April 13, 1927

UFA

Robert Gardiner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARDINER:

I have nothing more to say on the question. I do not wish to take

[Mr. Gardiru>r.J

up the time of the House further but I make that proposal as a fair one under present conditions.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior)

Liberal

Hon. CHARLES STEWART (Minister of the Interior):

As one who has been interested for almost twenty years in the Peace river country and who, I believe, recommended to the Alberta government the construction of the Edmonton-Dunvegan railway to serve the people of that territory, I can say with some assurance that I know something about the situation there. I travelled through that district before there was a railway in the country, my object being to advise the provincial government what should be done. Perhaps I may be allowed to recite briefly the situation as it existed in 1913.

The Canadian National Railways projected a bne into the Peace river country by White Court, crossing the Macleod river and heading for the Peace river pass. In my opinion no other road will serve the country as acceptably as the route by the Peace river pass, and I have never thought otherwise. I believe the reconnaissance surveys made at that time amply warrant that statement; it is the only outlet that will properly serve that whole country. Other routes have been discussed but they will all entail a longer mileage and a more expensive haulage than the road by the Peace river pass. In support of my hon. friend from Victoria (Mr. Tolmie), I may add that the Peace river route will open up a greater area of good agricultural country in British Columbia than any other road proposed. A road from Grande Prairie to Obed would not meet the requirements of any considerable proportion of the country, while the mileage would be longer and the cost greater. When I went into the Peace river country I found a great many people who had gone in during the winter and had passed a period of two years away from civilization. I therefore recommended the construction of the Edmonton-Dunvegan railway and that road has served the territory fairly well, apart from the fact that it necessitates a big haul for grain and live stock which would be avoided if there was an outlet to the coast. I am a strong advocate of the outlet to the coast and I support the suggestion that there be a survey made with a view to having the route definitely settled, this year if possible. I see no reason why that should not be done. I understand however that the committee went thoroughly into the matter and I am afraid that there is an impression abroad in the minds of a good many members that the Peace river route would involve not only the construction of

Peace River Railway

a connection between Fort George and the existing Edmonton-Dunvegan railway, but also the purchase of that railway and the Pacific Great Eastern railway, both of which have entailed considerable expenditure. So far as I am concerned, with the information before me, I am perfectly agreeable to the suggestion of an immediate survey in order to submit to the House at the next session all the evidence available, and to have parliament take action thereon at that time. As I said before, however, the committee gave the matter serious consideration, and now that it has reported to the House I propose to stand by its finding.

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CON

John Anderson Fraser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. A. FRASER (Cariboo):

I am

pleased to hear what the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Stewart, Edmonton) has had to say. Because with his extensive knowledge of the country his remarks carry great weight. A vast body of opinion has grown up from information available before the railway committee and I am sure that if hon. members will study that report carefully they will come to the conclusion that the Peace river country is not asking for anything unreasonable. Let us consider for a moment what we are aiming at. In the first place, we are trying to bring into economical use an area of great potentialities. Canada requires just such areas to afford its population the employment they need, and that particular district contains very large tracts of agricultural land of proven value. Those lands are without adequate transportation facilities. There are very substantial areas of timber in the same region, as well as adjacent water powers which in my opinion would be sufficient to electrify a railway from the Peace river country to the coast, which should appeal to the House after the discussion we had during this session in regard to electrical energy. In addition to that, there are many mineral developments which would be opened up by a properly located railway; there is no doubt about the minerals located in the Omineca area, and very large recoveries may be expected not only of gold and silver but of zinc, lead and copper as well. That will give an idea of the possibilities of this route.

Why do the people in that area look to the Pacific for an outlet instead of to the east? Just consider for one moment that a railway 800 miles in length will provide them with an outlet to the Pacific coast which is open the year round, while if they come east they must ship their products three times that distance in order to get them to Montreal, which is only open six or seven months of the year. The report which I have under my hand

seems to indicate that if a road were built to the Pacific it would not be possible to lessen the cost of transportation. Can you imagine the people of the Peace river country subscribing to an idea of that kind when they have only 800 miles to travel to the Pacific, where they will have a port open the year round, while they are 3,000 miles from the Atlantic? You cannot make the people of that country believe that their proper outlet is not to the Pacific coast.

