hudson Bay railway project these fisheries will be opened up and will offer traffic.

Now, the criticism has been made that the road is not yielding any return. Well, if you run a road three hundred miles into a wilderness and end it nowhere, what return can you expect from it? The country there is still a wilderness; the road after it leaves the Pas does not serve any settlement. There is a possibility of industrial and mining development along the route, but it will not come until the railway has been constructed. These are the grounds, then, upon which it is sensible to urge the completion of that road. To sum up, we are expending moneys that are not productive. Any expenditure for the completion of this road promises to be productive. We are expending large sums which go to make up our present deficit. If it is practicable to make expenditures on propositions which are new, which have been taken up since the Hudson Bay railway was started, surely it is wise to spend moneys which have been ear-marked and really provided for this venture. If it is contended that by so doing -we would be seeking to develop a country that is if no use, then we might just as

well say that we have already developed the portion of Canada which is of use, and that we should forget all our foolish talk about natural resources and about the possibility of a great future for Canada.

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March 16, 1921