That is just about on a par with the expert information which the hon. gentleman has given us on the railway question. He answers the question before he knows what it is to be, and he answers questions upon imperfect knowledge and upon data which a man would not regard as sufficient to justify him in undertaking the expenditure of $1,000 to build a barn ; yet this project means 100 million dollars to the people of Canada. If this is all the information that the hon. gentleman desires, then I congratulate him upon the ease with which the government can satisfy him and his constituents with regard to this great question.
Was the speech that the hon. gentleman made the other day intended as a pleasantry or is this an amusing pastime with which we are dealing ? Is there nothing rational in the conduct of the hon. gentleman when he is committing the country to this great undertaking, and can he not treat it seriously ? He does not look at it from a business standpoint, but regards it as a huge joke and a source of amusement that the government should propose this scheme, that he should assent to it, and that no member of the House should dissent from it.
The advice given by the hon. member for Bothwell (Mr. Clancy) is timely and important ; advice is always important at the inception of an undertaking. There are important interests involved in this enterprise. It is to be a great transcontinental road which must carry the produce of half a continent either cheaply or dearly, and in proportion to the cheapness or dearness of that carriage it will be for the weal or woe of the people who contribute the money to build it. To the people who raise and ship the grain it is important that it should be a road, as the hon. member for North Norfolk (Mr. Charlton) said, with few curves and low gradients, a standard road-bed of very finished quality. It must be that if it is going to carry the produce at a price, which will pay the farmer of old Canada who puts his money into the construction of the road and the farmer of the west who sends his grain over it.
It must as well be a road of equally high standard to be available for the consumer, because, for the produce that is taken over it the consumer must pay part of the cost as. well as the producer. So, from whichever standpoint you consider it, I say it is an important undertaking and we should give timely advice on this the eve of the government committing itself to it. Who is responsible for this information ? What is the duty of parliament ? We have 213 members in this House who are endeavouring to bring their intelligence to bear upon
an important business proposal to which the government is committing the country. If the government makes a proposition to parliament it is its bounden duty to lay before parliament such intelligent information as will enable parliament to judge whether it is wise or otherwise before committing the country to it. Has the government done that ? We complain that it has not done it. It is! true that we have had the statement made by the right hon. leader of the government (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier) that there are mountains of information, but the mountains of information have not been made available to the members of this House because they have not been placed before the House. If the right hon. gentleman knows where these mountains of information are he and his colleagues are failing in their duty when they do not lay them on the Table of the House so that every hon. member can examine this information for himself and decide whether it is wise or not to go on with this great undertaking. What information have they doled out to us ? We have had certain data laid before us, but when we come to examine it we find that it is made up of the reports of missionaries who passed through that country one hundred years ago, who had no knowledge of what our advanced civilization might require in that country and who directed their attention not to procuring any information which might be valuable to us to-day but to giving information that pertained more particularly to the line of life in which they were engaged and ns to what the country might be in the future. We desire to-day to get such information as will enable us to do our duty as members of this House in assenting to or opposing this proposition. We had some other scraps of information that were given us and which were obtained from travellers, pleasure seekers, hunters, men who were looking for timber, but in. forty-nine cases out of fifty, I am within the mark when 1 say that these men did not give us the class of information that is necessary to enable us to undertake the construction of q. great transcontinental railway. They told us something of the flora of the country, of its beautiful rivers, of its spruce timber, which is to be found within a limited area, but their exanimation of the country was such as to justify us in saying that the reports which they have given afforded us no information whatever. We have no information from surveyors who have_ passed through that country. Have they given us any information regarding the topographical features of the country ? What information do we require to-day ? Is it a mountainous country ? Is it a level country ? Is it a country of rocks or a country of alluvial soil ? It is true that portions of it contain alluvial soil, but a great deal of the territory through which this road will run is a terra incognita to the members of this House. If there is any
