January 22, 1969 (28th Parliament, 1st Session)


Robert Simpson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Simpson:

I am sure anyone checking with officials of the National Harbours Board will learn that Churchill has the reputation of being the most efficient port in Canada in turning around ships and in loading and unloading them. Churchill on many occasions has been declared the most efficient port in Canada; yet grain shipments through that port are not being increased to the extent they ought to be. Perhaps the minister may produce figures showing that Churchill had a record year this past year. The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Lang) lauded the government for the grain traffic handled by the port of Vancouver. I wish he were here to tell us why grain shipments through Churchill have been decreasing each year. Is the government being influenced by some who are lobbying on behalf of other Canadian ports? A port of Montreal official, J. C. Bourguignon, secretary of the Montreal Port Council, made a statement in 1965 which has been repeated many times. He called government promises to increase freight shipments through Churchill "electioneering", adding that he could hardly believe that could happen "without consultation between the federal government and eastern port managers". He went on to say:
The council has strongly opposed any move to increase the use of Churchill because it is an artificial enterprise opened due to the war. We don't mind the status quo, but we'll rise up against any government plan to increase its use.

[DOT] (1:30 a.m.)
Considering the need for us to modernize grain handling facilities across Canada and remembering what Montreal port officials are saying about Churchill, it seems that those Montreal officials as well as others are influencing the government to hold the line on shipments through Churchill. There are many reasons for saying this and bringing this matter to the attention of the house because, just to quote a few figures, storage charges at the Churchill elevator are six cents a bushel for nine months while storage charges at other terminals are nine cents for nine months. It costs 12 cents a bushel to take wheat from Saskatoon to Churchill, and 27 cents a bushel to take wheat from Saskatoon to Montreal, pointing up the fact that it is much cheaper to ship it out of Churchill than out of any other port in Canada from the Churchill designated area of grain shipment in western Canada.
I would also like to point out that on June 20, 1966, the day the first Russian wheat sale was announced, the price of No. 2 wheat at Montreal was $2,205 a bushel, and the same day the price of No. 2 wheat at Churchill was $2.13 a bushel, a difference of seven cents a bushel. This means that it is not only cheaper to ship wheat out of Churchill than it is out of these other ports but it is also cheaper for the purchaser to buy it. There is a saving for the purchaser and for the farmer. These are only some of the reasons why the port of Churchill should be considered in the improvement which hon. members think is so necessary for our grain handling facilities across Canada.
There is also talk about the shipping season at Churchill. It should be extended and there are various ways in which it could be extended. A report I have here says that in 1927 the McLean Commission spent a season on the Hudson Bay route and reported that there could be a shipping season of 120 days without the assistance of icebreakers. Today, 42 years later, we have only 88 days. So the extension of the shipping season at Churchill to not less than 120 days is a definite requirement if we are going to improve our grain handling facilities in western Canada.
Along with that there should be marine rates of insurance available for the port of Churchill comparable with those available at other ports. To this end immediate consideration should be given to the use of the new Alexbow-Hammerhead and Gibson icebreaker systems. Members of the government should
January 22, 1969

know what I am talking about because the government has a considerable financial interest in the Alexbow itself. Incidentally, the Minister of Transport (Mr. Hellyer) did not even know the name of it when I brought it to his attention.
Mr. Scott Alexander, the inventor of the Alexbow, has told me personally that the port of Churchill would be mush easier to keep open with the Alexbow than any of the St. Lawrence ports in the wintertime, and he sees no reason whatever, if he is given the opportunity, that he could not take a barge in from an eastern seaport to Churchill in midwinter-January, February, or any time you wish to mention.
I am not advocating that next year or the year after the port of Churchill should be kept open during wintertime, but I am advocating that the port of Churchill could be kept open for a much greater length of time if the government would take action to see that it is kept open. I again refer to my belief that the government is listening too closely to shipping interests in other Canadian ports. In 1905 and 1910 ships were coming into the port of Churchill after the middle of November without the aid of icebreaking equipment, without any radar and without lighthouse services. So there is no reason in the world that this port cannot be kept open much longer each season.
One other facility that should be located at the port of Churchill-and this is something the government should look into-is a pilot boat in order that pilot services can be rendered at all times regardless of weather conditions because the present pilot boat is not suitable for all weather conditions. There should also be an increase in the storage capacity over the present 5 million bushel capacity to 10 million bushels. The larger ships are now capable of loading up to one million bushels and therefore the present storage of 5 million bushels is not sufficient to guarantee there will be sufficient grain at the port at all times. The additional storage capacity would also make it possible to carry stocks of other types of grain besides wheat in addition to providing for more grains of each type.
In conclusion I would say to the minister and members of the treasury benches that a good look should be taken at this port. They will recall that a few years ago some sales were made to Czechoslovakia and representatives of that government came to Ottawa to talk with representatives of this government
or their predecessors. Every assurance was given to me in the house at that time that those representatives from Czechoslovakia would be made fully aware of the facilities at Churchill and the savings they could enjoy by taking their grain out of Churchill.
I am not in a position to make the charge that this information was not given to them. But Mr. Jim Gray, the secretary-treasurer of the Hudson Bay Route Association, in talking to these Czechoslovakian representatives was told they never received this information. We did clear up the situation when the Russian sales were made by Canada because these people were in the gallery and I had the opportunity of telling them there was the opportunity of shipping through Churchill.
[DOT] (1:40 a.m.)

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