Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway Company”, 20th Parl, 3rd Sess (25 April 1947)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 20th Parl, 3rd Sess, 1947 at 2431-2439.
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QUEBEC NORTH SHORE AND LABRADOR RAILWAY COMPANY
The house in committee on Bill No. 106, to incorporate Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway Company-Mr. Rinfret—Mr. Golding in the chair.
On section 1-Incorporation.
Mr. CHURCH: At the meeting of the railway committee the other day I asked, for an explanation of this bill, and I am far from satisfied that this parliament has power to pass it. In the first place, this is largely a power proposition. They do propose to construct a railway. as set out in the bill; and, mind you. I believe the gentlemen who are the proposed incorporators deserve a great deal of credit for what they done in New Ontario. I have only a few observations to make about this bill.
The other day the Secretary of State for External Affairs announced that in the near future a conference would be held between representatives of this country and Newfoundland in regard to that country becoming part of Canada. In view of that fact, I think it is against public policy for us to liquidate any of our assets in that part of the country. While I appreciate what these gentlemen have done in other parts of Canada in connection with the development of our resources, still we as individuals have a public duty to perform.
The names of the incorporators are set out in the preamble. They propose to construct a railway to be known as the Quebec North Shore and Labrador railway, only part of which is to be to be in Canada. As you know, Mr. Chairman, a large part of the huge debt of this country was incurred in days gone by in connection with our railways. We have had overcapitalization, duplication and waste; branch lines were built all over Canada paralleling other branch lines, and private ownership made such a mess of the whole thing that a royal commission had to be appointed to recommend certain principles to be followed in future in connection with new railway construction. That was in 1917; and it was recommended that the board of railway commissioners, now know as the board of transport commissioners, should, be consulted and should make recommendations before any more branch lines were constructed.
When our railways were built the companies came to the dominion government and were paid so much a mile to construct the lines. Then they were given rights of way, land, mineral rights and all that sort of thing right across Canada. Not satisfied with that, some of them went to the provinces and obtained- further grants. For that reason, and in view of the conference to be held with Newfoundland, I believe that we should mark time until the cabinet has had a chance to look into the situation; then, this bill might be brought in a little later in the session. This company proposes to construct a railway
from the St. Lawrence river in a northerly direction to the southern boundary of Labrador, thence in a northerly direction to a point on the northern boundary of Labrador in the vicinity of Ruth lake, and even on the Ungava bay, Hudson strait and so on. The company is making provision to go through another country, because Labrador does not belong to Canada. Labrador was given to Newfoundland, and during the way the provisional government appointed by the British government for Newfoundland automatically looked after Labrador.
In view of the coming conference, 1 fail to see why we should give the terms asked in this bill. True it is that this company did apply to the Newfoundland, government, and simply got permission to go on with the railway. We note the words, “provided that authority be obtained from Newfoundland.” What power have the incorporates of a railway company to go to a country which is not part of Canada and negotiate, over the heads of parliament, for the building of a railway?
In addition to the railway, they are to have permission to issue securities, and other things besides. They are to have power facilities to develop. They are to be placed in control of aeronautics, something which is under the control of the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply (Mr. Howe), as he pointed out when the aeronautics bill was passed.
Then, they are to have power over certain amalgamations, and they are given power to generate, acquire, use, transmit and distribute electric and other power or energy, arising from the water power up there. That is a pretty wide departure from the Railway Act. If i is to be a power corporation, and not a railway, why do they come under the Railway Act? Further, it is not for the general advantage of Canada, because no doubt when they come to parliament they will want a grant of so much a mile for the construction of the railway, despite the fact that it is through a first-class mining district.
Then, they will have to erect telephone and telegraph poles, and they will require wharves for purposes of navigation on the ocean and on inland lakes and rivers. They will have the right to build docks and warehouses, and act as wharfingers. Many other things enter into this contract. They may construct, acquire, charter and navigate steam and other vessels for the conveyance of passengers, goods and merchandise; and may construct, acquire and dispose of wharves, docks, elevators, and so on.
It is an omnibus bill; they are given everything. Further, they are allowed to construct hotels and parks, and all that kind of thing. They are given jurisdiction over motor buses and motor cars for collecting, carrying, transporting and delivering freight, goods and passengers, may collect rates and charges therefor; but no rate or charge shall be demanded or taken until it has been approved of by the Board of Transport Commissioners for Canada.
