Mr. Macdonald (Edmonton East):
Mr. Chairman, I sense the urgency of trying to resolve the estimates and the desire of hon. members to get home as soon as possible, but I wish to take advantage of this opportunity when the estimates of the Minister of Resources and Development are before the committee to refer again to the need for an all-weather year-round highway linking the east and the west through the Yellowhead pass in the Canadian rockies. I spoke on this matter in some detail four years ago, and my remarks will be found at pages 2037-38 of Hansard of 1949. I shall not take the time of the committee at the moment to repeat what I said at that time.
In my remarks in 1949 I pointed out the more practical nature of the Yellowhead route as against a route through the Kicking Horse pass. The Kicking Horse pass route is the approved route of the trans-Canada highway, and it is along the Kicking Horse pass that that highway will lie. On the grounds of more favourable terrain, elevation and weather conditions alone, I still maintain that the central route, the Yellowhead pass route is the best, and that was the route I recommended when I spoke in 1949 on the trans-Canada highway.
Supply-Resources and Development
That national interest demanded the choice of the Yellowhead route at that time, and dictates its completion now, is no less clearly indicated. An editorial in the Edmonton Journal of April 30 of this year reads:
Defence need, of course, is but one reason favouring construction of the Yellowhead highway, and the whole Evergreen highway system linking Edmonton with Vancouver and Winnipeg by a northerly route. They also promise large tourist returns, of both provincial and national interest, and are bound to develop into a highly important east-west commercial artery.
It is difficult not to assume that purely political considerations were the basis of the Alberta government's decision to choose the southern route. Now, that government endorses the more northerly route in the guise of it being a "defence" highway. They are now endorsing the route through the Yellowhead pass that I requested be inquired into in 1949, and they are now asking for that under the guise of it being a defence highway. It is difficult not to assume that political considerations, having in them an element of timeliness, are the basis for this sudden endorsation of a route which not long ago was beyond consideration. That this statement is! not pure assumption I think is clear from a news story which appeared in the Edmonton Journal of April 29, 1953, and I quote:
Deploring Prime Minister St. Laurent's "attitude" toward defence highways and military roads, Hon. Gordon Taylor, Alberta highways minister, asserted Wednesday that the Prime Minister "has shown as much vision as an ostrich with his head in the sand".
"The Prime Minister of Canada and his cabinet colleagues," Mr. Taylor declared, "should get the blinkers off their eyes."
There was more in that news story of the same vein. It is deplorable that an Alberta government minister should make such statements in reference to our illustrious Prime Minister. We have in our Prime Minister one of the world's leading statesmen. There is not a member in the House of Commons who would refer to our Prime Minister in other than terms of high regard and respect. Our Prime Minister serves Canada with great distinction. The Edmonton Journal had this editorial comment to make on Mr. Taylor's statement:
"Only harm can be done by the sort of namecalling in which Alberta's highways minister, Hon. Gordon Taylor, indulged in Wednesday. . . Abusive references to the Prime Minister will do anything but promote federal-provincial co-operation."
I do not think Mr. Taylor need worry about federal co-operation regardless of his vulgar remarks which would not at any time promote the kind of consultative co-operation
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Supply-Resources and Development necessary to decide this highway question. I am quite sure the necessary co-operation will be forthcoming. I do not think the Prime Minister will be deflected in any way from doing what he conceives to be his duty by any name-calling.
As the western provinces, and Alberta particularly, have requested a conference on the whole matter of western highways with a view to defence, I have no doubt whatever that the fullest co-operation will be extended them. In view of the press of business at this time, to suggest a postponement and reappraisal of the matter at a later date is not, I suggest, putting one's head in the sand like an ostrich.
But political considerations are the least important aspect of this matter. Perhaps at this time we can afford a double link through this area of western Canada to the coast. If so, no one will be more heartily in favour of such a program than myself. There is, however, one serious aspect of such a possibility which may invalidate completely the southern route as at present proposed. I shall come to that in a moment.
A vast and important area in terms of population, of growing industrial importance, of rapid increase in known and anticipated economic resources is comprehended in the general area Winnipeg-Saskatoon-Edmonton-Kamloops-Vancouver, all of which the Yel-lowhead route would serve. My position is that the west, and Alberta especially, by the very facts of geography needs the most practical and possibly even a double outlet to the Pacific on industrial, climatic and defence grounds. If only one route is practical, then it should be the Yellowhead route. In that respect I recommended in 1949 that an impartial fact-finding committee be appointed to investigate every aspect of the matter. Certainly highways are a provincial responsibility, but with the federal government paying half the cost it seemed to me that the national interest in the proposed expenditure would warrant the closest attention to choice of the best route.
Today as never before the people of Canada stand to benefit in the most national sense, from a central, western road linking with the trans-Canada highway as at present approved, subject to one qualification. Such a road, built to trans-Canada standards, would tap the growing resources of the west's north and centre, and serve as a peripheral link to that northern complex of communications we are developing or will have to develop soon in connection with the defence of our nation.
The Alaska highway, the Hay River route, the John Hart development, are all part of the actual or potential broad, strategic and industrial network which will supplement our railways and penetrate areas where they would be uneconomic or impractical. No one can predict the future, but we can plan for it in the light of present day knowledge. We are today at a stage in our industrial, our economic, our national development when we must keep pace with that development or take the serious economic and social conse-quencies. I would be remiss, indeed, if I did not again emphasize my considered opinion, that this highway development, which I have long advocated as being essential, is part and parcel of that long-range high level of employment and investment which it is the policy of this party to maintain.
And now for the qualification I mentioned. I have referred to the examination of the present route of the trans-Canada highway through the mountains, and at this time 1 shall refer to this matter only briefly. There is, it appears to me, some danger that the present approved trans-Canada route by way of the Big Bend may, in the not too distant future, conflict with the possible development of the Columbia river basin as a major source of vital hydroelectric power. 1 would urge that in the very near future the broadest possible study be given this possibility. It could mean the complete abandonment of the trans-Canada highway over a vast territory-a costly matter indeed, once construction is undertaken.
There was tabled in the house on April 27 correspondence exchanged between the Prime Minister and the premier of Alberta. The Prime Minister's letter to the premier of Alberta dated April 18 says, in its last paragraph:
I will communicate with you further after this session of parliament has been prorogued and endeavour to set a date which will be mutually satisfactory.
To me, the Prime Minister meant in that paragraph that he would endeavour to set a date that would be satisfactory to those elected representatives of the prairie west and British Columbia so they could come down here to discuss the question of further highways in the west. I do sincerely hope that from this consultative and co-operative conference there will be planned the building of a highway to serve Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton and on through the Yellowhead pass to Kamloops, thence to the Pacific coast.
Subtopic: POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT