September 30, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)


Before the third reading of this Bill is carried. I wish to occupy the attention of the House for a very short time to move an amendment, which applies to section 8, it is as follows ;
That all the words after the word * that ' to the end of the question be left out. and the following be substituted therefor : ' the Bill be referred back to a Committee of the Whole House with power to amend section 8 by adding thereto the following words :-
'Provided, however, that the surveys and plans, showing the most favourable route and the best practicable grades and curvatures that can be obtained, together with an estimate of the cost based thereon, shall be first submitted to the parliament for approval.'
It seems to me that this is an amendment that should meet the approval of both sides of the House. When this Bill was first introduced by the Prime Minister, tlie leader of the opposition challenged the government to state within ten million dollars what the cost of this work would be. I listened with great attention to the whole debate, lasting many weeks, and I have not heard any member of the government attempt to answer or to solve that question. I am quite sure that the people of Canada will regret very much that the parliament of Canada propose to expend in the neighbourhood of one hundred or one hundred and twenty million dollars without first laying upon the Table of the House some closer estimate of what this work is going to cost, and some estimate of its length, within a few miles, and the character of the country it is to traverse.
During this discussion a large number of petitions have been presented to the House coming from every section of Canada, coming from the farmers of this country, who ask that, following ordinary business principles. the government should lay upon the Table some estimate of the cost. Surely,

there must be some duty resting upon the government in respect to the expenditure of the people's money. It is all very well to say that we have prosperous times now, it is all very well for the Finance Minister to say that we have a flowing treasury-that is ail very acceptable, and is appreciated by the people of Canada. But notwithstanding that, Mr. Speaker, the people of this country expect that their money should be expended in a business-like manner, and with that in view they have spoken out in very loud tones, I think, judging from the large number of petitions that have been presented1 from day to day, signed by hundreds and hundreds of electors belonging to both sides of politics. I think it is proper that a copy of these petitions should be placed upon the [DOT] Hansard,' and I propose, with the kind indulgence of the House, to read it. It deals with the subject of the resolution which I have moved, because it asks for an estimate of the cost of this proposed railway.
To the Honourable
The Senate and House of Commons of Canada, In Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned electors of the Dominion of Canada humbly showeth :
1. That a wise and prudent solution of the great question of transportation is of the utmost importance as regards the future of this Dominion.
2. That your petitioners are of opinion that it would be unwise and imprudent to take definite action until the government and parliament are fully possessed of the information essential to a proper decision of that question.
3. That the country is not possessed of such information ; that the government has appointed a commission to investigate and report upon the whole subject of transportation. .
i. That, a project of such magnitude should not be undertaken without the most complete and accurate surveys, under the direction and control of engineers of standing and repute.
5. That such surveys should be in the hands of the government and of parliament before the credit of the Dominion is committed to an enterprise which involves enormous obligations.
6. That those obligations cannot properly be estimated before such surveys shall have been made.
7. That, however, the most competent men are of the opinion that the cost of the projected line between Winnipeg and Moncton will reach the enormous amount of upwards of $120,000,000.
8. That no evidence has been adduced so far during the long discussion that has taken place to establish that such a large expenditure of public money will cheapen the freight rates for the products of the west, or establish more satisfactory communication between the different parts of the Dominion.
9. That, on the contrary, it is greatly to be feared that by pledging the credit of the conn-try to such a vast extent, the government will make it impossible to carry ont works better calculated to meet the transportation needs of the country.
10. That the government, parliament and taxpayers should have an opportunity to learn the results of the investigation of the said commission ; and to examine the evidence upon which such results were arrived at.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the said Bill now before parliament may not now become law ; but that its further consideration by the government and by parliament shall be deferred until such full and accurate information shall have been obtained and laid before parliament.
That is a copy of the petitions that are being presented to this House by the hundreds within the last few weeks. Some little effort lias been made on the other side of the House to cast reflection upon the genuineness of the signatures to some of these petitions. I may remind our lion, friends opposite that from every section, almost from every county, have come petitions from the farmers who have put tlieir names to these documents, making the reasonable request that before their money is expended the government should apply to this enterprise the same business principles that any private company would apply to its own business.
I have no hesitation in saying that the electors who signed these petitions are responsible citizens-we have seen them coming from the great metropolis of Montreal this morning signed by 5,000 electors of that great city-surely these deserve some consideration by the government.
We are asked" to construct this road without proper estimates. The right hon. first minister has laid upon the Table a Blue-book, that has been occasionally re^ ferred to in this discussion. I do not propose to make any extended reference to it, only to read one short paragraph in respect to the timber. It has been frequently alleged in this House by hon. gentlemen opposite that this road ought to be constructed through the northern part of the provinces of Quebec and Ontario for the purpose of developing timber limits and the timber resources of those regions. Here is a paragraph from the report of Sir. Ogilvie, D.L.S., 1891, addressed to the Minister of the Interior, in which he makes this statement :
II the timber on all the other rivers flowing into the bay is no more important than that I saw on the Abitibi, I would hesitate as to the timber resources of that district being valuable; for though it is all thickly wooded, only a small percentage of it (along the river at least) is large enough for merchantable lumber.
So you see that this gentleman says that the timber limits of that section of the provinces of Quebec and Ontario to which reference is made in this Blue-book, are not so valuable -as tlie members of the government would lead us to believe. Now, in so far as the transportation of wheat is concerned, I wish to give one short quotation from a speech of the First Minister when discussing the transportation question last session. On page 958 of the 1 Hansard ' of 1902, I find he made this statement;
But, unfortunately, there is a rugged section along the shores of Lake Superior which hardly admits of wheat being commercially carried through.

When the First Minister was discussing the transportation question in the last session of parliament, with all this information in the hands of the government-because doubtless there is no information of more recent date than that they possessed last session-with all the information at his disposal with all the knowledge the right hon. gentleman has been able to obtain as First Minister for the purpose of solving the great transportation question during all the time he has been in public life, during the seven years he has been Prime Minister of this country, I say with all this information, the right hon. gentleman stood up in this House last session and said that the carriage of wheat from the west would be a failure as a commercial enterprise. I do not quite understand what change has come over the hon. gentleman's views. Surely the rocks that were there last year are there still ; this rugged country that he referred to last session is still as rugged as ever. The hon. gentleman has not given us any information more recent than that. And yet the First Minister is prepared to say now that a road can be constructed through that country that would be of commercial value.- It does look as if some unknown person had stepped in to the counsels of the government and demanded a speedy solution of this question in the interest of the Grand Trunk Railway. I do not quite understand what the right hon. gentleman means. We are expected as a Canadian parliament to 'conduct our business in a businesslike manner. The government of Canada, by reason of owning and operating the Intercolonial Railway has the advantage of knowing something about the cost of railway construction, inasmuch as it has expended an enormous sum ranging from seventy-five million upwards upon government roads in this country.
It has been expended, not by private enterprise, but by the government themselves. The government of this country, year after year, have been expending vast sums in the purchasing of cars, and of steel rails, and of locomotives, and of railway ties, indeed, in the purchase of everything that enters into railway construction, ahd the government, therefore, should have been able to lay before the people of this country a fair estimate of the cost before they would) undertake such a gigantic work, notwithstanding the government has this advantage, they are now In the railway business themselves, notwithstanding that they have been equipping the Intercolonial Railway by taking down the old bridges and replacing them with newer and up-to-date bridges,) notwithstanding that they have told the people of this country that they have practically equipped anew the Intercolonial Railway by the construction of better roadbed, by the purchase of better freight cars and better passenger cars-notwithstanding all this, the people of this country are asked to pay this enormous amount of money

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