July 17, 1908 (10th Parliament, 4th Session)


Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)


It is such an important matter that I must refer to it with some emphasis. Mr. Cooper would not hear of another engineer being called in and he wrote to Mr. Hoare of the bridge company and' he pointed out to the government that this was altogether extraordinary. Extraordinary ? How? The people of Canada were furnishing the money to finance the whole enterprise ; the government of Canada were charged with the supervision of the plans and they were asked to have an independent examination of these plans. What was extraordinary about that ? What happened? Why, the government gave up completely and had no examination made whatever, and the plans' lay there in the Department of Railways in a huge trunk, all of them approved under the circumstances I have narrated and without a special bridge engineer being called in to give his opinion on them. Well, Sir, I think that with regard to the plans the minority of the committee are right in asserting-as did the Royal Commission and as any man who
reads the evidence must assert

that there
was no examination of the plans of this vast structure by the authority that should have examined them. The fact remains that we financed the enterprise without controlling the plans although the government was specially charged to control them ; and here again was exhibited that same lackadaisical spirit that has characterized the government all through in connection with this vast
work. And the member for Antigonish (Mr. Chisholm) has conceded the point when he said : The government considered Mr. Cooper was a competent man and provided the strength of the original specifications was maintained everything was satisfactory. These are the conclusions to which we of the minority have arrived. First, as regards the finances it is a total loss ; second, as regards the plans there has been no control, no effective and suitable control of these plans. The plans were approved as a formality and nothing more, and when you come to consider the vastness of this undertaking and the dangers that surrounded the building of a bridge of that size for which there is no parallel in the world, it seems to me that we are right in saying' that the government did not use proper precautions in regard to the plans of the structure.
But I must hasten on to what I consider the vital matter. The past is past and there is no use shedding tears, although it is_ necessary to point out where the responsibility is and where the defect was. But, to-day there is a proposition which the government brings to our consideration a few hours before prorogation. Mind you, this accident happened on the 29th of August, 190 (. Best there should be any misunderstanding, I think I am faithfully speaking the opinion of botli my colleagues of the minority of the committee when I say that we believe that this is not only a great national undertaking but that this is a bridge that must be built, and built at once. I do not wish to be represented in my own province as being opposed to this great undertaking. I think the bridge should be built at once. In my opinion when they named the board of very able men who constituted this Royal Commission the government should also have named at that time a board of engineers to prepare plans. We should have had those plans before parliament in January last, possibly with the contract. We should have been in a position months ago to close this matter up and to decide as to the completion of this great work. Instead of that, we are here to-day, with what, Mr. Speaker ? With a proposal to indemnify the shareholders. That is what the proposal of the government amounts to. Let me define my position in that respect. Have we authority at the present moment to construct this bridge ? I take the statute relating to the National Transcontinental Railway as passed in 1903, and I find in that statute that the government has not only authority but is bound by agreement with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company to build another railway from Winnipeg to Moncton. I say there is authority in that statute to build not only the railway but tile bridges connected with the railway. There is authority in that statute to bridge every river and every stream along the route of tlie railway, and consequently we have authority to bridge the St. Lawrence.

There is mo doubt about that. It would take too much time to quote the law, but there is no doubt about it. Amy Minister of Justice who looks at that statute of 1903 will find not only that the government has authority to raise the necessary money, but it is authorized and indeed it is bound under the agreement which is a schedule to the Act to build that railway and to build that bridge.
Therefore, I say that the moment this accident happened-for now I confine my remarks to the events since this dreadful occasion-the government could have named the commission for which it has asked a vote of $25,000 in the estimates recently passed by this .House. It had authority to name a board of engineers to go to work at once. No legislation was necessary. We have the law to go on and finish the bridge, just as we have the law to finish the railway. Fault is found with the calculations of the leader of the opposition as to the cost of this railway. I find fault with them too ; I say that they are too low, the railroad will cost more than the hon. member has estimated. But we are in for It, and we must-and, of course, we will- carry out the work whatever happens. T say that the government has all the necessary authority to go on and finish the work. And what does the Minister of Railways want to do now? He wants this House to authorize the government to take' up the agreement of 19th October, 1903, and pay money right and left. We are to bevin by paying $205,000, the amount of the capital stock. Let me digress for a moment. The hon. member for Bellecbasse (Mr. Talbot) said that I was mistaken as to (the amount of this capital stock. We had imposed upon this company in 1903 the necessity of raising $200,000 additional stock. We would not give the guarantee otherwise. That money was to be employed in paying the discount on the bonds. But they never paid it. They sent a certificate to the Minister of Finance that the condition had been complied with. It had not been complied with ; they were $94,000 shoirt, the amount subscribed by the contractor of the bridge who had paid in the bonds of the old company with the discount, and who paid up when the bonds were paid, out of the guaranteed amount. This was paid, I believe, in 1907. This is the story of the $200,000 additional stock. What we are asked to do now is to pay out money. The bridge lies there under the water, holding in its cruel clutches the bodies of many of those who lost their lives on that terrible day. What we are asked to do is to pay $265,000 to the shareholders. Are we obliged to pay it? There is no obligation whatever. We had reserved the right under our agreement to expropriate the enterprise when finished and a going concern. Well, it is not quite a going concern now. Not only are we to pay back the money of the shareholders, but we are to pay 5

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