I am saying nothing of the navigation of Hudson bay or the straits. Possibly they are navigable for several months of the year, but I do not think Port Nelson is accessible for ships for more than sixty days at most in the average year. On the 15th, Mr. McLachlan wrote:
On Monday succeeded witdi difficulty in reaching Nelson Shoal with Yates. Ice very heavy and densely packed. A twelve and a half foot tide completely covers Nelson shoal.
Referring to the railway, Mr. McLachlan, the engineer in charge of the works up there, said:
In -the 91 miles betwsen the second crossing of the Nelson river, mile 333, and Port Nelson, there are two rivers to cross, namely, the Limestone and the Airhole. The bridge required in the latter case is quite expensive, and will require a viaduct 100 feet high and nearly one thousand feet long.
Though the 91 miles between mile 333 and Port Nelson is said to be graded, there is only a mound of vegetable material in place and 80 per cent of the work of making a satisfactory road-bed is yet to be performed in this section.
There we have 92.5 miles with just a little amount of vegetable matter, and still we have an estimate of the cost of completing that grade of over $20,000. That is $210 a mile for grading that 92.5 miles. Any man familiar with contracting work would laugh at that estimate. There is no man who is at a'li familiar with railroads who will not laugh at that estimate. It is absurd to imagine that we can complete, on an expenditure of $210 a mile, a grade of railway in territory where there is now only a mound of vegetable matter. It is simply impossible.
We have to be guided by the reports, and I have gathered from several engineers with whom I have conversed on this subject that the reports, so far as this is concerned, are quite correct. I do not think the minister would suggest for a moment that that grade could be completed at $210 a mile. I say it is absolutely ridiculous and if the other estimates are on a par with this we can see what we may expect. Mr. McLachlan says:
The nature of the estuary and the foundation conditions in it did not permit any tiling in the nature of a shelter from storms to be provided in the design of the 'harbour works. It is hoped, however, that the thirteen miles of shoal water between the docks and the relatively deep water of the bay will so break up the waves that ships will not suffer damage when lying against the wharves. The strong tidal currents, and the low distant shores will always prevent ships entering and leaving Port Nelson except during clear weather.
The hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George has referred to the tramp ships. To any man who is even slightly familiar with navigation, one of the most serious obstacles in the way of this project is indicated in another report by Mr. McLachlan:
The tidal and channel conditions of this estuary, even after improvement, will require a ship to wait outside the entering channels in Hudson bay until high tide, and then when the tide is high, it must come in quickly with the tide and tie up to the wharf before it has (fallen materially. It also contemplates that a ship, when loaded, must arrange to leave the wharves a little before high tide, so as to traverse the distance from the wharves to deep water in Hudson bay, a distance of about twenty-two miles, before the tide has fallen more than a few feet.
Do hon. gentlemen realize what that means? Any ship coming in in a fog, in a snowstorm, or in a wind storm would find it impossible to keep to the channel, even if it were dredged ten feet. This twenty-two miles of shallow water before reaching the river proper is one of the greatest objections to the scheme, and it seems to me we are embarKmg upon something the success of which we are not assured of. While at the outset it was considered a feasible route for the shipment of grain and cattle from the northwest, overseas, it is obvious that there are now very grave doubts as to the possibility of its success in view of the reports of Mr. McLachlan. And I have not heard anyone challenge Mr. McLaehlan's engineering ability. Everyone knows that he occupies a high position because of that ability; I do not think anyone would suggest for a moment that Mr. McLachlan would submit any report which he did not sincerely believe to be true. He
Supply-Hudson Bay Railway
spent four or five years studying that country, under inclement conditions and after investigating the whole subject thoroughly he gave it as his opinion that the project was not feasible.
It is a waste of time talking to anyone who is as biased as my hon. friend. I am trying to get the faots of the matter. I do not say that I am opposing this undertaking. Certainly I am in favour of reconditioning the road to mile 214, or to the point at which Split lake is tributary to the railway. But I do want to have all the facts fairly submitted to the House, and I can assure my hon. friend that I am discussing the subject with an unbiased mind. Hon. gentlemen who are so enthusiastic over this matter cannot see any facts that are not favourable to the completion of the Hudson bay. But we know that any loiterer by the wayside will notice a flat tire on a limousine sooner than the occupants of the car will. I am afraid hon. gentlemen who are so stoutly supporting this project are very much in the position of the occupants of a car so disabled.
