December 8, 1927 Speech to the Empire Club by the Honourable William Finlayson, Ontario Minister of Lands and Forests about Northern Ontario’s Vast Potenial

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Honourable William Finlayson, Ontario Minister of Lands and Forests, Toronto, Ontario – December 8, 1927

The Vice-President introduced the speaker, who was received with loud applause. He said: “It is a pleasure to come to Southern Ontario and talk about Northern Ontario, because the people here are prepared to support any legislation properly designed to develop the North country”; yet I do so with a good deal of hesitation, because I see so many people here who have done far more work in Northern Ontario than I have been able to accomplish.

I see here Sir William Hearst, who knows Northern Ontario not only from the administrative standpoint, but from having lived there and helped to develop one of its important centres. Other men here have done perservering and effective work for the north country, men like Mr. Stapells and Mr. Gibbons, who are prepared to devote not only personal energy but business organization to assist in particular enterprises we may have in view up there.

The people of Toronto and all Southern Ontario think that civilization entered Ontario from the south, and that Cataraqui and Kingston are the oldest centres of civilization in this province; others say that Niagara was the birthplace of Ontario; while people in Toronto the “Meeting Place”-seem to think that civilization and romance and enterprise began here and spread through the province. But I would like to tell the people of Toronto at once, plainly and somewhat bluntly, that those ideas are all erroneous, and that the north, which is not only the source of present wealth but the hope for the future of Ontario, is the place where civilization and enterprise and business entered this province. Let me briefly prove this proposition.

Civilization entered Ontario in August 1615, when Father Recollet went up the Ottawa River, crossed Nipissing, and came down the French River and Georgian Bay. He was followed shortly after by the great Champlain.

The first religious service was performed that year on the Georgian Bay. Following that, there was the Recollet Mission to the Huron Indians for a few yearsa feeble mission, because that Order was not strong enough to conduct a great mission so far from their base, and they asked the Jesuits to come. The latter were a powerful Order, which had the royal support at the time, and they conducted their mission to the Hurons until 1639. That was the time when civilization really entered Ontario, because the Jesuits had a great central station at Ste. Marie, on the Georgian Bay, and between 1639 and 1649 there was established the first town, the first hospital, the first school, the first farm, the first military establishment, and the first organized society in this province.

In 1649 the Jesuits were so well established that they could have carried on indefinitely, but the Hurons were driven out by their enemies, the Iroquois from New York State, and they retired to Christian Island for one year, and then they were driven out of Ontario, and the Jesuits followed them.

Then in 1670 we had civilization coming from the north, because in that year Charles the Second granted the Great Charter to ” My right trusty and well-beloved cousin, Prince Rupert, ” and seventeen noblemen. It always amuses me to read that Charter to Prince Rupert, and then four or five noblemen, several barons, several knights, and four or five gentlemen who were entitled to be called ” Esquire, ” and one poor man-John Portmain, merchant goldsmith of the City of London-the only one who was not a gentleman, and who could not put esquire to his name. The Hudson’s Bay Company a few years afterwards began to sell their pelts, and they were sold through John Portmain. Prince Rupert was pushing the company, and he had the spectacular part of the enterprise, but John Portmain was evidently getting a commission on the sales, and the industrious John was no doubt making money, and a few years later he was entitled to join the glittering band who headed the Hudson’s Bay Company.

That was the first real business in Ontario, for that company had authority to attack the King’s enemies, and to carry on war with all non-Christian peoplewhatever that might mean. They were the first land company in Ontario; their territory including everything from the Hudson Bay Straits practically in every direction. They were the first company that had a subvention in Ontario; they had a Charter entitling them to catch all fishes, even the royal sturgeon; they also had a right to get furs, and to carry on extensive business. That first business enterprise in Ontario came from the north, and it has been carried on for 260 years. I do not think you could have any greater evidence of the vitality of the north than that.

In fact, the north showed the south how to do business, and the vigorous enterprises of the north have always assisted the south. I think I have said enough to convince Southern Ontario that the north is the source of civilization, of business, and also of every form of attractive enterprise you have. We are the hope of the future of the province. You will find that the big orders sent to the firms in Toronto, Hamilton, Peterboro, Galt and other places in the south are from Northern Ontario; the large orders that come from Southern Ontario to wholesale houses are from exceptional towns like Oshawa and Windsor, or where there are different circumstances.

