The MINISTER OF FINANCE (Hon. W.
S. Fielding! moved that the House again go into Committee of Supply.
Mr ROBERT BICKER-DIKE (St. Lawrence, Montreal). Mr. Speaker, before the House goes into committee, 1 desire to apologize for once more bringing np the question of transportation; but it is a question of great importance to the commercial people of this country, and I do not think that it has received the attention from this House to which it is entitled. I certainly would not have reverted to the subject again were it not that some lion, members who have spoken on it, have conveyed the impression that Mont-treal has become a port of the past. One of the statements made in that connection has been that the Grand Trunk Railway lias forsaken Montreal, and is building up the foreign port of Portland as its terminus. It is perfectly true, Mr. Speaker, that the Grand Trunk Railway has, for a time at least, forsaken the port of Montreal.
I have a motion on the paper on that subject, which it is evident will not be reached this session, and which I cannot refer to ; but when the papers which I asked for are brought down, as 1 have no doubt the Minister of Public Works will bring them down, they will prove that the port of Montreal has never had a single dollar of government money spent upon it. They will prove that every port and harbour of it,he Dominion of Canada, from Esquimau to Point Clare, and from Halifax to Oaugh-nawaga, has receivod amounts of money for harbour improvements, both from former governments and from this government. But up to the present time-and I challenge successful contradiction of this statement- not a single dollar has been spent on the harbour proper of the city of Montreal. It is true, the government in the past has guaranteed the bonds of the Harbour Commission of Montreal, on which we pay interest, and the Auditor General's Report will prove that every time that interest becomes due the Harbour Commissioners of Montreal pay regularly and to the date. Now. Sir. the reason given by the Grand Trunk Railway for abandoning Montreal for a foreign port'is the lack of terminal facilities at Montreal. This reason is not serious. Had the Grand Trunk Railway spent on improving their terminals in Montreal, the monev tliev have expended on the harbour of Portland, their Montreal terminals would be far superior to those in Portland. It is evident that there is an attempt to-day to
make Portland the port of Canada. Although the Grand Trunk Railway has been receiving large subsidies and bonuses from different Canadian municipalities and very large concessions in the city of Montreal, it suddenly decided to take its terminals away from that city and establish them in Portland, and it would be very interesting to know how much of the public money this country has indirectly contributed to the improving of that American harbour.
I have to ask the indulgence of the House, as I once more go over the ground in order to point out what our commercial community believes is required to make the St. Lawrence route as safe as any of the other routes and the approaches on the St. Lawrence equal to those of the American ports. This matter which, of course, has already been presented to the several ministers, will not be new to them, and therefore I do not propose to go into all the details, but it will be necessary for me to touch on some of the principal points in order to show why our commercial community is unanimous in demanding that this government make permanent improvements to our national route, and make them without any further delay, for if this country is ever to take the place to which it is entitled among commercial nations, we will have to give the St. Lawrence route that amount of protection which will enable steamships to utilize it as cheaply and as safely as they can our rival routes. But in doing this, I shall endeavour not to detain the House any longer than possible, because I know there are quite a number of other members who wish to give their views on the subject.
Before I became a candidate for a seat in this House, I pledged myself that in introducing the transportation question to the attention of hon. members, I would endeavour to submit evidence in favour of the improvements desired, which would be incontrovertible. At a great expense the commercial bodies of Montreal, steamship companies, and the marine underwriters, undertook an examination of the different captains and pilots who are employed on the St. Lawrence route. We examined some thirty-three captains, taken from all sections of the coast, from the entrance of the Gulf to Montreal, and also examined the pilots, as both these classes of men are those most likely to be in a position to give accurate and authentic information.
The evidence taken has been submitted to each member of the government and the two leaders of the opposition, and in this evidence, taken before the Board of Trade of Montreal, the whole question has been threshed out in a most complete manner. A synopsis of the evidence has been furnished every member of this House with a chart, showing the different points where lights are required or where we wish the old lights to be removed and replaced by new ones, and also showing every sand bar
that requires to be dredged and every rock that requires to be taken up, along the whole route of the St. Lawrence to Montreal.
Let me first inform the House bow that Inquiry came about. Those who are most directly interested in the navigation of the St. Lawrence began a series of examinations during last October. We did not select any particular captain or the captains of any particular line, but took the captains of steamers just as they came into port. We sent down for each captain, had him examined by Mr. Meredith, one of the leading lawyers in Montreal, and his evidence taken down in shorthand. As was explained at the first meeting in October by the chairman, the object of the inquiry was to procure the opinion of shipping masters on the requirements necessary in order to improve the navigation of the St. Lawrence, and to press tiie matter on the attention of the Dominion government so as to secure these improvements and bring about a reduction in the marine insurance rates, which is to-day an absolute necessity. The people who brought about the investigation and conducted the inquiry are those most largely interested in the St. Lawrence route, and most interested in impressing on the government the necessity of making the requisite improvements in that route in the interests, not only of the shipping, but of the whole trade ot' Canada. To show the importance of this question, let me point out that Manitoba annually exports 58.000,000 bushels of grain to Great Britain, and that out of (this quantity less than 14 per cent goes by way of Canada, the other 86 per cent going through American channels and ports. That fact alone is sufficient justification for my bringing this matter up in this House. The evidence taken shows conclusively that the present aids to navigation on our national route are out of date. The system of lights, signals, buoys and other aids, are found to be of the lowest standard and far below what the steamer captains say are required. Such a condition of things is not at all consistent with the greatest security to life and property, and is a groat disadvantage not only to tiie large Atlantic steamers, but to all persons directly or indirectly interested in our shipping trade. Small coasting vessels are equally dependent on the marks and aids to navigation furnished by the government, so that it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the improvements which are marked out in the chart submitted with the evidence and the urgent necessity of the work being attended to without delay. If Canada is not to see herself completely outstripped in the race for commercial supremacy, we have not a moment to lose and can no longer afford to remain with arms folded.
I am not taking up this question from any sectional point of view or out of any special regard for the interests of any particular locality. I am taking the broad view