Now let me take up for a few moments the report presented by the engineers, in which they eliminate the possibility of all traffic except that resulting from agriculture. After what I have said in regard to the other potentialities of that district, I am sure that no member of this House will agree with that opinion. I am sure the engineers have surveyed this matter in a general way, but in my opinion they have not given it the careful consideration which the problem requires. Sio far as the engineers are concerned I believe they presented their report in good faith but in any case, as pointed out by the Minister of the Interior, there is no doubt that the question of the Obed route will not in any way Telieve the necessities of the Peace river country. That is a temporary expedient, of the worst kind, and should not be considered for one moment. The Premiers of Alberta and British Columbia appeared before that committee and condemned this route, and I should think that would be sufficient evidence to make this House forget all about it.

Now let me draw a picture, if I can, of the situation connected with the Peace river outlet, and in my opinion the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Stewart) was absolutely right when he said there is no route to consider except that via the Peace river itself, which has been the natural route into that country from time immemorial. British Columbia was first opened up by the Peace river route, which has continued in use up to the present time. On this route is the lowest continental divide on the North American continent, 2,350 feet; all other proposed routes must climb to an elevation of at least 3,750 feet, and when grades are such a compelling factor in the construction of a railway, I submit that this question must be given very serious consideration. Let me point out again that taking into consideration the topography of that country, everything indicates that the controlling factors from a transportation point of view all converge at Prince George; all these routes come to that point.

Peace River Railway

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

My hon. friend will not object to making it clear that that statement was made by the Deputy Minister of Railways for Alberta, not our deputy minister.

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CON

John Anderson Fraser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FRASER:

I thought' I had said so;

that is quite true. Prince George is the centre of that whole country, and if you bring this railway through the Peace river pass you not only have the opportunity of shipping grain to Prince Rupert, but' you have the alternative route to Vancouver, and if you are not satisfied with either of those you have the third alternative of providing a new route down the Fraser river from Prince George to Vancouver, a distance of 480 miles with a grade of four-tent'hs. I submit that the solution of the whole proposition is to connect Prince George with the Peace river country, and I submit that the solution is not difficult; it will be necessary to build only 400 miles of road, and there is no necessity for a preliminary survey at' present. Put your engineers to work, make your location surveys and go ahead and build the road.

What will be the expenditure entailed? I have the estimate of the Deputy Minister of Railways for Alberta, given before the committee, in which he gave an expenditure of $12,160,000 as necessary to connect the Peace river country with Prince George via Pine pass. It is from 50 to 75 miles longer via the Peace river pass, but if you add a proportionate amount for the extra mileage, construction of the road by way of Peace river pass will entail an expenditure not exceeding $15,000,000. That is all that is required from

the government at present. It is not a question of the immediate investment of another $100,000,000, or $80,000,000, or even $60,000,000; what is involved at the present time is simply the investment of another $15,000,000.

Now I am going to take up an angle of this question which has never been presented, so far as I know, either before the committee or anywhere else. I have an intimate connection with this railway problem by virtue of the fact that during the time of the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Pacific Great Eastern, I represented that district in the local legislature. My connection, in the first place, with the Pacific Great Eastern dates away back to 1912, and 50 or 60 per cent of that road was within the confines of the district that I represented locally. You can readily understand, therefore, that it was impassible for me to do otherwise than gain some knowledge in regard to this question. The point I want to make is this: The province of Alberta and British Columbia are in exactly the same position so far as this question is concerned; It will be found from the records, which are easily available to every member of this House, that except for fifty miles-as stated by the Premier of Alberta the other day-not a single dollar of money has been contributed towards the construction of this railway by way of cash subventions from the federal government. I submit and know that when we undertook the construction of the railway in British Columbia we expected to receive a cash subvention from this country of $6,400 per mile. The province of Alberta is in exactly the same position, and you can easily see the strength in my argument when I tell you that the government of that province received a cash subsidy of $6,400 per mile towards the construction of fifty miles of the railway. Now my point is that the province of Alberta has made an investment of $40,000,000 in provincial railways for the purpose of developing that province which naturally belonged to the federal government, because the lines in that province are federal lines. Such being the case the province would naturally expect some assistance from the federal government when railway lines were built in that province, especially when it is remembered that Alberta does not possess her natural resources. The province of British Columbia is in a different position in that regard. She has invested in the railway $50,000,000, but both provinces came before the committee and said that they had gone to the length of their financial resources as regards the completion of these railways. My point is this: There is a