Another power they are given— and I have never seen this palace in a railway bill before— is that of building a pipeline for oil, so that they may transmit via pipeline right through a country which does not belong to Canada. Why, we might as well pass a bill here to do these things in the state of New York or the state of Maine.
We do not own Labrador; we have nothing to do with it. Yet. here, over the head of the cabinet and the government, there is a proposal to go through all this, to go through an outside country, with the authority of Newfoundland. While Newfoundland is in the empire, it is still another part of it, and is now placed under British trusteeship. i should think that would be the proper way to describe it, for Great Britain has the responsibility.
I shall point out one further fact, and then I shall have concluded, because, having said this, I have done my duty as a member of parliament. I have attempted to look into the situation to see that we are net guilty of giving certain things in a haphazard fashion. It will be noted this bill was initiated in the other end of this building. There were no reporters at the meeting, and what was said was not put on the record. As I said in committee, “You have money to spend, to take down divorce proceedings; but you have not money to spend to report the proceedings of the railway committee, when you are giving away a franchise, and all that kind of thing.” I objected to it. We should have had a record of it, so that we would know what they are asking. But somehow or another, everyone ignored it.
We might as well be handing over the whole of Labrador, a place we do not own, to a lot of private people. Do not forget the mistake that was made in New Ontario. I would suggest that we look at “Moody’s Public Utilities’-‘Huston’s” used to be the national financial book— and see who owns the natural resources of Canada. Look over the natural resources of this country, the gold, silver, copper, nickel and other minerals, from the Ottawa river to the Nipigon, and you will find who owns it— Americans and other foreign
capitalists. You will see who they are; they do not live in this country at all. And they are not Canadian citizens. I object to that.
I am one who has always supported private capital, because we owe a great deal to capitalists from all over the world who helped develop this country. But if you pass this bill to enable them to obtain this franchise, they will have the power to spend money. I do not object to these men personally; they are fine citizens of Canada, and have done a great deal for Canada and themselves. They have a good record in other places. But I believe that in the public interest it would be unwise for us in this haphazard fashion under this omnibus bill, to part with natural resources we do not own in another part of the empire.
We have squandered the natural resources of this country at a great pace and Canada is going to be a poor country with its debt. To a large extent we have given away our natural resources to mostly a lot of outsiders, and some insiders. The result is that rates for power are away up to a point three times what they should be. That is about all I have to say about the matter. These are good people; but I fail to see that this bill should pass, allowing them to receive this handout for largely nothing.
Another point I wish to make is that we are committed to a 99-year lease on bases, from Newfoundland, to British Guiana, between Britain and the United States. That lease was given with the consent of Canada. We have given to the United States leases on all the bases in the Atlantic ocean, including some on the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador. The bases are not all out in the ocean, because some are on Greenland, Iceland and other places in the north country, including Newfoundland and Labrador, the territory under the joint defence board and the atomic board.
This proposed agreement is ultra vires of the dominion. At the end of the billet is brought under the Railway Act by saying that it is declared to be for the general advantage of Canada. Let me say that it is for the general advantage of the promoters; that is what it is, and not for the general advantage of Canada by any stretch of the imagination. That is so, because of the decisions in the law courts. All these properties are not even in Canada. In this bill they are being handed everything from the heaven above, the earth beneath and the waters under the earth, in Canada, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador.
They are being handed all this by parliament in a haphazard manner, and we have no power to do it.
That lease which was given for ninety-nine years is practically a freehold. In Washington, in congress and the senate, they are urging that Newfoundland and Labrador be given to America, although the lease for ninety-nine years was to protect United States shores in the battle of the Atlantic, and that it should be cancelled and charged up to lease-lend, because that is what it was for, to defend America’s shores from invasion. When the enemy was threatening Newfoundland and Iceland, Labrador and all the Atlantic seaboard, and when they were right up the St. Lawrence we met in secret session, and the case was stated by a former able minister, who is now the premier of Nova Scotia.
For these reasons I believe the government should lay down a policy in connection with this bill. What is the government’s policy regarding handing out this property? We have no power to do it, because if we go to the law courts it will be found that this is outside altogether, and not for the general advantage of Canada. We might as weIl put railways in Spain or Greenland, or any other part of the world, under our Railway Act, as to say that this property belongs to Canada, and it is for the general advantage of Canada. Take a look at this book, Who’s Who, “Moody’s Financial List of Mines and Natural Resources of the World”. My hon. friends to my left used to look it up, years ago. Who owns the natural resources of this country? We had a big fight about that in Ontario from 1905 to 1914 when Sir James Whitney came into office. Our friends on the other side of the house gave the water power in the Niagara River to private owners, with the result that the rates were top heavy. The greatest mistake Sir James Whitney made was when he did not electrify the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway in 1909 or 1910, so that they could have had cheap light and power in that part of new country. Gold production, silver production— the production of all the great minerals— could have been carried o with cheap hydro power. If Ontario men had electrified the T. and N. O. railway and brought the joy of cheap light and power to the great mines of all New Ontario and cheapened prospector and developmental costs as Sir Adam Beck wanted to do then, it would have been then $9 or $10 a horsepower instead of having to go up as high as $35 or $60 a horse-power at Cochrane and other mining centres under private ownership.
That is something we should consider when dealing with a bill like this. As far as I am concerned, it means nothing to me and I do not care a snap of the finger further if you want to pass such a handout under this bill as I might as well rather go home, if you do.
While I appreciate that these are great Canadians, that they have done a great deal for the country as well as for themselves, still I believe it is not the time for us to part with natural resources thus. I say this because of the statement made by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, that a meeting is to be held to consider a new province, Newfoundland. Newfoundland is badly enough off now with her debts because of the money that was squandered there and because of the way the natural resources were handed out. If Canada is going to pull them out of debt she will have to pay a lot of money out of her own pocket, especially with regard to Labrador. I am a member of the railway committee, and I consider it my duty as a member of the House of Commons to make that statement in the public interest and object to the bill, and having said this, that is all the objection I have to the bill.
Mr. MacNICOL: I shall be brief because I do not want any remarks of mine to hold up the passage of the bill through committee. Some eight years ago I tried to persuade the commission government of Newfoundland to provide guides for myself and three engineers of the Hanna company of Iron River, Michigan, to permit us to go up what was then called Sawyer lake in Labrador. At that time the engineering journals were filled with glowing accounts of the iron content of the iron ore in that area and of the magnitude of the deposits. I have some good pictures of that area.
This bill does not call it Sawyer lake, it refers to it as Ruth lake. The maps of that time showed it to be some considerable distance inside Labrador whereas this bill says it is about on the boundary between Labrador and Quebec. However, that is neither here nor there. If this company goes on to develop the iron ore in this area I wish it every success. We can certainly do with a lot more iron ore in Canada and in the United States. We all know that the great Mesabi ore beds west of Duluth in the United States are being rapidly depleted, so much so that the United States government is setting aside I have read certain iron ore areas for future defence purposes. I hope there is a large bed of iron ore in Labrador and northern Quebec. We are in the iron age, and if the ore in this area is of good quality and in a sufficient quantity it will be a grand thing for Canada. I have always been one who has advocated, the opening up of the resources of this country.
The description in the bill is not clear as to whether the iron ore beds are near Grand falls on the Hamilton river.
Mr. HOWE: About 300 miles away.
Mr. MacNICOL: The map shows Grand falls to be about 150 miles from the location of the ore beds. I would hope that the power could be developed at Grand falls in order that this ore could be smelted down to pigiron. They do that in Sweden and I do not see why it could not be done in Canada. That would obviate the necessity of taking large tonnages of coal into the country. There is alleged to be a vast power potential at Grand falls. The river is said to be only about 200 feet wide right at the falls, but the water drops 316 feet and there is a very large volume. All the reports I have read state that there is a potential of four or five million horse-power. Whether that is so, I do not know, but if the falls are no more than 150 or 200 miles from the ore deposit I would hope that power can be developed and used to smelt iron there. That would be a grand thing for Canada.
I do not know of anything that would tend to develop Canada more rapidly than the smelting of large tonnages of iron ore in this country. I have not any comment to make on the various sections of the bill. I just wish to say again that if this bill goes through I wish the company every success. As the hon. member for Broadview has said, the promoters are all well known and successful miners and if anyone can develop this area they ought to be able to do so.
Mr. McIVOR: This bill comes from the upper house and it was well examined by the people who are there to act as a check on hasty legislation. When this bill was before the committee there was no effort made to drive it through. Questions were asked from all sides and the hon. member for Outremont was not in any hurry. The dominion government is not running any risk, because the company is just asking for permission to spend money to develop these resources. This would provide a good deal of work.
Mr. COCKERAM: I rise tonight to support this bill. In 1929 and 1930 I was connected with a company that sent prospectors into this area where the original discoveries of iron ore were made. I was surprised to hear the hon. member for Broadview refer to this as a branch line. This line will open up a com-
pletely new area in Canada, an area that has great promise. Section 20 of the bill provides:
The works and undertakings of the company are hereby declared to be for the general advantage of Canada.
I believe this bill is worthy of the support of every hon. member in this house. It will certainly open up a vast new mining area in Canada and provide employment in a part of the country which is devoid of opportunities for employment at the present time.
Mr. HAZEN: Is there any dominion legislation which provides for the payment of a subsidy to a company that constructs a railroad declared to be for the general advantage of Canada?
Mr. CHEVRIER: I know of no such subsidy paid under conditions set out by my hon. friend. At one time assistance was given for the construction of branch lines, but that was many years ago. That certainly is not the policy of the government today
Mr. HAZEN: Is there any legislation on our statute books about it?
Mr. CHEVRIER: None that I am aware of.
Section agreed to.
Sections 2 to 6 inclusive agreed to.
On section 7-Line of railway described.
Mr. MacNICOL: Is either the minister, the hon. member who introduced the bill or the minister of reconstruction in a position to say whether it is the Marguerite, the Moisie or the Wacouno—
Mr. RINFRET: The Moisie and the Wacouno.
Mr. MacNICOL: That is a tributary of the other river?
Mr. RINFRET: That is right.
Mr. MacNICOL: Why is the Marguerite mentioned, because it is ten miles west?
Mr. CHURCH: I should like to ask a question of the Secretary of State for External Affairs. This section gives authority to the company to construct and operate a line of railway running into Labrador, which is not a part of Canada. I would ask the minister what is the meaning of these words:
provided that authority be obtained from Newfoundland for the construction and operation of this section of the railway—
— thence northwesterly to a suitable port on Ungava bay.
There is no port there at the present time. Will this interfere with the negotiations between Canada and Newfoundland as to the latter joining Canada, announced in the house the other day by the Secretary of State for External Affairs? And where is the port on Ungava bay? Do the words I have quoted mean that this company can negotiate with another government over the head of the government of Canada? Can a private company and private people do this? I should like to know from the Minister of Transport whether the Canadian National Railways has abandoned this territory on the St. Lawrence and in Labrador.
Mr. ST. LAURENT: I will try to answer some of the questions involved in the request made by the hon. member. What is being done here has two aspects. One is the incorporation of a company which thereby gets the right to act as a person; the second is the grant to that company of the right to build a railway in Canadian territory. Under our system no one, neither a company nor an individual, can build a railway without a charter from the government of Canada if it is to be interprovincial or if it is to connect Canada with another country, or from a province if the railway is to be entirely within the province. This parliament can grant no right to build a railway outside its territory, but it can give a company the capacity to receive such rights from the appropriate authority. That matter came before the privy council several years ago. One was a case concerning the John Deere Plow Company, and the other was a case concerning the Bonanza Creek Mining Company. The capacity to receive powers can be granted by this parliament in creating a corporation, and that is all that this parliament can do with respect to any portion of the railway that would be outside Canadian territory. It can have the capacity to receive a franchise from the sovereign of the territory outside Canada where it may operate. I do not think that would be dealing with a foreign government over the head of the Canadian government any more than it would in the case of a United States company that gets a charter here for the operation of a subsidiary in Canada. There does not appear to be any international conflict here. All states assert the right to give companies the capacity to receive powers from whosoever may be willing to grant powers to them.
