THE POSITION OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND.
Address by the VERY REV. A. E. BURKE, D.D., LL.D., of Charlottetown, P. E. I., before the Empire Club of Canada, on February 25th, 1909.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I am, sure, although I have always felt great pleasure in being an Imperialist myself, that this is the first opportunity in which I have been called upon formally to speak to men who are banded together with the prime object of propagating Imperialistic thought and Imperialistic theory, with the view, I suppose, of something practical in the end-that these component parts of the Empire might all be bound together more solidly, and that under the beneficent rule of Britain we should all arrive at that height of civilization, at that plentitude of administration which is the ideal of Anglo-Saxon communities.
I remember the story of a poor fellow who happened to be a little bit addicted to the " drop," and after being converted by the assiduous attention of his minister, on account of something or other fell by the wayside. Unfortunately, the minister happened to come round that: way and found him in a state of stupour; and his minister was very much disgusted with him indeed. He said, " Sandy, what is it?" And the old fellow, waking himself up and regaining consciousness as far as he was able, replied, " I dinna ken whether it was a wedding, or whether it was a funeral, but it was a most extraordinary success." I feel a little bit like Sandy, because I am being very suddenly awakened from a kind of stupour down at my office; but I hope not from any such influence as that ascribed to the Scotchman.
So far as the Maritime Provinces are concerned, I am very glad to come from there. Although some of your people designate us as shreds and patches, we are glad to be a portion of this great Dominion, and are proud of the part our men have played in the formation of the Dominion. To develop their potentialities, all the Provinces of Canada must of necessity be in a state of contentment; they must feel that they are received into the family of Confederation upon some kind of amicable terms; that there is no Federal Administration which is positively against their interests provincially; in order that they themselves can in every way develop and feel that family instinct which compels them to do their best work.
In the Maritime Provinces, the two greater divisions of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick entered the Confederation with the other Provinces. My little Province, while it was the cradle of Confederation, did not enter into it when Confederation was effected first. It is true that the Fathers of Confederation came down to us at Charlottetown, because everybody knows that Prince Edward Island is one of the most beautiful parts of the Dominion-if you will excuse my humility, I would say the most beautiful part-and there Sir John Macdonald and the other Ontario leaders, seeking, I suppose a little relaxation from their politics, came to debate with Sir Charles Tupper this grand Confederation. Our people were very sympathetic with regard to it. Our leaders were delegates to the great Quebec Conference, but when Confederation was enacted we were not in the partnership of the Dominion, and we were not in it because we felt that in that great Confederation our insular interests could not be well attended to; that we could not have the means of development; could not participate in the great fiscal policy and the system of transportation which the country must necessarily have; and therefore we were by ourselves, having built a railroad for ourselves, having all that we required there, having settled our land question among the first Provinces and our currency question with all the other questions which agitated greater communities than we were; -and we were perfectly happy with a low tariff of our own and able to administer our own affairs.
As with the case of Newfoundland, so it was at that time with Prince Edward Island, and Sir John Macdonald came back to us time and again with the invitation that we should enter the Confederation, and when our delegates came back and our Parliament refused to enter upon the terms which were then accorded, a new proposition was made to us again and again. And lastly, when, after the persistent efforts of Sir George Etienne Cartier, we undertook to listen to the voice of the siren, terms of union were made for us which were altogether special in our case. We felt that communication with this mainland was necessary whereby we could participate in the great life of this continent; that every portion should have one system, one sufficient and exact system of communication whereby the commercial interests and the other interests of the country could be properly served. So far as we were concerned, we were an island. We said we would not come into the Confederation unless they could take away that insularity of ours.
