842.154 Seattle-Fairbanks Highway/175

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

No. 1635

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction, Confidential—For Staff Use Only, No. 972 of September 3, 1937, (file No. 842.154 Seattle-Fairbanks Highway/167 [174] regarding efforts to obtain the consent of the Canadian Government to the construction of a highway to connect the northwestern part of continental United States with British Columbia, the Yukon Territory and the Territory of Alaska.

Under date of September 14th last I addressed to the Secretary of State for External Affairs a formal note in which the question was presented to the Canadian Government along the lines indicated in the Department’s instruction. (Copy of the Legation’s note is enclosed herewith.)51

I delivered this note, together with the map which formed an enclosure to the Department’s instruction, personally to the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, explaining to him once more the great interest attached by our Government to this question and expressing the hope that prompt and favorable consideration might be given to this new proposal. Dr. Skelton referred once more to the fact that a trans-Canada highway had not yet been completed and that until it would be possible for Canadians to cross their own country by automobile the Government would certainly be criticized if it were to authorize an expenditure of funds to construct such a highway as that suggested across British Columbia. Dr. Skelton also referred to the study made by a commission appointed some years ago, whose report had been published in 1933, and wondered what, if any, additional evidence a new commission such as they suggested might be able to present. I told Dr. Skelton that I thought that one of the most important objects to be accomplished by such a commission as was suggested would be to initiate studies designed, among other things, to arrive at an equitable distribution between the two countries of the cost of the combined project, and to determine how the financial burden to both countries may be minimized.

In discussing this matter later, as I did with Mr. Loring Christie of the Department of External Affairs, to whom Dr. Skelton referred the proposal, I pointed out that while certain Canadian officials had been of great assistance to the American Commissioners appointed by the Act of Congress of May 15, 1930, officially Canada had not participated [Page 198] in this study: also that the question of how the financial burden to the two countries might be minimized had not, of course, been gone into at that time.

Both Dr. Skelton and Mr. Christie appeared to view the question favorably, subject always to the qualification that they could not at the present time see how the Government could justify an expenditure of any such sum as that mentioned in the 1933 report ($12,000,000 for the Canadian section of the highway). Memoranda of my talks with Dr. Skelton and Mr. Christie are enclosed herewith.52

Until the competent Departments of the Canadian Government, notably the Department of Mines and Resources to which the matter will be referred, has had an opportunity to examine the project I have not thought it advisable to bring forward any of the suggestions contained in the latter part of the Department’s instruction (pages 3–5).

It will be noted that Mr. Christie outlined to me, very briefly and roughly, certain suggestions by which he thought that the costs of the commission might be materially reduced and the proposal accordingly viewed more favorably by his Government. I think it might be helpful to Mr. Christie, in developing this idea, if the Department were to inform me whether our Government would be disposed to consider appointing Federal and State officials as members of the commission, thus avoiding so far as possible expenditure on appropriations for salaries, and reserving funds thereby saved for use in defraying other necessary expenditures of the commission.

Both Dr. Skelton and Mr. Christie have referred to the Report of the Commission of 1933. It might also be helpful if the Department would enable me to inform the Canadian Government how much of the Report of the Commission of 1933 it is proposed to use; that is to say, whether the findings of this Report, in so far as they go, will be accepted by our Government or whether it is proposed to go into the whole question afresh.53

Respectfully yours,

Norman Armour
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Under an Act approved May 31, 1938 (52 Stat. 590), the President appointed an Alaskan International Highway Commission to cooperate with Canadian representatives in a study of the project. On December 31, 1938, the Canadian Premier announced the formation of a similar Canadian commission.