- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 13 Feb 1914, p. 145-155
- Chelmsford, Lord, Speaker
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- Item Type
- The speaker here at the request of Earl Grey. Earl Grey's vision for Canada and his sympathy for everything that pertains to her well being. Brushing away certain rumours which have no basis in fact, the removal of which may clear the way to a more distinct understanding of Lord Grey's proposal. The rumours or misunderstandings outlined, the speaker's response to them. The details of the scheme. The position of the site. The inadequacy of the present offices of the Dominion of Canada in Victoria Street, London. Comparing this facility with that of Australia's. Some alternate sites. The site which Lord Grey has secured, and how he managed to secure it. The importance of the imperial character of the scheme. The County Council, granting land on freehold tenure. The reduction in price for the freehold site. The subscription from the people of London, through their elected representatives, to be presented to the Dominions towards this imperial project. Other details of the option given to Lord Grey. The prospect of the Dominions coming in and taking up this site. Requiring assurance form the Dominions or losing the option on this freehold. To what uses the site would be devoted. Ascertaining the likely cost of a building on this site. Some initial plans., suggestions thrown out by a very competent and skilled architect as to what could be done on this particular site. Suggestions for what would be in the building, including a great hall as an exhibition place for the products of the Dominions. The value of the advertising for Canada in the building alone. Disseminating information to business men on the other side of the Atlantic through the agency of some commercial intelligence bureau to be housed in the building. Marketing Canadian goods. Total costs. Points to suggestion to the attention of business men.
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- 13 Feb 1914
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- EARL GREY'S SCHEME FOR DOMINION HOUSE IN LONDON
An Address by LORD CHELMSFORD, G.C.M.G., before the Empire Club of Canada, February 13, 1914.
Mr. President anal Gentlemen,--Under ordinary circumstances I should have been diffident about attempting to speak to Canadians upon a subject which is after all their own business, but I believe that I come here furnished with credentials which would satisfy the majority of Canadians; I am here at the request of Earl Grey. (Applause.) You as well as I know his large vision, you as well as I have come under the spell of his infectious enthusiasm, and you as well as I know the ardent love that he has for Canada and his sympathy for everything that pertains to her well being. (Applause.) No one who comes here with the recommendation of Earl Grey behind him need be apprehensive as to the nature of the reception which he is likely to receive. (Applause.)
Now, let me turn to the scheme which I propose to put before you this afternoon, but first I should like very briefly to brush away certain rumours which have no basis in fact, and the removal of which may, I think, clear the way to a more distinct understanding of Lord Grey's proposal. In the first place, it has been circulated in the press that the Dominion Government has rejected this scheme. Well, I am not in the confidence of the Dominion Government, but all I can say is that only as lately as yesterday I was informed by one of the Ministers that they were very carefully considering it, and they thought it was a scheme which should have the most careful consideration. (Applause.) What they may decide to do upon the matter it is not for me to prophesy, and I certainly shall not attempt to be so rash as to do anything of the sort. Now, may I brush away another rumour which seems to spring up and is very difficult to dispose of. I think it rather circles around the name "option," and is that Lord Grey and those who are associated with him are out for profit in this matter. Indeed I was told when I was coming over that there was a hundred thousand pounds in this job. Let me say in reply that that was the first occasion on which I had heard of profit connected with this scheme, and I feel sure, that you gentlemen who are here today and have known Lord Grey as your Governor-General for seven and a half years are quite prepared to receive his word in the matter. If you will permit me I will read an extract from a letter of his to Lord Strathcona, which was forwarded to the Government: "I have already stated that my company has secured the above options for the express purpose of enabling the site to be expropriated for imperial purposes, and I am authorized to state that the company is prepared to hand over the benefit of the options to