November 18, 1949 (21st Parliament, 1st Session)


Lester Bowles Pearson (Secretary of State for External Affairs)


Hon. L. B. Pearson (Secretary of State for External Affairs):

I am sorry; I did overlook answering that question last night. I assure the hon. member it was not a deliberate omission on my part. I am in a position to say to him that the government is of course interested in any transportation development in the northwest which will bring that part of our country in closer contact with Alaska, not only for strategic reasons but for development reasons as well. The government has already surveyed the possibility of extending the railway line from British Columbia to Alaska. The difficulties in that connection

Supply-National Defence of course are obvious. They are largely financial. I would remind the hon. gentleman that during the war the United States military authorities made a survey for a light military railway which would cover the same territory, and I believe the estimated cost was about $112 million. At this time a standard gauge railway would cost probably well over $200 million. Existing transportation facilities are not overtaxed-that is, sea-rail and road-rail-so there would undoubtedly be a substantial deficit for many years, running possibly to $50 million per year.
It is true that a bill has been passed by congress providing for a survey and authorizing the President of the United States to get in touch with the Canadian government with a view to making that survey. It is also true, I understand, that no appropriation has been passed for this purpose, which means it may be difficult for the United States government to take the action recommended in the bill. If and when that action is taken, and the United States government approaches the Canadian government about this survey, the government will naturally be glad to discuss the matter.

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