further information about this country available why has it not been collated and put before the House so that we could examine it ? The information which the government has put before the House is the merest epitome of knowledge available on the subject and it is not such information as would justify any intelligent man in deciding whether it would be wise or otherwise on his part to support the government on 'this great undertaking. This is a proposition that every intelligent man in Canada ought to give heed to. The government and its friends are supposed to represent at least the average intelligence of the country because they are sent here as representatives of the people. Then it becomes important to them in defence of their own reputations that they should look closely into this undertaking, that they should examine it carefully, and that they should analyse it before they support the government in committing the country to it. The importance of this country demands it. This is a great commercial transcontinental railway designed to handle the produce of half the continent. If it is the right sort of a road it will handle it cheaply and successfully. If we cannot get the right sort of a road without expending too much money and we go on and build it, then we would be doing an unwise thing. But not only for the country we represent, not only for the people who will use the road in the future, whether the farmer in the west, or the consumer in the east, or the manufacturer or others who send their goods over it, it is important that we should make haste slowly and that we should have this information before us before committing ourselves to the project. Its success or failure depends upon the character of the road. What information have we from any intelligent source that enables us to understand whether it is possible to construct such a road as we desire to have in such a manner as to ensure that it shall be a successful commercial railway ? What information have we from experts ? What information have we from railway experts or intelligent engineers who have gone through the country to procure this information ? Practically none. But, we are called upon to give an opinion upon this great undertaking without this information and we are asked to go it blind. We, as representatives of the taxpayers of the country, do not desire to go it blind. We desire to have that information. On behalf of the taxpayers of the country we demand it. On behalf of the people we represent we demand it. On behalf of the people who are to use this road in the future, we demand it so that we may know what we are committing the country to at the present time. If there were nothing beyond the financial importance of the undertaking to consider it would be wise that we should have this information. Any undertaking that involves the country in an
expenditure of from $100,000,000 to $150,000,000 iis a very important undertakingand in proportion to its greatness it is necessary that we should act wisely in carrying it out or otherwise. The financial importance of this undertaking demands that we should have this information before we commit the country to this heavy expenditure. What effect will it have in the future ? It is going to attack our credit in the world. It is going to roll up our debt. It is going to put a burden upon every farmer, labouring man, mechanic, and professional man of this country and it is going to put a tax of at least $125 on every family of five members in this country. Considering this, is it not wise that we should proceed slowly and along intelligent lines in considering a matter of such great financial importance ? The country's interests demand that we should have this information. The people whom we represent demand it as well. The taxpayers of Canada demand it and therefore we should have it. The farmers of the west demand it. Why ? Because they are led to believe that when this road is put through it w'dll carry their grain cheaper than it can be carried at the present time. They know what it costs to take their produce out of the country to the markets of the world, but they are deluded into the belief to-day that when this road is built and when we have committed this country to this great expenditure it will take out their grain for from two to three or four cents per bushel cheaper than any other roads are doing to-day.
The government tell us that this road is to be of a high standard, and the question then comes in : Will the financial resources of this country be sufficient to construct a road of such a high standard from Winnipeg to Moncton? We do not know what it will cost; we are absolutely in the dark as to that, and the government refuse us information on which we might intelligently form an opinion. For the last time we ask the government to furnish this information to the House. If this road should turn out as many believe, it wrill be a failure, and if it should strike a fatal blow at the country's credit; if after we have taxed every man, woman and child in Canada it is found that we have acted unwisely ; then. Sir, the government will be held responsible before the great electorate of the country for rushing headlong into this scheme and refusing to take the wise counsel1 given by the opposition in this House. Let the government dissolve the House and face the electors; let them seek justification for their policy at the hands of the people. I challenge them to do that. They dare not. If they accept that challenge we will say no more about information, but we will place the facts before the people to enable them to say whether we are right and the government wrong. It is evident that the government want to commit the country to this Mr. SPROULE.
expenditure before the people can pronounce upon it, and that being so, it is our duty here, to induce them, if we cannot compel them, to furnish the information which the country demands. We appeal to them for the last time. They may not heed the appeal, but the day will come when the electorate of Canada will speak in a voice louder than thunder, condemning the government for its imprudent and improvident policy on this question. For the last time, we ask the government to hasten slowly, before committing the country to this enormous' expenditure.
If we were to judge by the tone of the remarks of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Sproule) one would hardly imagine that fifteen years ago, the hon. gentleman took an entirely different position In this House, from that which he advocates so strenuously to-day. Fifteen years ago, it was proposed to spend four million dollars of the public money to buildi a road from1 Harvey to Salisbury or Moncton, and a resolution was then' moved setting forth that no surveys had been made, that nothing was known of the country through which it was proposed to build the railway ; that an engineer had never traversed that territory, and that consequently it was premature to saddle the country with the expenditure for that line. When that resolution was moved, the hon. member for East Grey (Mr. Sproule) stood up and voted against it.
Voted against the amendment in favour of delay until information was obtained. That amendment was moved by Mr. Weldon, then member for St. John, asking that there should be delay until surveys had been made, and the hon. member for East Grey voted against it.
