February 27, 1911 (11th Parliament, 3rd Session)


George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)



The bridge might fall down once and a hundred lives be lost and five or six million dollars' worth of property might be destroyed; then the company responsible, might erect the bridge, profiting by their sad experience. But that would not restore lost lives. We must have safety in the erection, so that there will be no other calamity. I impressed that on the board, and they have made that one of the chief features of their discussions, and one of the chief requirements. I do not know what else I can say to my hon. friend. Every precaution has been taken. When this project was brought before the House by myself, shortly after coming into the government, I made a statement to the House, when I asked them to pass an Act to take over this work, on what lines I would try to have the bridge reconstructed. I admit now that I little knew the difficulties I was facing in attempting the reconstruction of the bridge, it is such an enormous undertaking. It may be, that I had the enthusiasm of youth, in thinking I would accomplish everything in a short space of time. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that I am going to accomplish the reconstruction of this Quebec bridge in a safe and sure way, but it is taking a great deal longer time than I expected. Scientific men tell me that I should not be discouraged, that the country should not be discouraged, at the slowness with which we are progressing. For some months we have been feeling our way, and testing it at every step. I believe that is the proper thing to do, and I rather encourage them to take their time and not to hurry, because we must make a success of the bridge, no matter if it does take a few years longer.
Now I said to the House at that time, that I would appoint prominent engineers, men of reputation, and place in their hands the entire responsibility for the

plans, and in addition, the responsibility for the construction of the bridge on the plans. An order in council was passed, embodying those ideas. Under that order in council, Mr. Vautelet, of Montreal, a very prominent and able man, was appointed chairman and chief engineer; Mr. Fitz-mauriee, of London, England, who was associated with Sir Edmund Baker, on the Forth bridge, was appointed as another; and Mr. Modjesba, of Chicago, a very eminent bridge engineer, and a member of the American Society of Engineers, was appointed the third man. They proceeded to prepare the plans, and as I have pointed out, they have differed at various times. Mr. Fitzmaurice, some months ago, I think about the close of last session, intimated to me that he would like to resign his position. He gave two reasons, one was his health, and the other was, that he did not approve of the plans being prepared by the chairman, and thought they could be improved on. After returning from the west I accepted Mr. Fitzmaurice's resignation, one of my chief reasons being, that we were coming to the point where some practical work had to be done in connection with accepting the contracts, and we ought to have a man who could pay more attention to the work and be at the meetings more regularly. His resignation was accepted; and I looked around to find a man to replace him, and I believe I have found a first class men. I went to New York, and discussed the matter with several men, and I heard about Mr. Charles Macdonald, an expresident of the American Society of Engineers, a man who was born, I think, in Leeds county-which is certainly nothing to his detriment-who had been a bridge engineer for many years, engaged in construction, who was afterwards, I think, associated with the American Bridge company, a very successful bridge builder, and engineer, so successful that he had acquired a competence, and is now living in Ganano-que, practically retired. When I went to New York, I was aware that Mr. Macdonald had returned, and was living in Gana-noque. But it seemed to be the universal opinion among the engineers with whom 1 spoke, and of Mr. Vautelet as well, that if I could secure the services of Mr. Charles Macdonald, I would be getting one of the foremost authorities in bridge construction on this continent. Mr. Macdonald, for reasons that are obvious, was not anxious to join the board. He is in a position where he does not have to work any longer, and it took a good deal of persuasion on my part, before he would consent. Finally he took this position: If I can assist this great project, I have such a pride in my old home, and have such a strong Canadianism in my nature, that I will sacrifice myself for a little while, and
give up some of my time, in order to work out this problem. Mr. Macdonald did not know what the remuneration was to be,-I believe he would have consented to act without remuneration-and I consider Mr. Macdonald's motive in coming practically out of retirement, to assist in this work, is a patriotic one exclusively, and that there is no mercenary motive in his act. Now he has been giving attention to this work. As I said, he is a great authority on bridge work. I think nearly a year ago, Mr. Vautelet, in conversation with me, suggested that he believed when the time came for the construction of the bridge-he did not put it just in that way, but that was the essence of what he said-he would feel like retiring. It has been a most trying work for him, and trying on others as well. I thought I had induced him to remain at a recent meeting I had with the board in New York, and I was congratulating myself that Mr. Vautelet would remain as chief engineer. The design prepared by the chairman of the board was his design, he is strongly in favour of it, and believes it is the better design. There was some disagreement as to the design, and he took the position later-that under the conditions existing, he would resign and his formal resignation was handed in. It is possible he would have continued in his desire to resign any way-even if his design had been selected. Among the engineers, I believe it is held that the man who makes a design is the best man you can get to erect the design, because he has faith in his structure, and knows all about it, knows what he is doing, and is more competent perhaps, than any other engineer to successfully complete what he started out to do. I might say that Mr. Macdonald accepted appointment only until the contract is let.

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