842.154 Seattle-Fairbanks Highway/1553/6

Memorandum by the Minister in Canada (Armour)47

I called on Dr. Skelton48 this afternoon by appointment and with regard to the Alaska highway he said that Mr. King49 had perhaps told me of his talk with the President, in the course of which this matter had come up. I said that Mr. King had given me a brief account of his talk with the President. Dr. Skelton repeated more or less what he had said to me on a previous occasion, that while the project was undoubtedly a useful and interesting one and while the Government of British Columbia would like to go ahead with it, as Mr. Pattullo, the Premier, had made plain on a recent visit to Ottawa, the question revolved [resolved?] itself largely to one of where the funds were to come from. British Columbia was in no condition to furnish them and Dr. Skelton feared that there would be criticism of the Dominion Government were it to advance the money. As it was, the other Provinces felt that British Columbia had more than its share of funds for road construction and he did not feel that the Dominion could very well advance any more money for this purpose, at any rate at the present time.

Remembering what Mr. King had said with regard to the possibility of the territory of the Yukon being incorporated within the Province of British Columbia, I asked whether his remarks also applied to the Yukon. He said they did with perhaps additional emphasis, as the Yukon would certainly not be able to bear any of the expense of such a road, which would have to be entirely defrayed by the Dominion.

So altogether, while both the Provincial and Dominion Governments were sympathetically disposed toward the project, he feared that there was little they could do for the present.

I said that I had understood from Mr. King that the President had made the statement that the road would be able to pay for itself within thirty years. It was not clear to me on what basis this estimate was [Page 194] made, whether by tolls charged for using the road or concessions for gasoline, “hot dog” stands, etc. Dr. Skelton said it would be very interesting to have further information on this point as, of course, if it could be clearly shown that the road would actually pay for itself within thirty years this would put the matter in another light.

  1. Transmitted to the Department by the Minister in his personal letter to Mr. James C. H. Bonbright of the Division of Western European Affairs, May 6; received May 25.
  2. Canadian Under Secretary of State for External Affairs.
  3. Canadian Premier and Secretary of State for External Affairs.