611.42321 SL/8–451

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Minister of Embassy in Canada (Bliss)

In a discussion today with External Affairs Minister Pearson he expressed the view that Canada is still most anxious to proceed with the joint seaway-power project. If the President can find a way of getting the proposed legislation through Congress that will be the ideal.

However, in view of apparent legislative difficulties in Washington1 it is necessary for Canada to proceed immediately to serious consideration of the possibility of an alternative program. This is now receiving Cabinet consideration for the first time and active study of the physical possibilities is being initiated. The problem will probably be discussed in Parliament during the coming session.

The preferable alternative from the Canadian vewpoint is an arrangement whereby Ontario and New York will be enabled to proceed with a joint power project (Ontario is desperately anxious to obtain additional power promptly and work on such a project must be initiated promptly if industrial needs are to be met.) Such a project would also facilitate construction of the Seaway by raising the level of the river and eliminating the necessity for costly excavation. This would of course involve the Boundary Treaty2 and would have to be approved by the Joint International Commission,3 which could legally give clearance without further recommendations to Governments. It would take about a year, however, to complete the necessary studies.

I pointed out that approval by the President of an Ontario-New York scheme would entail a modification of his previous attitude of insisting on a joint government project. It would also involve some domestic political problems of concern to the White House. Pearson indicated that if there were objections to the Ontario-New York [Page 911]project by the White House, on whatever grounds, Canada would feel that the President then became responsible for blocking the project and the reaction north of the border, especially in Ontario, might be strong. I suggested that if no other solution were possible, the President would probably not wish to interfere, and Pearson agreed that this was his opinion also.

A final alternative, of course, is Canadian construction of a Seaway alone, but this is still a rather remote possibility. It will be studied here, however.

Canadian public reaction to the recent action of the Public Works Committee has been widespread. Ontario and Quebec are most strongly in favor of Canadian action to get both the power and the Seaway projects going as quickly as possible. The Prairie Provinces want the Seaway especially. The Maritime Provinces are opposed to the whole business. The Pacific Coast is indifferent.

  1. The House Committee on Public Works voted July 26 to table the St. Lawrence resolution.
  2. Treaty Concerning the Boundary Waters Between the United States and Canada, 1909. For text, see Department of State Treaty Series (TS) No. 548, or 36 Stat. 2448.
  3. The International Joint Commission, United States and Canada, established by the treaty cited in footnote 2 above.