January 13, 1954

LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

Let me tell my friend that his speech is very much ad nauseam.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
CCF

Colin Cameron

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Cameron (Nanaimo):

Is that so? Apparently I am doing a good job, because I would have thought the minister would not be anxious to continue giving these assurances in the house year after year. I would have thought that would have given him nausea without any help from me. I would close by urging the hon. member for St. Mary to insist on the matter going to a vote at this time.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
SC

Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. Solon E. Low (Peace River):

As I

listened to the debate that has taken place this afternoon, my interest in toll bridges mounted. I had not felt the pangs of toll bridge consciousness very much until after I had listened to several of the interesting speeches that were given here this afternoon, principally by members representing Quebec constituencies. Now I am somewhat consumed with interest in the principle of this whole matter of toll bridges. I will not be able to speak too much in detail about the two bridges that are mentioned in the motion, but I take it, Mr. Speaker, that members of the house can discuss the principle of toll bridges along with the two particular ones that are mentioned.

Bridges

In the first place, I am interested in toll bridges because I think they are a nuisance, no matter how much we owe on them or for what purpose they have been erected. I think the only justification for a toll bridge in any country is that the bridge is owned by a private concern which put up the capital and must recover it. We have one or two bridges of that kind in Canada. I know of one in British Columbia which crosses the entrance to the inlet. I suppose people making use of that bridge to cross into North Vancouver do not object to paying tolls because they realize they are paying a private concern which actually financed the bridge and have to recover the money. For the people of Canada to have to pay tolls on any bridge that is built by a government or any combination of governments, as in this case, it seems to me is an antiquated idea that should be abolished at the earliest possible moment.

It is for this reason that I am particularly interested in this whole subject of toll bridges. I am glad to be able to state at this time that I do not think there is a single toll bridge in Alberta, thank heaven. I would be one of the first to try to get the tolls abolished if there happened to be such a bridge, but we have not thought of bridges in that fashion. As the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre has said, it would be just as antiquated to begin charging tolls on the trans-Canada highway because public moneys have been used in its construction. I hope there is no inclination on the part of the government to try to attach tolls to that trans-Canada highway. They will have a fight on their hands if there is. Certainly there would be just as much reason to charge tolls on the trans-Canada highway as there is to charge tolls on the two bridges in question.

Another reason I am keenly interested in this matter of toll bridges, and particularly these two, the Jacques Cartier bridge and the Victoria bridge, is that so many tourists coming to Canada have to enter by way of these bridges, or at least they enter the city of Montreal by way of these bridges. I can imagine how these tourists must feel toward Canada as a whole when they are confronted with the necessity of paying tolls before passing over the bridge. I know how I have felt when I have travelled by car through the United States and have had to pay tolls on a great number of bridges in that country. I have in mind some of the bridges in the middle western states over which one has to pass to get out west. I have felt quite angry

about it, because I could never see the justification for a government imposing tolls year after year on the people who have to use the bridges.

We want to create a favourable impression on our tourists. If we are going to create a favourable impression and try to get them to come back, it seems to me one of the things we ought to be doing is opening our gates a little wider, and making it a little easier for them to enter. Let us not get them fiery mad just the minute they get to the gates of our country. Let us get them in and get them to come back to spend their dollars. They would be glad to spend many times over the sum they would pay in the form of tolls, but they get angry at having to pay a simple toll of 50 cents.

Even more important than that, important as the tourist traffic is, is the fact that the people of Montreal and environs must pass over these bridges every day and sometimes two or three times a day to get to and from their work. Having to pay tolls, even at a reduced rate-I understand that is sometimes made possible for the citizens of the community-it seems to me is imposing on these people a burden that they should not have to carry. It is argued, of course, by officials in government that the people in an area like Montreal who are using the bridge most should be the ones to pay for it. If we are to use that as the principle guiding the construction and use of many national assets, I am afraid there will not be too many of them built.

In western Canada we have some irrigation projects that have been built with the costs shared by this government, the provincial governments and the local governments. They have all shared in the expense of construction. Are we going to turn around and get that money back out of the people who operate irrigation districts by charging tolls? We do not do that. Those contributions by this government are made in the hope that they will create a national asset and build something that will return value to the whole of the people of Canada.

That is the hope we have in building these bridges. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it is very important for us to try, if we possibly can, to relieve the people of the city of Montreal and the immediate district of the load they have to carry, by making it possible for the fourteen million people in the whole of Canada to share that load.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles:

It is fifteen million now.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
SC

Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. Low:

Fifteen million, then. There is another thing that makes me interested in

this whole matter. When he spoke, the minister revealed to us that while he thought there was a value of something like $37 million in the Jacques Cartier bridge, yet we still owe against it something like $28,400,000. On that feature alone a person could occupy the attention of the house for a very long time. It must be an amazing revelation to the people of Canada to find that after all these years we still owe $28,400,000 on the Jacques Cartier bridge, in spite of the fact that ever since it was put into operation we have been exacting something like $1,200,000 each year in tolls. That may not be an average figure, but I believe it is the figure that was given for one year.

