Hou. Mr. BLAIR.
I understood my hon. friend to convey the idea that they were associated together, and ought to be dealt with at the same time. That is rather in conformity with log-rolling ideas that are sometimes practiced. I have no doubt that the subject will receive the consideration which its claims merit. Before retiring from the department, officers, or experts, or actuaries were engaged making a report on the subject. They had inquired into the system which is in operation upon the Canadian Pacific Railway and upon the Grand Trunk Railway, and these two systems were placed alongside the proposals made by the men themselves. The men sent in a scheme, when they understood the subject was going to be taken up, which they desired the department to consider. I did not think it was comprehensive enough, for reasous which I need not go into. I think they were of the opinion that a much less sum would suffice than I thought was necessary. It always appeared to me that when you are adopting a system of that description it is necessary to deal with a considerable number of old employees, men who have been a long time in the service, and who could not hope by any system of contribution to derive any benefits from that system. They would have to be provided for, therefore, in some reasonable way, and would not come within the scope of that scheme. However, under the circumstances I thought it necessary to have this expert inquiry made. We had persons in our employ, and they are still in the employ of the department, I presume, who are engaged in making this inquiry, and when their work is completed, [ have no doubt the minister will see the advisability of giving the subject his earnest consideration, and of calling the attention of his colleagues to it.
Passing from that matter to the subject immediately before us, I would like to say one word before I sit down. I am more than pleased to see that the proposal to ensure the construction of the bridge across the St. Lawrence river at Quebec, meets with such general favour on both sides of the House. I have been very warmly disposed towards the enterprise myself during all the time I was in the department, and my sympathy with it was owing to the fact that it meant a good deal for the advantage of the government railway system. I did not look beyond that at the moment, not do I think it necessary to look beyond it now, to justify the adoption of a sound scheme. I presume, from all I have heard to the contrary, that
there are no serious objections to this scheme to ensure the construction of the bridge. The extension of the government road to the Georgian bay, which hon. members know has been a pet idea of mine, is one which 1 think would be much strengthened by the construction of the bridge at Quebec. If we are to ensure over Canadian territory and by Canadian seaports the export of our western produce, it will always be necessary and important that this great water-way should be used. In using the water-ways of Canada, we must not lose sight of the port of Quebec as one of the most important to be found anywhere, standing as it does as compared with other important outlets through which this traffic will necessarily have to pass. The better and more adequately you equip that port, the more surely will you guarantee the future use of that port as a gateway for the imports and exports of Canada. As my hon. friend the Minister of Justice suggested, the port of Quebec is only accessible by one railway, but when this bridge is completed, with the splendid equipment with which it will be provided, in conjunction with the railway along the northern shores of the St. Lawrence, the port of Quebec will be second to none, in my opinion, upon this continent. When you provide an adequate and efficient equipment for a great port at the head of deep water navigation of the St. Lawrence, you guarantee that the people who have grain and other produce to ship will be able to do so speedily, and will be afforded economical means of getting their freight across the ocean.
Now there are one or two things which have been said in relation to this matter that I would like to allude to before pitting down. I think it desirable that the contract should contain a clause that, before the option which is referred to here, is exercised, the opinion of parliament should be taken upon it. I understood the Minister of Justice and the acting Minister of Railways to concur in the suggestion. If that suggestion meets with favour, it would be necessary to incorporate it in the agreement. I take it that the present contract is only provisional, and will be made more complete before it is finally signed. But in my judgment, it will be necessary to insert such a clause if the object be that parliament should have a further say upon the matter. The hon. member for King's, N.B. (Mr. Fowler) said that under this arrangement opportunities would be possible for a great deal of private benefit to be realized out of the profits which would accrue from the operation of the bridge. He instanced the case of what is called the St. John Railway and Bridge Company. That bridge, which was constructed across the falls at the city of St. John, was built by a private and incorporated company, and largely built, as he has properly said, by means of a loan made to the company by the Dominion government. There should
be in this contract a clause similar to that which was originally put into the agreement under which that loan was made to this railway and bridge company, namely, that it should be optional with the government at any time, I think also subject to the approval of parliament, to take over that bridge upon paying to the company, or the individual members of the company, the amount of the loan which had been made, with an additional percentage to cover any reasonable claim as probable benefits that would have accrued to those who entered into the contract and carried it out. Well, it so happened that after the lapse of some years, and while that option was a living option, which might be exercised at any time in the future, it was deemed advisable for some reason or other, which reason I cannot state, because I never heard what the reason was, to expunge that clause from the contract, and the result is, that, notwithstanding, as the hon. member for King's has said, individual persons who made small subscriptions have been reaping handsome profits out of the undertaking, the government has no power to retake the property except under the general expropriation power which it possesses. I would hope that if a clause of this kind is inserted in the present agreement, empowering the government at any time in the future, particularly if the property be a paying one, to take it over, it will be accepted.
Subtopic: QUEBEC BRIDGE AGREEMENT.