With respect to the port on Ungava bay I have no information whatsoever. I do not know whether there is a port there or whether one can be developed there. But reading the bill I gather that the intention is to have a
railway that would go out of Canada, through Labrador, then come back into Canada and proceed through Canadian territory to Ungava bay. But the company will not be able, under this charter, to do anything outside Canada without getting a franchise from the sovereign of the territory outside Canada where it may desire to operate.
Mr. CHURCH: We are a party to Great Britain’s granting of a ninety-nine year lease, binding Canada with America, which is practically a freehold of all the Newfoundland bases, and that includes Labrador inland as well as on the ocean. In view of that agreement, have we the power as a parliament to go into Newfoundland and give away, not only the bases, but the land and the bay where they are trying to develop a port? Ungava bay is a big bay and they have no port there yet, and the bill is in the dark on it. Have we the power to do this in view of the ninety-nine year lease made by the British government with the United States for the use of all these bases in Newfoundland and right down to British Guiana, which is the size of Great Britain? You know, Mr. Chairman, that in the last war German boats came right up the St. Lawrence and we had a secret meeting of parliament in connection with that. I contend that Canada is bound by that ninety-nine year lease and that we have no power to part with this property.
These people told the railway committee that they had dealt with a former Newfoundland government before the war. I would ask the Minister of Transport, what was the nature of the arrangement, if any, the said company made with the old provisional government of Newfoundland? What form did it take? Was it just an act of the provisional government? If it was, no wonder Newfoundland went bankrupt. I think the committee is entitled to this information. Does not the agreement with the United States for a ninety-nine year lease of bases include not only the bases on the ocean but the bases on the land and in Newfoundland and all of Labrador, and all the inlets on the coast? In the last war German boats were up near Iceland and Greenland, off Newfoundland, and in the St. Lawrence and Hudson strait, and we had to send ships up there. It cost a lot of money and lives.
The House of Commons is passing this bill blindly, and we shall regret it in the days to come if we hand over all this territory to private ownership forever. It is not a work for the general advantage of Canada. It is not even within Canada. So how can it be for the general advantage of Canada when the territory and inlets are not in Canada at all? We might just as well claim that inlets and coves in China are works for the general advantage of Canada. I should like to know if the legal department of the crown has been consulted about this bill. I do not like to worry the Minister of Justice. I shall not ask him for his legal opinion, but I think he should have been consulted as to whether this bill is worth the paper it is written on. It goes over the heads of the Canadian and British governments; and over the head of the provisional government of Newfoundland. Great Britain had a temporary trusteeship over the whole country of Newfoundland while the war was on. I should like to know who drafted and recommended this bill. I think all that information should be on the table. So far as I am concerned I do not think it makes any difference. I feel that I have done my duty as a member of parliament in calling the attention of the committee to what is involved in this omnibus bill.
Most of the people are fine people. They are not being criticized personally at all. I do not blame them for coming to parliament and asking for this legislation, because this is a pretty easy institution which we have assembled here. Nobody would give away that property in this way if they owned it themselves. What we are dealing with here is the mining industry.
Mr. McKAY: On first view this bill appears to me to be a virtual monopoly. If that is so I should like to ask the Minister of Trans- port whether it will prohibit the operation of any other railway company in that particular area. If it does not I cannot see that there should be any real objection to the bill. On the surface it does appear to me, though, that it would prohibit all other railways from going into that district.
Mr. CHEVRIER: I do not think there is any difficulty in answering the hon. member’s question. This bill, no more than any other bill which is approved by a committee of the house, creates a monopoly. Any other corporation or company which seeks similar rights can apply to parliament in the same way as did this company, and its application will be dealt with by the committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines. While 1 do not know what the answer would be, I am sure that the committee would want to give such corporation similar rights to these. The answer is, therefore, that this bill does not preclude another company from making application.
Mr. GILLIS: I do not think the minister’s interpretation is correct. This bill gives the company a lease on the whole area. It precludes any other company from going in there.
Mr. CHEVRIER: That was not the question of the hon. gentleman. He shakes his head now and agrees with me.
Mr. GILLIS: The question as I understood it was, does not this bill preclude the possibility of any other company going in there and getting concessions similar to these?
Mr. CHEVRIER: The answer is, no.
