John Horne Blackmore
Just before the item carries I should like to thank the minister for the excellent review he has given of the whole system of irrigation projects and their resulting use which will benefit the whole country. The dominion government is to be highly commended for this attack on the Palliser triangle, which is Canada's problem.
I think there might be just one point which should be emphasized finally and it is this. In my opening remarks I said and the member for Peace River said that we in Canada could not escape the fact that settlement of the Palliser triangle between 1900 and 1915 by the federal authorities then in charge of Canada incurred for Canada as a whole a responsibility to the provinces or to the administrations that were going to be under the necessity of assuming responsibility for the administra-55704-250
tion of the local affairs of the provinces that were to be formed from that area.
May I just review what I said the other day. It was well known from the days of Captain John Palliser in 1857 to 1860, by everyone who had a right to claim to be well informed, that the Palliser triangle area was not suitable for settlement by people intending to farm. It was acceptable only as ranching country where herds could be moved from place to place. For people who were settling down to live on the land it was absolutely unsuitable because of the altogether unpredictable nature of the rainfall in that area. Notwithstanding that, Mr. Chairman, those in parliament then advocated bringing in settlers and placing them in that area.
What was the reason for wanting settlers there? There were three reasons. The first was that the settlers would buy goods many of which would be brought in from the United States and on which they would pay duty, that duty constituting revenue for the federal government at Ottawa. Second, those people on the land would buy goods that would be produced in eastern Canada, and consequently they would provide a market for the goods of eastern Canada. Third, the bringing of those goods from eastern Canada would give the railroads business.
Although I have not the quotations before me, and I do not think it would be fitting at this late hour to read them, it is quite clear and it can easily be shown from the Hansard record of those days that those were the objects which were in the minds of the men who instituted the immigration policies under which settlers were placed in that area. Obviously then the main consideration in the minds of those men was the well-being of central Canada. I am not laying any blame on anybody, and I believe those men were wise notwithstanding the ultimate cost of the policies to the provinces concerned, but is it not about time to make up to the provinces that came to have the responsibility of governing those areas, the losses inflicted on them thereby?
There is one other thing. Really there are many things, but I do not wish to hold the house up long. The one thing is that I am very anxious that the people of Canada should get to realize from those of us who have grown up there what the facts are. Other members of the house have a right to look to us for information about that area, just as we have a right to look to the hon. member for Charlotte and the other splendid people from the maritimes for information about those provinces. If we do not tell them we are remiss in our duty.
So let me point this out. When the time came for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway across the nation, the obvious place to run the railway would have been up through what we call the "good" areas in the north; the bushland, where crops are almost certainly assured. That route was shorter; that route was bound to be more profitable; yet it was deemed advisable to run the C.P.R. down along the southern border where it now is, right through this Palliser triangle where there would only be a meagre opportunity for the C.P.R. to make a profitable business out of its activities. Well, what was the result? The tendency was to bring the settlement in the prairie provinces down into that Palliser triangle. Once the settlers were there, there was a responsibility for providing them with roads, schools, and all manner of social services. That responsibility had to be assumed by the provincial governments. It had to be assumed in areas where there was likely to be a crop failure any year. It was wise to run the railway down along the southern portion. Why? Because the United States railways were beginning to show a disposition to tap into Canada with their lines. Manifestly that was not in the best interests of Canada nationally. But let us remember the fact that the railroad was put there and it indirectly placed an additional financial responsibility of considerable magnitude on the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Now when we contemplate the cost of building this dam and who is going to pay it, shall we say that we should require those provinces, and Saskatchewan in particular, to pay the full half of the cost of installing that dam? Can we look upon that as being equitable? I fail to see how we can.
There is another important matter, Mr. Chairman, that has a bearing on this whole thing. When the time came for the C.P.R. to be paid for building the railroad across Canada, paid with gifts of land, where was the land selected? It was selected in such a way that it scattered the population of Saskatchewan and Alberta all over these areas making it much more expensive to build roads to serve the people, to build telephone lines, to provide school facilities, and later much more expensive to provide health facilities. These two provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta, have found it necessary for example to establish travelling clinics to bring medical aid to the people in more remote areas of the provinces. All those things have constituted a tremendous disproportionate financial drain on the resources of those two provinces. Alberta by good fortune, because of the resources she has, has been placed in a better position financially than Saskatchewan. In
my judgment Saskatchewan has done the very best she could with the resources at her disposal. The Minister of Agriculture knows, better than any other person in Canada, how meagre those financial resources are compared with the tremendous responsibilities that rest upon the government of Saskatchewan. I believe the minister will bear me out in that.
I thought it well to make those three or four comments before closing, just to reinforce what the hon. member for Peace River said. I shall back the member for Peace River every inch of the way. I too do not believe that it is in any degree fair to the people of Saskatchewan to ask them to assume half the cost of building this great irrigation project.
I should like also to express appreciation to all the members who have participated in this debate. I believe that as a result of this debate it will be made easier for the minister to get the support from all over Canada which he ought to have. As a result of bringing together the support from all of Canada, we shall be able to get this great project completed at an early date and put what we might call the capstone on these irrigation projects as well. This would show our intention, as a nation, to reimburse to some extent at least the people who have settled in that area of the Palliser triangle.