Mr. Mac T. McCutcheon (Lamblon-Keni) moved:
That in the opinion of this house the government should give consideration to the advisability of constructing a bridge on Chenal Ecarte (also locally referred to as the Snye), one of the channels at the mouth of St. Clair River, where at present there is a cable-operated ferry linking the shore of Walpole Island to the shore of Chatham township, county of Kent, (mainland side), Ontario.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I cannot begin my remarks on this subject without first thanking hon. members most sincerely for their generosity in allowing a full hour for private members' business so that I may present this motion.
Rarely do we as members of this house have an opportunity to do something directly for our fellow man that will be as helpful to any group of people in Canada and as satisfying to hon. members as the acceptance of this resolution. Here is a golden opportunity for us as members to go on record. When we
support this resolution we will be taking a great step toward establishing again in the minds of the public the fact that members of this house do care about their fellow man and can co-operate for the common good. Many of the newspaper reports of political infighting, partisan prejudice and bias will be proven wrong in the face of such action on the part of men of good will in this house.
It is in this vein that I thank the hon. member for Lambton West (Mr. Foy) for his interest. I welcomed his offer to second my motion. He has done this because I believe he honestly and sincerely wants to help the 1,500 people living on Walpole Island in my constituency. Let me remind the house that these people vote in my riding, not his. However, he is fully aware of the problem as he lives close to the area and is therefore well qualified to speak on the subject as I hope he will.
This bridge is required desperately so that reasonable access may be obtained to the island which is only about 300 feet from the mainland. Transportation to the island from the mainland is only possible by the use of an antique scow whose only condescension to modern trend in the past 100 years has been the replacement of handpower on the cables by a gasoline motor. For a ride on this contraption the public pay 25 cents each way. Quite often an hour's wait or more is required before a potential user can get aboard and pay his 25 cents to risk his life and vehicle in the crossing.
Many people in the area will not cross to the island because of a well-founded fear of the crossing. Indeed, there are people in this area who have never been on the island. If reasonable access to the island can be obtained it will means many dollars of extra income to the residents. There are natural resources on the island that can be utilized. To give one example, there is a large, sandy beach which could become a source of income to the band and thus reduce their dependence on federal funds. In addition, there are thousands of acres of the most fertile soil awaiting development. I am told that less than one-third of the potential agricultural area on the island has been developed. The island, if provided with reasonable access, could be a veritable garden spot.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, there are many skilled and semi-skilled people on the island who would naturally gravitate to our side for employment rather than as at present going on the diesel ferry that carries them to
April 25, 1966
Algonac, Michigan, where many work in industries. We need these people in industry in Canada now and they have a great contribution to make to our economy.
Many times during the past winter the residents of the island were isolated and bread and other essentials were only obtained by most dangerous and perilous trips across the ice. I only wish Hansard had the facility of putting on the record pictures such as I have in my possession of the situation there this spring.
I do not intend to take up much more of the time of the house. Someone may ask about the cost, which I have purposely not mentioned. The cost is not important really, because if any member feels we cannot afford a structure such as this let me remind him that, while I favour toll-free access, people in the area would gladly pay double what it now costs to risk life and limb on the scow for the privilege of crossing on a bridge.
Therefore, before anyone in this house thinks he can use the "no money" device, shall I say, to delay this bridge let me point out that I know that I speak for the people in southwestern Ontario when I say they want the bridge and need it badly enough that a self-amortizing plan with tolls would be readily acceptable although, of course, not as satisfactory as a free way. Remember, they already pay to ride on the scow.
[DOT] (6:30 p.m.)
For the benefit of members who are not familiar with this area of Canada may I point out that the St. Clair River flows between Canada and the United States from Sarnia past Walpole Island, roughly 30 miles. The stream is approximately one mile wide and at Walpole Island the river divides into three narrower channels before emptying into Lake St. Clair. The channel between mainland Ontario and Walpole is called the Snye or Chenal Ecarte. This is where we need the bridge immediately. The channel is about 300 feet wide. On the opposite side of Walpole Island is the middle or main ship channel, approximately a quarter of a mile wide, between Walpole and Harsen's Island which is United States territory. Harsen's again is approximately three-eighths of a mile distant from mainland United States.
At the rate our country and population grow it would seem that an international bridge to the United States of America must soon be considered. As things now stand, in order to proceed from Wallaceburg to Algonac, Michigan, it is necessary to drive to
Sarnia and cross the Blue Water bridge, a trip of 40 miles up one side and 40 down the other. If you go the other way it is approximately 70 miles by highway to Windsor where there is the Ambassador bridge and the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.
It would seem to me-and this is only a layman's view-that three bridges hopping from island to island would be more feasible than one large structure crossing a mile of open water. The bridge to Walpole Island could be the first step toward an international bridge in the future. This would be of benefit not only to the 1,500 residents on Walpole Island but to probably half a million people in Ontario and many, many more in Michigan. So you see, Mr. Speaker, this is a worth-while idea in many ways.
The river drive from Sarnia to Walpole Island is one of the most beautiful in Canada. This fact has been recognized by the municipalities involved and the provincial government. Indeed, the minister of highways of Ontario, Mr. MacNaughton, has already introduced or will soon introduce legislation to establish this route as a scenic parkway. It will rival the Niagara parkway in beauty. Further, he has personally signified to me his interest in this bridge, which adjoins Ontario highway No. 40. It would be complementary to the parkway and to the expressway being built to take commercial traffic off the riverfront road.
As a matter of fact, Mr. MacNaughton has written me as follows in a letter dated March 1, 1966:
My capital construction program for the 1966 construction season is pretty well set by treasury board and by my own department, which would preclude anything of an imminent nature being done, but probably we can get on with some of the preliminary investigatory work in any case.
So, Mr. Speaker, here is the offer of the province of Ontario to co-operate. This bridge must be a joint effort, and I am sure that the province is ready and willing to co-operate with the proper federal authorities and make a start toward this worth-while endeavour.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, let me ask members of this house to place themselves in the position of a husband or a father on Walpole Island whose wife or child is seriously ill or, for that matter, dying. The ferry cables are broken or the ice floes have isolated your island home for several days. You cannot get a doctor to the island and you cannot get your loved one to a doctor or a hospital. How would they then vote on this resolution, Mr. Speaker?
April 25. 1966
Subtopic: WALPOLE ISLAND-CHATHAM TOWNSHIP-SUGGESTED CONSTRUCTION