Mr. JOHN CHARLTON (North Norfolk).
Mr. Speaker, I was just on tbe point of rising when tbe premier rose, and I presume that tbe government desire, now that this question is before tbe House, that tbe views of members should be expressed, where members hold views on the question. The statement made by the right hon. leader of the House, that a company had been chartered, and that the demands of that company on the government for aid have been of a character that the government could not accede to, leads me to believe, as I always have believed, that if the construction of the Georgian Bay canal is to be undertaken, it will hardly be done by a company. The state of New York, as we are aware, has just appropriated $101,000,000 for the enlargement of the Erie canal. This is done as a state work. It is done for the purpose of cheapening the cost of transportation and securing for the great seaport of New York the business of the west. The Panama canal was undertaken by a company, and that company failed, and that canal is now being constructed by the United States government. A work of the character of the Georgian Bay canal is one which I think we can scarcely anticipate will be constructed by a company ; and it is better for us to face the question with the point in view whether there are reasons which would warrant the government in undertaking this work. We are confronted with transportation problems of vast magnitude. One shrinks almost appalled at the money needs of the near future for the opening up and development of the north-west, the settlement and production of which will increase rapidly ; and if we are to keep pace with that settlement and production we must provide ample trans-portatiou facilities.
With regard to the construction of a canal to Lake Nipissing, I have never looked with favour on that project, unless it were to be taken up as a part of the general project of a Georgian Bay canal. I could not see the force of establishing a seaport on Lake Nipissing. It would benefit the Canadian Pacific Railway, of course : but as a project standing by itself, I could not see that it would be good for the country, while as a part of the general scheme of a Georgian Bay canal, it would of course be commendable.
We can scarcely comprehend the prospective transportation needs of the north-west. Our American friends are fully alive to the probable increase of business to be derived in the near future from that vast region ; and the enlargement of the Erie canal simply means that the United States intend to compete for that trade, and to compete for it under conditions more favourable to success than exist at the present time. It is proposed to enlarge that canal to a depth of 12 feet, making it a barge canal. One of the most reliable experts on canal construction is Major Simons, who has charge of the construction works at Buffalo ; and that gentleman, in an exhaustive report made a year or so ago, took the ground that a barge canal to the Hudson river, capable of passing vessels of 1,000 tons burden, would be more economical than a ship canal of 21 feet of water. He stated that a vessel capable of navigating the great lakes must, when entering the canal, reduce her speed to one-fifth of her speed on the lakes, while keeping her whole crew. By a carefully prepared tabulated statement he arrived at the conclusion that the barge canal would serve the purposes of transportation better and cheaper from the lakes to New York, while the handling of the grain by elevating it from vessels to barges was calculated to put it through to its destination in better condition.
In view of this position taken by Major Simons, and in view of the fact that after careful consideration for years the state of New York has adopted his views and will construct this barge canal, if the referendum on that subject results favourably, we must see the propriety of examining carefully into the reasons which have led to the adoption of this course. If we were to construct a barge canal of 12 or 14 feet of water from the waters of Lake Huron to the St. Lawrence river, the grain of the west would then be shipped to the mouth of the French river; from that point it would be put through by barges to Montreal or Quebec, and there elevated to elevators and transferred to ocean going vessels. If the reasons which have led to the determination to construct a barge canal in the state of New York are well founded, the same reasons will apply to the construction of a canal by the Ottawa valley. These are points that require careful consideration, for we are confronted by a problem of great magnitude and involving the interests of that vast country to the west, the very heart and seat of power of this Dominion. We want to approach this question, not in a party spirit at all, but from a business standpoint, and give to it the consideration which its importance requires. There is one consideration that has had much to do with the proposed enlargement to the Erie canal- the question of competitive rates and the regulation of rates. The Erie canal is to be constructed, not because the railways cannot transport the produce of the west, but for the purpose of regulating rates and preventing a combination for the purpose of taking from the producers exorbitant freights. The same reasons would apply to the construction of the Ottawa river canal, the source of whose business would be derived from the waters of the great lakes, from Duluth, from Chicago, from
Fort William, from the wheat fields of the north-west, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. There would be low vessel rates to the mouth of French river, and barge canal rates from that point to Montreal or Quebec. A low rate of freight would be held over the competing railways not as a menace, but as a condition of things that would compel them to give vastly lower rates than they would give if this competition did not exist. We want to divert that trade to our own ports of Montreal and Quebec. I have always believed that Quebec was the true competitive point to aim at in sending our grain to the seaboard.
For these reasons, I believe that this question should receive exhaustive consideration and discussion. The government naturally have no policy on this question. It is not a party question. The government are asking in the first place what the wishes of the country are, and in the second place what the interests of the country are, and the decision of the government will natur-aly be determined by the answers to these questions. The day has not yet arrived for asking what the policy of the government is with regard to the Ottawa valley canal, but it is a good time to discuss the question. We want to accumulate the data on which we can, later on, found our decision with regard to this matter. My own. belief is that we must make up our minds to confront very great expenditures ; we must make up our minds to draw upon the future. We must enter into obligations which the future must discharge, obligations for the benefit of the future, for the benefit of the untold millions who will people the north-west, but who, without transportation facilities will not people the northwest with the rapidity that will characterize the filling up of that country if those facilities are provided. And these great expenditures, vast as they may seem, if made honestly and with due regard to economy, will bring an adequate, a rich reward. I rose to present these few remarks upon this question because I feel, and feel very deeply, that the government now in power desire to consult the interests of the people, desire to do that which the requirement of the future demand, yet, at the same time, naturally shrink from undertaking vast obligations, and wish to be satisfied first that the demands of the country require that these obligations shall be incurred and that the expenditures will be justified by the results.
Subtopic: OTTAWA AND GEORGIAN BAY CANAL.