April 7, 1908 (10th Parliament, 4th Session)


George William Fowler

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEO. W. FOWLER (Kings and Albert).

Mr. Speaker, I must congratulate the House upon the very lively interest they seem to take in this very important question-I think it would require some stretch of imagination on your part to see a quorum in the House at this moment. That is regrettable. This is a question of great importance not only to the west but to the east as well. And notwithstanding the insinuation made by the hon. member that the east does not take the interest it should in western questions, I must say that the eastern part of Canada has in every case shown a very great interest in the west and all that pertains to the west. Sacrifices have been made ; they were not deemed sacrifices because of the overpowering interest which the east had in the west. From the very foundation of our confederation, the eastern provinces of Canada have been interested in the west. We in the maritime provinces do not fix the western boundary of Canada at the St. Lawrence river, nor do the older provinces ns a whole fix their boundary at the great lakes. We extend our boundary to the Pacific ocean. It was the. dream of that great statesman. Sir John Macdonald, and of the statesmen who surrounded him, as soon as confederation was formed, that the Pacific ocean should be the western boundary and the Arctic ocean the northern boundary of this great Dominion of ours. I say that we of the east are and ought to be interested in the questions of the west. And the question of the Hudson Bay Railway is a very important question to the people of the east and the west. There can be no doubt that the time is not far distant when the means for carrying the products of that great country will be found insufficient, even with the new Transcontinental road which is now under construction. And I do not believe that a more feasible route for a new transportation line can be found than by way of Hudson bay. For my part, though coming from the extreme east, I am very strongly in favour of the construction of this road, and the opening of another outlet for the products of our country. The government that was in power in '1881 had the same idea-I believe it_ was in 1881 that the first order in council was passed in respect to this matter. Then there was to be an alternative route, as has been pointed out. Mr. w. McIntyre.
Changes have been made which have altogether changed the idea of the men who passed that first order in council. As has already been pointed out by the hon. member for Selkirk (Mr. S. J. Jackson) the route that is adopted at the present time going to Erwood and thence by Ee Pas towards Churchill is not the shortest route to Hudson bay. The first route intended, by the order in council, the route that obliges them to pass east of Lake Manitoba, would be, as I understand it, the shortest route between Portage la Prairie and Churchill. I was somewhat amused at the statement made by the hon. member for Portage la Prairie (Mr. Crawford) that, as far back as 1885, by order in council, the Minister of the Interior was given power to place this land grant where he pleased. I can understand how hon. gentlemen opposite after the assertions we have already made with respect to the conduct of this government regarding land grants for railways, would make very strenuous efforts to get out of the hole in which they were placed by the conduct of this government toward this particular railway proposition. They have stated again and again that not an acre has been given by this government as land grant. But they are met with the statement that the government revived a land grant, which was the same as giving it originally, because the grant had expired, and they were not obliged to renew it. And not only had the grant expired, but the object for which it was given had expired, the object being a railway to Hudson bay and they had changed the route so that the object no more existed than did the grant itself. They revived the land grant for another purpose. Not only did they revive the grant, but they increased tremendously the area from which it was to be selected, so as to allow the company to choose land not necessarily more fertile, but infinitely more valuable by reason of the large settlement that had already taken place in the vicinity. My hon. friend from Portage la Prairie says they were authorized to do this by reason of the order in council which was passed by the Conservative government in 1885. Now the only section which gives the Minister of the Interior any discretion with respect to where these lands should be located is section 7. I have a certified copy of the order in council before me. The sections preceding sections 7 state in detail where these lands shall be taken from; section 7 goes on to say :
And any deficiency in the area of the land which the company may be entitled to receive arising on account of any portion of land hereinbefore described being occupied by actual settlers

Mark the condition:
-establishing legal rights thereto or which might be set apart by the government for Indians under any treaty, or arising from

any other cause, of which the Minister of the Interior shall be the sole judge, shall be made up from such lands as the Minister of the Interior may from time to time designate.
That is the deficiency shall be made up. But there are some eight and three-quarter million acres of land from which the selection shall be made, provided for by the preceding sections. We find that instead of confining themselves to the lands originally set aside for the purpose of selection they go over 200 miles west of that to the extreme western boundary of the province of Saskatchewan. I have here a map which shows that and you will observe, Mr. Speaker, just how far they have gone from the area originally set apart. This was done not because there was not suflicient land of good quality, ' fairly fit for settlement,' in the terms of the order in council, but because settlement had already taken place in this particular district and those lauds were very much more valuable and much more saleable on that account. So gentlemen who had this railway to build were able to get 6,400 acres of the best land in the country in districts in which there already was settlement in sections not set apart. $6 an acre would be a fair value for this land and on 6,400 acres this would make a very acceptable subsidy indeed. in addition to the $40,000 a year for 20 years which was also guaranteed for the construction of this road. Such a good thing was this, so valuable were these concessions to the Canadian Northern Railway, that they were not particular whether they observed the desire to cover the distance between the two points in the most direct way; they did not care how much the line varied from the straight because the variation would simply increase the amount they were to receive. I have here a map which shows the line, and you will observe how it is constructed. Did anybody ever see such a wobbly straight line as that? Every wave in that line cost this country from $250,000 to $500,000. Those were expensive wobbles, but you see the longer the distance the more land they get. In Manitoba they got 6,400 acres a mile and outside of that province 12,800 acres a mile. The actual distance they made in the journey to Hudson bay would be only 150 miles, but they had journeyed 320 miles in order to make that 150 miles. This was done because they were getting 6,400 acres per mile and were allowed to select that from the very best lands in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Taking the 12,400 acres allowed in Saskatchewan at $6 per acre, they would receive $75,000 a mile for building this road. It seems to me that this is a matter for which this government deserves the censure of the people of Canada. They have taken from the public lands, the public domain of this country, land to aid a company in the construction of what is simply a local line.
Then they have the nerve to stand up here and say they have never alienated one acre of the public lands of this country. My hon. friend from Macdonald (Mr. Staples) might have added one or two other items to the list he gave of savings which the government could have made to procure funds for the building of this road to Hudson bay. He might have suggested that the government could have used the $5,000,000 or $6,000,000 that to-day lie at the bottom of the St. Lawrence river in the ill-fated Quebec bridge. If this had been devoted to the Hudson bay road it would have fairly well built the line from Le Pas to Hudson bay. It would have been much better for the country if it had been used for that purpose.
While this discussion has been mostly carried on by western members, it seems to me that at least one eastern man should state to the House that so far as he was entitled to speak for the east the east was in favour of anything which would make to the betterment of conditions in the western country.

Full View