March 16, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)



Resolution 15 (Mr. Cas-grain) dropped. Resolution 16 (Mr. Parent) stands.
That, in the opinion of this House, work on the Hudson Bay railway which was commenced in 1910 and continued to the end of 1918 should be resumed as early this year as possible, and the project completed without any further delay.
He said: Mr. Speaker, you will recollect that in 1911 an important election campaign was fought in Canada. The main issue during that compaign was the question of reciprocity. In the West, however, there were a few other questions which were very important, in fact not much less im-

portant, than the issue alluded to. These were the transfer to the Prairie Provinces of their natural resources, and the completion of the Hudson Bay railway which at that time had been started. Owing to the fact that the Conservative party at that time were not prepared to submit a policy upon the question of reciprocity which met with the approval of the western [DOT]eople, they laid particular emphasis upon the other two issues referred to and gave them much prominence in their platform and in their speeches. I shall not now discuss the question of the transfer to the provinces of their natural resources; that matter is dealt with in another resolution which stands on the Order Paper in my name. However as to the Hudson Bay railway and its completion, I wish to read a clause or plank in the platform of the Conservative party at that time. It is known as the Halifax platform and clause 3 of the document reads as follows:
Construction of the Hudson Bay railway and its operation by an independent commission.
That was a plank or pledge, in the platform of the late Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden who, during his western tour in that campaign, had this to say about the project.
The Conservative party has been committed to the construction of the Hudson Bay railway since 1896. The road will be built by the next Conservative Administration without one day's unnecessary delay. It will be operated by an independent commission on behalf, and in the interests, of the people, with full control of rates.
It is hardly necessary for me to say, Mr. Speaker, that that pledge has not been implemented, that the road has not been built, and that delays-both unnecessary and otherwise-have taken place. In brief the situation is as follows: For a period of almost half a century the Hudson Bay Railway project has been before the people of Canada. The history of the enterprise is most unique. There never has been, nor is there now, any party or party leader opposed to the undertaking. On the contrary the construction of the railway has been advocated and promised by all political parties and leaders from the time of the government of Sir John A. Macdonald to the present, the only point of disagreement being as to what party or what government could best and most expeditiously construct the road. The feasibility and practicability of the Hudson Bay route was investigated by different expeditions and commissions. Reports were duly presented and on the strength of these the Government of the day, that of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, decided to build the railway and were strongly
supported by the then opposition, under the leadership of Mr. (now Sir) Robert Borden. The work was commenced in 1910. On the change of Government in 1911, operations were stopped pending further investigation by the new Government, and re-commenced in 1912, the announcement then being made that the road would be finished in 1915. The outbreak of the war caused no cessation in operations, in fact the work of construction was even accelerated. Most of the work on the road and nearly all that on the terminals was done in the years, 1915,1916 and 1917. An item of $1,000,000 was in the Estimates of 1918 to complete the road but practically no work was done that year except the small amount to complete the bridge over Kettle rapids.
The war ended in 1918 and so did the work on the railway. The situation was then, and is now, as follows: The grade
is completed from the Pas to Port Nelson, a distance of 424 miles. Steel is laid 332 miles involving the construction of two steel bridges at a cost of over $700,000. The total cost to date is approximately $14,000,000 for the railway, and work on the terminals has cost over $6,000,000. It is necessary to lay only 92 miles of steel to connect the railway with the terminals, and the estimated cost is $1,700,000. And now after all these years, after carrying on the work throughout the war period, after about $21,000,000 has been spent, and just when the end is in sight, it would appear that the Government has abandoned, for an indefinite period, the project to disuse, deterioration and decay while deciding to go on with other public works, mainly in the East, an action that on the face of it passes my comprehension.
This project has been before the people of Canada for over half a century. It came up at the time of the entrance of Manitoba into the Confederation in 1870. I well remember when a very young boy in Winnipeg being interested, as everybody was, in the election campaign of 1887, the candidates there being Hugh Sutherland and William B. Scarth, the latter the candidate of Sir John A. Macdonald's Government. The only question at issue was the construction of the Hudson Bay railway, and the only point of interest to the people was which one of the candidates could best bring about that desired end. The Government of the day made a strong bid for support, and as a result their candidate won out by about twelve votes, I think it was, purely and simply on that issue.
In 1896, before the general election was held, the then leader of the Conservative

