March 5, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)


William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative


There are two ways in which you could do it. You could do it by duplicating the lines we have in Canada at probably less than $5,000,000-I am not speaking exactly as to that-or you could take over the lines that are in existence to-day, and there is a special provision in the Telegraph Act for that purpose.
There is another thing which I wish to urge as one of the great benefits that a national land and sea telegraph service renders to the public. We in this country, and all over the British Empire, are trying to build up an Imperial public opinion. We wish in Canada to think on all great public questions the same as they think in England or in Australia. There is only one way to create that great Imperial public opinion from one end of the empire to the other, and that is to have a national telegraph and cable system which will enable us to have the freest exchange of public opinion from oue end of the British dominions to the other. The news that we get in Canada from England comes to-day through American channels. The Canadian press at this moment is hardly able to pay the present toll rates, and to give that quality of news to the Canadian public which they desire, and which the Canadian public ought to get. But, if we had a national cable system with a nominal rate for press messages at night, when the cable is not busy, our people would know in the morning exactly what they think in England, exactly what they think in Australasia and South Africa, and that news would be transmitted daily at almost a nominal cost. At all events, it would come to us independent of the United States. I have watched this thing very closely. I have seen the class of news that comes to the Canadian papers by way of New York. It is not British opinion, it is not Imperial opinion, but it is British opinion changed, modified and distorted in order to suit the people of the United States. The Postmaster General (Hon. Mr. Mulock) proposes to do what the other colonies have done ; he proposes to supplement what they have done, but he fails to do what they have done by nationalizing our land telegraph service in connection with this cable system. The hon. gentleman could well afford to take us into his confidence to-day and to, at least, tell us whether he is considering that proposition or not. Like everything else, when a national proposition comes before this country, we, unfortunately, take the worst end to begin with. I am in favour of this Pacific cable scheme, but I cannot help thinking that if we wanted to strike a first-class business proposition, it would be for Canada and Great Britain to lay down an Atlantic cable. There is any amount of business there, not for one but for five cables owned by Great Britain and Canada ; a cable that would pay a big dividend, and probably cut the present rates down to one-quarter. That is the 29J
cable I would like to see first laid and operated by the mother country and Canada. But, unfortunately, as I have said, when anything national is to be done, the hardest end, and the most expensive end, is first experimented on. In the ease of the Intercolonial Kailway, we commenced to build it at the end, and through the northern portion of New Brunswick, and in the province of Quebec, where there was very little traffic, and when we got it just to the point where the traffic originated we stopped there. That was an extravagant railway proposition for Canada. Sir, I want to see state ownership applied to railways and to telegraphs, at that point where there is lots of traffic for the line, whether it be a cable, a telegraph, or a railway. In' the present case we are asserting the principle of government ownership just where the conditions are least favourable. I am satisfied to take this meausre as it is to-day placed before us, but I hope the minister and the government will act in the light of the experience of the Mackay-Bennett cable, where they found their whole expense realized nothing until they established at great expense a system of land lines throughout the states. I say the government ought to tell us now whether they are going to have a really national system, which can only be achieved by their ownership of the land telegraph lines in Canada and a cable across the Atlantic. Let us have a state-owned cable from Great Britain to Canada ; a state telegraph system in Canada, across the continent to the Pacific ocean, and a state-owned cable across the Pacific ocean to Australasia with the land lines in Australia also forming a link, and then you will have a really national system. We would then have an Imperial telegraph system that will give to the public, according to Sir Sandford Fleming, a service costing about one-tenth of what it costs at present. I believe the statement of Sir Sandford Fleming is correct in that respect. I believe that the Postmaster General thinks it is correct, and if he does believe it, I hope he will move on these lines. I want to tell the hon. gentleman that in this proposition he is up against the greatest monopoly almost in the world to-day, viz., the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. This monopoly will cut the throat of this scheme if it can possibly do it. It may be a competitor with the Postmaster General in getting hold of the land telegraph lines in Canada. If that great company in London thought they could block this scheme, that is one of the first things they would try to accomplish. I do not say they can do so, but. at all events, at every point the Postmaster General will be met by that great corporation trying to block this proposition. In this proposal the Postmaster General (Hon. Mr. Mulock) has my entire sympathy, and I believe he has the sympathy of the whole of Canada. The government here is moving

on the same lines as the Imperial authorities and as the Australian authorities, but in one sense they are lacking, and that is, that they are not making provision for the nationalization of the land telegraph lines in Canada, and they are not making provision for a state-owned Atlantic cable between the mother land and Canada in connection with which there is the most money to be earned.

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