Peace River Railway

thousand miles of railway undertaken by these two provinces for no part of which, other than the fifty miles already referred to, has any federal assistance been received. Now whether this project goes through parliament this year or not, both these provinces are going to make a claim for a cash subvention, and in my opinion they certainly are entitled to it. They are entitled to it because if you refer to the report of the Department of Railways and Canals you will find that subsidies have been provided in the case of all the other provinces to an amount of $78,000,000. Do you mean to tell me, therefore, that if it is the general policy of the Dominion government to provide cash subventions for the construction of these railways, the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are not to make claims for these grants?

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DLTNNING:

Was it the policy of the

federal government, at the time these railways were commenced, to grant such subsidies anywhere in Canada?

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?

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Mr. ERASER:

All over Canada, I tell

the minister.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

At the time these railways were commenced?

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CON

John Anderson Fraser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FRASER:

At the time these lines

were commenced.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

And they were commenced when?

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CON

John Anderson Fraser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FRASER:

In 1912.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

My hon. friend will remember who was in power in 1912.

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CON

John Anderson Fraser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FRASER:

Certainly I remember who

was in power in 1912. The proof of what I say is that the province of Alberta, in line with that general policy, made application for a cash subvention for fifty miles and actually received it. The Premier of Alberta admitted that at the conference the other day. Now when you take this thousand miles of railway and multiply that mileage by $6,400, you will find it amounts to $6,400,000. Therefore I say that in any case the federal government is going to be presented with a bill for that sum. In addition, the total expenditure for connecting this road up to Fort George and the Peace river country is only $15,000,000. So that all we are asking the federal government to do in connection with the construction of the line is to put up about $8,000,000 in addition to what they will have to pay in any case. I submit that is not a very unreasonable demand to make on behalf of the people who are in the Peace river country, when you take into

consideration the amount of available land and the other possibilities there are in that district. At the present time I am speaking on behalf of the people of the district and pointing out the potentialities of that country. Now may I point out that the House is already committed to very substantial expenditures which are not justified if the Peace River railway is not undertaken and an outlet provided for that country. We have undertaken liabilities to the extent of $20,000,000 in connection with the branch line program of the Canadian National Railways, and these further amounts are being voted: $10,000,000 to satisfy the claims of the mari-times; $5,000,000 for the construction of the Hudson Bay railway, which the hon. member for Victoria, B.C., very well remarked could not be justified at all on the same grounds as those which justify the construction of the Peace River railway, and there is the further fact to be borne in mind that there is a prospective liability of another $20,000,000; $4,000,000 to beautify the city of Ottawa; $250,000 for the diamond jubilee; $3,000,000 of an increase for the civil servants; and an increase of $2,000,000 for the air service. The people of Peace River have not complained about these expenditures, they do not argue that these expenditures are not justified; but they do say that when a reasonable claim is made on their behalf they are entitled to the same consideration as the people in other parts of the Dominion.

Now, I want to consider as briefly as I can some of the evidence submitted to the committee in regard to the area of land available in that district. The engineers report that there are eight and a half million acres of agricultural land available for development in the limited area they had under consideration. An officer of the Department of the Interior, a man of experience, a man who has been over the district judging from his remarks, estimated that in the same area there were 12,000,000 acres of land of that sort. There you have a discrepancy right at the start, and that acreage is only in a limited area. I maintain there are 25.000,000 acres easily available for agricultural development. The engineers will only admit a maximum total of 2,790,000 tons of freight for the area they were considering-not the minimum but the maximum -and let me say that they exclude everything except the products of agriculture-they give no credit for anything else. If the estimate of the engineers is correct as to the tonnage and the acreage you have a total yield from each acre of land of 0.33, or one-third of a ton from each acre. The Premier of Alberta when