party and Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Charles Tupper, had this to say re the proposed construction of the Hudson Bay railway:
I cannot understand why any lion, gentleman should be Induced to denounce and endeavour to hold up to ridicule, as impracticable, a work upon which not only the sentiments of the people of Manitoba and the Northwest are centred to-day as upon no other question, but a work that X believe, having studied it carefully for many years, is of the most vital consequence to the progress and development of that great country. Now, Sir, I have always been recognized in this House as one who believes thoroughly in Manitoba and the Northwest. Indeed, I may say that, in my judgment, the rapid development and progress of Canada as a whole depends more upon the development of that great prairie region between the Red river and the Rocky mountains, than upon any other scheme that can be devised.
All hon. members will recollect the result of that general election. The matter came up in the second session of 1896 by a question from the gentleman who is now member for Springfield (Mr. Richardson), and in reply Sir Wilfrid Laurier said that an investigation would be proceeded with, as it was the duty of the Government to do so, and afterwards the matter would be gone on with at the earliest possible date. That investigation was proceeded with in various ways during the next few years. In 1906 the matter again came up in this House on a resolution by Mr. W. E. Knowles: That in the opinion of this House it is urgently necessary that the Government should take all possible steps for the speedy construction of a railway to the shores of Hudson bay. The hon. Thomas Greenway, speaking to the motion, mentioned the fact that thirty years before he had been a member of a committee that took evidence in this connection. The right hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce (Sir George Foster)-who I am sorry to see has left his seat-had some very pertinent remarks to make on the question at that particular time. He spoke as follows:
With reference to the special one which has been brought up to-day, I believe the time has come-[DOT]
That was in 1907.
-when the Hudson Bay railroad should be more than an academic question, just to be talked of sympathetically. I believe it ought to be built, and it cannot be built now any too soon. I believe the best plan for building it would be to add the sympathy of the Northwest provinces to the sympathy of the Dominion Government as the central power, join all these sympathies together and make the sympathy praotical, and have the road built on fair conditions up to the great northern port of Canada. I think without doubt that the prophecy that was hinted at by the mover

of this resolution, and the sentiment expressed by myself, cannot be held to be true until it is actually put into experiment; but I believe that a four months' season is perfectly feasible for that northern route. If the old Hudson Bay company, a hundred years ago, got their punts in there through the ice and storms, and made their ports with great regularity, and had an average season of between three and four months for a long-period, what can be done with modern foroes of invention, with vessels built of any degree of strength you wish, and with any amount of motive power you want to put into them, in comparison with those early pioneers? So I believe it is perfectly feasible to have an open route there and a commercial route as well for four months and possibly a good deal longer period, if the proper attempts are made for oarrying out the experiment to a practical conclusion.
A little later he said:
The opening up of this route may work as great changes in that section as the Tehuantepec railway which has just been opened across the Mexican peninsula and the Panama canal, ten or twenty years hence when it is completed will work in connection with Atlantic and Pacific trade routes in the central part of this continent. X should like to see Canada get her short line in the north built as quickly as possible, and I believe that it will greatly enhance the value of Canadian products and of Canadian lands and the wealth of the Canadian nation as a whole.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier in that debate said:
I agree with every sentiment which has been uttered here that there could be no difference of interest between the East and the West. What is doing good for the West is doing good for the East, and vice versa.
In 1908 there was what might be called a full dress debate in this House in connection with that resolution. Fourteen hon. members, both of Conservative and Liberal complexion took part in it. The West, of course, was represented, as was also Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and the result of the debate showed the House was practically unanimous in the conclusion that the work should be gone on with. If you permit me, Mr. Speaqer, I shall read a few brief quotations from the speeches made at that time. The gentleman who is now Sir Richard Lake, the late Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan, spoke as follows:
Let me also say that which I think has not been called attention to this evening, namely, this route will be most useful from a military standpoint.
I intended to discuss the question from that standpoint myself, but I am going to let the words of Sir Richard Lake suffice:
Should unhappily we ever be in a state of war in Canada, such a line of railway would be most invaluable to Canada and to the Empire, and it would also be invaluable as affording a safer trade route than any now existing for the food

