There is the nub and the rub and the hub of the whole thing, and the discrimination bears just as vitally on fruit and dairy products and lumber and coal as on wheat. It is a question that has to be settled in Canada within the next few years, or her west-bound traffic will build up Portland and Seattle instead of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.
The whole problem of the effect of Panama is so new in Canada that data do not exist to make comparisons; but details have been carefully gathered by American ports, and the cases are a close enough parallel to illustrate what Panama means in the world of traffic to-day. Freight on a car of Washington lumber to New York is from three hundred ninety-five to four hundred eleven dollars; by water, the freight is from one hundred to one hundred and seventy-five dollars. To bring a car of Washington fir diagonally across the continent to Norfolk costs eighty-five cents a hundred weight. To bring it round by Panama costs twenty cents, or to ship the very same cargo from Norfolk to England—which many southern dealers are now doing—costs twelve to fifteen cents, including the handling at both ends. Dry goods from New York to Texas by water cost eighty-nine cents; by rail, one dollar and eighty-two cents. Oranges by rail from the Pacific to the Atlantic cost twenty-three dollars a ton; by water before the canal opened, breaking bulk twice, ten dollars, and through the canal, when bulk is not broken, will cost only five to eight dollars. On oranges alone California will save twenty million dollars a year shipping via Panama. The Balfour-Guthrie firm of Antwerp can ship a ton of groceries from Europe to Los Angeles round the Horn for the same amount the Southern Pacific ships that ton from Los Angeles to San Francisco—namely, six dollars plus. The rail rate on salt in Washington is eight dollars seventy cents for eighty-eight miles; the river rate one dollar fifty cents. I could give instances in the South where cotton by rail costs two dollars a bale; by water, twenty-five cents.
If Panama works this great reduction, this revolution, in freights, will that not hurt the railroads? Ask the railroads whether they make their profit on the long or the short haul. Ask them whether high rates and sparse population or dense population and low rates pay the better dividends! Compare New York Central traffic receipts and Southern Pacific on the average per mile! Now ships that are to use Panama plan pouring twenty million people into the Pacific Coast in twenty years.
Will Canada share the coming tide of benefits? Only two things can prevent her: first, lack of preparation—too much “hot air” and not enough hustle; too much after-dinner aviating in the empyrean and not enough muddy mess out on the harbor dredge with “sand hogs” and “shovel stiffs”; then, second, lack of adequate labor to prepare. After-dinner speeches don’t make the dirt fly. Canada wants fewer platitudes and a great deal more of good old-fashioned hard hoeing.