Mr. A. C. BELL (Pictou).
Mr. Speaker, the importance of this measure will he a sufficient justification for resuming for a short time the discussion of its provisions at this stage of the Bill when it is most proper and convenient to discuss it in its entirety. Generally speaking it must unquestionably be admitted by the people of this country and the members of this House that; ,this is a measure of the very utmost importance. It is really a very great measure. Judging it by its financial character it is very clear that it is the most important measure that has ever been submitted to the parliament of this country by the present administration and one of the most important that has ever ffieen submitted to the Canadian parliament. Hence, it is well at this stage of the proceedings, that is on taking the motion for the second reading of this measure, to discuss it in a manner which would not be proper when we come to consider it in detail in Committee of the Whole House. Now, I should think the first thing that would strike members of this House and the people of this country in considering this measure is its very great extent and the very great burden that, unquestionably, will be imposed upon the finances either of the country, or of the company if it is carried to completion. A transcontinental railway we have achieved already. The building of the Canadian Pacific Railway from the point at which it started, I may say a long way towards the centre of the continent, was a very great work of its kind. Still, this was not an undertaking spanning'the whole continent as this proposition now before the House is. so that, even as compared with the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Transcontinental Railway Bill which the right hon. Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) has proposed to this House is a measure involving a work The SPEAKER.
that is more extensive and even greater than the Canadian Pacific Railway, a work which we all know to have been so much for the general advantage of Canada. We have not been standing still in Canada in the matter of railway construction. While we had the Canadian Pacific Railway with its connections and branches in eastern Canada and particularly its connection with the branch which reaches the Atlantic at St. John, while we had what was in very truth, in its last stages a transcontinental railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a railway uniting the waters of the two oceans, the greater part of which was constructed on Canadian soil, we were not confined to that altogether, because in the Canadian Northern, a road which has been under way for some years, although it did not commence, perhaps, with the ambitious title of a transcontinental railway, nor did its owners and those who were promoting its interests and driving along the project reveal to the people of Canada or to the world, in the first instance, that they proposed to commit themselves to the construction of another transcontinental railway, we have a railway which is very rapidly assuming the character of a transcontinental railway, of the second transcontinental railway line in Canada. It is now approaching Edmonton and has its plans, as I am informed, arranged for the extension of the road from Edmonton to a point on the Pacific somewhere in the vicinity of the point which it is proposed to be reached by the road to be constructed under the Bill now before the House. In eastern Canada the Canadian Northern Railway has large connections and has actually at the present time, as I am informed, reached the port of Quebec, one of the objective points of the great work which it is proposed to accomplish by the Bill now before the House. Hence, we have actually one Transcontinental Railway in full operation and we have another which, with a reasonable amount of assistance on the part of the government, will become a second transcontinental railway at a very early date. That being the case it is a little difficult to explain to the people of this country wherein lies the urgent necessity of providing for what I may call a third transcontinental railway for a people numbering six millions as the right hon. Prime Minister describes the people of this country to be in his opening speech on this subject. It seems, to me that six millions of people might be satisfied with less than three transcontinental railways and it would also seem as if it might be difficult for six millions of people, occupying an enormous extent of territory and only partially and ineffectively occupying that territory, to furnish the business which would properly utilize the means of transportation afforded by three railways of the , class and character of these which we'have been engaged in building and which we are
engaged, in the case of this last measure, m projecting.
The consequence is, that to the people of Canada, the proposition to spend $175,000,000 on the construction of this road, will excite the question : For what purpose
is this road being' built, and is there any urgent necessity that requires the people of Canada at this time, to impose upon themselves this enormous burden ? Now, 1 am proud to be able to say that $175.000,000 is not a crushing burden for Canada, in view of our prosperity and our future prospects. If that sum were expended wisely upon a measure which would furnish adequate returns, such expenditure need not necessarily alarm the people of Canada, no matter how conservative they may be. If it were expended on the national defence ; or expended to guarantee national security ; or expended in order to secure an opportunity that was passing, I would feel warranted in supporting a measure that might imply a cost of even $175,000,000. But, at the same time I would require to have very very strong arguments adduced, io persuade me that such an expenditure should be undertaken for the purpose of constructing what will practically be a third transcontinental railroad in Canada, the advantage of which and the necessity of which at the present moment, is very doubtful indeed.
