June 14, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Frank Oliver



The minister will, perhaps, recall representations that were made to him in regard to a bounty on oil produced in Alberta. In the interview that I had with the minister, he explained why a bounty is paid on oil produced in Ontario, but not on oil produced in Alberta. It would be desirable for the minister to explain to the committee the reasons for that distinction, because I feel that, however sound the explanation may be as justifying a method of administration, the policy under which different courses are followed in relation to the two provinces is not susceptible of the same measure of justification. I shall compare the conditions surrounding the production of oil in Ontario and in Alberta. I do not desire to discuss the question of oil bounties on its merits; I am discussing merely the right of the production of one part of the country to share in the same considerations as the production of another part of the country. The idea of the bounty was, I assume, to put the producer of oil in Canada on an equality in supplying the home market with his competitor in the United States, who may be supposed to have some advantages in the matter of cheap production. The production of oil in Alberta, on behalf of which the claim for bounty is made, occurs under circumstances and conditions stupendously more expensive than in Ontario, and if there is any warrant or justification for the payment of a bounty upon oil produced in Ontario, that justification is tremendously stronger in the case of oil produced in Alberta. I understand that in Ontario oil is produced from wells of a depth of less than a thousand feet. In Alberta the wells are three thousand feet deep and
cost about three times as much to bore. In addition to that, owing to the broken nature of the formation in which the oil is found, at the foot of the Rocky mountains, there is much greater uncertainty as to striking oil in any particular location, and the rock through which the well must be drilled is of a very difficult character. In the locality southwest of Calgary, where oil is produced, there is no such certainty of striking oil in any given spot as I understand there is in the oil fields in Ontario.
There is, on the contrary, the very greatest uncertainty, so that the production of oil in this locality involvee vastly greater expenditure and greater risk of no return, and, therefore, I maintain that, where oil is struck, it is entitled to share on an equality with the oil produced in Ontario, and that, if the law as it stands- does not provide for that equality of treatment, it is for Parliament to amend the law so as to give equality of treatment to the production in the two different parts of the country. All the more so because in Alberta the production is in an experimental stage, whereas in Ontario it has been demonstrated for a period of thirty or forty years. I do not wish to make any special plea, or any plea at all, for the Alberta production except for equality of treatment under equal conditions. The fact that the conditions aTe so greatly to the disadvantage of Alberta substantially strengthens their claim on the ground of justice and desirability of further promoting the exploitation of the possibilities of oil production in that country. It is, as no doubt the minister will be good enough to explain, a mere matter of difference in the quality of the oil produced. It is true the quality of the oil produced in Alberta is higher than that produced in Ontario, but the fact that the law excludes from bounty that quality which is produced in Alberta is merely an incident, and was not, I submit, any part of the original intent of the law. It simply occurs by reason of the phrasing of the provision, and not by reason of any intent to cut out the enterprise of any section of the country from sharing in the same consideration as that which the produtcion of Ontario shares.

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