Sir George Etienne Cartier declared that he would do everything possible for us, give us better monetary terms; but as to the communication, we were anxious to have more specific terms and, ultimately, we came in under a most specific term indeed; yet the letter of that term and even the spirit of that term have not yet been carried out. Our people were still diffident, and they said to these people proposing union, " How are you going to be able to give to this Province that system of daily communication which you promise to us and without which we will not be able to participate in the life-stream of the Dominion?" Cartier said to us, " Come in; there is nothing impossible to the Privy Council of Canada." And everybody knows that the Privy Council of Canada is a powerful body when it wishes to do anything in the interests of the country; when it has motive sufficient to do those things which appear gigantic it finds it is easy to overcome them; and some of the greatest works of the world have been carried out by this little, young Dominion of ours.
We went into Confederation under specific terms. That arrangement reads in these words, and is embodied in our constitution, " That the Dominion of Canada shall assume and defray the charges for sufficient steam service for the conveyance of mails and passengers, to be established and maintained between the Island and the mainland, winter and summer; thus placing the Island in continuous communication with the Intercolonial Railway and the railway systems of the Dominion." We have gone in under that compact. We have been in from 1873 to this year of grace 1909, and we are largely in the same position today as we were when we came in. There has been improvement in the matter of navigation, but navigation will never effect the terms of Confederation, and consequently you have heard from time to time, perhaps you have heard my own name connected with it, of a project which we believe the only salvation of our Province, and which will fulfill the terms of the Confederation under which we came into the Dominion. I speak of the great tunnel project which has been talked of for a long time, and which is another tunnel to an island beside the one which you in Toronto have built to an island. I remember the last time I was here, passing through the city, I read in one of your daily papers the headline, " The Tunnel to be Built to the Island," and my heart palpitated with joy. The first thing I knew it was something my friend Mr. Haney was doing in order to give the people of Toronto a greater amount of water to mix with the other things they were taking.
In Prince Edward Island we feel that the terms of Confederation can never be carried out by navigation. We have had upon that point a great many Committees of the House of Commons, who have from time to time adjudicated upon this matter, and in the Session of 1883 we had the Report of a Committee of the House then composed of three representatives from Prince Edward Island, two from the mainland, and other representatives of the House. All members of this Committee had special knowledge of the obstruction to navigation in the Straits by ice in the winter and spring seasons and were qualified for the Report which they made. After a long and careful consideration of the subject, the examination of persons, papers and records, the Committee reported on the 18th of April, 1883, in the following words: " It is the unanimous opinion formed by the testimony of witnesses of large practical experience that no steamship can be built capable of keeping up continuous communication in midwinter."
How have the Government attempted to carry out their terms of the Union? We have been in conflict from the time we entered into Confederation. We have had to make addresses to the King (the Queen it was in those days); we have had to pass Minutes in Council; to send delegations to the Court of St. James, and, after one delegation there, when our own Premier and a member of the Cabinet, who is now Senator Ferguson of the Dominion Senate, had attended and made representations, the Earl Granville wrote back and declared that it was necessary that the Dominion Government should do something to carry out these terms of Confederation; that British Columbia had entered under particular terms, with only a very sparse population, but because the honour of the Dominion had been pledged the Government had spanned the whole continent with steel railways and the Canadian Pacific Railway had been built; and stated that it would be a good thing, in order to carry out the spirit and intent of the terms of Confederation with Prince Edward Island, if something of the same kind should be done.
I will read the extract from Lord Granville's Report
" There seems to be reason for doubt whether any satisfactory communication by steamships can be regularly maintained all the year round, which makes it all the more important that the proposed tunnel should receive full and favourable consideration on the part of the Government of Canada. The establishment of constant and speedy communication by rail would be a great advantage to the Province and the Dominion, and I should propose that the development of the traffic on the Island railway and of the capabilities of the Province generally should produce a great direct return on the expenditure. It would reflect credit on the Dominion Government if, after connecting British Columbia by the Canadian Pacific Railway, it should now be able to complete its system of railway communication by an extension to Prince Edward Island."