It seems to me that this offers an excellent example of asinine financing, and it gives me tremendous pleasure to be able to hold it up so people can see just what is in it. Here is a situation in which I think every member in the house ought to be interested. I do not know just what the original cost of the Jacques Cartier bridge was but, if I remember correctly, it was estimated originally that it would cost $12 million. I understand, however, that once the bridge was under construction some difficulty arose as a consequence of someone holding up the price of the approaches to the bridge and, if I remember correctly, it became necessary to pay a greatly enhanced sum of money in order to get those approaches. So the bridge cost something like $18 million. It will be understood that I am giving these figures from memory, going back over a number of years.

What happened? I understand the federal government financed it by floating an issue of 5 per cent 40-year bonds. We know that 40-year bonds carrying an interest rate of 5 per cent will yield during the lifetime of the bonds 200 per cent of the principal. If the principal sum spent on the bridge was $12 million-and we will put it at that figure as a beginning-then over the years those bonds would be out the people of Canada would have to dig up, through taxation, $24 million in interest. This would mean that for a $12 million bridge, when the interest on the bonds had been paid for 40 years the cost to the people of this country would be $36 million.

To my mind it is completely asinine to go on financing in that fashion what we are pleased to call national assets. When one digs into the matter these facts stare him in the face. Over the years since the Jacques Cartier bridge was conceived and work on it was begun, this country of Canada has passed through some hard times. There have been bad years, times when we had tremendous

Bridges

quantities of surplus production going to waste. We also had quantities of unused labour and unused power. These could easily have been used. What in the world are we thinking about when we fail to transform surplus production and surplus energy in the form of manpower or machine energy into a national asset that is truly an asset, and one on which there is no debt? It is just utterly foolish, when one thinks of it.

But this is what we have done. Hon. members seem to fail to grasp the significance of true financing, where the government has the sovereign right and authority to do what is required to make the money that we have, our purchasing power, match the figures representing our national production. The government can do that, without running this nation into pawn to the merchants of debt. But it has not done so. It prefers to put a yoke around the necks of the people of Canada, to keep them with their noses to the grindstone, paying interest, and digging it up year after year to pay for an asset that should have been paid for long ago. In spite of the fact that we did have the surplus production, the surplus energy and manpower, we failed to convert it into a national asset. As a consequence, having paid millions of dollars in interest on a bridge, we find that we still owe on it $28,400,000, or a sum one and a half times its original cost, even at inflated values.

This just does not make sense. And, to add insult to injury, the government proposes now that we should go on paying tolls on the bridge for I don't know how many years. Maybe it will be a century. If what was said by the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Cameron) with respect to the Quebec bridge is any criterion, then we can expect that perhaps 50 years from now we will still be paying tolls on the Jacques Cartier bridge and the Victoria bridge.

I suggest that for these reasons we ought not to be treating the matter lightly, but that we should be giving it most serious consideration while at the same time giving all honour to those hon. members who have raised the question in the house. I hope they will not withdraw their motion, and that it will be possible for them to hold out so as to get a vote. I would like to see a vote, and if there is one I shall support the resolution, because I feel that in the interests of the people of the province of Quebec, and for that matter of the whole of Canada, those tolls ought to be removed. I do not want to delay this matter, or to talk it out. My

Bridges

only wish is to express my views sincerely, and I shall now give way to anyone else who wishes to take part in the debate.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Clarence Gillis (Cape Breton South):

Mr. Speaker, I shall take only a moment. My only reason for speaking is that we have heard from practically every province in Canada, and I feel that if I were to sit here and say nothing people might think I agree with the principle of tolls on bridges.

For the minister's benefit I should like to say that when you have the provincial government of Quebec, the city of Montreal, the national harbours board, and perhaps the president of the Canadian National Railways on top of that, you have a pretty hard aggregation to come to an understanding with. I appreciate the minister's position. It may be just as difficult for him to get an understanding with the people concerned as it is for hon. members here to get an understanding with the minister. I do not believe he is in a position to give us a lucid answer to this question because of the people who are involved in coming to an understanding on the matter.

I am going to support this motion for this reason. I am affected by the Jacques Cartier bridge. Any time I go home and take a car with me I go down through the eastern townships and cross that bridge. When I return by car I come up that way. At times I have been in line there for at least half an hour waiting my turn to get across that bridge. I agree with what the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Low) has said. I have seen hundreds of United States cars lined up to pay a tax to enter the city of Montreal. They are people who would perhaps proceed to the rest of Canada and leave a lot of money behind them. After the inconvenience they experience on their first visit by being held up at the border and asked to pay an entrance fee, I do not think it encourages them to come back.

