CANADA AND THE ST. LAWRENCE WATERWAY.
An Address delivered by Mayor George W. Stephens, President of the Montreal Board of Harbour Commissioners, before the Empire Club of Canada, on November 3rd, 1910.
Mr. President and Gentlemen
It is my first pleasure to thank you for this invitation and to warn you, that though your ears may not be ravished by the eloquence these walls are accustomed to, nor your intelligence refreshed with thoughts that are new, yet I am convinced that the story of the St. Lawrence waterway and its significance to Canada, may at least call attention to a national inheritance the competitive value of which has not been fully recognized by Canadians. At her present rate of increase Canada will, during the 20th century, contribute to the Empire a population exceeding that now occupying the British Isles, and will produce from one quarter of her available wheat areas in the West more wheat than now comprises the total wheat crop of the United States. There are but two methods of providing for the handling of this new business, not to mention the concurrent industrial production of the country:
1st.-By increasing transportation and terminal facilities on Canadian soil.
2nd.-By allowing business to be taken care of by transportation routes and sea terminals not within the limits of this Dominion.
For the purpose of my few remarks today I shall ask you to consider the St. Lawrence route as comprising
1st.--The channel which gives access to the head of ocean navigation.
2nd.--The inland waterway which links the sea route with the heart of a great continent.
3rd.--The ocean inland distributing ports belonging to the system.
The whole system extending from Fort William to the sea comprises a length of 2,500 miles. I like to regard this system as a great national undertaking into which are going the money, the genius and the patriotism of the Canadian people, and out of which are coming year by year privileges and power to the transportation interests of Canada, instead of diversity of control and authority. I like to believe that one day there will preside over this great water-route a directorate of farsighted men who will guide and control its destinies, will shape and administer its transportation efficiency in a manner that will preserve to Canada the prestige of possessing the shortest and deepest trade route from the heart of this continent to the sea.
Since the day upon which the intrepid navigator Jacques Cartier turned the prow of his little vessel into the St. Lawrence and christened the River after the name of the Saint upon whose birthday he entered its waters, the pages of our history have been filled with the heroic struggle of brave men who had the courage of their convictions and who carried the visions of their imaginations to a practical conclusion. It has been stated that as the 19th Century had belonged to the people of the United States, so would the 20th belong to the people of Canada. What the 'potential force of this statement truly is only appears upon close examination. Let us, therefore, for a little dwell on the conditions which make this statement so remarkable.
Pew realize that at the opening of the 19th Century the population of the United States numbered less than six millions, stretched in a human fringe along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida, their faces turned towards the Atlantic Ocean, their backs to the setting sun upon that great undiscovered West, which was to bring wealth and population undreamed of in the opening years of that century. Possessing not a single mile of railway, not a single mile of canal, we find them however, in our day with a population numbering ninety millions of people, a railway system in operation comprising 223,000 miles, and a developed commerce of proportions unparalleled in the history of the world. This marvellous progress of one hundred years is due to the faith, perseverance and courage of her people, but most of all to the development of her means of transportation.
Compare this with the conditions under which the opening years of the 20th Century are surrounded, with reference to the development of our own country. Canada with her six millions of people starts the 20th Century with the same population as the United States did the 19th, but with this difference-not huddled together on the sea coast as was the case with our southern neighbour, but stretched out across the northern half of this continent, in an unbroken line of prosperous Provinces from sea to sea, linked together by the steel ribbons of three great transcontinental railroads, possessing seaports on both oceans, 26,000 miles of railway in operation, and 1,400 miles of interior navigation extending westward to the heart of this great continent through the centre of our own Dominion.
Project the St. Lawrence route across the map of Europe beginning with the North Sea, and you would give to that continent a deep waterway tapping the commerce of Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Austria and Russia. Give this transportation system to South Africa and you would cut that continent in two at the Equator, and join together the South Atlantic with the Indian Ocean. Apply it to South America and the waterway would rival the great Amazon River, stretching from British Guiana on the north to Buenos Ayres on the south. And if the same water-route were possessed by our great neighbour to the south of us, it would give to the United States the deepest waterway on this continent extending from New York to Salt Lake City.
But neither Europe nor South Africa, nor South America, nor the United States possess this waterway; it is the inheritance of the Canadian people, by whose enterprise it has been developed, and upon whose shoulders rests the responsibility of maintaining its prestige. In the possession of this great national asset, into which has gone the genius, the courage and the money of the Canadian people, Canada unquestionably has within her midst the cheapest and most efficient national trade route on this continent. The St. Lawrence River today carries to and from the port of Montreal one-third of our country's national trade, equivalent to something over $200; 000,000 in value, during seven months of the year.