I listened with careful attention last night to the remarks of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth), and while it is seldom I find myself in agreement with that hon. gentleman I must admit that he made a very practical, a sensible and a forceful speech on this subject. The hon. gentleman has peculiar ideas in some respects but I consider him a brave man who can stand up and say clearly and fearlessly just what he thinks on a question of this kind, as the hon. member did last night, when he Knows that the views to which he is giving expression are not regarded with favour in the city from which he comes. He is entitled to a great deal of credit for the stand he takes. But so far as other hon. gentlemen are concerned, those gentlemen who are waving their hands and arguing strenuously in support of the undertaking without advancing good reasons, they will not convince anyone who is really anxious to get at the facts and to view the whole question from an impartial standpoint.
A good many reports on the Hudson Bay railway are available from various sources, both from the engineers and from private persons who have been on the ground, and these reports cannot be ignored. I should like to think that the project could be made successful, and I say this as a resident of British Columbia, knowing quite well that the greater the success of the Hudson bay route the greater probably would be our loss out there. We have nothing to gain by it. But I am trying to look at the matter from a broader standpoint. In days gone by ws in British Columbia have -borne without murmur our -share of Canada's burden. I have sat in this House and seen an appropriation asked for which will lead to some $10,000,000 in order to develop trade with the West' Indies, and I observe that there is foreshadowed a loan of $12,000,000 to Montreal. We in British Columbia contribute in taxation per capita as heavily as does any industrial part of Canada, and we are willing to do alt we can for the general good of Canada. But I do not believe that the Hudson Bay grain route is feasible, and in my opinion the only means of settling the question beyond doubt is to send up a couple of our own ships to cruise back and forward there for about a year. Although I have no doubt that if this were done the verdict would confirm the finding which has already been made. Some years it might be possible to get into Port Nelson during two or two and a half months, but of what use is the month of August for taking grain from Port Nelson? And with a 4,000,000 bushel elevator, how could we expect to haul enough grain to make the thing pay? An hon. member said last night that they would be storing grain between -the close and the opening of navigation. What nonsense! Imagine hauling grain in there in the winter time and letting it lie in the elevator until the- following August. The thing is absurd. In my opinion the whole project is an hallucination.
But they do not wait until August 20 of the next year to take that grain out. And they can take it by rail any time they want to. Port Nelson, on the other hand, is absolutely sequestered. My hon.. friend knows that without my telling him.
Now, as I say, I do not know just exactly what to do with reference to this question. I do not believe in voting the $3,000,000. I believe in voting enough money to recondition the road up to the point so graphically described this afternoon by the hon. member for Nelson (Mr. Bird). Beyond that, to talk of
Supply-Hudson Bay Railway
the mineral possibilities is simply speculation. When you get beyond the Flin Flon and Mandy mines, north of The Pas, where is there one mining property of value in that whole country northward to the bay? There is no ore coming out of there. The formation being pre-Cambrian, we are in the habit of saying that we have the greatest potential gold region in the world in the north, but those gold deposits are not contiguous, they are sometimes hundreds of miles apart. The Hudson Bay railway might be completed, and yet a branch line running off a hundred miles from the main line might have to be built to tap the mining region which we hope may be discovered, and even that might be tapped easier from The Pas.
Mr. McLachlan in his report states that in the middle of August, 1917, the port was not open.' That may have been an exceptional year, but the consensus of opinion is that two months navigation is all you can depend on from August 20 in each year. We know the intense desire on the part of the people of the west for that route, they are willing to stake their all that it will be a success. But how are we to judge? As I say, we are loiterers by the wayside trying to deal with the question from the point of view of the best interests of the whole Dominion. Suppose the route is a success to the point that you can send grain just as cheaply from Port Nelson as from Fort William and down the St. Lawrence, how will Canada benefit? What about our great ports of Montreal, Quebec, St. John and Halifax in the east, and our two great ports on the Pacific?