611.42321 SL/12–1150

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Dominion Affairs (Benninghoff)

confidential

Subject: The St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project

Participants: Mr. Hume Wrong, Canadian Ambassador
Mr. Gordon Cox, Canadian Embassy
Under Secretary Webb
Mr. Benninghoff, BNA

The Canadian Ambassador called on Mr. Webb as a result of a previous informal conversation in regard to the St. Lawrence project. Mr. Wrong stated that he had just been authorized to suggest that in the [Page 904]near future, perhaps in the middle of January, there be called a conference of experts of both countries to go into the question of the cost of the project. He said that Canadian engineers had gone into this problem more recently than had American experts, and that the people in Ottawa had more up-to-date figures than were available in Washington. He said that Mr. Lindsay of the Department of Transport would lead any such Canadian delegation, and that he supposed that the Army engineers and the Federal Power Commission would be the agencies most interested in the United States in such a technical discussion.

Mr. Webb said that although he could not commit the Administration, he personally felt the suggestion to be a good one and would pass it along with his recommendation. Mr. Wrong promised that he would send a short memorandum on the subject to Mr. Benninghoff for use in preparing further documents.1

With regard to the project as a whole, Mr. Wrong conveyed the impression that the Canadian Government was getting anxious about the passage of the Bill in Congress. He pointed out that the time factor was becoming more and more important. If the project is approved at the next session of Congress, the earliest date by which power can be expected in Ontario is 1956, and the consumption of power in Ontario is increasing so rapidly that unless the project is approved fairly soon Canada will, of necessity, be forced to seek other sources. In this connection he mentioned steam power plants, and said that his Government would also probably raise the question of a New York-Ontario agreement if Congressional action is not taken.

With regard to the Seaway, he said that likewise time was a factor. Iron ore from Labrador will be reaching Montreal in 1953 or 1954 when the railway now under construction is finished, and unless the Seaway has definitely been agreed upon, Canada will have to make other arrangements for handling the ore. He mentioned in this connection possible expenditures of about $20 million for rail and dock facilities in Montreal, and the possibility that Canada might build a seaway completely within its own boundaries.

In connection with the above, the Ambassador said that his Government would probably reconsider the whole situation if the Congress had taken no action by approximately April 1951, or otherwise indicated that the Bill would not pass during the next session.

Mr. Webb stated that in addition to recommending the early meeting of the experts referred to in the first paragraph, he would convey to the White House the Ambassador’s observations regarding the urgency [Page 905]of action on the St. Lawrence project.2 He expressed his own desire that the project advance as rapidly as possible. He said that he knew the President was personally interested in seeing something done, but that he had had no opportunity to ascertain what the White House proposed to do at the next session of Congress. In reply to the Ambassador’s question, Mr. Webb said that he knew of no change in present arrangements whereby the Department of Commerce has primary responsibility for pushing the Bill through Congress.

The Ambassador mentioned the possibility that at an appropriate time it might be advisable for two or three members of the Canadian Government to make speeches in Canada and the United States favoring the St. Lawrence project, and otherwise enter into a publicity campaign. Mr. Webb said that this would be worth looking into to ascertain whether public utterances by Canadian officials would help the project along.

  1. Not printed.
  2. In a memorandum for the President, December 15, 1950, Webb recommended approval of the proposal for a meeting of technical experts and that urgent consideration should be given to the handling of the St. Lawrence project during the coming sesssion of Congress (611.42321 SL/12–1550). Arrangements were made through the State Department for a meeting of technical experts on January 11, 1951 (611.42322 N/1–551).