As I am informed, $50,000 at the most will complete the work which is covered by these items. As regards Tracadie, this amount of $40,000, including the revote of $13,400, is required to complete the channel across the flats by dredging the channel for an approximate length of 3,750 feet to a depth of 9 feet at low water.
I should like to speak briefly in reference to one item on this vote, namely that of $400,000 for Richelieu river improvements. Since the amount asked for this year is only $400,000, whereas the last two or three years it has been $500,000 each time, I assume that $100,000 has already been spent on these proposed-said to be-improvements. I shall speak briefly and I have no intention whatever of holding up the item, because I have no doubt it will pass readily, anyway.
What I have to say is by way of warning. I cannot help feeling that these so-called improvements on the Richelieu are akin to those which were made a number of years ago on a small river on works which were
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afterwards called the Newmarket canal. Up there in northern Ontario you will find docks and locks out in the middle of the fields, with water more or less miles away. Of course I realize that the Richelieu river is a much finer river; it is magnificent compared with anything we have up in that part of Ontario. But I cannot forget what happened two years ago, when the United States government and the Canadian government were considering, through the International Joint Commission, a recommendation to canalize the Richelieu river so that boats of large tonnage could go down that river from lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence, and south again into the Hudson river, so that there might be an ocean seaway from New York to Montreal via the Richelieu. Apparently that is all abandoned and some other scheme is now proposed. I note from the communication which the Canadian government made to the International Joint Commission in 1937 that the scheme has been changed from one of navigation to one of flood prevention, similar to the scheme proposed in 1907, which was also one of flood prevention.
Now, what was the application of the government of Canada to the International Joint Commission with respect to Richelieu river remedial works? On page 1, paragraph 2, we read:
The parliament of Canada, at its last session, appropriated the sum of $500,000 under vote 408, S.S.E. 1936-37, as follows:
"Richelieu river-improvement of river and Chambly canal system, $500,000."
This vote is for the purpose of the construction of remedial works for the reclamation and protection of low lands in St. Johns, Iberville and Missisquoi counties, in the province of Quebec.
The International Joint Commission granted the application of the government. It is referred to on page 7 of this same report that I am reading, in paragraph 11:
This matter is, accordingly, being submitted to the commission by the government of Canada, and it is hoped that the commission, in view of the need for protection against flood conditions, will expedite matters so that construction can be commenced at an early date.
I understand that later on the International Joint Commission gave that right. What I am trying to get through my head is, how are the figures of the water levels in this report to be reconciled with those of. the water levels contained in the submission to the International Joint Commission some two years ago? The low water level of lake Champlain is 93-3, and the high, 102-6. But this report states that the work proposes to lower the water level of lake Champlain to 92-5. For it states on page 6:
It is the intention of the government of Canada that during the navigation season the water level above the dam will be maintained at or above the present ordinary minimum elevation of 92-5-
If it is to be maintained at that level, has the government obtained the consent of the United States to the lowering of the low water level of lake Champlain from 93-3 to 92-5? I have not found anything in the reports to indicate that the United States government has endorsed that low water level. Last fall, in company with an engineer and a newspaper man, I spent some time along the Richelieu river trying to find those low lands, and had great difficulty in doing so. As a matter of fact only a very small part of lake Champlain, about seventeen square miles, is in Canada. I went all around that area. The day I visited the north end of lake Champlain, at Missisquoi bay, the water level was between 95 and 96 feet above sea level, approximately three feet higher than the level proposed by the government; and on that day the water was five feet below the road level. I measured it. I asked some of the old-timers there what was the effect when the lake was at high water level, 102-6, and they told me that the road was sometimes covered to the extent of a foot or a little more, but that the water did not stay there very long.
I should like: the minister to tell us, if he can, how many square miles or acres of so called low lands are flooded by lake Champlain, and if it will be of much value to relieve these low lands of the water for two or three weeks in the spring. The land did not appear to me to be very good. The trees did not seem to be damaged at all by the high water. On the west side of the river the banks are high; on the east side there may be a little more flooding of land, but it does not last very long. According to the information I obtained at the engineer's office, the dam is to be eighteen feet high. I may not have the correct figures, but if the dam that is proposed to be built at Fryer's island is to be eighteen feet high, each side of the river at that point will be flooded. I believe the banks on the east side are about fifteen feet above the river and those on the west side about twelve feet. I should like to find out from the minister if it is proposed to build dykes along where the dam is to be built in order to keep the land, which is good at that point, from being flooded.
