The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Jan. 18, 1883

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The Council Desires The M.T. Company To Remain in Kingston.

A special meeting of the City Council was held last evening. There were present the Mayor, Alds. Allen, J. Carson, R.J. Carson, Clements, Crothers, Creggan, Downing, Dunn, Gildersleeve, Irving, McGuire, McIntyre, Quigley, Redden, Shaw, Smythe,Whiting and W. Wilson.

The business was the consideration of the proposed removal of the Montreal Transportation Company to Portsmouth. The following correspondence, addressed to the Mayor, was read:

Dear Sir, - Your letter of the 6th inst. came duly to hand. The Montreal Transportation Company are averse to making any radical changes in transacting their Kingston business, but from severe competition, existing for some years back in the carrying of western grain, and the Company having acquired property in Portsmouth where the facilities are better in some ways, than in the city, they are compelled to adopt the most economical point to do the work.

However, if the City Corporation remit the taxation charged the Company and grant them the continued use of the piece of ground below the bridge where repairs are carried on, free of rent for a period of years, they will strive in future as they have done in the past, to increase the volume of transhipment and they hope the prosperity of Kingston. Yours very truly,

G.M. Kinghorn, Secretary.

A Motion of Compliance.

Ald. McIntyre moved, seconded by Ald. C.F. Gildersleeve, that the Montreal Transportation and Kingston & Montreal Companies receive exemption from taxation for ten years, on the real and personal property, on condition that they then continue to prosecute their business in the city during the said period, and that the solicitor prepare a by-law to carry out this resolution. The mover said that the Council had before them the position of the M.T. Co. Steps should be taken to keep the forwarding business in the city. What could be done? That which he had pointed out in the resolution, the privilege of exemption, as exercised in the interest of commerce, manufacturing, and the public generally. It was desirable that the St. Lawrence & Chicago Company should be brought to Kingston, for the sake of the business they did. To them there had been an annual consignment of the cargoes of 300 vessels, which spent in port on an average of $250 each, or in the year $75,000. They owned 30 steamers, barges and other boats in connection with each of which there was an expenditure of $500 per annum, or in all $15,000. The repairs upon the boats cost about $10,000. Altogether the expenditure of the Company was $111,800, by which the place where the business was done was largely benefitted. Mr. McIntyre gave a summary of the financial operations of the Montreal Transportation Company in order to show

What Kingston Would Lose

by its removal. There was, first, an annual expenditure in connection with boat building of $250,000. The Company had consigned to them in the season about 500 vessels, the outlay of the crews of which, at $250 each, would be $125,000. Then they had a fleet of 40 tugs, barges, etc., the crews of which laid out about $250 each, or in all $20,000. There were in the constant employment of the firm about 50 men, who paid in taxes ($12 each) some $750 per annum, and spent, in wages, ($400 each), some $20,000 per year. The sum total is $415,750, and if the $111,800 of the other Company be added we have a calculated expenditure of half a million, the loss of which would be severely felt. Now the taxes of the Company are only $320 per annum, and some thought it would be singular if a removal would take place merely on that account. This was not the question. It was whether it is desirable and wise and politic that a Company of such huge dimensions should be allowed to silently, tacitly, almost clandestinely remove or be retained here. The Company sought nothing. This was to their credit. But the matter was one of such popular notoriety that the Council could not lose sight of it, and the motion he made was becoming them as the trustees of the city's prosperity. He added that if the M.T. Co. remained in the city they would enlarge their base of operation and enhance their property tenfold.

Captain Gaskin's Explanations.

At the suggestion of Ald. C.F. Gildersleeve Capt. Gaskin addressed the Council. He contradicted the rumour in circulation to the effect that the forwarders were making money fast. The competition in the grain carrying trade between American and Canadian Companies was so great that the forwarders made nothing. A few years ago the St. Lawrence & Chicago Co. commenced business with a capital of $200,000, and had declared but one dividend at 10 per cent, while the feeling was that it was not made. For years no profits had been made, and the stockholders sought in amalgamation the recovery of their fortune or a guarantee against further loss. The stock, which was originally valued at $200,000, was sold for $67,000, an evidence in itself that the business was not paying. The Company had invested $25,000 in real estate in the city, and would invest $25,000 more if they remained.

Ald. Gildersleeve - Were you asked to report upon the facilities of Portsmouth harbour?

Capt. Gaskin said he was, and that he found the Portsmouth harbour capable of accommodating the business of the new Company. With an expenditure of $1,500 on the place there would be more room for elevating than if they had wharves in the city.

Ald. R.J. Carson - Is the accommodation just as good?

Capt. Gaskin - Every bit; the water is deeper.

Ald. Wilson wondered where room was to be had for 70 boats.

Capt. Gaskin said they would not all be on hand at the same time, that with four elevators a tow coming light in the morning could be despatched laden in the evening.