I will leave it to the hon. gentleman (Mr. Sproule) to say whether it was wise or unwise, but I can say that I have the evidence here that the hon. gentleman is inconsistent. There was no great demand for that railway at the time ; there to no crisis of whatsoever kind, but the hon. member for East Grey voted that amendment down, and so far as he was concerned would rush into the construction of the Harvey and Salisbury branch, without surveys or estimates of cost. The hon. member (Mr. Sproule) sat in this House when
tlie Canadian Pacific Railway charter was passed, and I would like to ask him if the government of that day had any more information with reference to the western line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, than the government of to-day has with reference to the Grand Trunk Pacific ? He knows as well as I do that they had not; he knows as well as I do that the Conservative government had not as much information a'uout the Canadian Pacific Railway at that time as we have about the Grand Trunk Pacific now. I believe that my hon. friend from Centre Toronto (Mr. Brock) is honest in his convictions, and for that reason I always like to hear him speaking in this House. Today, he told us that if you are buying a chain you should be guided in your purchase by the strength of the weakest link in the chain. I admit that. Let us apply that principle to the case we are now discussing, and let us see how it works out. We have information galore as to the eastern section of the country between Quebec and Winnipeg. We saw the Minister of the Interior present to this House a map showing that that country had been covfered with surveys. The most ample information has been obtained from engineers and others
I am sorry that my hon. friend (Mr. Casgrain) was not here at the time, but he can refer back to the speech of the Minister of Finance for the information. As I was going on to say ; we have information as to the country from Quebec westward to Winnipeg and that information enables us to say that the weakest link in the chain, is that link which extends from North Bay to Winnipeg. And yet, Sir, my hon. friend (Mr. Brock) and his whole party were perfectly willing to assist the Grand Trunk to build from North Bay to Winnipeg, across the very weakest link in that whole chain. Our information shows that from Quebec to within 400 miles of Winnipeg, we have in the country a magnificent heritage, rich in agriculture and mineral and lumber resources. But from that point westward, there is no doubt that the country is not so good. However, it was through this least valuable of all the territory from North Bay to Winnipeg, that the member from Toronto (Mr. Brock) was willing to assist in building a railway. And what would happen if he had his way in this regard ? Why, Sir, the trade of this country, instead of being kept in Canadian channels, would
have been diverted to the ports of the United States. Sir, our information as to the country leads us to believe that we would not be true to Canada or true to ourselves, if we hesitated to give that country such means of transportation as will tend to develop its resources in minerals, In lumber, and in agriculture. I am surprised that a gentleman representing the progressive city of Toronto should stand up in this House and say : to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow. We want men of action in Canada. The day of delaying action until to-morrow is gone by. This project must be viewed from a broad national standpoint. This road does not come very near to my own province but we are looking on it, not as Nova Scotians, but as Canadians. We believe that the day for inaction has ceased in Canada, and that day has come when we should develop our resources with energy and with promptitude. That is why we favour this Bill. I was speaking, not over an hour ago, with a very prominent Conservative from Western Canada and he told me he regretted that his friends in the House of Commons were objecting to this railway, because, as he said, any man who knows the western country, realizes that we want not only one transcontinental line, but three or four transcontinental lines for the development of our western country alone, without taking into account at ail the development of northern Ontario and Quebec. I am surprised, Sir, that men who endorsed the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, should be so inconsistent as to now oppose the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. [DOT]
My hon. friend from Centre Toronto (Mr. Brock) spoke about the shipper in the wrest going to the agent of the Grand Trunk Pacific to find out the cheapest route by which to ship his grain. We admit that the shippers of the North-west desire to ship their grain by the cheapest route. But does my hon. friend not know that by the contract we have made, not only is the grain to be carried to a Canadian port at the same cost as to an American port, but that, more than that, it must be carried to the point of destination. whether Liverpool, Manchester, Southampton or anywhere else on the other side of the water, at the same cost as via United States ports ? If that is a condition of the contract by which the Grand Trunk Pacific Company are bound, does my hon. friend mean to insult the patriotism "of the farmers of the North-west Territories by saying that they are going to send their grain by American ports to Liverpool when they can send it by Canadian ports at the same cost ? Surely he does not know the spirit of loyalty and patriotism that animates the farmers of the North-west when he makes that suggestion. That is in the Contract, and that part of the contract will be carried out. My hon. friend has said that we have not any engineer's report, and
lie asks, why don't we wait until we get some eminent engineer to report on the line from Quebec to Winnipeg ? Mr. Chairman, the most eminent engineer of Canada is Sir Sandford Fleming. He was the chief engineer of construction of the Intercolonial Railway and the chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and has probably more knowledge than any other man in the Dominion of Canada of the engineering features of this country ; and he has endorsed this railway from Quebec to Winnipeg.
The hon. gentleman has no doubt seen his interviews published in the newspapers of this country, which some of the papers on his own side of politics have attacked, in which he states that this road is practicable and that the engineering difficulties are not serious. What more do we want when we have the authority of the best engineer in Canada ? When this road has the endorsation of the most experienced engineer, why shouldi we ask the opinion of minor engineers in reference to its location ? My hon. friend from East Grey (Mr. Sproule) has said that we are afraid to go to the country upon this issue of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. I do not think myself that we are going to the country very soon. But we could have gone to the country without the Grand Trunk Pacific Bill at all. It does not look like cowardice on our part to submit this Bill to parliament, when we could have gone to the country on the record of the best government we have ever had in the Dominion of Canada.