The Minister in Canada (Armour) to the Secretary of State

No. 1104

Sir: Referring to the Legation’s despatch No. 1058 of December 7, 1936,8 dealing with discussions regarding the St. Lawrence Waterway Treaty and Niagara Falls Convention, I have the honor to inform the Department that I had occasion today to call on Dr. Skelton9 and took the opportunity to speak to him regarding the progress, if any, made by the Canadian Government in connection with this question.

I reminded Dr. Skelton that our Congress was convening today and that, as he knew, this was one of the questions in which the President was most interested. I said that we might be over optimistic, but it was hoped very much to be able to have some form of treaty covering the whole St. Lawrence waterway question in form to present to the United States Congress during the present session. However, as Mr. Walsh10 and his associates had explained to Mr. King11 and his colleagues, before doing this we naturally wished to know the Canadian Government’s views and, if possible, to work out a document in collaboration with them which could reasonably be hoped to meet with the approval of the Canadians as well as our own Senate. Time was passing, however,—a month had already elapsed since our talks with Mr. King on December 4th last—and while we would not wish to have him or Mr. King feel that we were pressing them I thought that he might be willing to let me know just what progress was being made.

Dr. Skelton assured me that he and Mr. King appreciated the situation and wished to collaborate in every way possible. He told me that certain officials from Toronto were arriving in Ottawa on Thursday, January 7th, for a private talk on this question with Mr. King. Mr. King hoped that after this talk he would know a little better just where they stood. In the meantime, Dr. Skelton would take the occasion [Page 169] to explain once more to Mr. King that the question was an urgent one and to see what could be done to expedite matters.

Mr. King, he said, realized that assurances had been given by the President to have this matter dealt with during this year, and he felt sure that he would do everything he could to be of assistance. Dr. Skelton added, however, that in all frankness the present moment was not a very propitious one to press matters, so far as Ontario was concerned. (He undoubtedly had reference to the three cornered altercation at present going on in Toronto as a result of the repudiation by the Ontario Government of the Hydro Commissions contracts with the private power companies into which the newly organized Toronto Globe and Mail has injected itself.) However, the matter had to be tackled sooner or later, and the sooner it was done, Dr. Skelton felt, the better.

In the meantime, press despatches from Washington under date of December 25th and 26th last, carrying a statement by Mr. Frank P. Walsh with regard to the St. Lawrence waterway question, have been given prominence in the Canadian press.

[Here follows a lengthy report on Canadian press comment.]

In spite of these press attacks and the attitude of certain elements in the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, I still feel that there is no reason for discouragement, provided Mr. King and the Dominion Government can be persuaded to take a firm stand in favor of finding some solution acceptable to both sides. The visit of Mr. Walsh and his associates and the knowledge of the President’s interest in this whole question have undoubtedly been most helpful in this respect, and I am hopeful that as time goes on Mr. King will be able to answer the objections of Ontario, even if necessary at the expense of having the Dominion Government bear a greater burden of the cost so far as Canada is concerned.

Respectfully yours,

Norman Armour
  1. ibid., p. 845.
  2. Canadian Under Secretary of State for External Affairs.
  3. Frank P. Walsh, Power Attorney of the State of New York.
  4. Prime Minister of Canada.