supplies of the Mother 'Country. Even if we look at It from a certain point of view, it would give us an immense advantage over any rivals we may have in the furnishing of that food supply, because there can be no doubt that the northerly route would be the safest for the transport of food products to the United Kingdom. It would afford a short route also, the shortest of all routes, by which Imperial troops could be quickly and expeditiously and safely conveyed to the Far East. . . . We do not look upon
that as an enterprise in the ordinary acceptation of the term ; we look upon it as an absolute necessity to the continued development of our great provinces in the Northwest.
Mr. A. A. McLean, the then member for Queen's, spoke as follows:
It really seems to me in looking at the map that every man east of the Baie des 'Chaleurs ought to hold up his hand for the construction of a railway to Fort Churchill, provided they are convinced of the navigability of Hudson straits for even five months in the year. The industrial communities of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island would thereby secure easy access to the northern part of this continent for their manufactured products by securing direct water shipment and avoiding the heavy tolls charged on the different railways, while so far as regards the agricultural interests of Prince Edwad Island and Cape Breton, contiguous to the route, there is every reason to suppose that they would be able to find a ready market among our own people for all they have to sell.
Mr. George W. Fowler, then representing King's and Albert, and now in the Senate, and who recently presided over a committee that investigated this project and made the last report in connection therewith, said:
The question of the Hudson Bay railway is a very important question to the people of the West. 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 strongly in favour of the construction of this road.
The late Prime Minister, then Mr. R. L. Borden, made these remarks:
In regard to the general question, the subject is one of intense interest to the people of the West. That perfectly apparent to any gentleman who has gone to the West and who knows how thoroughly the people of Manitoba and the two other provinces are convinced that the Hudson Bay route will give to them an outlet which is absolutely necessary to the full and complete development of their country.
Mr. McCarthy, who then represented Calgary, spoke along the same lines. And I need not read the speech made by Hon. Dr. Roche, who subsequently occupied a position in the Cabinet of Sir Robert Borden. Dr. Schaffner, now Senator Schaffner, who has been a consistent and persistent advocate of this route all along, also spoke to the same effect. I wish to read in this connection an extract from the speech of Mr. J. Herron, of Alberta, Which refers particularly to the benefit that the establishment of such a route would confer on the cattle industry. He said:
I would like, however, to say that one phase of the Hudson Bay route which especially commends lit to the favour of the people of Southern Alberta, lies in the advantage that it will offer In connection with the shipment of cattle from that range country. Our wild Stock raised on the prairies do not take kindly to transportation by rail. It is the long railway journey from Alberta to the sea-ooaist that takes practically the cream off the business of cattle raising on the western plains; and if we had a railroad to Hudson Bay, it would give us the advantage of a shorter railway journey by 1,000 miles. For that reason alone the people of Southern Alberta are (specially interested in the building of that railroad. I would be glad to see the Government take up the question in a practical *way andi carry it to a termination Instead of simply using it for political purposes from year to year, and letting it end' at that. With these remarks I merely wish to state that I will support the resolution.
As I have intimated, we have statements there from six different provinces, all emphatically in favour of this project; and the statements are made by gentlemen on both sides of the political fence.
In 1910 the work was commenced by the Government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier by the construction of a bridge over the Saskatchewan at The Pas. The question, however, again came up in this House in 1911 on motion of Mr. D. B. Neely, then member for Humboldt. I refer to this as I wish to give two or three more quotations, one of which is from the remarks of the Minister of Railways and Canals at that time, the late Hon. Frank Cpchrane-and this is very emphatic and definite:
I want to tell him now that this Government will carry out the promises they made when in Opposition. There has been no change of policy in reference to the building of the Hudson Bay railway... There will be no further delay than is absolutely necessary for the checking up of these surveys.
Sir Robert Borden, then Mr. Borden, Prime Minister, said on that occasion:
We expect to proceed with the construction o>f this road, to ipreceed with it as soon as we can .possibly do so, having regard to what is demanded by the interests of the country both east and west, namely that the very best route shall be selected. *
The only question raised at that time it will he noticed was the checking up of surveys and the location of the route. The House will be interested, I am sure, to hear a quotation in this respect from the remarks of the present Minister of Militia (Mr. Guthrie) on that occasion, he was somewhat doubtful as to the Government's bona fides in the matter. He said:

