The annual dinner meeting of the Marine Historical Society of Detroit was held on February 21st at Detroit's Fort Shelby Hotel and was attended by a number of T.M.H.S. members. The speaker at the meeting was Mr. Stuart Armour, President and General Manager of the Great Lakes Waterways Development Association.
Mr. Armour spoke about the most important subject of tolls on tonnage passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway system of canals and of the effect of increased tolls on future history of the Lakes as a transportation route. He high-lighted some of the major differences in the development of inland waterways by Canada and the United States and concluded that, while Canada may have developed a great system of canals by which ships may enter the Lakes, ".... we Canadians have to pay escalating charges for the privilege of getting into or out of Lake Ontario, on the shores of which the bulk of our heavy industry is located, and through which you must pass to get into the other four Great Lakes, while Americans can still ship steel more than 2400 miles from Pittsburgh to Brownsville, Texas, or wheat from Minneapolis more than 1300 miles to Texas Gulf Ports, without paying charges of any sort for the use of the waterways concerned."
Armour called it a bad day for Canada when we agreed in 1947 to a U. S. policy of tolls on the new Seaway and he stated his belief that tolls and other cost uncertainties threaten to destroy the viability of the waterway as a transportation artery. He likened Seaway tolls to a form of export duty on raw materials shipped from Canada, and he particularly questioned "Through Tolls" which would, in effect, levy a type of import duty on products originating within Canada and destined for Canadian ports on Lake Ontario. It was pointed out that tolls are a definite inflationary factor and an increase in the canal charges will have only a bad effect on the North American financial picture.
The meeting was presented with the following illustration. "Should the U.S. succeed in persuading Canada to up Seaway tolls by 20% in 1971, and should the "Bind" Proposals become operative in 1972, the toll cost alone of moving a ton of general cargo from Montreal to Lake Erie would total $1.58. As general cargoes of 19,000 tons net have been handled into Lake Erie, the International Seaway toll cost at $1.08 a net ton would be $20,520 for such a cargo, plus a Welland Canal toll cost of $9,500 at 50¢ a net ton, for a grand total of more than $30,000." This would surely be a distressing situation for even the largest and strongest of the Lake vessel operators.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.