In this enterprise there are just 6,000,000 Canadian shareholders all equally interested, who have invested in the St. Lawrence Ship Canal and the Port of Montreal $20,000,000; and upon this investment they are doing a business of $200,000,000 in value per annum and are carrying in freight to and from this country over their national highway over 4,000,000 tons per annum of exports arid imports. If the average cost of transporting 4,000,000 tons by water, 1,000 miles, is 10c. a ton, the cost to the people of Canada over the Canadian waterway would equal $400,000. If on the other hand, the St. Lawrence route were obliterated and the 4,000,000 tons of exports and imports had to travel that 1,000 miles by rail, the Canadian people would be called upon to spend for its transportation $4,000,000 or just ten times the rate of today, under which they effect an annual saving of $3,600,000.
Within the last five years this Channel has been lighted and buoyed in a manner to make it the equal in aids to navigation of any channel in the world. Its lighting between Quebec and Montreal has added 60 days to the season by making navigation as safe by night as by day. It is now 550 feet wide in the straight and 750 feet at the curves, and its depth varies from a minimum of 40 ft. in the spring to 31 ft. in the fall. Fifteen years ago the largest vessel trading in the St. Lawrence had a tonnage of 6,000. Ten years ago the tonnage of the largest ship trading in the St. Lawrence was 10,000.
Today ships of 15,000 tons come to the Port of Montreal. This means that within the next ten years at the same rate of increase ships of 25,000 tons will be doing business in the St. Lawrence trade, and this is what the ocean channel and the Canadian sea terminal must be prepared to meet.
Let us now follow that inland waterway which has its source at the heart of a continent and links together the five great lakes, canals and river with the ocean navigation just described. For 1,400 miles the call of the inland waters is to the sea. As the salmon comes from the ocean deep for thousands of miles to mate in the fresh life-giving waters of the inland stream so these inland oceans of fresh water crave for the sea. This fact gives to Canada the possession of the longest and deepest inland water system in the world, and it gives to the Province of Ontario a coastline bordering upon these inland seas of several thousand miles. Behind and embracing this water system lies a hinterland of fertile country. The great Province of Ontario with her three million people, with its area of fertile lands, greater than France or 'Germany, surrounds these five great lakes on the north. Behind is our own great West, containing over a million square miles of the finest agricultural, mineral and timber lands yet discovered in the world. To the south and belonging to our neighbour are the great middle and western States. These two tremendous tracts of (commercially valuable country find their natural transportation outlet and inlet by way oaf the inland water-route we are now discussing.
The four Western termini upon which converge the competing railroads of the United States and Canada are Chicago, Milwaukee, Duluth and the twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur. The magnitude of the inland business carried to and from the lake terminal has created a water-borne commerce aggregating 225 billion tons per annum, carried in craft valued at $233,000,000, and costing to transport less than 1-12 of one percent per ton per mile. To move this vast volume by rail would cost, according to the most accurate comparative information available, not less than nine times the water rate. This is an unanswerable argument for the wise development of our water routes and termini.
From either of the four lake termini mentioned the present Canadian water route by way of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Vrie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence route, compared with the other water outlet to the ocean by way -3f Buffalo and New York gives to the present Canadian route an advantage of 500 miles in distance between these points and Liverpool. There are other advantages to the Canadian route which are not to be overlooked. From Fort William to Montreal the distance is 1,200 miles; from Fort William to New York it is 1,350 miles. In that distance by the Canadian route there are but 70 miles of canal with 50 locks, and in the American route there are 354 miles of canal and 74 locks. As the open season of navigation available to both the Canadian and American routes to the seaside are identical, carrying capacity, speed and terminal facilities are the three chief factors in the competitive value of each route, and will unquestionably determine the strategic trade value of each.
The enterprise of the American railways in supplying Buffalo, the western terminus of the lake business, with ample elevator capacity and the return cargoes available from that port westward have in a large measure neutralized the natural advantages of a water route into which Canadian money and development have gore while the present Brie Canal to Albany has, as an export medium for grain, been overshadowed by the power of rail transportation from Buffalo eastward to American ports. This within the next few years is to be changed by the building of a new barge canal from Buffalo to Albany having as a maximum depth 11 ft., a lock length of 328 ft. and a carrying capacity of 2,600 tons.
This will enable our American neighbour, who now possesses adequate elevator capacity at his eastern lake terminal, to invite for water transportation to New York a large portion of the western grain traffic. The question therefore, of importance to Canadians is to carefully consider what position our present St. Lawrence waterway will occupy in view of the added water facilities provided through American territory. The Canadian route as it exists must be tested and the question of adequate water terminals at the points of interchange examined, for it will ill-become the spirit of 20th Century Canadianism to rely on nature alone for the transportation of her commerce. Where the rail meets the water at Fort William terminal facilities are in good hands and the foundations are being laid to meet future traffic. At Montreal we are creating elevator and conveyor capacities to meet this new business.