I have no objection whatever to the work if it is necessary and there is any value to it. I do not want the people of that community to think I am opposing it for any reason other than what my own judgment tells me.
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I know that last year all the local newspapers gave me a fairly good dressing down for opposing the vote. They should not do that. I do not talk in this house from any motive whatever other than to do the best I can for this country. If the government can say that any real service will be rendered or any worth while improvements made in that area through the erection of this dam, I will not oppose it. I do not see that it is going to be of any particular value, however, and certainly if the time comes when that magnificent river is canalized so that large ships can go up and down it, a dam of this kind will not be worth a fig anyway; a much larger dam will be required, and this money will be wasted. I do not want the minister to think I am opposing this for any other reason than what I believe to be right.
I do not propose in any shape or form to object to the criticism and fair observations made by the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. MacNicol). I recognize that it is his absolute right to inquire about these things and inform himself as to the conditions existing, and I would be the last person in the world to criticize him for doing so.
When the matter was placed before the International Joint Commission it was not formally the question referred to in this vote. At the same time, as my hon. friend stated last year and mentioned again this year, the commission had under consideration three proposals that were made more particularly by United States interests. One of the proposals was to have a canal from lake Champlain right up to Montreal through United States territory, reaching lake St. Francis.
No, lake St. Francis. They offered another proposal also, to build a canal across Canadian territory from the town of St. Johns on the Richelieu river to Laprairie, in front of Montreal, on the south side of the St. Lawrence. Then their third proposal was to have a canal built from the foot of the present Chambly canal, at Chambly, going right up to Montreal on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, somewhere near St. Lambert. The fourth proposal, which they studied at the same time, was the canalization of the Richelieu river from lake Champlain down to the St. Lawrence. But the idea of the United States people interested in the proposals was to have a deep canal, capable of
being navigated by vessels of the type that would navigate the proposed St. Lawrence waterway.
Yes. They wanted to have the same depth of water in the Richelieu river, if it was canalized, that would exist in the proposed canal for the St. Lawrence. They expressed the view, I admit, that a depth of about twenty-seven feet was the only thing in which they were interested. The Canadian interests were satisfied with a depth of twelve feet, which is the present depth of the United States canals from Lake Champlain to the Hudson river. Part of the Richelieu river has a depth of twelve feet at the present time.
Yes, and less. The Chambly canal has not more than five and a half or six feet. We would have been satisfied if the canalization of the Richelieu river had been carried out to provide a depth of twelve feet, but, as I have said, the Americans concerned were not interested in such a shallow depth.
In addition to the suggestions I have just indicated, the present proposal was submitted to the International Joint Commission to build a regulating dam between St. Johns and Chambly.
Yes, bringing forward an old proposal that had been submitted to the international commission as far back as 1907. At that time parliament voted a certain amount of money to dredge the Richelieu river from the city of St. Johns up to the boundary. There are natural obstacles in that river,-a natural dam, we might call it. There is little water at that particular place, the shores of the river are very low. But when the Canadian government started the work of dredging between St. Johns and the boundary, the United States intervened and claimed that by doing away with the natural obstacles existing in the river we would cause the flow of the water to become very rapid, and as a consequence would lower the level of the water in lake Champlain. As a result of the objection raised by the United States the work which had been under contract for some time was stopped, and the representatives of the two countries discussed the possibility of building remedial works.
At that time the International Joint Commission, or the board which preceded the formation of that commission, approved of a
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regulating dam to be built at Fryer's Island, and with that regulating dam being built they said they would have no objection to the dredging of the natural obstacles existing between St. Johns and the boundary. Although the approval of the international board was on record, we thought that so long a time had elapsed since the approval had been given that it would be advisable to renew the request to the international board. We placed the facts before them again, and made a request for the approval of a regulating dam, the dam which is contemplated by this vote.