June 20, 1936 (18th Parliament, 1st Session)


John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)


When the house rose on May 8, I believe one of the items under discussion was that referring to the Richelieu river improvements, and in connection with that item I should like to make a few observations. From what the minister said at that time it would appear that this expenditure of $500,000 is only an initial amount, and that the ultimate improvements in connection with Richelieu navigation may cost about $10,000,000 or $12,000,000.
In the course of his remarks the minister referred to two of the proposed junction canals from the St. Lawrence river system to the Richelieu system, one from Chambly and, if I remember correctly, the other from lake St. Francis, which might be considered in the future. The subject of canals and everything pertinent to the waterways of this country and those of the United States has long been a study of my own. I have in mind the fact that in 1897 the report sent by the Deep Waterways Commission to the United States government, and later confirmed in the 1919 report of the War Department of the United States, proposed several other routes including the two mentioned by the minister. As I understand the situation, those routes would tap the traffic in the St. Lawrence system and divert it from Montreal and the St. Lawrence river east of Montreal to the Richer lieu system, and via the Hudson river system to New York.
One of the routes began in the two western lakes, namely lake Superior and lake Michigan, afterwards entering lake Huron. From lake Huron one route according to the map I have, proceeded through lake Nipissing and the Ottawa river to lake St. Louis, and then from the west end of lake St. Louis over to Chambly on the Richelieu. From that point it went on up over the height of land and down through the Hudson river to New York. Another route which is not commonly referred to, but which is shown on the map, was to leave Georgian bay at the mouth of the Nottawasaga river, then overland, I assume, via the Nottawasaga valley and the Humber valley to Toronto, then by lake Ontario to Oswego and the Erie canal, or down the St. Lawrence to lake St. Francis, and from lake

St. Francis over to lake Champlain at a point near Plat.tsburg.
Another proposal was to divert the traffic by lake Michigan and the Chicago canal to the Illinois river, the Mississippi river and then to New Orleans. Personally I am opposed to any proposal which would divert traffic that should follow the St. Lawrence river to Montreal harbour and the river, east. The St. Lawrence river route is the natural route for traffic from the west via water, and the route via the Richelieu, river, the Chambly canal and the Hudson river is an unnatural route. The United States Champlain canal, from the point where it enters the Hudson .river at the Mohawk river is and for some years has been canalized to take care of boats of considerable length. I believe the locks are 331 feet long and 45 feet wide, with a draft of twelve feet. As I understand the matter, the minister proposes to follow up with other locks in the Richelieu river to permit traffic up that river of boats which would pass, through the Champlain canal locks. The locks are to be 339 feet by 49 feet, with a twelve foot draft. I cannot help feeling that that would divert from the St. Lawrence system a great deal of traffic that should be going down that river. That traffic should go from Montreal down to the sea by the natural route. It is some considerable distance longer by way of New York than by way of Montreal to Father Point, which is in the deep water section of the St. Lawrence river.
After referring to these maps which I secured some years ago from the War Department, during trips to Washington, I wonder if the department is certain that the building of the canal would be beneficial to Canada. Personally I do not believe it would. I feel that any diversion of St. Lawrence traffic down the Hudson river would be detrimental to traffic in the St. Lawrence river which is Canada's great artery and certainly the natural route. Unless the United States up traffic is particularly beneficial, I cannot see how it would be of great benefit to the boats using the system, because of the elevation that ships would have to ascend from Sorel to the south end of lake Champlain where Champlain canal commences. I believe it rises about ninety f-eet in all, then from lake Champlain up over the height of land and into the Hudson river, which I believe is up about forty-five feet and down about 140 feet, before it enters into the Hudson river near Albany. It is to cost $500,000, and then later millions will have to be paid out. In my opinion that large amount of money might be better spent in Montreal harbour and the route east from that harbour.

Supply-Harbours and Rivers
The Montreal Standard of March 30 has a little item headed "Low water in port vexing problem. Channel control now suggested. Montreal port future menaced." That is just one of many articles which have appeared in the papers for some time past. In my humble opinion it would be much better to spend this money on deepening the Montreal harbour or providing works east of Montreal or improving the St. Lawrence river. I do not know if the minister can change the item from the Richelieu to the S;t. Lawrence river, but I hope it is possible to do so. I am not opposing the spending of this money because it will provide work, but I would much rather see this ten or twelve million dollars, which the minister has given as an estimate of the eventual cost, spent in Montreal harbour and on the river east of Montreal than on the Richelieu river.

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