Ald. Wilson thought the taxes were pretty light, that a lower rate could not be asked.

Capt. Gaskin said expenses had to be cut fine in order to make anything.

Ald. Wilson - You have them as fine as silk now. It is ridiculous that a wealthy Company like yours should ask the poor men to make up a remission of $320.

Strongly Supporting The Motion.

Ald. C.F. Gildersleeve supported the resolution of Ald. McIntyre. The exemption of the Montreal Transportation Company was one of those things which came under the cognizance of the Council, and they did right in ventilating the matter and in debating what could be done to retain the business of the forwarders in the city. There was no doubt of one thing, that the forwarding business was depressed, that the American route was being preferred to that of the St. Lawrence, and that the amalgamation of the Companies was a testimony of the unprofitableness of the trade. He reminded the Aldermen that elevating could be done cheaper at Portsmouth than at Kingston, but that the M.T. Co. preferred to sacrifice something than move. Portsmouth offered the Company liberal terms, and the danger was that they would feel that Kingston was not doing what it ought, that the forwarders were not receiving the consideration they deserved. Kingston had exempted other industries. What would it be without them? They represented the best part of the city. With only one exception (Locomotive Works) was there an expenditure of any one firm larger than that of the M.T. Co. They should say to the firm, "Stay with us, and we'll do what we can for you." He saw no ground for hesitation at all.

Ald. Allen An Adverse Voter.

Ald. Allen was sorry to see men acting against the interest of the city as he contended Alds. McIntyre and Gildersleeve had done. He objected to the calling of special meetings for business such as this, and if there were to be many more such appointments the Mayor would be finding himself without quorums. He regarded the announcements of the aforesaid Aldermen as quite dreadful, as alarming, that the city would be ruined if it allowed the M.T. Co. to remove and did not remit $320 in taxes! The forwarders had amalgamated in order to make a bigger haul of money. They often make their twenty per cent, and to give them exemption would be to do others a serious injustice. If the exemptions were continued who would pay the bulk of the taxes? The merchants, the labourers and the mechanics. The Company would still have to do business in the city, and $1,000 would be expended in providing a conveyance while the taxes only amounted to $320. He opposed hasty action. There was no use in bidding the devil good day until one met him. He did not think the M.T. Company purposed leaving the city; if they did so it would be a sorry day for them. Their property would still be taxed, and if offered for sale a purchaser could be had for it. He did not admire a surrender to the demands of any Company. If one forced compliance on threatening to go to Portsmouth, another would call them to terms by talking of going to Garden Island; "this man for instance," (pointing significantly to W.R. McRae, who occupied a side seat.) He thought the Company that could not get along without the petty bonus of $320 could not get along with it. The amount to the wealthy firm whose case they discussed was no more than 25 cents to any one of them. He misunderstood a remark made by Ald. Gildersleeve to the effect that vessels while waiting to be unloaded at Portsmouth could lie at the Penitentiary wharf, and protested against the bringing of convict labour into competition with that of honest men. He (the Speaker) hoped that in Parliament Mr. Gildersleeve would advocate nothing of the kind. The citizens, he said, did not wish to be associated in any way with the vagabonds and villains who were confined in the prison.

Ald. Gildersleeve interrupted him to explain that he never meant that such was his intention, that to lay a vessel at the Penitentiary wharf did not involve the employment of convicts upon it.

Ald. Allen was not in the slightest appeased. He would not submit to the wharf being used for any but prison purposes, and any Government which permitted of more than this was not deserving of the confidence of the people.

Capt. Gaskin said that if the Company had to keep a horse, should they go to Portsmouth, the saving in interest on investments in the city would be $4,000 a year.

Ald. Allen would submit to an arrangement by which the Company would not, for 10 years, be assessed for further investments. He alluded to the Company's application for a piece of land in Cataraqui Ward. This land had been improved at the expense of Cataraqui Ward; it was worth $3,000 or $4,000, and should not be given away without payment for its improvement.

A Rather Facetious Speech.

Ald. Creeggan suggested the building of a Chinese wall around Kingston - to keep it from spreading. The city had the reputation of being drowsy, and such it would retain if they listened to Ald. Allen. He went in for exemption, for anything that would contribute to the success and prosperity of the city.

Ald. Allen - Strike the taxes off everyone.

Ald. Carson moved an amendment, seconded by Ald. Allen, to the effect that the real property remain taxed but that the Company's floating property be exempt. This would reduce the taxation from $320 to $150.

Ald. Allen would second the motion to get it before the Council, but he would not vote for it. $320 was no more to the Company than the cost of four glasses of beer to him. Its remission paved the way for demands from others. Anglins would want exemption or they'd go to Barriefield. Ald. Dunn would claim a favor or he'd move away, and he might be tempted to go somewhere himself.