Peace River Railway

he was before the committee stated that the actual tonnage of the Peace River crop this year moved over this line amounted to 179,611 tons. Now the minimum tonnage which the engineers estimated could be developed within ten or fifteen years was 170,000 tons, so at the present time the Peace river country is producing, according to Premier Brownlee's statement, more than the minimum tonnage which the engineers estimated it was possible for that country to produce within the next ten or fifteen years. That tonnage was produced from 270,000 acres of land under cultivation, which amounts to .66 tons per acre, or two-tbirds of a ton; in other words, the actual tonnage at present is exactly double what the engineers estimated in their report I do not think it is fair to allow the impression to go all over this country that the tonnage will amount to only one-third of a ton per acre, when it is actually twice that now. Taking Premier Brownlee's figures, and the figure of 8,500,000 acres which the engineers admit is in that area, that territory will produce if the same ratio of production is applied to the whole area, 5,600,000 tons of freight, which is double the maximum tonnage estimated by the engineers.

I want to impress upon the House, first, that the construction of this railway will simply be the ordinary railway construction. That is stated in the report. The grade required to connect these two points I have mentioned is four-tenths of one per cent; all the engineers admit that. Not only that, but it is the lowest grade which the engineers have submitted for any of these routes. The Peace river pass provides the best gradient for the opening up of that country. In addition to that, on page 15 of the engineers' report you will find that they admit that the Peace river route is the most likely to produce the maximum traffic.

Now I want the House to ask itself this question. What are we considering? Are we considering simply the construction of a temporary expedient which will last only a few years and then have to be reconstructed, or are we considering the construction of a permanent railway that will have for its object the maximum development of that country? If you are thinking of permanent construction for the maximum development of the country, I submit that you should take the long view and put the railway where the best grades are, even if it involves a little longer mileage. Again I repeat, the summit of 2,350 feet is the lowest on the North American continent.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, aft'er the promises that have been made not only by this

government-I do not want to inject any political animus into this question at all

after the inducements that have been held out to people to go into that country and settle, such as the literature of the federal government which was read in the committee, and the situation being what it is at the present time, I do submit that this House would be justified in going ahead during the coming year and making an actual location survey of that route for the permanent development of that country. It is the shortest route to the coast, and there is no proper way of providing an outlet except as I have indicated. I state that" on my responsibility as a resident of that country for just about forty years. I know the situation of the people who went into that country expecting this railway to be built, and I do submit that in view of all the frills and furbelows for which we have been voting money here this session, this is the most reasonable, the most sensible, and the most feasible project' that has been submitted to parliament this session.

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LIB

Alexander MacGillivray Young

Liberal

Mr. A. M. YOUNG (Saskatoon):

Mr. Speaker, as acting chairman of the railway committee I think perhaps I should say just a word as to what took place in the committee. I do not intend to delay the House longer than a very few minutes.

In the committee a very great deal of time was given to the study of this question. We had before us the chief engineers of the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific Railways, the men who were responsible for the preparation of the report that has been mentioned. We had also before us Premier Oliver of British Columbia and Premier Brownlee of Alberta, also the Deputy Minister of Railways and the Chief Engineer of the province of Alberta. We adjourned from day to day in order that all the evidence might be brought before the committee.

With regard to the engineers' report, I would like to say in the first place that I am not going into any details whatever, but that' report distinctly is of the opinion that it is economically unsound, in view of the present volume of traffic, to begin to construct further railways in that country. I would like to quote just a few words from Premier Oliver's address. After stating at length the policy which he favoured he said:

The policy outlined will require the expenditure of a large amount of money and the present volume of business may not warrant further capital expenditures. Any policy adopted should afford a reasonable assurance that in a short time the returns from the expenditure made would be sufficient to meet operation and maintenance as well as interest charges, and eventually liquidate the original capital outlay.

Peace River Railway

Then he asked himself this question:

Is it practical to justify the necessary expenditures by the production of a sufficiency of revenue, and if so, how is it to be done?

He answered that in this way:

A careful and conservative survey of available resources should be had, and a liberal estimate of expenditures and time necessary to develop the resources so as to provide a volume of traffic sufficient to make the railway pay should also be made. The methods to be employed and the costs incurred in procuring the necessary population and development should be considered. There are many other factors also, but generally speaking, settlement and development upon a sufficiently large scale is imperatively necessary to accompany railway construction. Any other course would be madness.