Southern Ontario-smaller Ontario- is going on in a small, regular, methodical way; but the hope of future growth is in the north. I am sure that the proposed trip of the Toronto Board of Trade to the North-western part of Ontario will have a steadying and beneficial effect on that section of the province. Today we are drawing your attention to the country north of North Bay, up to James Bay and the centre of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

This year we have opened up the Ferguson Highway, and although it is not yet perfect I trust that those who go over it this summer will find it perhaps the most attractive road in Eastern America. Through Muskoka and Parry Sound old difficulties will be removed. On leaving North Bay you travel for 50 or 60 miles through Crown Lands, where everything is in the King’s name, and you will find a 66-foot road cut out of virgin timber. As I went through there last June, before the road was opened, I was very much alarmed at the fire-hazard, for we were going to allow the public to travel through that wonderful stand of timber in the Timagami Reserve, and the timber contributory to the road alone was valued by an expert at between $40,000,000 and $50,000,000 without reckoning one of the three remaining great stands of white pine in the world, to say nothing of the unequalled series of lakes, for I think Timagami is the finest lake in America.

I would recommend those of you who have not seen that lake and the beautiful country to motor through Timagami reservation; it is one of the finest sights of the world, to see the magnificent standing timber and the beautiful lakes skirting the road. After leaving North Bay you will travel 50 or 60 miles before you get gasoline or service of any kind. Our foresters stand at the south end, and in order to get a permit you must tell who you are and how long you are going to be there, and at every five miles of the road we have established camps with a fire-ranger in attendance, and you will see one of the sights of the world. We look for an enormous traffic this summer right up through the Cobalt country and gold belts, north to Cochrane.

That road to Cochrane, when completed, will have cost the province $3,000,000. Up to date Ontario has spent in Temiskaming and Northern Ontario, $35,000,000 and it has never produced a dividend until last year, when we got back $1,000,000, and this year we are getting $1,300,000, so that now they are practically taking care of their annual charges.

But some one in Southern Ontario will say to me, “You have spent $3,000,000 on the road up to Cochrane, and now you are paralleling it with a Highway costing $3,000,000, though it never paid a cent.” But let me tell some things we have, as a province, by way of return for that investment. I might refer to the development of the Cobalt mines, due to the construction of that road, but let me give you a few samples farther north. The province spent $120,000 for two successive roads from Swastika to Kirkland Lake. We spent a little over $175,000 on the railway to the same point. Someone may object that the Highway and the Railway will compete with each other; but look at your newspaper this morning, and add up the market values of the five or six producing mines at Kirkland Lake, and you find that those mines are selling today at $150,000,000. In other words, the Province of Ontario invested half a million dollars, and produced $150,000,000 in the market value of those mines.

But in addition to that we created a town of 4,000 people, with an assessment of over two million dollars; and that town is putting in every municipal enterprise that is going into Southern Ontario. We have there what I think is the most spectacular camp in the world, not as large as Timmins, or on as large a scale as Hollinger, with its 60 miles of underground railway. When I see the muddy water going over the reel at Hollinger Mine, and hear that it is producing gold, I think it is enormous; but when you go to Kirkland Lake and see the ore coming out you can follow the process, and know what is going on.

Kirkland is a very pretty lake, and the situation of the property is very beautiful, and many of the mines are showing great enterprise in putting up handsome buildings. Last winter, on one of the coldest days, Mr. Stapells and Mr. Gibbons and I saw 300 or 400 ripe tomatoes on the vines in a large conservatory there. We saw bunkhouses of up-to-date tile construction, with all modern conveniences: If the Government investment in that road had produced nothing but the Kirkland Lake development it would have had a rich return, and been well justified.

I will not touch upon Timmins, a city of 15,000, with every modern convenience, where the mines are even richer and the total even greater; but go from Porquis junction to Iroquois Falls. Representatives of the Australian Government were here a month ago and were shown the developments in Northern Ontario and also the sights in Toronto, and after their visit one of them said, ” We have large mines in Australia; the Toronto development is interesting, but we have bigger cities than you have; your agricultural development is interesting, and I was tremendously pleased with the colour of your maples; I was interested in seeing snow for the first time in my life; but what impressed me most was the Hart House in Toronto and the developments at Iroquois Falls.

