Mr. D. A. Riley (Saint John-Albert):
Mr. Speaker, I feel it to be my bounden duty to take advantage of the latitude allowed by the budget debate to bring to the attention of the house a matter of vital interest and grave concern to hundreds of thousands of citizens in the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
It was at the historic city of Quebec in the year 1864 that the fathers of confederation met in solemn assembly to deliberate, among other things, upon the inducements for the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to unite with Canada in forming that which was later to become what we Canadians with some considerable justification hold out to be the mightiest unit in the British commonwealth of nations.
Although the deliberations of the Quebec conference were not open to the public, and although no completely official minutes of
1588 HOUSE OF
The Budget-Mr. Riley the proceedings of that body are in existence today, nevertheless it was later disclosed to the people along the Atlantic seaboard that there was a clear and distinct understanding among the delegates representing the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on the one hand and Canada on the other that the federal government to be set up as a result of the proposed confederation would take upon itself certain definite responsibilities. Not the least of those responsibilities was the construction of a canal through the isthmus of Chignecto, a narrow strip of land some eighteen miles in width at its narrowest point and connecting the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Despite the absence of an official record of the deliberations of the Quebec conference there is ample evidence on the unquestioned records of this house and of yet another place that the construction of what at that time was referred to as the proposed Baie Verte canal occupied a prominent role during those discussions. Although not a condition of confederation, it was nevertheless so clearly expected to be one of the first projects to be undertaken by the central government that the delegates from the easterly maritime provinces were completely satisfied that it formed an integral part of the considerations for their entering into the union contract.
On April 8, 1876, Mr. Burpee, the member for Sunbury in my own province, spoke on the floor of the House of Commons as follows:
The two great improvements spoken of in New Brunswick before the union were the intercolonial railroad and the Baie Verte canal. The intercolonial was made a condition of confederation, and although the canal was not, it was understood it was also to be constructed.
Mr. Burpee did not hesitate to say that if the people of New Brunswick had not been satisfied that this point was settled and that the construction of the Baie Verte canal would be proceeded with, they would have never consented to the union.
Again on May 7, 1886, the late Senator Dickey, one of the fathers of confederation and the illustrious great-grandfather of the bon. member for Halifax (Mr. Dickey), who sits in front of me in this house, again raised the question of this same canal when he said:
It was an undertaking which was agitated in the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island for half a century. It received the sanction of every governor and every military commander to whom it was referred during the whole of that period, and it became one of those things that had to be done. At all events the provinces very strongly urged it, and when the Quebec conference took place in 1864 it was then distinctly agreed and understood that this Baie Verte canal across the same isthmus dividing the two provinces should be constructed by the dominion, because, as
the house will recall, these three small provinces, in their disunited state, could not grapple with a work of that magnitude.
I shall not at this time delve too deeply into the tragic details of the efforts put forward in promoting this project. Generations of maritimers have gone to their graves bewildered and disillusioned over the failure of the federal authorities to carry out this undertaking so necessary for the development of the Atlantic provinces. Down through the years since confederation this question has been raised and discussed on the floor of this House of Commons. Time after time parliament has been made conscious of its obligations in this regard. Commissions have been appointed; surveys have been conducted, and without exception they have determined the engineering feasibility of this canal.
On at least two occasions, when it seemed that its construction would most certainly be proceeded with, it was decided that the economic conditions of the times did not warrant the expenditures necessary to carry out the work. This despite the fact that during one of those periods, between 1930 and 1935, unemployment was rife in this country, and a project of this nature not only would have fed thousands of hungry mouths but would have assisted materially in the economic recovery of the Atlantic provinces. Surely such an excuse cannot be put forward today.
During the present century industrial development in the maritime provinces has lagged behind that of other sections of Canada. Although the investment of capital has increased in our provinces, and although production has reached a much higher level, we have nevertheless obvious geographic disadvantages. Because of transportation handicaps it is not possible for us to ship our products to the populous markets of our country so as to compete favourably with the products of the industries of central Canada. Should the building of a canal through the isthmus of Chignecto be proceeded with at this time, the Atlantic provinces would be placed in a much more favourable economic position, and their economic development, so long and so unnecessarily retarded, would be ensured. Old industries would be revived; new industries would spring into being, and coastwise trade in small vessels would flourish. The potatoes and fish products of Prince Edward Island could be shipped by small vessels to the east coast of the United States. The wood products of the north shore of our own province of New Brunswick could be similarly shipped to the port of Saint John for transshipment to the markets of the world in ocean-going vessels, as would also the various products from the north shore of Nova Scotia. At
the present time it is necessary for those products either to be shipped by rail at prohibitive cost or to travel by water via a circuitous, costly and hazardous route in order to reach their destination.
With the advent of the grand province of Newfoundland into confederation, and the exploitation of the iron ore deposits in Labrador a distinct probability, it is easy to envision that part of this ore will be shipped to eastern United States ports. The water route from the St. Lawrence to the eastern coast of the United States would be shortened some 400 miles by the construction of the Chignecto canal, as it has now come to be known.
I shall leave to other occasions and to other hon. members of this house who intend to record their wholehearted support of this project a more detailed description of the advantages that the Chignecto canal will bring to constituencies other than my own and to the nation as a whole. The citizens of my constituency have long urged the building of this canal, because to them its advantages are obvious and manifold. The great seaport of Saint John-spelled S-a-i-n-t -through which is shipped each year millions of tons of freight destined for the markets of the world, would be made readily accessible to other regions of the Atlantic provinces via a short and less expensive water route. The several foundries in and about Saint John could import their pig iron and moulding sand from the great lakes region on a more economical basis. A saving could also be realized in the importation of coke from Montreal for these same industries. Our fertilizer could be shipped over a wider area at much lower cost. With the increased commerce going through our port and the revival of coastwise shipping, we feel that employment in our vital shipbuilding and ship repair industry would tend to reach a more stable level.
The Saint John area produces about one-quarter of all the crushed limestone quarried in Canada. This is distributed for agricultural purposes under a joint policy of the federal government and the governments of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and I believe Nova Scotia is also concerned. Those governments could save a great deal of money if this limestone were shipped by water through the Chignecto canal, and there is a distinct possibility that a market for this product would be opened up in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
There is now under construction in Albert county, in my constituency, in one of the most beautiful settings in Canada, the Fundy national park. It is anticipated that the thousands of pleasure craft which would normally pass through the Chignecto canal
The Budget-Mr. J. R. Kirk will find a haven in the village of Alma, in the same county, at the entrance to what promises to become a tourists' paradise.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I should like to read into the record, as evidence of the mounting interest in the Chignecto canal in our Atlantic provinces, a resolution recently adopted by the maritime board of trade at a meeting held in Charlottetown on September 30 of this year.
Whereas Chignecto canal committees are being organized in all important centres throughout the maritime provinces in support of the construction of the Chignecto canal;
And whereas several royal commissions have declared its feasibility and its economic value to the maritime provinces as a whole;
And whereas the Surveyer commission of 1931-33, while confirming the findings of previous investigations, could not recommend its construction at that time owing to existing economic conditions, but did recommend its further examination in the light of future development;
And whereas there is now a widespread and evergrowing demand throughout the maritimes for its immediate construction;
Therefore be it resolved that the Maritime Board of Trade go on record as supporting the Chignecto canal committee in urging definite action towards the construction of the Chignecto canal.
Before I conclude I should like to remind this parliament that it has before it a solemn obligation, in common with every parliament since confederation, to ensure for the people of my province and those of the other Atlantic provinces the construction of this most important project, which we deem to be so necessary for our future economic welfare.
Topic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Subtopic: THE BUDGET