But the attitude of the present Government with regard to the Hudson Bay railway now appears to be that this road is going to be changed, to be delayed, and perhaps indefinitely postponed. That is not a satisfactory condition of affairs.
If, Mr. Speaker, it was not a satisfactory condition in December 1911, it is certainly no less unsatisfactory at the present time. After the conclusion of the election campaign of 1911 the work was stopped, the reason given being that what had been done by the previous Administration needed investigation, and that the question of the route would have to be looked into further. This was done, and in 1912 the work was recommenced. During 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1917, the war years, the greatest amount of work was done on this road. It has always been difficult for me to understand how it was that when we were straining every effort to bring the war to a successful conclusion the greatest amount of work was done and the most money was spent on this project. I can only explain that by the assumption that the Government thought the war might last a considerable length of time and that it was necessary to get the Hudson Bay railway finished in order that it might furnish one important link in the chain of preparations that were being made for the successful conclusion of the war. A great many people thought that if the Hudson Bay railway had been completed when the war broke out, supplies and reinforcements could have been got over much more quickly and thus have materially assisted in bringing about the desired end. However, without going into the details, I may say that approximately three-quarters of the total amount spent on the project was spent during those years.
In 1918 the Estimates contained an item of $1,000,000 for the completion of the road, and it was intimated at that time that by the use of certain material which the Government had on hand the road could be completed for that amount. At the beginning of 1918 all there was to do before going on with the laying of steel was the finishing of the bridge over the Nelson river at Kettle Rapids which bridge cost approximately $400,000 but the completion of this bridge was all the work that was done that year; the money voted was not expended. Some of us in the House at that time urged that if the work was not completed it should at least be gone on with and the rails laid eighteen miles further on in order to connect up with a couple

of trestles over the Limestone river and thus prevent their being washed out by spring freshets. Nothing, however, was done, and these trestles have since been lost.
In 1919 the opinion began to prevail out in the West that the Government did not intend to go on with the railway, and as everyone out there was interested, resolutions were passed by various public bodies and delegations came down to Ottawa from Provincial Governments from boards of trade, from Municipal Councils, from Grain Growers Associations and other public associations throughout the West. Delegations from the Provincial Governments of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the Winnipeg Board of Trade, the Saskatoon Board of Trade, from Boards of Trade of the Pas, Moosomin, Belford, Yorkton, and other places interviewed the Government. I might say that at this time the western members got together and in a caucus which they held passed a very strong resolution urging on the Government that no further delay be incurred in connection with the completion of this project. I shall not read the resolution in toto; I quote simply a couple of clauses from it:
Therefore, It is resolved that in the opinion of the subscribing members of the House of Commons that to leave the road incomplete is to waste a great part of twenty millions of dollars, and that this and not preceding Governments will be held responsible for such waste.
Further down it says:
That the railway is a national undertaking long overdue and until the enterprise is complete, it will be a disturbing element in western thought and Canadian politics. That the experience gained when in Manitoba the Canadian Pacific monopoly was broken and southern railway connections brought added traffic will be repeated, and the resources to be developed by this railway should assure an increase of traffic on existing systems.
This was signed by all but two of the western members, on all sides of politics who were then present.
To sum up, Mr. Speaker, I may say that the construction of the Hudson bay railway was a plank in the platforms of all the Dominion parties. It was a plank in the platforms of the parties of the western provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. It was supported by all the leaders of both parties from the time it first became a public question until the present, including the present leaders of the three parties in this House; yet in the face of this we have the unsatisfactory condition which exists.

