May 29, 1930

CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. G. R. GEARY (South Toronto):

My hon. friend the Minister of Public Works has emphasized the fact that tolls will be available to pay the expenses of this bridge, and to pay the deficit and something by way of principal. In that connection may I point

out to the minister that this matter is in the unfortunate position that the lieutenant-governor in council of the province of Quebec is allowed to set the toll, not the Dominion Railway Board, not the Quebec Commission. The Dominion parliament has no jurisdiction in the matter. I think the government would do well if it were to discount the forty annual payments of $42,500 each and have the obligation paid off. The day of toll bridges is past, and the public would not allow the province of Quebec to maintain a toll on this bridge. The bridge would no sooner be built and the toll charged, than the government of the province of Quebec, having sole jurisdiction in the matter, would allow the tolls to be discontinued.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. LUCIEN CANNON (Solicitor-General) :

There are several bridges which have been constructed and in connection with which tolls are now being charged; we might take for example the bridges at Vaudreuil and Ste. Anne.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

I am not familiar with those bridges.

'Mr. CANNON: And what about the Quebec bridge? [DOT]

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

I am surprised to hear that.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

Well, it is a fact.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

I am sure that this bridge

which is on a highway leading to the United States would not be allowed to remain as a toll bridge. I think we should reconcile ourselves to that making the future payments in cash, and be through with it. Here is a direct contribution to a more or less local undertaking. On what principle? I do not like to urge other local situations on the minister, but he knows that he has not implemented promises or engagements made on behalf of the government long ago, and I know that is not so through any contrariness on his part. There has been promised a very important bridge to connect the island with the mainland at Toronto. This undertaking was accepted by the government of Canada many years ago, but year after year the government has felt itself obliged to refuse to make an appropriation and I think we have a right to feel somewhat disturbed over the fact that other bridges are going to be constructed which have not been planned for so long. I do believe, Mr. Speaker, that if anything is to be done in this matter- and I do not think this is the proper time to do it-we should have more information and should be able to discuss it at greater length than we are able to do to-day. There should

Caughnawaga Bridge

be some definite arrangement as to these things. My hon. friend the Solicitor General named certain other bridges and told us that they are toll bridges. I know that toll roads are a thing of the past and feel that toll bridges also should be a thing of the past, except perhaps those bridges which are international or interprovincial.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

The tolls are fixed by

section 17 of the Quebec act, and they are similar to the tolls paid on other bridges of a similar nature in that province. If my hon. friend has ever motored from here to Montreal he will remember that there are at least two toll bridges, one at Ste. Anne and one at Yaudreuil, between here and Montreal.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

May I ask the minister one

question: Does he approve of toll bridges on highways?

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

In answer to my hon.

friend, if it is a matter of getting a bridge or not getting a bridge, it is better to have a bridge on which you pay a toll than not to have a bridge at all. I am told that the distance which will be saved by the people in I think four or five counties, comprising a large and important and thickly settled district, will amount to thirty-five miles on a trip to Montreal. This bridge has been under consideration since 1910. Some years ago there was a movement on foot, in which the Canadian Pacific Railway interested itself very greatly, to have the bridge joined with the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge, but that plan never was carried through to completion. This way is looked upon by all the parties interested as the best solution that can be arrived at.

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CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. JAMES ARTHURS (Parry Sound):

During the course of this discussion there has been only one excuse advanced for a grant of this kind to a purely provincial undertaking and that excuse was advanced by the Minister of the Interior who said that the grant was required or made necessary because one end of this bridge is in an Indian reserve. This is an entirely new policy for this government to adopt. I have had occasion to endeavour to secure a grant for a cantilever section of a railway bridge connecting an Indian reserve in my riding with the mainland, which would cost only a few thousand dollars, but no grant has been made and no assistance given in spite of the fact that on that Indian reserve there is a town of some size under lease by the Canadian National Railways. At any rate, no measure of relief has been given to these other undertakings. It has been said that similar action was taken

regarding highways. I think I am correct in stating that in every case in Ontario the provincial government built the highways through the Indian reserve and only received permission to construct that highway, without getting any other assistance at all from the Dominion.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

My hon. friend is wrong.

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CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

That is my information, and I have never known of a case where that has been granted. At any rate I can see no reason why we should pass this bill for an undertaking which to my mind is entirely provincial and which should be regarded m that light.

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CON

Martin James Maloney

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. M. J. MALONEY (South Renfrew):

According to the information given the house by the Minister of the Interior this matter has been under negotiation between this government and the province of Quebec for some time, but I believe this is the first hon. members of the House of Commons have heard of it. Now, in the dying hours of this parliament, and in the dying hours of this government, it seems strange indeed that such a measure should be brought in. It smells badly, and personally I feel that we should hold it up.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I was advised last evening by the right hon. Prime Minister that he thought the government was obligated to bring this measure before the house. At that time I do not think he had the particulars of the bill in mind any more than I had. The position, as has been indicated, is that this is a measure dealing solely with a local matter.

I wonder if the house realizes that this involves consideration of a method adopted as a matter of policy by the government of the province of Quebec in connection with the building of bridges; they provide that those who use the bridges pay for them. As a matter of provincial policy the province of Quebec has a right to do that, and the method it pursues is to create a commission, which is authorized to charge tolls which pay for the bridge, thereby relieving the general taxpayer of any charge for the general construction of bridges in the province of Quebec. That is a matter of provincial policy, and Quebec has adopted and utilized that policy in connection with the construction of bridges in that province. If the government of Quebec desires to continue that policy it is the business of that government; it concerns no one but the people of the province of Quebec, they having found that method advantageous

Caughnawayu Bridge

for their own purposes, and they should be permitted to pursue it in any way they please.

Now, however, we have a bridge which is to cost $1,700,000 at least, because the authorized debentures amount to that sum, and it is proposed to charge tolls to those who use the bridge in order that these debentures may be liquidated both as to principal and interest, the principal being cared for by sinking fund provisions made from time to time. Coming from Montreal to Ottawa with a four passenger car it costs about $2.25 in tolls. That is the result of this policy. I am not quarrelling with that policy, which is purely a matter for the provincial administration, but I protest against this parliament giving one dollar of money directly or indirectly for any toll highway or bridge in Canada unless it be an interprovincial or international undertaking, where the situation of course would be entirely different. That would be easily understood, but when you ask parliament to vote a sum not exceeding $42,500 per annum to take care of possible deficits in connection with the King's highway, I must say that I cannot bring myself to do it. A bridge is nothing more than a part of the King's highway projected over a stream or a gully or whatever it may be, and that highway in principle is free for use to all the King's subjects. The toll idea is very much exploded as far as the general use of highways is concerned, and has been for years.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

What about taxes to pay for the highway?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Quite so; the taxes are of universal and general application.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

A tax is a toll.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

All taxes are tolls, but taxes are imposed upon all persons whether or not they are users. In this case the users only are asked to pay. It is purely a matter for each province to determine for itself, and the province of Quebec having determined it in this way, that is their business.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

What about the Americans using our highways?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The Americans pay at the bridge across which they enter this country.

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May 29, 1930