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


Pierre-Joseph-Arthur Cardin (Minister of Public Works)



Mr. Chairman, I think it is only fair that I say a word in answer to the two hon. gentlemen who have spoken on this matter. At this late hour I do not feel like entering upon a lengthy discussion to justify the proposal which has been made, or mentioned incidentally, the rebuilding of the Chambly canal. Certain comments have been made outside this house by certain people who, I am sure, do not know the first thing about the matter, and have never seen the Richelieu river and its surroundings. Without being too severe I may say that that criticism and their contention were most unfair and were evidently the result of a desire to say something disagreeable to the minister.
My hon. friend (Mr. Stewart) has referred to an article in the Montreal Gazette. That article is really very mild, but it contains some kind of answer to the fear expressed by my hon. friend. It says that already a very important paper company in the province of Quebec has built two ships capable of navigating the rowboat canal as we have it at present at Chambly, and that other paper companies are contemplating the building of ships capable of navigating that canal in order to ship their paper and wood pulp to the United States, avoiding by that method going round the Gaspe peninsula into the gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic ocean in order to reach New York and other important ports in the United States. They have found it advisable to build ships to navigate the present canal. We must remember that this canal is capable of being navigated only by vessels of 250 tons. That was all right in the old days, but the experts tell us that it is possible to develop this canal to permit its navigation by ships of 1,800 tons. This would be quite sufficient to take care of any possible traffic.
The objection was raised the other day that there was no traffic available. Well, there was no traffic available when the Canadian Pacific Railway was first initiated. There was no traffic available when both parties decided to build the Hudson Bay railway and to develop a port on the Hudson bay. We all wanted to develop any possibilities in Canada, and we took those methods of developing traffic. Many undertakings have been started without any present justification. The development of the St. Lawrence river from the ocean to Montreal was not undertaken when vessels were waiting in the gulf to go up to Montreal. The development of the wharves and other port facilities at Montreal were not undertaken jvhen the traffic was waiting in the harbour; those facilities were provided for the traffic that might develop later on.
[Mr Stewart.]
The same thing applies to the Richelieu river and the Chambly canal. There is no traffic at the present time because it is no longer profitable to use ships of only 250 tons. The traffic through the St. Lawrence canals when they were of the same size as the Chambly canal would compare very favourably with the traffic passing through the Chambly canal. To-day there is a great difference in the traffic through the two canal systems because the St. Lawrence canal's have been deepened to permit vessels of larger draft to go through. If the St. Lawrence canals bad been kept at the old depth of twelve feet, the present depth of the Chambly canal, there would be no traffic going through the St. Lawrence from the great- lakes to Montreal because it is not profitable to transport goods in vessels of only 250 tons.
I regret I have discussed this canal at this time because there is no necessity of this entering into the discussion. The vote which I am asking the committee to pass provides for a regulating dam between St. Johns and Chambly. This will be used more particularly for reclaiming low land's in the vicinity of St. Johns-Iberville and Missisquoi counties. It has been established by a report now in the Department of Public Works that a revenue of $500,000 per annum can be obtained from these low lands. These lands are so low that they cannot be cultivated at the present time. They are flooded every spring and as far back as 1900 requests were made to the department for the dredging of the Richelieu river in order to permit the water to flow off in the spring so that these lands might be cultivated. When the federal government started to dredge the Richelieu river an objection Was made by the United States. It was contended that this dredging would precipitate the flow of water in the Richelieu river and lower the level of lake Champlain. The Canadian government then submitted to the United States authorities a proposal for the building of a dam, which was approved. This dam would regulate the flow of water in the spring. When the water is high, the dam would be opened and the river having been dredged, would permit a more rapid flow of water and the lowlands in the vicinity of St, Johns-Iberville would not be flooded. When water is needed in the summer or fall for navigation purposes, the dam would be closed and the normal flow of water *would be permitted down the Richelieu river.
That is the proposal under consideration. Out of this vote of $500,000 to cover the building of the dam we want a few thousand dollars to be used for survey purposes to

National Harbours Board
determine the desirability of rebuilding the Chambly canal. My hon. friend mentioned an amount of $12,000,000 for this work, but the figure I mentioned the other day was $8,000,000. This figure was a mere guess on the part of the engineers. As there are no plans in the department for the rebuilding of this canal, no one can say definitely just what it will cost. I gave that figure the other day because I was pressed, but it represented a mere guess on the part of the engineers. If the government should decide to proceed with this rebuilding, the matter would come up next session or at another session. There would then be a vote placed before the committee, or possibly some other legislation would be introduced to provide for the reconstruction of the Chambly canal. I want it to be clearly understood that this amount is just to cover the building of a dam which has been contemplated as far back as 1900. After this explanation I feel that any apprehension which may have existed with regard to the rebuilding of this canal should disappear. If it is definitely decided to rebuild this canal, the house will have an opportunity to discuss the matter at a future session.
Item stands.
Progress reported.

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