The most peculiar feature of this measure is, that while it imposes this enormous obligation upon the people of Canada, it does it in such a way that the property to be constructed, passes out of the hands of the Canadian people, and into the hands of a private corporation. That being so, we are naturally disposed to inquire, what is the relative magnitude of such a sum as $175,000,000. Let us remember that the tola] net debt of Canada is about $250,000,000. and that this net debt represents every dollar of indebtedness that has been accumulated in British North America ; from the time the first white man placed his foot on the soil ; that it includes the debts of all the provinces that had been contracted previous to confederation and the debts that have been contracted by Canada since confederation ; that in fact it m a debt that has been accumulated during a period extending over hundreds of years. Therefore when we come to compare the net debt of Canada with the sum which it is proposed to expend by the right hon. gentleman's measure, it will be seen that the building of this line of railway entails an expenditure, equal to about three-fourths of all the obligations that have been contracted by all the provincial governments, and by the Dominion government, from the very first settlement of the country to this date : less such deductions as have been made by the sinking fund. It will be
seen, therefore, that even though the country is prosperous, it is an enormous obligation to assume. Nothing but the most absolute certainty that the measure is urgently necessary, and that it is sure to be of great value to the country, would justify us in proceeding with it. I regret to say that the reasons that have been advanced ii' support of this measure are such, as would fail to convince any reasonable person that the construction of this work, at this time, is necessary or that it is likely in the near future to remunerate this country for the expenditure that it will necessitate. Last year, when the right hon. gentleman introduced this measure, he mentioned certain reasons which he said were of national importance, and which partook of the character of urgency. The right hon. gentleman, with the utmost degree of earnestness, announced that every hour of delay, almost every moment of delay was dangerous. His argument was that this measure would preserve us from a source of great danger to our commercial interests by the possible suspension of the bonding privilege. He left the impression on the House, and on the country, that in his opinion the bonding privilege was liable to sudden interruption ; and that the friendly arrangements which had existed between the United States and Canada for many years, might at any moment be severed, fi did not strike me at the time that the right hon. gentleman had made out a good case. We all know that this bonding privilege is a great source of convenience ; that it exists as an instance of the comity of nations, which results to the wellbeing and advancement of both. It occurred to me, that there could be no danger that the privilege that was extended to us by the United States, was in any immediate danger of being interrupted. I could indeed see a great many reasons which induced me to think that there was no such danger. This privilege had existed uninterruptedly for a great number of years. We had reason to believe that the enormously important and valuable privilege enjoyed by the citizens of the United States in trading to the ports of the West Indies, was enjoyed entirely in consequence of the fact that they maintained these friendly relations with us, and allowed our vessels to come into their ports and allowed our goods to be transported across United States territory.
I observe that my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) does not entirely agree with me in this matter, but I think i may be able, although I am not at present provided with the authorities, to recall to his notice a convention which existed under which the privilege of trade on equal terms was guaranteed. Then again there is the unquestioned fact that the bonding privilege is of enormous value to the people of the United States. The men of the New England cities
to-day are commercially and politically the most influential community in the United States. On every occasion when there has been any proposition to interrupt the friendly relations between Canada and the United States, we have found the. merchant classes of Boston and the New England States awake to the fact that nothing could be more injurious to them than an interruption of these privileges. Then we know that over the Canada Southern Railway which is now under the control of the Michigan Central an enormous traffic is carried which enables us to measure the tremendous advantages the people of the United States enjoy under the bonding privilege, and the great benefit to the merchants of Boston and the New England cities of being able to have their freight hauled over that air line. All these things being considered, it struck me that there was not very great danger of the interruption of the bonding privilege. But still it was only becoming that 1 should keep in mind the fact that there might be reasons known to the right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) which were not known to me or to the House. Owing to 'his position as leader of the gevern-meut of Canada he is in immediate and close communication with the home government and must know of matters affecting the foreign office, matters that are of importance in connection witli the relations between the people of the United States and Canada. Perhaps at the very moment the right hon. gentleman was speaking he may have had knowledge which led him to believe that in the Alaska botmdary question, which was not then settled, there were matters which might set up unfriendly feeling and lead to the repeal of the bonding privilege. If that were so-and I was not disposed to shut my eyes to the fact that these conditions might exist-strong as were the reasons that induced me a year ago to think there was no danger of the interruption of the bonding privilege, by so much stronger are they to-day when I remember that the only source of possible trouble between the governments bas been removed. Consequently it seems to me tbe right hon. gentleman himself in view of tbe fact that another year has passed without any sign of the people of the United States wishing to abandon the bonding privilege must see that his argument of the urgency of this matter is not one which should influence the members of this House or of tbe country. Tbe bon. gentleman laid stress last year upon the want of railway facilities in tbe west, and he stated the people of tbe west were injured and hampered in their business, subjected to inconvenience, and he supposed to a certain measure of loss, on account of insufficient railway connection. Having visited the west and having obtained all the information I could from members from that country who can speak with adequate information, it appears to me that there is no Mr. BELL.
immediate necessity for the construction of another line of road. We know that during the two years preceding the introduction of this measure by tbe hon. gentleman in 1903, there had been a great many complaints from the west as to the inadequate facilities for moving goods into the west and more particularly for the carriage of grain from the west eastward. While that was true for the two years preceding the introduction of this measure, it would seem that the inconvenience which existed in the west was not caused by the need of more miles of railway, but by the want of roiling stock on the existing lines. I am not going to say at all that there are not many hundreds of men, possibly some thousands, who are further from a railway line than they would like to be, but these men would be served not so much by tbe construction of another trunk line as by tbe extension of branch lines now in existence or proposed. I believed then and I believe now that witli sufficient rolling, stock upon these lines all the crops could be handled not only this year but for some years to come. The result of this last year has gone to show that this opinion was correct. JThere has been no complaint during the past year of difficulty in moving the crop as rapidly as it should be removed.
Mr. MeCREARY. It was a very light crop.