Mr. J. R. WILSON (Saskatoon) :
Mr. Speaker, the resolution before the House
is a most important one and if concurred in might give rise to far-reaching and serious results. I believe, Sir, that there is inseparably bound up with this question of immigration the question whether this country is to progress or to stand still. Prior to the war, immigration was, so to speak, the life-blood of Canada, infusing new life and progress into our country.
I agree that it may be well for us to restrict certain classes of immigration; certainly we do not need many more of certain classes of people. What we do require are persons who will settle on our rich agricultural lands, which are awaiting the touch of the hand of man to blossom forth and to produce all that is required for man's sustenance.
We have in the three prairie provinces about 1,100,000 people who are located on the land, holding in the neighbourhood of-
26.000. 000 acres. It is estimated that the arable land in those provinces consists of about
152.000. 000 acres. If this land were settled even to the extent that the occupied parts of the provinces are now settled-which is sparsely-and brought under cultivation, there would be located on the land in these three prairie provinces about 8,000,000 people thus doubling our present population. It seems to me that the only solution of some of the problems which face us is a strong immigration policy to settle these vacant lands which are capable of valuable production.
It also seems to me that, in past years, in our policy of subsidizing railways, we were working at the wrong end. We were subsidizing and assisting railways to pay interest on bonds, which interest the railways were unable to meet owing to their having been built in advance of the settlement of the country. When the railways found that they were unable, through lack of traffic, to earn sufficient to pay their way, in years gone by they approached the Government, and the Government handed out assistance. At that time it was my opinion, if assistance that had been given in order railways had possibly been given in order to encourage agriculture and to induce men to go on the lands of the West, we, perhaps, would not have had the railways coming to the Government with their hands out for assistance to pay interest on bonds.
In this regard I should like to give an illustration of something that happened not so many years ago. In 1914-this is a matter of history-hon. members will remember that we had a very dry season in the West; that many farmers, through failure of
crops, were faced with the problem of securing seed, and they had no money with which to secure it. The Government came to their assistance and furnished seed at an expense of about $10,000,000. What did that return in wealth to this country? At that time I was managing one of the Government elevators and I was in fairly close touch with this proposition, because there passed through my hands about a million and a half bushels of that seed I kept track of the districts into which the seed went. As things turned out, ir 1915, we had, I will admit, an abnormallj heavy crop; but the grain that was furnished by the Government, purchased at a cost of about $10,000,000, returned in wealth to the farmers of Canada, which after all means Canada as a whole, at a very conservative estimate, about $150,000,000. But the return did not stop there. If that grain was transported via our allCanadian route from its point of origin to the Atlantic seaboard, it brought about $35,000,000 to the transportation companies. I give that as an illustration of my statement that I think we have been working at the wrong end with our railways in helping them to meet deficits. The only way in which we can solve the railway problem which is now confronting us is by increasing settlement on our western land, increasing production and thereby increasing traffic and revenue to our railways.
I think everyone admits that agriculture has been in the past, is at present, and will be, for some years to come, the basic industry of Canada. I was a little bit interested and amused to hear the hon. member for Glengarry and Stormont (Mr. Kennedy) blame the fiscal policy of this country for the unemployment which exists at the present time in our cities. This is a condition which prevails throughout the world, as can easily be found by correspondence with foreign countries or conversing with men who have travelled through them. There is not in the world to-day another country in which conditions, generally speaking, are as good as they are in Canada. Many problems confront us; but if we hold to a national spirit of self-reliance and have some confidence in our ability to meet and surmount those obstacles, we will meet and surmount them. I feel certain that this resolution will not be accepted, or taken very seriously, by members of the House, and it would be a calamity if it were.
The hon. member for George Etienne Cartier (Mr. Jacobs) referred to some impediments put in the way of immigrants coming into this country. I have had experience in dealing with some cases, and the regulations seem to me to be a little drastic, to work a hardship, and to be somewhat unfair. Prospective settlers who buy a ticket, possibly en route, who may be laid up for a month or two on account of illness and who then continue their journey, are debarred from entry into Canada owing to the journey not having been a continuous one. Some cases have occurred where part of the family is in Canada. This works a hardship, and it is something that should be taken note of.
As I said some few minutes ago, I did not intend to speak on this question, and I do not wish to take up any more of the time of the House, as time is passing and I know the Minister of Immigration and Colonization (Mr. Calder) wishes to have a little time in which to give us some information and probably an outline of what his policy in the future will be. In con-elusion, I think this $250 qualification for the class of immigrants that we are in need of in this country, is putting a handicap on their coming in, and it should be seriously considered whether we should put any impediment in the way of the entry into Canada of the class which we are most in need of and most desirous of having. We all admit that the great need of this country is more people. People at the present time seem to be inclined to move, and while they have that inclination and we being in need of more people, now is the time for us to bestir ourselves and take advantage of the opportunity of securing as many as possible of the class of immigrants that we desire to have.
Topic: UNEMPLOYMENT-SUSPENSION OF IMMIGRATION