June 9, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)


Although the hon. Minister of Finance is going to keep the item over, probably, as we have commenced the discussion of it, it might be as well to say what we have to say to-day. I acknowledge, in the first place, the difficulties of establishing a satisfactory service with the West Indies. They have been greater probably than they are now. It may be that the late changes in the sugar business, in its aspect towards the governments in Europe, has made the conditions a little more favourable in that one direction, but favourable as they may be made in that way there are some very great difficulties in having a satisfactory line and establishing a satisfactory commerce with the West Indies. We have to take that in as the first idea, but right alongside of that we ought to put this idea : I do not know that there is any section of the world with which we ought to be, comparatively speaking more anxious to establish and sustain a good trade than with the West Indies. For various reasons. They form a counterpart to our temperate and cooler zones, they are kindred countries and the future may hold within its possibilities a union between Canada and these British West Indies of some kind or another, and ought to hold without doubt the possibility of closer and better trade relations as between the two. So, we ought not to be discouraged by difficulties to the point of discontinuing Mr. A. A. WRIGHT.
a service which does not seem to be as satisfactory7 as it might be. On the other hand you must take this into consideration : We give now $132,000 or $133,000 a year as a subsidy7. Everybody will admit that it is better to give a larger amount for a proper service with the view7 of establishing something which shall be self-supporting, or which will gradually grow7 to be selfsupporting than fritter away7 the very large sum of $130,000 a year and make a fair or reasonable progress towards a self-supporting service. Therefore, it would not be unreasonable to offer a larger amount for a proper service which would stimulate trade, w7hich would gather legitimate trade between the two countries wffiich is now carried by the United States of America and make the service self-sustaining in the end.
I think w7e ought to very carefully look over the whole matter. I do not want to find fault w7ith any department, but I know w'hat most of the departments chronically suffer from. They get into routine habits; w7e vote the money and they pay it out, and not very much activity is displayed towards bettering or even keeping track of these services. We are paying out over $2,000,000 yearly on steamship subsidies of this kind, and earlier in the session I found on inquiry that the Department of Trade and Commerce could not give to the House a statement of wTiat is done in the way of traffic by these different lines to which we are paying so much of the country's money every year. I made a plea then that the department should keep its hand on every subsidized service and be prepared to lay on the table of the House a report as to what these steamship services were doing in the way of developing trade, especially with a view7 of ascertaining w7hether it is ever possible to make themselves sustaining or whether the money had not better be given towards some prospective self-sustaining services. We cannot discuss this matter intelligently now ; w7e do not know the amount of commerce carried on between Canada and particular ports in the West Indies so that we may determine whether some of these that are useless should not be cut out. What I am pleading for is, that we should have a thorough supervision, so that parliament could have from the department all the information possible with regard to the expenditure of this $2,000,000. You cannot carry on such a service between Canada and a tropical country like the West Indies unless you have modern machinery in your vessels. Outside of salt fish, you may say that almost everything we export to the West Indies is of a perishable nature. Any one w7ho has been in the West Indies know7s how quickly things perish there, not only to satisfy the capacious appetites of the coloured population but from the efforts of the torrid heat. We will find it a very hard task with slow- vessels and no

refrigerating machinery to do any kind of a decent trade with the West Indies. If it is worth while doing this it is worth doing well, and if we do it well we must pay for it. Sooner or later I want to see every one of these services self-sustaining, or cut off. I have had a talk with Mr. Pickford, not to any very great extent ; my hon. friend has had all Mr. Pickford's figures and has gone through them. I understand the point of view of the contractors and they have a great deal in their favour, but I hope the minister will not make any change at present. I would suggest something like this : Let us utilize the good common sense we have in this country. If the department would gather together representatives of the Board of Trade of St. John Halifax, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and the western cities, and go into this whole question either here or in Montreal, with a view of solving how best we can increase our trade with the West Indies, I think good v ould result. That is the first point; there is another point which ought to come subsidiary to that hut which very often has taken precedence of it, and that is the question. Can anything be done for a particular town or particular city ? I confess to a weakness with regard to particular cities just the same as other people, but the prime idea should be as to what is best to make greater the commerce of the entire country. Then, as far as you can, utilize such place as will best suit that plan. But I do not think we should lean altogether to the sentimental idea in reference to a city which wants a steamship service. The department should next year keep its hand on this and other services and find out exactly what we are doing ; which are the ports that give most return and what they give, and then in this conference of level-headed and wideawake business men a conclusion could be come to as to the service between Canada and the West Indies which would be best adapted to our needs. If it is impossible for us ever to have a self-sustaining traffic between the two countries, then perhaps we should reconsider our policy. If the conclusion should be arrived at that not only for trade reasons, but for national and imperial reasons we should persevere in this policy, then let us persevere along proper lines! These are some thoughts that have been running through my mind ; I have not given expression to them in the way of captious criticism for I would be very sorry to see the service between Canada and the West Indies fail. Its record has not been as good as it ought to be. There may be some reasons why we have not a larger commerce now than we had 15 years ago, but it is not very encouraging, and it ought make us pause to consider whether or not we can do better.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
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