Mr. GILLIS: It definitely does, because the whole area is being leased to this company and precludes any other company from going in there. But worse than that—
Mr. CHEVRIER: May I interrupt the hon. gentlemen? He says that the whole area is leased to this company. This parliament and the committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines are not concerned with that. Parliament has the right only to grant certain privileges so far as the railway, docks and wharves are concerned. It has granted this company the right to build docks, wharves and a railway line extending from the north shore of the river of Quebec and Labrador. With reference to the resources, the deposits of iron ore, water power and the like, that is a matter which does not concern this parliament.
Mr. GILLIS: Nevertheless, as I was saying when the minister interrupted me, this bill not only gives the company control over bus lines, transportation and all the rest of it which is included int he bill— if it is a provincial matter it should not be in the bill— if it is a provincial matter it should not be in the bill— but it definitely delegates these rights to the company. The worse feature of it, as I see it, is that the company is not obligated to begin operation of the road for five years, which can serve the purpose of keeping someone out if they want to go in and develop that territory in that time. If at the end of ten years the job is not completed, then, under the bill, the government has the right to rescind it. So far as the development of the resources and the railway line in there are concerned, it is definitely gone, because the company can do what they like with it for the next ten years. They are not obliged to do anything about it. The bill precludes anyone else from going in there and developing the area. This bill looks too much like the merger of Dosco in Nova Scotia.
Mr. McCULLOCH (Pictou): Oh, oh.
Mr. GILLIS: There the authority was delegated innocently. So far as I am concerned, the powers contained in this bill are too sweeping to be passed by this House of Commons without a more thorough explanation of what it means to the Canadian people in the future in the development of the resources in that territory. Not only does the bill do that, but it wipes out the Railway Act in two or three places. Two or three sections of the Railway Act are set aside to make provision for the rights and privileges which are being extended ta the proposed company Whoever is sponsoring this bill the Minister of Transport has only a slight interest in it because of the functions of his department— should give a more thorough explanation of it than has been done up to the present time. The bill itself is, in my opinion, an iniquitous piece of literature, to say the least.
Mr. RINFRET: The hon. gentleman who preceded me got mixed up in the various companies that are interested in this project. It is true there is a company which has obtained a concession from the provincial government to make explorations, but it has no mining rights over the territory in the northern part of Quebec. There is another company which has obtained certain exploration rights from Labrador or Newfoundland, but has yet no mining rights. It is making explorations at the present time. These two companies have nothing in common with the company that is applying to build a railway from Seven islands to this territory. This company is asking which will have the right to build a railway from Seven islands, following the Moisie river and Wacouno river, and from there faint to Labrador and coming back to the province of Quebec. By this bill we are not giving to a new company any natural resources which are ours. Whatever has been done so far as concession leases are concerned has been given away or leased by another government than ours. We are not here to discuss whether that was a good thing or not. We are now faced with one problem, namely, to give a company the right to build a railway.
Section 7 which we are discussing says:
The company may lay out, construct and operate a railway.
That is a permissive section only. It does not say, as it should have done, if my hon. friend is right, that the company will have exclusive right to build. It says, “the company may.” That is a permission which is given to the company. Any other company
can ask for a similar bill to build another railway line one mile or two miles to east or to the west.
Mr. GILLIS: Running parallel to this one.
Mr. RINFRET: Yes.
Mr. McKAY: I should like to ask the Minister of Transport a further question. Is there any likelihood of the Canadian National being given rights to tap this area?
Mr. SMITH (Calgary West): They are losing enough money now.
Mr. McKAY: The Canadian National needs operating revenue. From the information at hand we are told that the company which is developing the area is not prepared until has laid out 300,000,000 tons of iron ore. That is a large quantity of ore, and it would seem to me that the railway should pay if it transports that ore to the St. Lawrence basin. In view of that fact, has consideration been given to the Canadian National Railways tapping that area?
Mr. CHEVRIER: Consideration has been given the suggestion that the hon. member makes. The Canadian National Railways is not interested in the territory. When the Canadian National seeks to build a line— and I presume the same applies to other railways— it looks, not only at the natural resources which exist in the territory, but also at the population. In this particular instance there is no population in that territory. However the Canadian National Railways might be interested in connecting its line from Murray Bay down along the north shore to make a line of junction with this line which will be built northerly into the province of Quebec. But there would be no purpose in the Canadian National Railways spending tremendous sums of money such as this, because I am informed that it will cost in the neighbourhood of $100 million, not only to build the line, but to set up the plant and equipment, the terminal docks and boats required for this huge undertaking.
May I say word with reference to the remarks of the hon. member for Cape Breton South? The Department of Transport is not interested in this bill, except to say whether it has any objections to it, and it has already indicated, through its solicitor before the committee, that it has no objection to the bill. The departmental officials study applications such as this and when there are objections they raise them. In this instance they found that there were no objections, except as regards section 15, which was amended at the suggestion of the board of transport commissioners.
Speaking, not as the Minister of Transport, but generally, it would strike me that this undertaking is of such considerable importance to the development of the country that all hon. gentlemen should be in favour of it, not because of this particular corporation, but because of the development that will be consequent upon the undertaking.
Mr. CHURCH: I have not received an answer to the question I asked.
Mr. BENTLEY: The words of the Minister of Transport now put a somewhat different construction on the policy of the Canadian National Railways today as he announces it, in comparison with what it was a good many years ago when it was the Canadian Northern railway together with a jumbled-up aggregation of others. He said that the Canadian National was not interested in going into places where there was no population. Am I correct in that statement?
Mr. CHEVRIER: I added something more. I said that the Canadian National Railways, went they decide to build a branch line or a main line into new territory, make a survey and determine whether or not the natural resources are such, the population is such, and the revenue which may be derived from traffic is such that it will make the line a revenue producing line. I have repeated that many times and I attempted to paraphrase it quickly this evening. I may not have put it in the same words as before; to summarize the situation briefly, that is the position.
Mr. BENTLEY: That is a sound way of doing it. I am not arguing against what the minister said. Nevertheless, until the resources of the country are known and surveyed, it is hardly likely that population will be a factor. I remember well woking at the time of the construction of the Canadian National Railways. I scowed on the old Fraser river from Tete Jaune Cache to what is now Prince George, and there was no population except the workers engaged in construction and the odd settlers in the Moose river area, and so on. It was the natural resources at that time that captured the attention of the Canadian National, as well as the potential earning power of the railways. This one may have an equal potentiality, and if it has, then the development of these resources will build up the population. If a private company such as this feels that its survey indicates the possibility of the undertaking being profitable, then it seems
to me that it is a proper thing for the Canadian National Railways and its owner, the Canadian people, to give careful consideration to the question whether it should not go into this development as a public enterprise, rather than leave it to private enterprise.
Mr. GIBSON (Comox-Alberni): Cheaper for you to take them over when you are the government.
Mr. BENTLEY: That is a possibility; we will keep that in mind. The hon. member for Comox-Alberni has given us an idea there, and we will write it down in our little black book and in a few years’ time look into the question.
Mr. CASE: Don’t put it in the red book.
Mr. BENTLEY: That is one of the things we should not like to do, to take over a $60 million or 3100 million concern that is worth only $5 million in intrinsic value.
The hon. member for Cape Breton South made a good point when he suggested that the bill should not go through but be given further study. I attended one of the meetings of the committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines. One of the witnesses was there—I have forgotten his name-but no record was kept of the meeting, and I asked the chairman if we could not have a written brief from the promoters so that we could examine the position. We were not given that brief. Whether we shall get it I do not know, but certainly there was nothing at that meeting to suggest that we would get it, and I have heard no more about it. I think it would be a good thing to supply the members of the house with a brief from the company so that we can understand the situation exactly and know what the known resources and possibilities are. If that were done we could give the matter more intelligent consideration and come to a better decision. I believe that would be the right thing to do.
Mr. CHURCH: The joint defence board and the atomic bomb board have been in this territory and I think we ought to know what the policy is. They have been roaming all over the territory, all over Labrador, Newfoundland, Ungava bay and Hudson bay, but we have no report from them. There is another board there, the atomic board, from which we have received no reports. Since it is nine o’clock now, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that further consideration of the question be held over until the next occasion when the bill comes up. This is not the first time I have come to the relief of public ownership, to protect our natural resources, and it may not be the last.
Some hon. MEMBERS: Carried.
Mr. CHURCH: Nine o’clock.