Mr. JOS. DEMERS (St. John and Iberville).
(Translation.) Mr. Chairman, as this vote interests particularly my county, I desire to say a few words on this important subject. I am somewhat surprised to see that we have yet to discuss this item to-night, an item which is not new to this House. During the years 1907 and 1908, this parliament voted different sums of money to improve the situation of the farmers of
that district. Last year the honourable Minister of Public Works has given very plain statements on this subject. However, as there are in the House this year many new members who might take an interest in this question, I will take the liberty to add a few explanations to those already given by the hon. minister.
For a" great many years, that is to say,
. since the construction of the Chambly canal, the farmers of the counties of St. John, Missisquoi, Iberville, have complained to the federal government about the grievous situation in which they were put by a construction of this canal. The lands in the vicinity are very low and their irrigation is naturally very difficult. A very small obstruction will sometimes prevent the flowing of the waters and will cause very disastrous floods. The natural difficulties of the irrigation of these lands have also been increased by the construction of the Chambly canal which had the effect of narrowing the width of the river by 200 to 300 feet. Since the deepening of this canal other obstructions have been added to those already existing: First, the construction of the two bridges, one by the Central Vermont and the other by the Canadian Pacific railway, two companies incorporated by this parliament. Secondly built on each side of the river, with the authorization of the federal parliament ; important fisheries were established, and this has necessitated the construction of new weirs which prevented the flowing of the water, so that we have opposite St. John a most complete dam.
For a very long time, as I have said, the farmers of the district have sent petitions signed by every inhabitant of the vicinity. Numerous deputations were sent to Ottawa year after year at large sacrifices. These representations were all unsuccessful up to 1900, when the federal government gave instructions to competent engineers to make a survey of the flooded lands and an estimate of the damages. These engineers were also asked to find the cause of the floods, and to indicate the means of stopping them.
Upon their report the government placed an item of $5,000 in the estimates to begin the works. But this sum being evidently too small, no money was expended. In 1907 another vote was granted, the government admitting thus, and for the second time, their responsibility in the matter. The vote at that time was $10,000. When the government was about to spend that money came another objection. We had to submit the question to the International Commission on Waterways, because the proposed works might affect the waters of Lake Champlain. The commission decided on the 24th of October, 1907, that this work could go on without any prejudice to the 81
rights of the United States on Lake Champlain.
Following this decision the government placed in the estimates of last year for the preliminary work to be done, an item of $30,000, out of which $18,000 have been spent up to the present. This year, besides the amount voted last year, the additional sum of $30,000 is asked to continue the deepening of the River Richelieu opposite St. John, on a length of 4,000 feet, a width of 700 feet and an average depth of 5 feet. As this dredging will hinder the navigation because it will open a wider passage for the waters, it will be necessary to build a movable dam that will be opened and closed whenever needed. For instance, in the spring, during the month of April, the dam might be opened so as to allow a rapid effusion of the water, but it will be closed gradually after that so as to have always in the river, for the needs of the navigation, during the low water season, more water than we have presently in that season.
These works will not only stop the floods, but will save the government the expenditure of $75,000 or $100,000, a sum which the dredging of the River Richelieu between St. John and Rouse's Point to supply the needs of the navigation would have come to. Besides that, these works will save to the government considerable expenditure which we would be obliged to make for the dredging of the Chambly canal, which is not deep enough for the needs of navigation because you will have then in the canal an additional foot and a half of water during the low waters. I take those figures from the calculations made by the engineers themselves.
The lands flooded are of considerable extent. These engineers estimate that there are 25,000 acres completely lost for agriculture. These lands are of first quality; they are alluvial soil of the best kind and of the most fertile that there! are in the country. I think I am not mistaken when saying that the farmers of that district are losing annually and since a very long time more than $125,000 by reason of the obstacles created by the different railway companies and other causes of which I have snoken a few minutes ago. The government three or four years ago, set itself to perform an act of justice which, I hope, it will have no difficulty in completing.