Premier Brownlee had this to say in reply to a question by the hon. Minister of Railways :

So far as I am concerned I have tried to indicate-I may have failed in my argument

that in my opinion, steps should be taken at once to lay down a program leading to the ultimate development of the Pacific coast outlet. I think there should be some kind of a body gathered together, such as an independent commission, to hear evidence as to the proper outlet. A definite program should be laid down that the route will go a certain way, and the necessary extensions should be made at once to adequately serve the territory. So far as the time of completion is concerned, I would prefer to leave that, to some extent at least, to those who are engaged in developing the route, having regard to the increased traffic that would come from a move of this kind.

Then the Minister of Railways asked him the following question:

It would involve, in your judgment, the taking over of the E. D. and B. C.?

To which Premier Brownlee replied:

Yes.

I want to go a little further and say that the engineers and Premier Oliver and Premier Brownlee and the Deputy Minister of Railways of Alberta apparently do not agree on which is the best route. Both premiers are apparently of the opinion that this matter should be further studied. That is as far as I wish to go in regard to the evidence.

Apparently we are all decided that the Peace river country has wonderful possibilities, and that those possibilities should not be neglected, but at the same time all seem to agree that we have not sufficient data at the present time to proceed forthwith with construction. What does the resolution call for?

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

What would be the approximate cost?

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LIB

Alexander MacGillivray Young

Liberal

Mr. YOUNG (Saskatoon):

I do not think I can go into that question. We had the approximate cost of several sections of the road but I am not an expert in the cost of railways. The resolution submitted to the House says:

That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived for the commencement forthwith, and the completion in the near future of a direct railway outlet from the Peace river country to the Pacific coast.

Having regard to the evidence before us, we in the committee did not believe that we could recommend that this be done forthwith. The actual report which has been submitted to this House was submitted to the committee and, upon the question being put, was passed by the committee unanimously, with the exception of a few members.

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UFA

Robert Gardiner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARDINER:

How long before the committee rose was this report submitted to them? Is it not a fact that it was submitted after only a few minutes' notice and with no opportunity to consider it?

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LIB

Alexander MacGillivray Young

Liberal

Mr. YOUNG (Saskatoon):

There was no limitation to discussion in that committee. The report of the committee goes on to say:

Your committee, having heard evidence on the subject matter of the resolution from the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia and from engineers who have investigated this project, and others, is of opinion that building a western outlet from ^the Peace river area is feasible from an engineering standpoint.

The next clause reads:

The weight of evidence before your committee indicates that, on economic grounds, such construction should not be commenced forthwith, as set forth in the resolution referred to your committee.

Your committee is of opinion that much greater traffic development is necessary in the area to make the building of such outlet economically sound.

I understand the hon. member for Peace River takes more objection to the last clause than to any other. The report continues:

Your committee is further of opinion that potentialities of that area are such as to warrant a continuous study of its development.

I think the hon. member said that the effect of the last clause would be that this project would be shelved. In my humble opinion this clause means the very reverse of that-that the potentialities are such that the matter cannot be neglected, but that a continuous study should be made; not that that study should be given next year, but that it should begin now in the interests of the development of the country. So that, instead of the report of the committee meaning delay, I take it that it means that the study should

Peace River Railway

begin now, that it should proceed with as much haste as possible, and that after all the matters are investigated a policy should be brought to the House and should be acted upon as soon thereafter as possible.

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UFA

Donald MacBeth Kennedy

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. KENNEDY:

I should 'like to ask the hon. member to state one thing which the report recommends should be done.

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LIB

Alexander MacGillivray Young

Liberal

Mr. YOUNG (Saskatoon):

There was no limitation placed upon it. It says "continuous study." That means, not a study of one branch, but a study of all phases, and a report brought in and acted upon. I think that is a fair statement of the facts.

Hon. CHARLES A. DUNNING (Minister of Railways and Canals): I should like to make a few remarks on this matter before the debate is closed. One can well understand the anxiety of the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Kennedy); as he has himself said, he is here for this purpose. I think perhaps he over-states it when he says that, but at least it is the most important objective he has in view, as the representative from Peace River. Therefore one must commend him for diligence in prosecuting this matter

Mr. KENNEDY The minister is merely stating his own opinion.

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April 13, 1927