Mr. Chairman, item 5c allows us to deal with the administration and maintenance of aids to navigation. Of course, that includes winter navigation on the St. Lawrence and the Minister of Transport (Mr. Hellyer) is well aware of my long-standing interest in that problem.
One hundred years ago, fifty years ago and even twenty-five years ago, there was not so much talk about winter navigation on the St. Lawrence. The best winter ports were located along the Atlantic shore and winter navigation on the St. Lawrence was practically inexistant.
Thanks to modern technology in the field of transport, to new ship-building methods-including stronger hulls-to more powerful engines, to new methods of keeping the St. Lawrence open and with the help of Scandinavian countries and of Russia-Canada has not necessarily led the way in that regard-it
was realized that winter navigation was possible as far as Quebec city, Trois-Rivieres, Sorel and Montreal. Today however there is a problem: the government must change its attitude towards winter navigation. There are there different trends of thought on that point.
First of all, according to those who live in the eastern part of the country, in Halifax and Saint John, the representatives of the ports of the maritimes-and I understand their attitude-no step should be taken to develop winter navigation on the St. Lawrence and no icebreakers should be sent on the St. Lawrence so as not to harm the harbours of the maritimes. I understand their attitude, since that means something to the maritime provinces.
Secondly, there are those who say, as the former minister of transport put it a year or two ago: We will do no more and no less than what we are doing now in respect of winter navigation on the St. Lawrence. They are the ones in between, those who do not want to give an opinion, who want neither to delay not to promote winter navigation. In other words they are neutral.
Thirdly, there are those who ask the Minister of Transport to establish a clearly progressive policy in that field and to take the necessary means to open the St. Lawrence to winter navigation, up to Montreal. Thanks to our knowledge of navigation on the St. Lawrence, even during the most bitter cold weather, to the new developments in shipbuilding, the improvement of engines, the reinforcement of hulls, etc. I think it is possible for us today-not in 20 years from now, but today to facilitate very easily winter navigation on the St. Lawrence up to Montreal.
We already have ice-breakers, maybe not enough, but it it is up to the minister to adjust his policy. Studies should perhaps be carried out concerning certain details but the greater difficulties have been overcome. What we need now is not technical knowledge or means, but that the Minister of Transport should take a decision, because he knows that we can carry on winter navigation on the St. Lawrence. What we need now is a decision from the minister.
I admit that he is caught between two groups-that of the maritimes and that of Quebec, that is the ports along the St. Lawrence-but progress means opening up navigation as far as possible inland. Once
March 25, 1968
there is winter navigation up to Montreal, it will not be many years before there is navigation along the St. Lawrence seaway as far as Toronto, and then, the head of great lakes. Progress demands that the channels of communication be opened as far as possible.
The solution now lies in the decision the minister will reach. Is he willing to decide to keep the St. Lawrence open to winter navigation, not just so-so, or half way, but formally?
It will be remembered that last January, ships were trapped in the ice. Navigation was closed down for almost a month. Some will tell me that ice jams are caused by the cold but the real reason is that the minister who is responsible for keeping the channel open did not do so, when he should have.
Here is an article by an expert on winter navigation on the St. Lawrence, Mr. Denis Masse, the maritime correspondent for La Presse who wrote this on January 23 and I quote:
In the city's shipping circles, it is said that the department could have prevented those ice jams by keeping the biggest and the most powerful ice-breaker in operation between Montreal and Quebec City. It is remembered that the d'Iberville was on patrol in the Saguenay and that the John A. Macdonald was in the gulf before the ice jams built up between Montreal and Quebec City.
Past experience has shown also for quite some time that the ice jams which are never easy to break up build up in January. Although it is true that the ice jams formed earlier than usual this year, it remains that the situation should not have come as a surprise to anyone.
As early as January 9, the air survey of the ice showed the possibility of ice jams in the narrow sections of the river. Then, what were the icebreakers doing that same day? The John A. Macdonald and the Simon Fraser stayed in Quebec City and the Montcalm alone went out for a routine trip. Shipping was at a standstill the next day.
Mr. Chairman, several of those ice-breakers have an helicopter on board. Last winter, before the famous ice jams which were responsible for the floods and the closing of the channel built up, the helicopter pilots from the ice-breakers had warned the authorities of the Department of Transport in Quebec city on January 7, 8 and 9, 1968, that ice jams were building up near the Quebec bridge and a little further upstream. Department of Transport authorities took no notice of that. Why? Because they were ordered not to prevent ice jams but to break them up after they have formed. The ice-breakers did not move, even if Department of Transport authorities in Quebec city were well aware,
following reports made by the pilots of their helicopters which were watching the situation, that ice jams were forming at the Quebec bridge and upstream as far as Trois-Rivieres-and that for three days. On the 9th, the day before the ice jams formed, despite the repeated warnings of the officials in the helicopters, two of the three ice-breakers in service at Quebec city remained alongside the wharf, and the third made only a routine trip, as reported by Mr, Denis Masse, maritime reporter for La Presse.
[DOT] (8:20 p.m.)
The mistake of the Department of Transport results from the order being given not to prevent ice-jams but to break them up after they have formed. If, as soon as the ice jams started building up, on January 6, 7, 8 and 9, the ice-breakers had begun their work, then the ice jams would not have formed and navigation on the St. Lawrence could have continued as usual in January. But after ice jams have formed, if there is a delay, whatever it is, they thicken; that is why on January 15 and 16, they had reached a thickness of 30 to 40 feet; ice-breakers in the maritimes had to be summoned then to help break them. But even if there were as many as 9 icebreakers at a given time, due to the thickness of the ice, it took about ten days to break the jams, and navigation was closed for 26 days.
The main problem is not that the ice-breakers are unable to break the ice jams, but that they wait until the ice jams have built up and are too thick. Ice-breakers should be constantly kept in service, from the beginning of the winter, to prevent any accumulation of ice in the bends of the river and at the most narrow stretches. Today, with the equipment at its disposal, the Department of Transport can do it. But, since he is the authority in that field, the Minister of Transport will have to assume his responsibilities-a thing his predecessors avoided doing the past 8 or 9 years-and decide once for all that ice-breakers are not merely there to break up ice jams, but to prevent them. If ice-breakers were working continuously, 4 or 5 or them would be sufficient to prevent ice-jams from developing and the St. Lawrence could remain open up to Montreal all year round.
Mr. Chairman, it is as simple as that. All we need is a decision from the minister.
The minister told us this winter that he was studying the matter and that temporary islands were being tried in lac Saint-Pierre. But that is not the place where the worst ice
March 25, 1968
jams developed last year and, moreover, it is not because of these that navigation was closed for 26 days. It was due to the ice jams which developed between Quebec and Trois-Rivieres, and the reason why the river between Quebec and Trois-Rivieres was so solidly jammed up is that the ice-breakers had waited too long before starting to do their job.
I do not want to put the blame on the captains of the ice-breakers, for all they did was to obey the orders they received from the department, that is to say break the ice-jams when they have formed, and not prevent them when they are forming. In view, Mr. Chairman, the minister should now announce in person the clear and definite policy of his department. What decisions have been taken by the Department of Transport with respect to winter navigation on the St. Lawrence? Does the minister intend to maintain the status quo, as did his predecessor, Mr. Pick-ersgill, that is to say do nothing more and nothing less? Does the present Minister of Transport really intend to take the decisions that must be taken in order that the channel may be kept open all year round? And when I speak of taking the decisions that must be taken, Mr. Chairman, I do not mean adding a large number of ice-breakers to those now in existence.
The studies made by Professor Michel Bro-chu of the Ecole des hautes etudes commer-ciales of Montreal have shown that there were enough ice-breakers now to maintain open navigation all year round, but on condition that they do their work and that they constantly be at the ready to prevent ice-jams. The department has all the equipment needed, especially since other ice-breakers are to be added to the number already at its disposal. One of them, the Louis Saint-Laurent, I think, is practically finished, and my colleague the hon. member for Trois-Rivieres (Mr. Mongrain) tells me that another one, the Tracy, will also be put into operation soon. So that if two ice-breakers are added to those already in service, this will make an amply sufficient fleet, as long as the ships are put to work. But at the present time, they spend most of their time at the docks. This is just as costly, for when an ice-breaker is idle in its home port, it has to keep its engines running in order to maintain heat inside the vessel.
The quantity of oil burned to keep the engines running is just about the same as if the ice-breakers were operating. Moreover, a full-time crew has to be maintained aboard. The employees have to be fed, accommodated and so on. Keeping an ice-breaker in its home
port costs just as much as letting it run between Quebec and Trois-Rivieres, between Trois-Rivieres and Sorel or between Sorel and Montreal. That would not increase the expenses.
What we are asking for is simply a decision on the part of the Department of Transport, to the effect that the river must be open the year round. Should such a decision be made, one captain and the crew members of those ice-breakers assure me that they are able to keep the channel open the year round. Let them be free to keep the channel open and they will feel in honour bound to keep it open all year round and see to it that it is never ice-bound.
Mr. Chairman, I have been told by captains and crew members of icebreakers that they would be able and happy to keep it open. But nowadays, they are not put to work. They are only instructed to leave their home port when ice-jams are already formed and their work is then much harder, because once ice-jams are formed, the ice thickens and it takes several days to break them up.
Therefore, I ask the Minister of Transport not to increase expenditures, as mentioned earlier, but to take a definite stand this evening with regard to that very important problem, not only for Quebec, because the minister, who is from Toronto, must be well aware that once it is demonstrated that the channel can be kept open as far as Montreal, and that will be possible as early as next year, the same efforts could be made in future years to keep the seaway open as far as Toronto. Then, Toronto will also benefit from it. The Minister of Transport should keep that in mind. Not only St. Lawrence ports, but also those along the seaway, and as far as the lakehead, will benefit from it.
What a asset it would be to have such an inland seaway reaching almost to the heart of the continent and serving its largest industrial cities.
[DOT] (8:30 p.m.)
Under the circumstances, Mr. Chairman, I think Canada should no longer oppose progress. If special maritime subsidies are required in order to help these towns develop according to their situation and natural resources, I have no objection. On the contrary, I am in favour of these subsidies. But I do not think areas along the St. Lawrence or the St. Lawrence seaway should be prevented from developing. There can only be progress if it exists in all regions.
March 25, 1968
In the light of these arguments, Mr. Chairman, I would ask the hon. Minister of Transport to tell us-and he must have expected this-what is the definite policy of the Department of Transport concerning the opening of the St. Lawrence river to year-round navigation? I hope the minister is able to give us an answer tonight, and I would like him to give it now.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT