Great Lakes Waterways Development Association Records

Identifier: GLMS-0011

Collection Overview

Scope and Contents

This collection documents activities of the Great Lakes Waterways Development Association for the years 1972-1977. The lobbying efforts of this Canadian organization are emphasized through correspondence (folders 3-6) directed to members and Canadian ministry offices concerned with Great Lakes issues. Topics designated for each year's lobbying campaigns were approved by resolutions passed at annual meetings. These proceedings files (folders 1-2) offer a view of the Association goals in the 1970s. Reports, speeches, and press releases (folders 7-9) were used to monitor the status of legislation affecting the shipping industry on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Rate increases for cargo shipments on the Seaway are frequently discussed in position papers and reports.


  • 1972-1977


.33 Cubic Feet (1 letter manuscript box)


Organization History

In 1959 five companies engaged in flour milling, paper making, marine transportation, and steel production in the provinces of Newfoundland, Ontario, and Quebec sent representatives to a meeting to prepare a response to tolls on the St. Lawrence Seaway enacted by an international agreement between the United States and Canada. An organization named the Great Lakes Waterway Development Association was formed in Toronto to protest the use of tolls on the Seaway. Concerns over the same issue encouraged grain producers in the prairie provinces to seek membership.

Guiding principles of this diverse association of Canadian businesses included a belief that a return should be made to the traditions of a toll-free waterway. It was argued that capital costs should not be recovered for the St. Lawrence Seaway through tolls assessed on the goods transported over the waterway. Speeches of the 1970s noted that the Seaway section from Lake Ontario to Montreal was the only international waterway in North America subject to tolls. Association members favored treating the Seaway in a manner similar to funding for Canadian rail and air transport systems. These carriers were subsidized by the Canadian government. Association reports noted that in the eight month shipping season for the Seaway more cargo was handled than in twelve month seasons for airlines and railroads.

During the years covered in this collection (1972-1977) the lobbying strength developed over 15 years was considerable. Corporate members of the Association employed directly 170,000 Canadians and thousands more on an indirect basis. A projected expenditure of one billion dollars was made annually in salaries. The Canadian Co-operative Wheat Producers, Ltd., an Association member, brought 160,000 farmers from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba into lobbying campaigns designed to oppose Seaway tolls that were perceived as reducing wheat profits. Some 17,000 other business groups such as local chambers of commerce were added as constituents.

Contacts with provincial governments provided the Association with access to official political support that shared anti-toll sentiments. Governments in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan opposed tolls on the Seaway before the Association was formed. These provinces held 52% of Canada's population in the mid-1970s.

Throughout its existence the Great Lakes Waterways Development Association has tried to unite regionally diverse sections of Canada around a matter of national interest. Association literature documented competitive disadvantages faced by Quebec mining companies trying to sell iron ore to steel companies who could buy Minnesota ore that did not have to pass through the Seaway with its added tolls. Advantages to wheat farms from Canadian prairie regions that would emerge with no tolls also were discussed.

Conditions Governing Access

No known access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers using this collection assume full responsibility for conforming to the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright, and are responsible for securing permissions necessary for publication or reproduction.

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the organization sometime between 1977-1983.

Guide to the Great Lakes Waterways Development Association records
Mark Sprang
June 2018
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