May 4, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


Jean-François Pouliot



I am glad the hon. gentleman says "hear, hear," because I have spoken lightly for two or three minutes in answer to him. But now I want to speak seriously; probably he will not see the difference, but that is of no importance because I do not try to convince him. I want to speak seriously about a grave problem in this country. Of course, when one lives in a rural district, meets the farmers and is interested in their needs, their difficulties and their progress, he can learn a great deal if he is willing to learn.
It is true that in our part of the country, in the eastern provinces, we have mixed farming. Most of the farmers there have the spirit of pioneers. And there are some of them who deserve even more credit than the ordinary farmer; they are the settlers who clear the bush in order to cultivate the land. The farmers of eastern Canada, having the spirit of pioneers, at first did not lean on any government for help. They -were making their own roads and carrying on their affairs without any subsidy or any help. But with the coming of harder times they have had to rely to a certain extent on government assistance, and their point of view now is that what

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is done for one part of the country should be done for other parts. If it is good for one section of the country it must be good for the other; that is their point of view. May I repeat something that you, Mr. Speaker, know very well; it is that the farmers of eastern Canada deserve as much help as those of the west. And the situation is not always agreeable for them. They strive hard, they have difficulty, and they expect someone to come to their assistance.
Of course under the British North America Act agriculture and immigration are, in the first place, provincial matters. The dominion and the provinces have joint jurisdiction in those two fields only. As time went on, there were many changes, and little by little the dominion has been doing more with regard to agriculture by way of experimental farms and by assisting farmers. I wonder what is the practical difference in the way the dominion and provincial departments of agriculture are operated. It must be very slight. Would it not be better to keep the experimental farms and illustration stations throughout the country under the administration of the dominion government and then give the provinces a subsidy, in proportion to their population, which subsidy would be under the control of the provincial governments? Then no one could complain that more was done for one section of the country than for another.
Further, I wonder if the creation of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan was in fact a good thing. There is no doubt that Sir Wilfrid Laurier meant very well; he wanted to see this country larger and more populous, but now that the western provinces are costing Canada so much by way of loans, grants and guarantees I wonder if in regard to the dominion these western provinces do not occupy the same position that Newfoundland occupied with regard to England, and if it would not be better to return those provinces to the territories they once were, with a commissioner in charge. That would be a simple way of managing the business of those provinces. A petition could be addressed to the imperial parliament requesting the repeal of the Westminster statutes that were passed thirty-three years ago. Then those provinces would be in the same position as Newfoundland, until their prosperity was restored. I wonder if that would not be a good thing. They would have a fine territory; they would be happy and contented and they could try their own experiments.

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