I am advised that in British Columbia we have had considerable difficulty in getting the amount of dredging done that is required because there were not sufficient dredges of capacity to do the work. Has the department plans for getting any new equipment?
We are proposing to have a certain amount in the supplementaries this year for dredging which will be done by contract. The construction of a new dredge will take some time, and this work is pressing, so we are letting it out by contract.
member for Comox-Alberni has raised cannot be brushed off as easily as that. There are only two dredges on the Pacific coast, and they are forty to fifty years old. As a matter of fact it would seem that to blow the whistle on one of them might make the whole thing stop. Every district out there is asking for dredging. There are some districts which have been waiting for five years for dredging. Only a short time ago I received a request from a saw mill at Fort Langley in my district, which to my knowledge has been waiting for four years for dredging to be done. I am informed by the departmental officials that there is no hope of one of the government dredges going up there to do that work before June of 1948. I draw the minister's attention to this: two shifts at a time have been put on dredges with the idea of getting more work done. That has helped a little, but not a great deal because other difficulties still remain. On one of the dredges only fourteen hours' actual dredging is done in forty-eight hours, because, as most of us from the coast know, one of these dredges is a suction dredge, and when the dredge has been filled, it takes the sand out to sea. It is a six-knot vessel and so it chug-chugs out to sea and then chug-chugs back and during all that time of course, it is doing no dredging.
I think British Columbia has been very patient in waiting for new dredges for the dredging to be done. During the war when this matter was drawn to the attention of the government-I brought it up myself on several occasions-we were told we would have to wait until the war was over before another dredge could be built. A new dredge cannot be built in a few months. It takes time. The minister has been telling us the same story for six or seven or eight years, and again he says that they are still considering it and that it- will cost $1,250,000. Does the minister realize how much produce goes out and how many ships come into the, Fraser and the north arm of the Fraser as well? These ships are taking out our products to the markets of the world and bringing in much needed dollars or commerce. One of the dredges out there is forty years old. and the other forty-five.
I ask the minister to tell us how long we have to wait before a new modern dredge will be put into operation. Would he be agreeable to having an investigation made to see just what can be done? He talks of having a lot of dredging done by contract, but my understanding is there are no dredges available on the coast, even if he wanted to have the work done by contract. The one contracting firm that did have a dredge on the Fraser river lost their dredge by fire early in the spring, I believe, and there are no other private dredges available. One of the difficulties about a private company building a dredge is that first of all it costs a lot of money, and secondly they are not sure of the dredge being sufficiently employed either on the river or on other parts of the coast, I suggest to the minister that he review the whole Fraser river system from the point of view of dredging.
The St. Lawrence river has a good dredging set-up. Contracts are let for a period of five or ten years and so the dredging goes on year after year. It is not always shown in the public works estimates, because, for some reason which I have never been able to find out, considerable dredging is done under the transport department. I am not setting one province against another; far from it; they all need assistance. All I am objecting to is that British Columbia ia not getting the consideration she justly deserves, and I am raising my voice as strongly as possible in protest right now. I would like the minister to give a more definite and favourable statement in reply than he gave to the hon. member for Comox-Alberni.
I would bring this same matter to the attention of the minister. Last year I raised this question of a shortage of dredges in British Columbia. The harbours all through my constituency are silting up. partly as a result of the topographical formation there. We have high mountains and fastrunning streams which bring down a lot of silt as a result of erosion. I believe we have only two dredges for the whole Pacific coast, while there are about seventeen dredges available in other parts of Canada.
It may seem strange for a member from Manitoba to back the hon. member for Comox-Alberni and the member for New Westminster in this matter. I know something about construction work, and I know from what the hon. member for New Westminster has said that, this type of dredge is an obsolete machine. I know from experience of letting contracts over a period of years that it is expensive. I would ask the 83166-304
minister to consider seriously the discontinuance of the type of machine which is now obsolete and to construct a machine which would be much more economical.
What dredges there are on the coast are at the south end? There are none on the north end. Judging from what the hon. member for New Westminster has said, I doubt whether they could make the voyage up the coast.
The government had certain post-war plans for dredging and the building of breakwater facilities and harbours for fishermen such as at Delkatla slough, Wiah point, Oona river, Dodge cove and Bella Coola. These are necessary for the fishermen on the north coast; that is where the major halibut fleet is. I know the minister is up against this problem. As the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply pointed out, the shipyards of Canada have eighteen months work ahead of them, all the shipyards with the exception of one, a Canadian owned shipyard in Prince Rupert.
If the minister wants to make a token payment on this post-war programme to establish the fact in the eyes of the fishermen that he will go ahead with it, he could start by building a dredge in Prince Rupert. The facilities are there; the men are there. If that were done the men would be convinced that they were going to get the facilities for the fishing fleet. That is what I am speaking about. The minister should do this without delay because the facilities are there to build the needed equipment.
I should like to say a few words on this item concerning dredging on the Arrow lakes which was mentioned the otiier day. For over forty years dredging has been carried on in these lakes. During the war the expenditures were considerably less than in previous years. During one year no dredging was done at all; the dredge was tied up. Dredging is a serious matter for the fruit farmers and other farmers along these lakes who depend on the steamers to carry their produce to railhead.
During recent years the steamer has run for a shorter time each year, that is, through the full length of the two lakes. When the water gets low the large steamer has to stop running. I must say in fairness that the captains keep going as long as possible. Last year they ran until (here was only three feet
of water under the hull. They did this in order to move out as much as possible of the fruit and agricultural produce before winter; but the time of running from one end of the lake to the other is getting shorter each year because of the silting, which is causing difficulty every year.
The dredge we have has been operating for over thirty years and it is definitely obsolete. Under the present circumstances there, in view of the possible development on the Columbia river, I would not advocate any large expenditure on new equipment, but I do urge the minister to do something more. I appreciate the fact that the department decided this year to continue dredging operations as long as possible until high water. I do urge upon the minister that he see that sufficient funds are expended each year in that district to 'keep dredging operations going as long as possible so that the large steamers can run through. When the large steamer has to stop running through there is a great deal of risk of the transportation of fruit being delayed.
1 should like to come east a little. The minister may rest assured that I will not ask for a million dollars, but for only a couple of hundred thousand. I should like to know if the project of dredging on the St. Lawrence between Lotbiniere and Deschambault which has been asked for by the hon. member for Lotbiniere and the hon. member for Nicolet to facilitate the operation of the ferry between these two shores is to be gone ahead with. The fact is that traffic would be very heavy if we had the ferry operating efficiently, because all the trucks which deliver the calco, which is a kind of fertilizer that the farmers use on the land, have to cross the Quebec bridge from Deschambault to go into Lotbiniere county where this calco is used to a large extent by the farmers; and then they have to travel an additional seventy or eighty miles to deliver their goods. I should like to know if the minister has carefully considered the demand made and whether it will be possible to give us some kind of answer or tell us that consideration is still being given to the demand made by the two hon. members.