I do not propose to go into the question of the feasibility or the practicability of the route; that would appear to me to be simply a work of supererogation. Investigations have taken place; expeditions have been sent out; evidence has been taken by commissions; committees of this House and of the Senate have reported at different times during these years, all practically with the one result as summed up in the last report of the Senate, which was submitted last year, and which, in epitome, said that the Hudson Bay route was feasible and practicable and urged that it be gone on with. One government commenced the work; another government stopped the work in order to envestigate certain features of the project and the procedure in general. Then, after some delay, the work was again resumed rather briskly, but after a number of years, without any reason whatever being given, the work was stopped.
The West is solid for this project, and I am satisfied that the bulk of opinion in the East is favourable to it. The situation in the East has probably changed, in recent years, and I know personally that newspapers which formerly opposed this project are now in favour of it. There is no reason whatever why the East should oppose it in any way. Some say that the territory through which the Hudson Bay railway passes is a barren waste and the idea of its being an overseas route is impracticable. We well remember however the statements made when the Canadian Pacific railway was under contract and construction in the first instance, how papers in the East said that it would never pay and how they generally ridiculed the idea that there would ever be any settlements on the western plains. The same statements are now being made as regards the Hudson Bay railway and the north country generally, with the same reason. The arguments adduced at the time the work was started are still good. The western plains are still 1,000 or 1,500 miles nearer to the markets of the world by this route than by any other. It provides an additional route, as was argued at that time. It also provides a natural and exclusively Canadian route, as was also argued then. The evidence brought out shows that cargoes can be shipped over that route by rail and water; that return cargoes can be obtained, and that the straits can be navigated. A casual glance at the map will show that Hudson bay is
still in the same position, and it looks as if it were providentially placed there in order to be a great outlet for the products of the West.
Not only are the old arguments good, but since the Hudson Bay railway has been started, additional arguments and reasons for its completion have come to the fore. It is now known that there are in that district resources of which we had not dreamed at the time the Hudson Bay railway was first projected. And the bay itself is an important asset. A few years ago the Timiskaming and Northern Ontario railway was projected and constructed by the Ontario Government to tap the clay belt in northern Ontario. By means of that railway, discoveries have been made which have put Ontario on the map as a mining country, and the benefits of that railway cannot be overestimated. Some such situation as that may occur, in fact is taking place, with regard to the Hudson Bay railway. There is, within fifteen miles from Mile 82 on the railway an important gold deposit which is rapidly coming into prominence and which may yet take its place as a producer alongside that famous district of northern Ontario. I might say also, to give another instance of what the Hudson Bay railway has done for that northern territory, that one of the engineers on the railway, along with a companion in the year 1915, while on a prospecting expedition in that territory, discovered a body of copper sulphide ore from which 26,000 tons have already been shipped to Trail, B.C., at an expense of approximately $50 per ton, the amount realized being over $100 per ton. Thus it was, that the Mandy mine was discovered and brought to the attention of the public. Within a few miles of that mine, there is a deposit of copper, a similar sulphide ore, not nearly so valuable per ton, but much more extensive, which after two or three years of diamond drilling at an expense of probably half a million dollars, has proven up to the extent of sixteen to twenty million tons of an average value of eight to ten dollars per ton. These are a few items showing the situation with reference to the mineral resources up in that country.

Topic:   QUEBEC RIOTS OF 1918
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