the Dominion Governments without retaining any profit, and merely on repayment to the company of the sums paid for the options and the expenses incurred in connection with the matter." (Applause.) That statement of Lord Grey's is explicit enough, but there are still some synical people who say, Why then embark upon it at all? May I put the reply in a sentence? There are some of us who have been the King's representatives in various parts of His Majesty's Dominions, and I believe one and all of us think that no expenditure of trouble and time would be too great if we could do something for the countries with which we have been connected. (Applause.) That is the whole story with regard to this matter. Some may say that it is quixotic; some may say it is an impertinent interference with the freedom of the Dominions. All I can say is if the latter is your view, I would ask you to put it down to excessive zeal on our part; we wish to try to do something in the days of our retirement for the countries that have received us with such hospitality, and that it will always be our object to do something for those Dominions with which we have been connected. Now from the practical side there has been another attack made on this proposal, namely, that it is very similar to the Imperial Institute scheme which was inaugurated some years ago. Let me briefly dispose of that attack by indicating a little to you of what this scheme is. In the first place I should like to pay this tribute to the Imperial Institute, that while from some points of view it has been not altogether a success, and has been a disappointment, yet it has for many years now done extremely valuable work in research for new uses to which to put colonial products, and you who are large primary producers in this country know what a valuable thing it is when science steps in and says that articles which you can produce so lavishly in your country have commercial uses which science can tell you of and which will bring money into your pocket. This is the work which the Imperial Institute has been doing, and it has done mast valuable work in that respect. The Imperial Institute set out to be an exhibition very largely of imperial products which would be of use to the British trader, to see, to handle, to learn all about. But first of all the Imperial Institute was placed in a remote and inaccessible part of London and the High Commissioners and Agents General and all people who would have been able to explain the objects of that exhibition and the uses to which the various products could be put, were miles away in a distant part of London. So in the first place you got the Imperial Institute stuck right away and out of touch with commerce and trade and the business side. But here is quite a different story altogether. The Aldwych site is on the two great highways north and south, and east and west, of London; Kingsway coming down from the north crosses this site and noes over the bridge to the south of London; the Strand equally comes down from the west of London and passes along Fleet Street and into the City, and Aldwych is at the junction of these two great main thoroughfares. If I may give you an illustration in a map which is not produced for the purpose--as some maps sometimes are for schemes-this is the London Post Office Directory, and I had the curiosity to look at it before I started, to see where the Aldwych site would appear on it, and I drew in the Metropolis of Empire. You will ask him to settle down in those dingy, dirty offices-if I may venture on such epithets with regard to a Canadian matter-(hear, hear)-in Victoria Street, and you will ask him to compete with that very energetic, most seducing advocate of Australia's claims, Sir George Reid, in the magnificent new building which Australia is setting up on the site adjoining to this site in Aldwych. This is the building (showing drawing) whose foundation stone was laid last year by the King, and I presume in two or three years' time it will be absolutely completed? I think that is an argument for something being done in relation to this matter. Then I think you will probably agree with me-those of you who have had business dealings in London-that the present Victoria Street site is out of the way for business men-(Hear, hear)-and this has been shown by the fact that Australia has left that quarter, New Zealand has left that quarter, I believe most of the Australian States have left that quarter, and I am not sure myself--though I am subject to correction-whether any Dominion or Province or State remains in Victoria Street, except the Dominion of Canada. As contrasted with this you have the wonderful sites I have described to you; on the meeting place of the high roads north and south and east and west in London: three acres in extent, with a frontage on that great thoroughfare, the Strand, of ¢36 feet, with a frontage on Aldwych, the semicircular street leading out to Kingsway on the other side, of 636 feet. Is there a site in London which could compare with this site, on which Lord Grey has been fortunate enough to secure an option? Next may I say one or two words with regard to the option which Lord Grey has secured. In the first place when Lord Grey approached the London County. Council, he was able to obtain an option only for a leasehold tenure with regard to it. He knew perfectly well that such a tenure was not one that was likely to appeal to the Dominions as a place on which to erect their Dominions house, and so he went before the County Council again and said, Can you not give me an option for freehold tenure, and at length on December second last he obtained an option for a freehold tenure of this site from the London County Council. May I show you how the London County Council has behaved to Lord Grey in this matter? Because I think you will see from their behaviour what an importance and stress that great municipal body lays upon the imperial character of this scheme. In the first place it is not the custom of the County Council to grant land on freehold tenure; they grant it only on leasehold tenure. But they have made three exceptions, one in favour of the Australian Commonwealth two or three years ago, another in favour of the Public Trustee, and another in favour of the Land Registry Offices--all three for public purposes. And they were content to give Lord Grey an option of this freehold tenure on the understanding that it was to be conveyed to a Dominion or Province or State of the Empire. So that was the first recognition on the part of the London County Council that this was an Imperial project. Then in the second place they were ready to reduce the price which they asked for the freehold site. They asked in the first place $6,790,000, but when they learned that this was an imperial project they reduced that sum to $6,305,000. You will see there is a difference of $485,000 between what they asked, when they thought it was merely a profit venture, and when they recognized the imperial character of the scheme. (Applause.) In other words, the people of London, through their elected representatives, are willing to present to the Dominions a sum of $485,000 as a subscription towards this imperial project. Now it is, important to know what the nature of this option is. This option was given to Lord Grey for three years starting from the 24th January last, but the London County Council said; This is a very valuable site, we do not want to hang it up for three years, we have in fact in our hands at the present moment, since you approached us, a definite offer from a large Parisian syndicate to place down the first year's rent and to commence building on the site; therefore we think it reasonable that we should be able to give a month's notice at the termination of each year of the option, but we are willing, if you assure us, when we give that notice at the end of the year that there is a reasonable prospect of the Dominions coming in and taking up this site, to forego that notice. I think that is only reasonable. Here is a valuable site and they do not want it held up for three years. If on the 24th of May next the London County Council say to Lord Grey, What prospect have you of the Dominions taking on this scheme? and he says, "The Dominions have assured me that they are favourably considering this," they will not give him the notice. On the other hand if he cannot give them the assurance, the option passes away and the Parisian syndicate will obtain the option. Lord Grey having obtained the option, what uses is that site to be devoted to? To ascertain this and ascertain the likely cost of a great building on this site, Lord Grey instructed the architect of the Australian Commonwealth building to draw up plans for these two purposes, first of all to ascertain to what uses a building of this sort could be put, and in the second place to have some approximate idea of what the cost of such a building would be. So these plans which you see here are not hard and fast plans which it will be necessary for the Dominions to accept, they are merely suggestions thrown out by a very competent and skilled architect as to what could be done with this particular site. Not only do these plans exhibit the great possibilities upon this site but they also show, as we are told by Messrs. Wetherall and Green, an eminent firm of valuers in London, when they had gone through the floor space of this suggested building, that there are eleven floors, 3 below and 8 above ground, in all nearly t9 acres of floor space to be rented. They assured us also that the rent of this building when filly let would amount to $601,400 a year, which would be more than sufficient to pay four percent interest on the capital outlay.
Next let me tell you briefly what there is in this building. On the ground floor it is suggested that there should be a great hall as an exhibition place for the products of the Dominions. That hall in its entire length and breadth is about twice the size of Westminster Hall. Then in the basement there is a manufacturers' hall, in which all manufacturers in England would be able to go and see what sort of things are wanted in the Dominions. There they would be in close touch with the office of the commercial intelligence bureau, also in the basement, which would inform them with regard to marketing, freights, and transportation charges, and all those things which merchants and business men on both sides of the Atlantic are anxious to know. Then there would be room in this building for offices for the High Commissioners, for the Agents General, and for all the staffs connected with the Dominions. There would also be plenty of room for the Colonial Institute, who are looking for a new building. And above all these things there would be room to gather together under one roof all the great businesses and industries of Canada which have their headquarters in London. I feel sure, if it were only possible to get this thing started, and make people realize that this was a Canadian quarter, that it would be almost indispensable for a Canadian business man to set up his offices in this building. And so you would gradually get a great hive of industry, and the place would be throbbing with all the aspirations and feelings of Canada. And moreover there is that wonderful tower which is two feet higher than the cross of St. Paul's, which would be a standing landmark to London, nay really to the world, of what Canada was and what Canada hoped to be. (Applause.) Am I wrong in suggesting that from the point of view of the advertisement alone Canada would be doing a good stroke of business if she erected some such building as this on such a site? (Applause.) But let me briefly touch on one or two trade points which may interest those who have to do business on the other side. Men on this side find it very difficult to learn what are the freights and transportation charges on the other side of the Atlantic, in Great Britain. I am told that through the secretiveness of the English railways and manufacturers it is extremely difficult to learn the freights and charges for the carriage of goods from industrial centres to port and from port to port and to destination. Over here, in your great trunk railways, you have, I understand, all the information given to you in a form which anybody can read and easily understand, but I am told on the best authority that than information is not so easily got on the other side. It would be through the agency of some such commercial intelligence bureau, as I suggest would be put up in this building, that that information could be got for you business men. Then there is another matter that I fancy you would like to have expert views upon, and that is how to market your goods. I am quite aware that the Dominions and Provinces have their experts over in the Old Country, who are there to get this information and to impart it to you. But how much stronger their position would be, how much more accurate their information would be likely to be, if they were gathered together under one roof to consult and co-operate one with another, and look at the united pressure that these men, or you through the information these men could give you, would be able to bring upon the proper quarters. Then there is another side to this question that I alluded to just now in connection with the Imperial Institute. Every day science is discovering new uses for old products. Here again it would be possible, through the intelligence bureau, to get the very latest information as to the new uses to which your timbers or unknown minerals might be put, in the commercial world. Then to touch on preference, though not in a political sense, you could have an educative propaganda by which the people of Great Britain could be made to understand that you in the Dominions are producing things which foreign countries are producing, that your things are equally good, and that they ought to take your things in preference to the foreign. (Applause.) These are some points which I would suggest to the attention of business men. I am not going into the details of the finance, but let me put it in a nutshell. The total cost, which would be borne by the three suggested co-partners, the three Dominions, would amount in all, for site and building, and for interest during construction, about $14,000,000. Four percent interest on that, which I think the Dominions ought to be able to obtain in London would be $560,000 a year, as against which you would set the rent of this building when fully let, of $601,400 a year, and you see you would have a surplus of some $41,000, which it would be possible to put to a sinking fund or what not, as the Dominions might determine. You ought not to put to yourselves, gentlemen, the question, Can we afford to do this, but Can we afford not to do this? (Hear, hear.) That is the proper way in which you ought to approach this matter. Now I am going to ask you to reflect on what Canada was likely fifty years ago, and what Canada is today, and what Canada is likely to be fifty years hence. Short views are often necessary for the statesman, but long views are equally necessary for the great statesman, and certainly when an opportunity like this comes, which is not likely to recur, you must not throw it away, as in the case of those sibylline books, which, having been offered, were withdrawn never to be offered again. Here is a chance of three acres of vacant land in the centre of London. You cannot pick up vacant land in London as you can on the prairie, or even as you can on the outskirts of Toronto. (Laughter.) This chance in the centre of London may come once in a century, perhaps not then, and surely it is all-important that such an opportunity which happens to have come to this generation of the Dominions, should be grasped while they are in the way with it, and should not be let go. And so it is, gentlemen, because I see this great opportunity, because Lord Grey sees this great opportunity, that I ask you to pause, not once nor twice, but long before you reject this scheme which Lord Grey has asked me to place before you. (Applause.)
A vote of thanks to the speaker was moved by Sir William Mulock, seconded by Mr. G. T. Somers.