Because of these words the first real steamer of any consequence was built. That steamer was called the " Stanley," was built in 1888, and she commenced and plied for a time and gave us hope that ultimately we might effect a successful system of communication between the Province and the mainland. At the nearest point of contact we have six and a half miles, more or less, of distance, but it is not there that the communication takes place in winter. It is between Georgetown and Pictou that these boats ply, a distance of some forty miles, and at certain seasons of the year, when the ice becomes congested, it is impossible for any steamship to go through it. If they make them so tremendously heavy they will not be able to operate. We have three steamers, a great one being built at a cost of half a million of dollars, and we have every day reports that the Island has been for weeks without communication. In 1905, when I myself, with some others, came from my Province to represent our claims, appointed by the people of my Province, we had been some sixty days without communication with the mainland; and that when we had the best steamers for the purpose of ice-breaking that could be made. If we built them heavier then they would not have water enough to operate in. It has come to be the conviction of every man who thinks, that this steamship communication can never solve the question. The great project of the tunnel, if taken up, would relieve the grievances of that Province.
What has been done on the line of the tunnel? We had in our country a patriotic man who not only believed in his own Province and had a great share in its material advancement, who was a representative in the Senate of Canada-the late Senator Howlan, afterwards Governor -and he it was who, in the first place, thought out this matter of a tunnel. It was thought to be an enormous project altogether and as something we could not practically think of. However, he brought it up to a practical stage in which the Government made a grant, and borings were made in,, the Strait. The whole bottom of the Strait was examined, and then the geologists began boring so that they would find out the kind of formation through which the tunnel was to be pushed, and the late Principal Dawson and some other gentlemen, who were well qualified to undertake the case, discovered that the formation was the most acceptable and suitable possible for this construction. We know that tunnels are being pushed everywhere. Down there we have a natural locus for a tunnel. It can be built at a cost of $10,000,000, and we have your own tunnel builder here, Mr. Haney, who says that he will build it any -day for that sum, and if he does that and if we make the expenditure I think the people of every part of the Dominion will see that it should be taken up as quickly as possible and pushed to a favourable conclusion. There have been certain borings made, but some say they are not sufficient, and I understand from Sir Wilfrid Laurier that he will undertake to see that that system of examination is completely carried out, with, the end, we hope, that in a short time the tunnel will be commenced.
We have in that whole system of steamship communication an expenditure, besides what the Province has secured from the Dominion, of some $998,500 and we have a contra-account against the Dominion of $300,000, and about $30,000 for upkeep, which would make $330,000, leaving a difference to the Government, if they built the tunnel, of about $600,000 a year. That being the case, I do not see, from a business point of view, why we do not have the tunnel. Sir Charles Tupper and Sir John Macdonald, when they were in power, gave us great encouragement on this question, especially before elections. I need not mention that Sir Wilfrid Laurier was as big a sinner as any of them on this point. There is a copy of a letter in which he says, " I have your favour of Feb. a, and I hardly thought that an expression of opinion as to the construction of a tunnel to connect the Island with the mainland should be required. Every man who has given any attention to the consideration of things, to the necessities involved by the Island's entering into Confederation, must admit that such a tunnel must be constructed if the thing is reasonably practicable. The first thing is to make the ordinary investigations and form an estimate." He has had plenty of time, and I hope these debts of honour will be paid; that Prince Edward Island as an integral part of this Dominion will have what she went into Confederation for, and that every man here will help to make us a contented part of this Confederation.
There are a great many other things which I could say upon this question of communication, but I know that I should not take up any more of your time. I have had a sympathetic audience before me, and anything I have said for my little Province, anything that can be done which will make it contented, will be the same thing as when you have in your own bodies any ills. When one of the members suffers, all the members suffer. Even though Prince Edward Island is a small Province, when it suffers then we have discontentment- in other places, and I may say that the fact that the Island which forms a Province has not been as contented as she might be under her Confederation terms may have had something to do with the aloofness of that other grand island which we would like to see in this Confederation as quickly as possible, so that all might go to form a great Empire.