The other reason I think the matter should be taken in hand by the government and by the minister's department, and an understanding arrived at, was given by the hon. member for Peace River. The financing of the Jacques Cartier bridge as outlined by him is ridiculous. It seems that the longer you have to pay tolls on that bridge and the longer you continue to finance it in the way it is done at the present time, the more you will owe 50 years from now. This resolution should be voted upon. This house should unanimously pass this resolution, because it would strengthen the minister's hands.

We have been discussing this matter for eight years. It has been on the order paper

for that length of time. It has been thoroughly discussed in the house on several occasions, and it has been withdrawn each time. It has not been voted upon. As far as the Minister of Transport is concerned, he has left the house in exactly the same position it was in when the discussion opened.

If this matter is voted upon and hon. members tell the minister that as far as they are concerned they are prepared to abolish tolls on the Victoria and Jacques Cartier bridges, then he will have an ultimatum from the House of Commons. He will then be in a position to meet with the representatives of the city of Montreal, the provincial government of Quebec, the national harbours board and the Canadian National Railways and say that something has to be done about the matter. He will be able to tell them that the next time he appears before the House of Commons and this matter comes up he must be in a position to give a more reasonable and concrete answer to the house than has been given up to date. If for no other reason than that I hope we are not going to take the weak attitude we have taken in the past and withdraw this motion. This discussion should not be looked upon as a gesture to the constituencies from which the hon. members come who have raised the matter. We should show that we mean business on it.

I am not going to talk this matter out. Five minutes remain, and I presume the hon. member for St. Mary wishes to close the debate, but I would follow other hon. members and suggest to him that he do not withdraw this motion at the present time. Let us tell the Minister of Transport that we mean business and we are giving him an ultimatum to go to the people concerned, when he has to discuss this matter, and get an answer back to this House of Commons when this matter comes up again.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Question.

(Translation):

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
LIB

Hector Dupuis

Liberal

Mr. Hector Dupuis (St. Mary):

Mr. Speaker, I believe that I have the right to reply in order to explain part of my speech and complete remarks that may have been wrongly interpreted by the house. I believe that is my privilege to do so.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Does the hon. member

wish to give a few explanations and perhaps conclude by withdrawing his motion?

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Question.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
LIB

Hector Dupuis

Liberal

Mr. Dupuis:

Now, Mr. Speaker, I asked you a question. In my humble opinion, I have the right to explain certain points that may have been misinterpreted by members of the house. No hon. member has a right

to call me to order or ask me to withdraw my motion or vote on the motion. It is your duty to rule on the point I am raising. I am not as great a parliamentarian as all these people who want to make a ruling on the point. It is within your province to state whether, in accordance with the rules of the house, I am entitled to continue my remarks and give explanations pertaining to the motion I have submitted today. I am awaiting your ruling.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink
LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

The hon. member asks

whether he has the right to do a certain thing. Now, the Speaker rules on the various points of order as they arise. A member should not ask questions of the Speaker from his seat in the house.

In rising the hon. member stated that he wanted to give further information about some important parts of his speech which may have been misinterpreted in the discussion that followed. He has the right to do so. I would call his attention to citation 235 of Beauchesne, third edition, which states that a member who has heard certain parts of his speech misinterpreted by hon. members taking part in the debate may rise and give explanations.

(Text):

It may be fair that I should explain the point raised by the hon. member. It is to the effect that certain material parts of the speech he gave have not been interpreted correctly by hon. members who have followed in the discussion. He asked me whether he

Bridges

was in order in explaining these points. I told him that it was not proper for a member to ask questions of the Speaker from the floor, that the Speaker settled points of order as they arose.

On the point that a member may correct parts of his speech that have been misunderstood or misinterpreted, I quoted to the hon. member citation 235 at page 101 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, third edition, which is to the effect that:

A member who, during a debate, has spoken to a question may again be heard to offer explanation of some material part of his speech which has been misunderstood; but he must not introduce new matter . . .

And so on. That is the very matter which the hon. member brought to my attention, and that is the explanation I gave him.

Since it is six o'clock the hon. member will have to continue his remarks at a later date.

Topic:   BRIDGES
Subtopic:   VICTORIA AND JACQUES CARTIER
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF TOLLS
Permalink

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Before the house rises may we have the order of business for tomorrow?

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Permalink
LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Harris:

We shall take up the resolutions indicated by me on the closing night before Christmas, namely the resolution with respect to the Quebec battlefields, the Post Office Act and then the housing bill.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Permalink
PC
LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Harris:

In that order.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Permalink

At six o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order.



Thursday, January 14, 1954


January 13, 1954