By the recent amalgamation with the Spanish River Company there is now an investment of $40,000,000 in that one enterprise at Iroquois Falls. Day in and day out, a solid train of 25 cars loaded with paper goes from that one town to the American market. It is very satisfactory for us to know that the development through Northern Ontario and Northern Quebec has produced the astonishing result that the Canadian dollar is the only unit of currency in the whole world that is above par in New York (Applause). We are all pleased to see the pound sterling come up to parity, but I was delighted not long ago in Cleveland when I cashed a cheque and received 35 cents by way of premiums on it (Laughter and applause). Northern Ontario and Northern Quebec have been the greatest factors in giving us that favourable balance of trade, which means that every merchant in Toronto and every purchaser in Canada can buy at par, and ignore the trouble we had during and following the war, of providing for five of six or eight percent discount.

The Australian was interested in Iroquois Falls because the Paper Company owns the whole town; they have made the streets and the municipality, and the stores, and they were good enough to rent premises to Dr. Monteith for his liquor store, to make some revenue. The company are working out the whole development there. The Town Council is elected by the employees, who live in the company’s houses, and they work in harmony with the company. A very successful experiment is being carried out there in what people used to call a “tied town,” but we prefer to call it the new Municipal development. The Company say, ” We have taken people so far north into the wilderness that we want to see them living under good conditions; we want to give them every facility to be happy here, to educate their families in good schools, to have good hospitals, a golf course and tennis courts. ” I think the Company last year paid for sports $30,000. The Iroquois Falls Hockey Team dropped into the finals last year, and this year they are going to win.

This very interesting experiment that has not been successful in most places, is going on very successfully in Northern Ontario, and it has given the company a bond of sympathy with their employees which has enabled them to attract the best graduates in the world in every branch–hydraulic or mining engineers, foresters etc., from Toronto and other university centres, who have moved up there and live in good houses with modern conveniences, and are happy and comfortable. I think that company is entitled to a great deal of credit for that enterprise. Do you know any place in Southern Ontario where such an enterprise is being successfully carried on?

Then go on to Kapuskasing, which is within 200 miles of Hudson Bay. Into that one investment the sum of $30,000,000 has been put. I would not like to charge my memory with the exact amounts that are going into the great hotel, the immense club house, the large hospital. Everything is being done on an immense scale. They did not buy the whole town, because some of it had been already sold, but they are making liberal grants to secure modern comforts for the people up there, for their engineers and employees, and all kinds will be treated in the same way. I draw attention to those companies because, while it may be admitted they are making money, they axe not neglecting the interests of Northern Ontario, but are making liberal grants for the amelioration of conditions in their own localities, which is something that has not been done very largely in Southern Ontario.

Now, what are we doing as a Government for Northern Ontario? Last year we spent on Highways $10,000,000 here in Southern Ontario and $5,000,000 in Northern Ontario. We are trying to do it intelligently. We can do things in Northern Ontario that you never hear of in Southern Ontario; the conditions are abnormal, and you cannot lay down a mathematical rule, as is done here. For example, Kirkland Lake wants a concrete road to Swastika, and we get an estimate of $250,000, and I sat down the other day and proposed that we split the cost three ways-the mining company to pay one-third, the municipality to pay one-third, and the Government one-third. Or suppose a bridge falls down; the pulp company say, “We will put up one-half.” My friend Dr. Monteith thinks I am an awful man because I get a vote of $5,000,000 and go ahead and spend it, and then want another $5,000,000. In Southern Ontario you don’t do that; you must have estimates and appropriations and votes. If you want to build a chicken house at the Provincial Farm at Guelph you have to put it in the estimates and vote an appropriation in the Legislature.

What I want to convince you people is that Ontario never spent money to greater advantage than it is doing at present. We have to take a chance on this, and a gamble on something else. We spent half a million and produced Kirkland Lake; we spent some money in another place and drew a blank; that is the gambling we have to do, but we have been fairly successful. Our big gamble was the T. & N. O. which cost $35,000,000, but .s producing hundreds of millions, and bringing wealth to the City of Toronto in particular.

One other thing we are doing in Northern Ontario which will perhaps interest you. We are trying to sit down with those pulp companies and avoid a repetition of our failures in lumber in Southern Ontario. I do not mean that the lumber men made the failure, but the province as a whole has done so: We have been telling the lumbermen, ” You can go in and cut that timber and get your money out, and you can let fire go through, or anything you like.” We have been the ones to blame for that, not the lumber companies, but now we are sitting down with the lumber companies and saying, “The investment in paper and pulp is so enormous that something must be done to perpetuate it, and not repeat our mistakes made with the lumber trade.”

