Mr. D. King Hazen (Saint John-Albert):
This motion, Mr. Speaker, enables me to bring to the attention of the government a grievance that many people in my constituency have put up with for a good many years. It would be perhaps more correct for me to call this an inconvenience rather than a grievance. It has to do with the fact that there is no bridge across the harbour of Saint John connecting the west part of the city with the east part of the city. A bridge of this kind has been needed for many years. In fact, the Right Hon. R. B. Bennett proposed to construct this bridge. He had already rebuilt the docks and the elevators at west Saint John after a most disastrous fire but he was prevented from going on with this work by the world-wide depression which took place at about that time and continued for a good many years.
At the present time the connection between the east and the west side of the harbour is provided either by a ferry boat, which is inconvenient, or by a rather long roundabout route that crosses the bridge over the Reversing falls at the mouth of the river St. John and then passes through the parish of Lancaster to the west side of the city.
It is my purpose tonight to advocate the construction of this bridge. This bridge would shorten the distance between the west part of the city, where most of the ocean docks and terminals are situated, and the eastern part of the city where most of the business of the community is carried on. It would help to develop the freight business of the Canadian National Railways. It would be a matter of great convenience to the residents and the port workers who reside in both parts of the city, and it would help promote the business interests of the community.
The cost of such a bridge, it has been estimated recently by a reliable engineer, would be about $3,500,000. I regard $3,500,000 as a lot of money. I have never advocated in this house the spending of the taxpayers' money unless I have been convinced that the expenditure is justified on economic grounds, or that it is for the general good of Canada. But from the inquiries I have made I have come to the conclusion that this bridge would pay for itself if tolls were imposed for its use.
At the present time the Canadian National Railways pay forty cents per ton to switch their freight from their terminals on the eastern side of the harbour over the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge that crosses the mouth of the river to the docks and terminals in west Saint John. I am informed that the Canadian National Railways handle approximately 300,000 tons of freight a year. I am informed that a Canadian National Railways
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Saint John Harbour Bridge traffic expert has stated that if the harbour bridge were constructed the freight tonnage on the Canadian National Railways would be doubled in about five years.
The town planning commission of the city of Saint John made a traffic count last month and found 5,972 vehicles in one day passed to and fro between west Saint John and east Saint John or Saint John proper. These trucks and cars would in the ordinary course of events use this bridge if it were constructed.
At the present time the city of Saint John is losing about $75,000 a year in the operation of the ferry boat which crosses the harbour, and it will not be long before it will be necessary for the city to construct a new boat at a cost of about $500,000.
Then the transportation company of the city-that is the company which runs the buses between Saint John and west Saint John-could get along with three buses less than they use at the present time if the bridge were built and the long roundabout route it is forced to use now was eliminated. The company says that it costs between $15,000 and $18,000 a year to operate one of these buses.
What does all this add up to? If the figures that I have been given are correct, as I have reason to believe they are, it means that a bridge that would cost $3,500,000 would pay for itself.
Let me give the figures. First, as to the annual charges: interest at 3J per cent on $3,500,000 would amount to $122,000. Maintenance at 1 per cent would amount to $35,000. Depreciation at 2 per cent would amount to $70,000. Therefore the total annual charges would be $227,000.
As to the revenues, if the Canadian National Railways used this bridge to the extent of hauling 600,000 tons of freight-and that is the estimated amount within a few years- at twenty cents a ton, the revenue would amount to $120,000. Tolls from motor vehicles and passengers are estimated to amount to $200,000. Tolls from the bus company would amount to $30,000, and the annual deficit which the city has now on its ferry is $75,000. These amounts total $425,000.
I think these figures are arresting and deserving of a great deal of attention. If they are approximately correct, and I have received them from reliable sources, then the building of this bridge would be amply justified. My suggestion is that the government guarantee the bonds of the national harbours board in an amount sufficient for the construction of this bridge after it has checked my figures and entered into fair arrangements with the parties who are interested. I urge
strongly that this be done. The matter has been long delayed. If the figures I have given are about right then there is no reason why the building of this bridge should be further delayed. In fact it is of importance that the work be commenced at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North
Centre): I rise on this motion to go into supply to say something about two grievances. The first is one that I have been hoping I could discuss with the Minister of Finance who has been coming and going; perchance he may come back in a moment or two. It arises out of a question which I directed to the Minister of National Revenue on April 5. The question was as follows, as found on page 2337 of Hansard:
I wish to direct a question to the Minister of National Revenue. Since trade union dues are in the nature of a business expense, will the government consider allowing them as an income tax deduction?
The reply of the Minister of National Revenue was as follows:
That is a matter of policy, Mr. Speaker. When a change is made, it will be announced.
I think when I asked my question on April 5 there were a few twitters among some hon. members as though this were not an important matter. I want to say at the outset that the amount of tax to be saved by trade union members, if this allowance were granted, would not be very great; at least the amount would not now be great. It would have amounted to something substantial a few years ago. But the principle is felt by trade union members to be an important one, so important that one trade union in my city of Winnipeg has sought to make a test case out of it by taking the matter in the name of one member to the Exchequer Court of Canada. I refer to the case between Joseph A. Cooper, appellant, and the Minister of National Revenue, respondent. I must admit the very fact that this matter has gone to the exchequer court does reveal that there is at the present time some doubt as to the interpretation of the act on this point. It also shows, however, that the principle at stake is an important one. So far as the court case itself is concerned, the exchequer court has reserved judgment, and so far as I have been able to find out, judgment has not yet been given.
Subtopic: REFERENCE TO REMARKS IN DEBATE OF APRIL 27