Somewhere, therefore, between Montreal and Fort William there must be created ample and adequate terminal accommodation at the best interchange point between the lake and river commerce. From Lake Superior to the eastern end of Lake Erie the waterway conditions are identical for both, and the lake traffic reaches Buffalo and Port Colborne under like conditions. At Buffalo the storage capacity for grain at the present moment is 22;000,000 bushels and the great proportion of this storage capacity is owned and controlled by the great railway running out of Buffalo to the seas. Without neutral storage capacity the transportation of grain becomes, through the United States, a lake and rail proposition. We offset this with a beginning of a terminal at Port Colborne, having a storage capacity of 1,000,000 bushels and from Port Colborne onward to the sea there is a channel depth of 14 feet compared with the channel depth of 11 feet through the new barge canal of our neighbour. The Port Colborne elevator is not controlled by any railway and is free to receive water-borne grain for transfer through the Welland Canal or by railway depending upon the route.
Coming through the Welland Canal into Lake Ontario we have on the American side the Port of Oswego with an elevator capacity of 800,000 bushels and on the Canadian side we have Prescott and Kingston with an elevator capacity of 1,800,000. Oswego, 364 miles from the sea, with 200 miles of canal to go through, is the American transfer point nearest an ocean port. The Canadian eastern lake terminal at Prescott is 119 miles from the ocean with only 46 miles of canal. From Oswego to New York a boat drawing 11 feet of water and carrying 2,600 tons, making an average speed of 12 miles per hour, will take 30 hours to make the distance from Oswego to New York, the same ship leaving Prescott for Montreal will take 10 hours. With equal terminal facilities at both places, grain shipped by the Canadian route will be 20 hours on its way to Liverpool by the time the boat leaving Oswego will be discharging her cargo at New York; if we assume that the American boat can travel from Oswego to New York through the 200 miles of canal at the same speed and carry the same cargo that the Canadian boats can travel and carry through our own system, which is not the case. Allowing six miles per hour for the average speed while in the canal and eight miles while in the open water the comparison between the two routes would .be on a fair basis.
Under these conditions it would take the boat leaving Oswego 54 hours to reach New York and take the boat leaving Prescott 17 hours to Montreal. It, therefore, transpires that the grain shipped by way of the St. Lawrence route and Montreal would be two days on its way to Liverpool while the grain was being discharged in the Port of New York, and the Canadian boat that carried that grain to Montreal will be two days on her return trip to get her second cargo. In despatch, therefore, the present Canadian route under equal terminal development has four days per trip advantage of the new American route; with the existing conditions on the Canadian side as against the improved conditions in five years on the American side.
In physical conditions, therefore, the present Canadian waterway may be counted upon to hold its own against the new American barge canal in process of construction. The Canadian route of today is three feet deeper, has (fifteen fewer locks, has a greater carrying capacity and is 110 miles shorter than will be the new barge canal from Buffalo to New York when in 1915 it will be open for business. But in my humble opinion equality of physical conditions alone will not be sufficient to ensure to the Canadian route that predominence of trade advantage it should enjoy. We can have and must have the shortest and best equipped trade route in North America. Our present weakness is in storage capacity, terminal facilities and ship tonnage. Without this equipment the best waterway in the world will only yield a small percentage of its efficiency. In the order of their importance, therefore, I put the problems to be worked out to maintain the prestige of the -St. Lawrence route
1st.-Vastly greater terminal facilities.
2nd.-Increased storage capacity.
3rd.-A deeper inland waterway.
We have now briefly traced the channel approaching the head of ocean navigation at Montreal. We have followed the inland waterway from the Great Lakes to its meeting point with the ocean business. Permit me now to say a word or two with reference to your national sea port at Montreal where inland and ocean navigation meet Your national port and its affairs are administered by a Commission of three appointed by the Federal Government and paid to look after its business and development Up to the present time there have been spent in its development $12,000,000, and upon the St. Lawrence Ship Canal $10,000,000, a total of $22,000,000, and upon that capital investment there is transacted a tonnage of five and half millions in nine months.
The monthly business export and import in value exceeds that of any port in North America except New York. Glasgow has been developed at a cost of eighty millions, Newcastle seventy-five millions, Manchester fifty millions, and these three British ports are each doing a monthly business less in value than Montreal. Your national port controls 32 miles of river frontage without a single dollar of vested interest to impede its economical development. It controls and operates its own railways and is building a high level railway from one end of the Harbour -to the other. This high level road will give to every industrial establishment on the river front access to every railway doing business with Montreal on the same terms and deep water communication as well.
It is equipped with the most modern and most extensive grain handling system in the world-every ship being fed with grain at her own berth night or day.
Within the last two years it has been possible to reduce the handling cost of every ton of through, freight by one-half, the reduction amounting to 22 1/2 c. per ton. Montreal is practically a free port, no tonnage dues being charged against the ship. She raises her revenue through a modest wharfage charge, shed rentals and privileges, and has been able to pay up to the present all her interest and maintenance charges without resorting to other sources of revenue ordinarily used in other ports. Finally, it is the aim of the Harbour Commissioners of Montreal to create a modern business sea-port whose economic administration and careful development will provide to Canadians a sea-port of which they shall be justly proud.