Apart from the Department of Public Works and the Department of Fisheries there is no federal department which touches the lives of my constituents as closely as does the Department of Transport. There are many matters I should like to deal with at this time, but in order not to unduly delay the passing of the estimates I will confine myself to one subject only, a subject which in my opinion is so urgent that I would be derelict in my duty to my constituents if I did not raise it at the very first opportunity.
Before I begin I should like to pay tribute to the officials of the Department of Transport, the officials of the minister's office, the senior officials and heads of branches in the head office here in Ottawa and to the district marine agent at St. John's. I should like publicly to express my gratitude to them for the sympathetic consideration they have always given to problems I have brought before them and for their all-out co-operation in trying to solve them.
The subject I wish to bring to the attention of the committee and of the government today is the urgent need for improvement in the C.N.R. coastal service in the western half of my riding. The constituency of Burin-Burgeo is made up of five provincial districts of which only one, the district of Burin, is accessible by road, and even this district is largely dependent on the C.N.R. coastal service for freight transportation. The other four provincial districts are completely dependent on the C.N.R. coastal service not only for transportation of freight but also for transportation of mail and passengers.
[DOT] (1:00 p.m.)
Of these four provincial districts, only Placentia West has a fairly satisfactory service based on the terminal at Argentia providing a frequency of two trips a week to all communities and three trips a week to the
February 11, 1986
larger ones. So far as the other three provincial districts are concerned the picture is vastly different. These three districts extend roughly along the south coast from Ter-renceville to Port aux Basques. This area is served by two C.N.R. coastal boats running between the western terminal at Port aux Basques and the eastern terminal at Argentia, with a weekly frequency in each direction. Except for the fact that these boats are slightly larger and the frequency of trips has increased from every 10 days to 7 days, this service is substantially the same as it was 50 years ago.
The coastline between Terrenceville and Port aux Basques contains some 50 communities with a total population of around 25,000, and it is mainly about the service to this area that I am complaining. On this strip of coastline there are located seven fresh fish processing plants and a number of supply firms and retail stores. All these enterprises are greatly handicapped by the slowness of the C.N.R. service upon which they are completely dependent.
Good, fast, reliable communications are a prime essential for the industrial development of any area, but the Canadian National Railway management think in terms of the nineteenth century. If they do not wake up soon the twentieth century will have completely passed them by without any substantial improvement being achieved. The population of this area about which I am speaking, between Terrenceville and Port aux Basques, has doubled since 1949, and the prosperity of the people has also increased. However, these two facts seem to have escaped the notice of the C.N.R. management.
We are living in the twentieth century and people do not want to spend a week travelling a distance that can and should be covered in a couple of days. Neither do they want to be delayed as they are now for hours and on some occasions for whole days by having to remain in port while the ship takes on and discharges cargo. Neither do they want to suffer the offensive odours and stench which emanate from cargoes such as fish meal, particularly during summertime when the weather is warm and people like to have their portholes open in order to enjoy the cool, fresh air.
Today people want to move as fast as possible. If they have two or three weeks holidays they want to spend the time with their friends and not travelling back and forth on the C.N.R. boats. Those who come
from long distances want to be sure of making connections with the air line services on which they have reservations for the return trip. None of these things are possible at present.
It has been obvious for years that the C.N.R. coastal service is terribly inadequate in terms of the amount of traffic to be handled. People from the United States and from mainland Canada who make their reservations months in advance often arrive at the Port aux Basques terminal only to find that the boat on which their reservations were made has been transferred to another route and the substitute boat provided does not have the type of accommodation they reserved.
Passengers are herded together in small rooms beneath deck or in small deck cabins so tiny that they have to put their luggage outside in order to be able to turn around. Dozens have difficulty in finding even a place to sit much less to lie down. Great credit is due to the crews of these boats; particularly to the captains, officers and stewards who quite often give up their own berths and go out of their way to do everything possible to alleviate the hardships and inconveniences to passengers inherent in these conditions. Without their sympathetic understanding and sacrifices the situation would be quite intolerable.
During the past two or three years I have written a number of letters about this matter to the C.N.R. and to the minister pointing out the deficiency in the service and suggesting remedies, but to date nothing has happened. Dealing with the Canadian National Railway is a most frustrating experience. You write a letter and you wait about two months. Then you get a reply saying they are looking into the problems involved in the matter you have raised. In about another two months you get another long letter defending their poor service. Their attitude seems to be that this service was good enough for our grandfathers and great-grandfathers and it should be good enough for people today.
When we try to pin them down they escape by saying, "Well, we do not own this railway in Newfoundland; we are only operating it for the federal government". Then when one approaches the federal government the answer is, "Well, we cannot do anything unless the C.N.R. management make a recommendation". Thus we go round and round in this vicious circle.
February 11, 1966
What is needed in my constituency is a completely new service based on twentieth century standards. This involves, first of all, separating the freight service from the passenger, mail and express service. Present boats could be utilized for scheduled freight service until more suitable and more economic boats can be obtained. Then they could probably be used in the summer for tourist trips to Labrador and in winter for tourist trips to the Caribbean and West Indies. For passengers, express and first class mail we need fast boats running between Port aux Basques and Terrenceville with a frequency of three trips a week each way.
I stress the fact that Terrenceville should be regarded as a terminal because it has been used as a passenger terminal for the past 12 or 14 years even though the eastern terminal is based at Argentia. There is no point in passengers staying on a ship for two or three days and travelling over rough waters when they can get to St. John's from Terrenceville by road within two hours.
I understand that in parts of Europe governments, travel agencies and steamship companies have utilized hydrofoil boats capable of carrying 100 to 150 passengers at speeds around 30 miles an hour. This is the sort of service that I think would solve the problem I have been describing. I understand that hydrofoil craft are now being manufactured in Italy which are capable of travelling in rough seas with waves up to 12 feet high. This type of boat would suit the conditions under which the people in my riding have to travel for the greater portion of the year. I would therefore urge the C.N.R. and the government to find some solution along these lines. This vicious circle of avoidance of responsibility must be broken.
[DOT] (1:10 p.m.)
The premier of the province of Newfoundland has proclaimed 1966 as "come home" year. One may expect the amount of traffic to be considerably increased over that of previous years, and in view of the experience my constituents have had during the past two years the situation will be indescribable unless something is done. I again urge the government, as the owner of the railway system in Newfoundland, to take immediate steps to remedy the situation I have described along the lines I have suggested.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT