RESOURCES AND PROGRESS OF QUEBEC.
Address by the Hon. W. A. Weir, K.C., M.P. P., Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec,
before the Empire Club of Canada,
on Thursday, April 5th, 1906.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I think it is my first duty to thank the directorate of the Empire Club for the great honour they have done me in asking me to speak to this gathering of important men, and, second, to thank the Chairman for his very kind permission to extend my remarks for a little longer than the usual time. You all know that for some two months very recently I have been seated in a Chair, looking almost as grand and dignified as my friend, Mr. St. John, and all that time looking as pleased as possible while others were speaking; but I will not take my revenge today, but shall limit my remarks as much as possible. I was very much interested in the remarks of Mr. Roaf, telling you about the greater development of the Canadian population than that of the United States in the same time, and I thought he might have added, too, Sir, that the grand old Province of Quebec has had a great deal to do with the improvement of the population of Canada.
I can assure you that the men and women of Quebec work together in harmony in order to hasten the future greatness of our country. I remember in 1889 or 1890 the Parliament of the Province of Quebec introduced a Bill whereby every father of twelve children was to be entitled to one hundred acres of land. Now, we have immense vacant tracts of land in the Province of Quebec that are not occupied at all, and it seemed a very small thing to give to the father of twelve children one hundred acres of that reserve; but we soon found that we would not have enough acres to satisfy the demand, and as a matter of policy we reduced the grant of one hundred acres to one of cash--$50 to each parent of twelve children. Well, we thought we were doing pretty well and all we would have to do was to impose some taxes, do you see, and the treasury looked flourishing; but we soon found we would be entirely bankrupt if we continued to do it, and we passed a law to the effect that after the 30th June at twelve o'clock at night no father of twelve children would be entitled to the $50. Well, if I were to tell you the petitions that poured in from the fathers of children on the first of July-it was almost enough to upset the Government. (Laughter.)
But I want to say a word seriously about our Province of Quebec. I know very well that in the audience before me there is no prejudice against another race. I remember when I went to the McGill Model School in Montreal it was a very common thing for the boys of our school to fight with the boys of the High School because we belonged to a different institution, and we used to fight with the boys of the French schools. That has long since passed away, and now throughout the entire Province of Quebec the utmost harmony and good feeling prevails. When I point out to you the kind of public men we have produced in the Province of Quebec, you will, I am sure, see in those names all the proof that is necessary of the genuineness of the sentiment felt in the sister Province of Quebec. Let me mention the names of Papineau, Lafontaine, Morin, Hincks, Rose, Drummond, McGee, Joly, Cartier, Holton, Dorion, Huntingdon, Chapleau, Mercier, and Laurier; men with sentiments and quality surely representing to some extent the breadth of the sentiments and view that predominate in the people of our Province! they surely leave their imprint upon the minds and characters of the people of the Province of Quebec and in that regard we have nothing to be ashamed of.
And I want to tell you this, that although there is a common impression that the people of the Province of Quebec are priest-ridden, there is no truth in the allegation. The records of the Courts are full of the protests made by the habitants against the clergy. They take the priests to Court in actions 0f damages for slander and libel when it is necessary; they fight them on the tithe question, though when I say this I want you to understand there is no class of the community more respected or more revered than the clergy of the Province of Quebec. They understand the motives and the feelings of the people, and if at times they have over-stepped the limits of toleration the people are the first to bring them to time, and the very first to take action have been the farmers. Why, in '96, when their Lordships the Archbishops of the Province issued their manifestoes that the electors of the Province should only vote for those in favour of the Remedial Bill you' know these souls by hundreds and thousands recorded their right to their own private judgments, and instead of going according to the mandamus of the Archbishops they gave a vote that asserted their independence as the electors of a free country. Why, at our last Quebec Session we had a Bill from the Town of Rimouski asking for the privilege to take Ecclesiastical property to construct a reservoir, drains, fire protection and electric light, and that Bill was opposed by the Bishop of the Diocese, and what was the result? It was also opposed by the Archbishop of Montreal. Yet three out of the four dioceses of Rimouski voted against the Bishop, and not a single member from the Arch-diocese of Montreal voted in accordance with the views of the Archbishop of Montreal. Does not that show that our citizens exercise their rights where they think they should be exercised?
Now, let me tell you another thing about the people of Quebec and I don't know if you can duplicate it in Canada. We have the great County of Pontiac, which is represented by a citizen of this Province, while the County of Argenteuil is also represented by a man whose interests are in the Province of Ontario. That shows that the people of Quebec recognize a good man when they see him, and in my humble way I reciprocated because when it came to be a matter of a choice to select the partner in the destinies of my life, where did I go but to the City of Hamilton, in the Province of Ontario, to select a helpmate. A VOICE--Why didn't you get her here? Mr. WEIR--I am sure if I had stopped off here the result might have been different. Let me point out another fact in regard to the people of the Province of Quebec, among the farmers particularly. A mortgage on farm land is almost an unknown thing and you can go through our towns and villages and not find any money lenders or any Loan Companies. The people, absolutely, have hardly a mortgage in the whole rural districts of the Province of Quebec and that speaks well for the industry of the people and such a people is a valuable asset to any country.
As to loyalty, we are not very imperialistic in Quebec. We haven't got to that stage yet, but there is one thing that is perfectly sure, as sure as the sun shines over all the ]and, and that is that the people of Quebec are loyal to the core to the country in which they live. They showed it in '76 during the time of the American Revolution; they showed it in 1812 when the habitants of Quebec, under de Salaberry, repulsed the American invasion, and in '37 when they also fought the enemy and kept their Province and their lands from invasion by a foreign foe; they showed it during the Fenian Raids; they showed it in '85 when scores and hundreds of our French-Canadians joined in going to the NorthWest to put down the Rebellion. They showed it at the time of the Boer war when many of them received recognition from Great Britain, and many who fell bore French-Canadian names and, I think, anyone who saw the send-off they received would never doubt that the hearts of the French-Canadians beat true to Canada and true to the great Empire to which we belong.
Let me instance another quality of our French-Canadian friends, and that is their great and over-powering sociability. There is no people so friendly or so social as the French-Canadian when he thinks his attentions will not be misconstrued. I can go through a district where I am known, in which there is one-half the population English and the other half French-Canadians, and find as hearty, as warm, as genial, a welcome and reception in the cottage of the French farmer as I would in that of the English farmer. In the lower House, where there are seventy-four members speaking French and probably only ten English-speaking members, I can say--and every man can say the same thing--that never the slightest remark, never the slightest word is uttered to make us feel that we are in the minority. Certainly the reception and kindness accorded to the English members of the Quebec Legislature by the majority 0f that body is greatly to be commended.
One word about Education. I want to quote the figures that in 1897-98 we spent in the Province of Quebec, $3,051,381, and in the years 1904-05, we had increased that amount by over a million of dollars--in seven short years we had increased the allowance for school purposes over one million dollars. That shows progress. We may not be doing all that we should do, but it shows the desire of the people all over the Province to advance the great and glorious cause of education. Besides that you know we have our system of convents and seminaries and private institutions, for which the people have to be drawn on, after all, in order to meet this expense, and these colleges are in a flourishing condition all over the Province. You cannot go through a village or town of any size but you will see a college or convent, which must be, as I said, supported out of the pockets of the people of the surrounding districts. There is one thing, perhaps, we are rather behind in as regards education, and that is the establishment of technical schools and colleges. We have been turning rather to the classical and literary and we have produced men of the highest order in these lines, but from a practical point of view it is desirable that more technical schools should be established and the intention of the Government is to forward that idea and that desire as much as possible.
Now one reason why our Province has not developed as rapidly as we would desire-and I think I said a few minutes ago, but very little over ten per cent. 0f our land is occupied--is that we have been tied in, limited to some extent by the Alleghanies to the south of us and the Laurentian range of hills to the north; and also that our position has not tended to the construction of railways, while you ate sandwiched in between the East and the North-West, and any railway that is built must pass through the Province of Ontario, and that has aided your railway development; whereas those railways do not pass through the north part of our Province, but they come to the City of Montreal or cut off the southwest corner of our Province and go to Portland or New York. So our railway construction has not kept pace with that in Ontario. You in Ontario have, or had in 1904, 30:54 square miles 0f area to each mile of track, while in Quebec we have 97-37 square miles to each mile of track, which shows a railway development in Ontario nearly three times greater than in the Province of Quebec. But there is no doubt that the future to some extent will smile upon us. The construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific over the Laurentian Mountains and through the northern part of the Province of Quebec is sure to open up a large and valuable portion 0f our Province, for to the Grand Trunk Pacific there will be built up numerous branch lines which will help to develop and colonize that part and help the other industries throughout the Province of Quebec. And, more than that, we have chartered during the last year a railway line which will be built from the City of Montreal to the far east--to Labrador--when from the seaboard of that, section of our Province to Great Britain a passage of the Atlantic Ocean may be made in three and a half days. That will open up vast regions of mineral lands. The finest iron deposits on the continent of America are to be found in Labrador and those will be opened up by means of that railway.
The area of Quebec is 347,000 square miles, an area equal to France and Prussia combined, and seven times as large as the Empire State of New York to the south of us. We have 200,000,000 acres of land that have not yet been conceded. Let me tell you that in the Lake Temiscamingue country, into that lake there drain tributaries draining some 18,000,000 acres of land of Quebec, a very small portion 0f which has as yet been slightly settled, and from Lake Abitiibi to James' Bay we are told there are splendid agricultural lands. The Ottawa River, which divides our Provinces, is 800 miles long, and its Quebec tributaries, the LeMoine, 130 miles; the Black River, 135 miles; the Colonge, 160 miles; the Gatineau, 260 miles; the Le Lievre, 220 Miles; the Rouge, 120 miles; the North, 70 miles; and the L'Assumption, l00 miles. Pontiac, on the Ottawa River, embraces an area of 21,000 square miles, twice the area of the Kingdom of Belgium, and twice the size of Holland, or the size of Switzerland, Denmark and Servia, and all this a single County in the Province of Quebec. The River St. Maurice is 350 miles long and it has many, many tributaries which are over a hundred miles in length. It drains 18,000 square miles--and those are only samples of the rivers of the Province of Quebec.
Our forest area is 327,721 square miles. It has been calculated that if we sold out our forests tomorrow we would get as a bonus--calculated at a very low rate the Province would receive some $18,000,000; and for stumpage fees, if the trees were cut immediately, no less a sum than $420,000,000, so that the Province of Quebec has considerable resources to be developed at some future day. Now, while I am telling you of the vast reserves of the Province of Quebec I don't want any of you to repat it, even to our friend, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, because we are after him for "better terms," and I wouldn't like to prejudice our cause.
Now, let me tell you about the Lake St. John region. Lake St. John is beyond the Laurentian Mountains at the head of the Saguenay River. A few years ago it was a comparatively unknown district, but today there are seven Townships settled around Lake St. John and on that lake there are fourteen large steamers. The water-powers of these rivers are of enormous extent, and there are the best wheat-fields of the Province around the shores of Lake St. John today, and there is the best tobacco in the Province grown around the shores of Lake St. John, and there are altogether today more than 50,000 people who have gone into that District and are still going in at the rate of 3,00o per annum. Now that is a development of the Province, in one small section of it, of which we are very proud. Up that lake and along its tributaries there ply daily no less than fourteen steamers and forty car-loads of freight per day are taken from that District to the City of Quebec for shipment and distribution in other parts.
Our pulp industry is one of great magnitude. All over the Province of Quebec the pulp and paper industry has taken giant strides during the past few years, and I want to emphasize the remark made by Senator Edwards when he said that everything that grows in our forest lands is valuable, is of great value; that in these days of electrical development and the advancement of chemistry use can be made of everything that grows in our forests; and I want to say that our pulp lands are practically inexhaustible. He said that the Company to which he belonged owned some 760 square miles of forest lands and that it had been calculated that the Company would produce 50,000 cords of pulp-wood per annum, and the 760 miles of pulp-wood was practically inexhaustible because while they were cutting one part the other parts would be growing up, and by the time they again got round it would be grown ready for use.
Let me point out in the matter of water-powers, that the Shawinigan Falls on the St. Maurice River have been the scene of tremendous growth in manufacturing industries on account of the water-powers there. Mare than that, it sends into the City of Montreal, ninety-nine miles away, power that is calculated to be the equivalent of 600,000 tons of coal per annum. Taking that as a basis you will see the enormous possibilities of electric power development 0f Quebec. Let me quote another fact that on the River Peribonka, a tributary of Lake St. John, there are no less than seven falls in a space of five or six miles, capable of giving 300,000 horse-power, and around that Lake St. John, at a distance from two to fifty miles, the horse-power of the water falls is estimated at 653,000 horse-power.
Now I have the mines. The mineral development in Quebec has not been very great, but I can point you to the District of Thetford, which a few years ago consisted of barren hills and which today, through the discovery of asbestos, has become the seat of a population of over 10 000 people on its hill sides. We have the same geological formation in the north of the Province as you have in New Ontario, the same Huronic belt, and we can find there galena and asbestos and silver and probably cobalt and nickel also. There are hundreds of miles, too, of magnetic iron sands on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the Labrador region, which the development of science will yet make valuable. Our fishery exports amounted to about two and a half million dollars in 1903. Our fish industry in the James Bay and the Hudson's Bay is pretty hard to estimate, but I do know this, that in the beginning of last summer some enterprising capitalists started a whale-fishing industry in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with the Bay of Seven Islands as their headquarters, and they constructed their factories, they purchased their ships, and at the end of the season they declared a dividend of twenty-five per cent. Now that was an unknown industry in Quebec, which has been developed in the last year or two-the fishing for whales in the St. Lawrence.
There is just one black feature from my point of view, and that is the regrettable fact that the English-speaking people are leaving the Province and the farmers are going to the North-West, whereas I think it would be better if some scheme could be devised whereby our English-speaking farmers could be induced to remain in our Province, because they are invaluable as interpreters between the French people and the other Provinces. However, that is going on through no fault of the French majority, but because the English farmers are anxious to see the farm land further west, and they will go to the western part of Canada unless some counter action is set up in the development of the minerals and manufacturing industries of the Province through the development of the great water-powers which I have referred to. But today the situation is this, that while the English population of Quebec may be increasing, that increase is almost totally confined to the cities, while in the rural districts the English population is dying out very rapidly; and that, as I say, is the only black point of view that I have to refer to in connection with the future of the Province.
Now, I hope I have said enough to show you that the future of the Province of Quebec is very bright indeed, that there should be no reason why any sentiment of discord should exist between the people of our Province and the people of the other Provinces of the Dominion; no reason why we should not work together in unity and harmony to develop a grand democratic country on this Continent of America. Our friends to the south of us, we wish them all God speed, but it is patent they have their own troubles of a very serious nature, their labour troubles and so on. With the different sentiments of the North and South and the East and West, they have their hands full to work out their own future, but I am confident that we on the northern portion of the Continent are capable and able to build up a nation equal if not superior in every respect to the great American Republic, and one that will make to our own glory and the glory of the great Empire to which we belong.