Ald. Irving - Go to Bell's Island.

Capt. Gaskin said the Company would accept of no terms but those named in the correspondence.

Endorsing Ald. Allen's Position.

Ald. Irving would go for the McIntyre resolution as a matter of expediency, but he protested against the arguments of the mover and seconder in advancement of a principle. He agreed with Ald. Allen in many respects, and said he was proud that that gentleman had always been consistent on the exemption question. He did not think remissions possessed the virtue attributed to them. The St. Lawrence & Chicago Company had received inducements to go to Portsmouth but had no existence today. The Locomotive Works were prospering today, but they languished when beside exemption they were offered $5,000 if they could employ a certain number of men.

Mr. Harty (in the room) Offer it to us now.

Ald. Smythe - That was before the N.P.

Ald. Irving had been opposed to exemption, even when the Car Works obtained it in his absence although he had ever after been twitted about it. He would support the motion as an act of expediency, but, in ship building, he desired to know if it would not affect Mr. Power.

Mr. Gildersleeve said the M.T. Co. only did their own repairing, otherwise Mr. Power would suffer an injustice.

Lawyers Take An Innings.

Ald. Smythe contended that if the Council did nothing and allowed the M.T. Company to remove hence the taxpayers of the city might hold them as ?creant to their duty. There were two questions - (1) Is there a danger of the Company going to Portsmouth? which he answered in the affirmative; and (2) What is the duty of the Council? To do all that is reasonable to avert the danger. He said no principle was at stake; he merely advocated an act of expediency, which was agreeable to J. Stuart Mills' theory of good government.

Ald. Irving disputed Ald. Smythe's quotation of the dead philosopher's opinions.

Ald. Smythe - I know whereof I speak.

Ald. Irving - So do I, and I protest against the use of authorities until they are produced.

Ald. Smythe - I am not prepared to do that. I did not expect to meet two philosophers tonight. (Alds. Irving and Allen.)

Ald. Irving - I looked up the matter recently.

Ald. Whiting was disposed to support Ald. McIntyre's resolution as an act of expediency, but he questioned if the Council could exempt the Company from assessment when not engaged in manufacturing. He concluded that the city would lose by the Company's removal to Portsmouth, and if any concession were made it should not be accompanied by a show of niggardly generosity.

Ald. Clements asked if the Council couldn't get over the law by fixing the assessment at $5 per year.

Ald. Whiting - The Council has no more power to pass a by-law limiting the assessment to $5 than it has to remit the taxation altogether.

Ald. Carson submitted his motion in a modified form.

The Business Men Speak.

Ald. Crothers was surprised at the talk of some men. He would rather give half of the M.T. Company's taxes out of his own pocket than have the M.T. Co. remove from Cataraqui Ward. A change meant the upbuilding of Portsmouth and the loss of 50 men, whose taxes amount to more than $320. The M.T. Company's wharf could be easily disposed of. Rathbun & Son were wanting it now. If the Council hesitated in this matter, they would make a mistake which they would regret.

Ald. Allen was glad he had a colleague who thought so little of $320. He added in an undertone a remark which caused Ald. Crothers to rise again and say that they had been in Kingston since 1869, and their premises on Wellington Street was an evidence of what they had done in the meantime. (Hear, hear.)

Ald. Dunn was informed that forwarders were assessed here as they were not elsewhere. He desired to encourage enterprise of any kind. He would support Ald. McIntyre's resolution.

Ald. Shaw thought the tax a small matter to the Company or the Corporation, but would support the motion. Ald. Gaskin had done some business with him, and he hoped he would do more. (Laughter.) He went for exemption.

Alds. Quigley, Redden and Downey said "ditto."

Closing The Debate.

Ald. McIntyre said, in answer to Ald. Whiting, that the by-law to be passed by the Council could be legalized as was that granting exemption to the Kingston & Pembroke R.R. He reminded the Council that the Court of Revision had laughed at the St. Lawrence & Chicago Co. when they talked of going to Portsmouth, that a removal so unlikely did take place, and the Montreal Transportation Company might be induced to follow suit. This was not desirable.

Captain Gaskin remarked that some of the shareholders were strongly in favour of Portsmouth, their representations being met by those of the officers in this city.

A vote was taken and the motion declared carried by 11 to 5. The yeas and nays were not taken.

Ald. McIntyre moved that the City Property Committee report upon the terms upon which the water lot in Cataraqui Ward can be obtained for the M.T. Co. from the K. & P.R.R., provided the latter have a claim upon it. - Carried.

The Council adjourned at 10:30 o'clock.

p.2 Royal Canadian Company - proposed new opposition line.

p.3 Extending The Wharf - M.T. Co. resumes work.

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Jan. 18, 1883
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Rick Neilson
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Jan. 18, 1883