We find the paper people have such an enormous investment that they are willing to do anything to make their industry perpetual; and we tell them they will have to carry on their operations under a forester who will work on the theory that at the end of 40 years, when they have finished with the enormous limits we have given them, the original stand will perhaps have re-grown. We have not proved that theory to be correct; time alone will do that; but we are going to supplement that in another way. We are going to ask the Legislature to spend money in an enormous nursery plant in Northern Ontario so that we will be able to supply the pulp companies with spruce trees which they will plant in the forest, and pay us only a nominal charge for them, in the hope that we will be able to develop that plan, and in 35 or 40 years they will be able to reap and we will be able to get returns out of it.

On those enormous limits which they have-3,000 and some 4,000-the average stand of trees will not be more than 5 cords to the acre, for we have to remember that a great part of it is water and muskeg, and cold with a northern exposure. On good lands we can get 35 to 40 cords per acre, and we hope to get those high yields. We are also planning to take our share in an investigation with a view of producing a hybrid between spruce and poplar that will have the rapid growing qualities of the poplar and the finer grain qualities of the spruce. Our experiments have met with encouraging success, and if we can produce a hybrid that will in 35 years develop a value for pulp purposes we will have accomplished a great deal.

Woods that we regarded as weed woods a few years ago are becoming enormously valuable. Up to 25 years ago, when we sold our first spruce, it was not of any value. The poplar was called a weed wood, absolutely useless. Now we are scouring Ontario to find where we can get a reservation of 50 miles in order to develop the poplar; and we believe that we are going to drive the Japanese out of the silk market by the production of celanese from pulp.

Now, one of the great aids to such development is the fire service. I need not give figures of the enormous losses from year to year from fire, but the truth is that every year for the last hundred years we have been in the timber business, twice as much has been lost by fire as has been sold. My friend and predecessor, Hon. Mr. Lyons, has largely to be credited with the organization of the service of the fire brigade who are fighting fires among the timber. One of the interesting things is that we are able to utilize in that force possessing the experience and personnel of what was the Royal Flying Corps that has many of the best men in the world, who are now doing in Northern Ontario the same work that they did for the King in France, and are producing results that have cut our fire losses down from 2,123,000 acres in 1923 to 60,000 acres last year, and when the figures are completed it will be found that we have lost only about 30,000 acres this year.

The strange and sad feature in connection with that is that notwithstanding all our propaganda, all our lectures, all our talks and pamphlets, and our “Save the Forest” week, we are not doing very much with the human element. The Canadian is just as independent, and claims just the same right to throw away his match and his cigar stub, as before, and we cannot teach him to do anything different; because in 1923, when we lost 2,123,000 acres, we had 1,300 fires, and last year, when it was down to 60,000 acres, we had 1,200 fires; but the difference is that when fires start we are able to locate and put them out.

In order to support the industries of the North we have to develop our roads, and particularly our water-powers, because I have this simple faith, that wherever Providence put a waterpower, no matter how remote or how difficult to develop, the same All-seeing and Providing Power placed some great natural resource that was intended to be developed by that power. If you find 30,000 horse power going over a rock here, if you will hold it for the people, and not give it to be exploited by some profiteer, then if you look around you will find a great natural resource that was intended to be developed by that power. We, are asking the people to allow us to spend more money to develop our system of fire protection. We spent $1,200,000 this year; we are willing to spend more.

We ask you to be prepared for restrictive legislation, such as they have in Sweden, which prevents men from cutting timber on their own land. We want such a state of opinion as will be receptive of legislation that will be restrictive, that will be irksome to some millionaires and to some speculators, to some people who play the market, but that is good for the people of Ontario.

I believe the people are sufficiently far-sighted to allow us to gradually bring on that legislation from time to time. I would ask the people of Toronto, especially the members of the Empire Club-whose object is to build up Ontario as our part of the Empire-to use their influence to enable us gradually to change our system and bring it up to some of the advanced legislation in Europe in respect to these great natural resources.

We may not reap the benefit in my day or yours, but the King’s Government will go on, and Ontario will continue and be an increasingly important part of the Empire; and if your Club will lend its assistance, perhaps the few disjointed remarks I have made will not be in vain.

The thanks of the Club were voiced by the HON. DR. MONTEITH, Provincial Treasurer.