611.42321 SL/10–3151

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Canadian Affairs (Dale)


Subject: Implementation of Prime Minister St. Laurent’s proposals for construction of the St. Lawrence Project

Participants: Mr. Matthews, Minister, Canadian Embassy
Mr. LePan—Canadian Embassy1
Mr. Bell—White House
Mr. Tate—L2
Mr. Haselton—BNA
Miss Whiteman—L/ARA3
Mr. Dale—BNA

Mr. Matthews said that he believed the Embassy would soon be requested by the Canadian Government to send a note to the Department requesting our cooperation in the joint construction of power works and an all-Canadian Seaway. With this thought in mind, he asked whether we had any suggestions as to points which might be usefully covered in such a note.

Mr. Bell made several recommendations in this connection. In view of the constitutional prohibition against agreements between states and foreign powers, he thought that the Canadians should avoid the use of words implying any agreement between the two countries. He believed that the note should leave our hands untied as to the procedure to be followed in this country in implementing Prime Minister St. Laurent’s proposals. Mr. Bell mentioned that the note might profitably include a firm statement of Canadian intent to construct the Seaway. It was also suggested that it might contain a proposal for joint exploratory studies of engineering and technical problems. Mr. Bell recommended that since the procedure proposed by Prime Minister St. Laurent involves very delicate legal and political problems for the US, we would appreciate it if we could see the note in draft. Finally, he suggested that the note include mention of the alternative which, it is understood, the proposed Canadian enabling legislation will contain: namely, to proceed with congressional approval if possible and otherwise by administrative action. There followed some discussion of the possible use to which an exchange of notes might be put in connection with a projected special Presidential message to the Congress in January. Mr. Matthews agreed that these suggestions were useful, and he [Page 924] will undertake to see that they are considered in preparation of the note.4

The timing of action on the Prime Minister’s proposals in relation to congressional consideration of the St. Lawrence was then considered. Mr. Bell said the President thought that the Congress should be allowed a couple of months more to act on legislation approving the 1941 Agreement before we announce a decision to proceed with the Prime Minister’s proposal. Mr. Matthews said it is his Government’s view that since Congress did not act on the Blatnik bill during the session just concluded, there is no substantial hope of Congressional approval, and that we should proceed immediately with the Prime Minister’s plan. It was subsequently pointed out that the Prime Minister’s suggestion involves a large amount of preliminary work which could well be done while Congress is considering legislation. Therefore, the two alternatives are not mutually exclusive at an early stage. With this thought in mind, it was tentatively decided that following receipt of the Canadian note, we would undertake to set up a joint working committee to consider engineering and technical questions involved in construction of the project without Congressional approval.

After Mr. Matthews’ departure, the discussion with Mr. Bell was continued briefly. It was pointed out to him that two decisions would have to be made by the White House before studies to any considerable extent, even of an exploratory nature, could be undertaken. First of all, the White House must decide whether to proceed along the lines suggested in the Federal Power Commission’s brief which involves approval by the Commission of an agreement between Ontario and New York, or along the lines of the State Department’s proposal centering around an International Joint Commission recommendation.5 Secondly, the White House will have to establish a definite cut-off date with respect to congressional action, since this point was not covered in the Prime Minister’s conversation with President Truman. Mr. Tate also raised the question as to whether the IJC as at present constituted could effectively handle the St. Lawrence Project, and Mr. Bell indicated that he had this problem in mind. Mr. Bell signified his agreement that decisions on these matters must be made by the White House before any substantial progress can be made on the U.S. side with respect to Prime Minister St. Laurent’s proposals.

  1. Douglas V. LePan, Counselor, Canadian Embassy.
  2. Jack B. Tate, Deputy Legal Adviser.
  3. Marjorie M. Whiteman, Assistant Legal Adviser for Inter-American Affairs.
  4. After further discussions, an exchange of notes took place on January 11, 1952. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 11, 1952, pp. 234–235.
  5. The Federal Power Commission brief has not been found in the Department of State files. For the Department position, see the Annex to the Under Secretary of State’s memorandum to the President, September 27, p. 919. These proposals were discussed at an interdepartmental meeting on October 24, reported in a memorandum by William N. Dale (611.42321 SL/10–2451).