Emmett Andrew MCCUSKER

MCCUSKER, Emmett Andrew, CBE, M.D., C.M.

Personal Data

Regina City (Saskatchewan)
Birth Date
February 9, 1889
Deceased Date
January 20, 1973

Parliamentary Career

June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Regina City (Saskatchewan)
  • Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Health and Welfare (January 24, 1951 - June 13, 1953)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 65 of 65)

October 13, 1949

Mr. McCusker:

Mr. Chairman, I wish to speak on this item because it affects the constituency of Regina City, which I have the honour to represent in this House of Commons. Before I proceed further I think it would be well for me to say a few words on the history of the location of that city, and something concerning its development, so that hon. members in the house may appreciate some of the difficulties we have with water in that area, and so that they may understand, as the successors of former parliamentarians, they have inherited certain responsibilities.

When the Canadian Pacific Railway was built into western Canada it was understood that it was to pass along the north side of the Qu'Appelle lakes, and that Regina city was to be located in the Qu'Appelle valley. There, in that broad valley, was an abundant supply of water, shelter from the winds, a spot of great natural beauty, an ideal location for any city.

The railway was to extend farther west along the Qu'Appelle valley and along the Saskatchewan river to Estuary and along the Red Deer, and then the Bow river to Calgary. I am quite sure that the parliament of that day took the advice of the people of western Canada who knew something of the country, and agreed to build the railway in close proximity to surface water, so that the settlements which were bound to take place along the right-of-way would have no water problems.

What happened? The survey party of the Canadian Pacific Railway met with some right-of-way difficulties at Fort Qu'Appelle. It withdrew and ran the survey across .the prairies thirty to sixty miles to the south of this natural water supply, across the dry plains. They ran it from Brandon to Medicine


Hat. As a result we have Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Gull Lake, and many other small towns and villages in perpetual water difficulty.

I wish to deal more particularly with Regina. They located Regina on the old pile of bones or Wascana creek. It was there the Indians met after they slaughtered buffalo, jerked the meat and made pemican-there was enough water for that, but very little more. Since that time the city has developed tremendously and met with many adversities, one of which was the cyclone of 1912 which left a path of death and destruction through the city.

There was the drought period of the thirties. More recently, last winter, there was a disastrous fire which wiped out the barns and rolling stock of the transportation system. It has faced all these difficulties, and met them. It has faced all its problems and settled them-and it has always had very serious problems. One of the most serious has been the problem of the shortage of water.

To understand that problem I believe the committee should know something of the geology of the country. In the ice age the great ice cap lay over Labrador. The glacier flowed across Hudson bay and down across the prairies toward the gulf of Mexico. As the ice receded it left deposits of glacial drift -that is, gravel and boulders. At different places on the prairies there is evidence of this, and here we find water. As the glacier receded a great lake formed over that prairie country into which rivers flowed. Silt was deposited to a depth, at Regina, of 42 feet. It is impervious to water. At places the glacial drift comes to the surface, but it is difficult to ascertain the extent of this or the amount of water it contains without drilling -and drilling is a costly business.

We drill wells to depths of 50, 100 and 200 feet in order to obtain variable supplies of water. We have had the opinion of some of the greatest water engineers on the continent, such as Mr. N. S. Hill, Jr., of New York; R. O. Wynne-Roberts of Toronto; H. E. Simpson of the university of North Dakota and Professor Forsberg of the university of Saskatchewan. Their opinions vary slightly but they all state that in this glacial drift there is a limited supply of water and that we are now drawing beyond the limit of safety.

Last spring we seeded our gardens and planted our flowers. Our flowers came up, our gardens grew as they do there in the early spring when you have moisture; the flowers came into blossom and our lawns were green. Then came the hot weather and our gardens and flowers dried up and our lawns

became brown. One hot day in the summer when it was 105 in the shade we could get no water on the second stories of our homes.

This is a serious problem. In order to obtain water we must go to Buffalo Pound lake, which lies in the Qu'Appelle valley about 45 miles northwest of Regina. Buffalo Pound lake is formed by the runoff water of the great plain and is deepened by a dam thrown across the valley. Normally the water from the runoff down the Qu'Appelle valley is used to irrigate 30,000 to 40,000 acres of hay lands where they have a method of flood irrigation. Then farther down they carry on market gardening.

An urban municipality has priority over a rural municipality and irrigated land in order to obtain water for its population. When we take water from Buffalo Pound lake we will jeopardize the supply of water for those who live below. I should like to ask the minister if there is sufficient money in the estimates to provide for a project to maintain the water level in Buffalo Pound lake. This would have to be done by pumping water from the Saskatchewan river. When the dam is built at Elbow the water will flow by gravity down the Qu'Appelle valley and there will be no problem, but in the intervening years something must be done to protect these people who grow hay, who have market gardens, or who have summer cottages along the valley right down to Brandon and Winnipeg.

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October 13, 1949

Mr. McCusker:

You are just making my speech again.

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October 13, 1949

Mr. McCusker:

I should like to speak on this item, which has to do with irrigation, and affects the constituency I represent.

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October 5, 1949

Mr. E. A. McCusker (Regina City):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. The hon. member for Melfort (Mr. Wright) stated, as reported at page 475 of Hansard:

The hon. member left the wrong impression as far as cancer treatment is concerned. The hon. member stated that cancer treatment had been started long before the present government started in Saskatchewan, but the fact is that free cancer treatment came into effect after the C.C.F. government was elected and introduced the scheme.

I submit I left no wrong impression, for in my statement I did not mention treatment. I further submit that the hon. member has been unfair to me in so stating, and that by the statement I have just quoted he in turn has given the wrong impression to the house.

In order to set the record straight, and for that purpose alone, may I point out that the Cancer Commission Act of Saskatchewan was passed even earlier than I had stated. It was passed in 1930, when Dr. F. D. Munroe was minister of health in the coalition government of that day. It was a comprehensive measure covering all phases of diagnosis and treatment. It provided for the acquisition of radium, and its control by the commission.

In 1940 this act was placed in the revised statutes, without change. In April 1944 Dr.

Uhrich, the then minister of health in the Liberal government, caused the act to be amended so as to permit of free diagnosis and treatment of all patients.

This act was implemented on May 1, 1944, and free treatment was inaugurated then. Under the C.C.F. government which has been in power recently the act has been amended twice, once in 1946 when it changed the constitution of the commission and its times of meeting, and again in 1949 when the only amendment was a change in the meaning of the word "patient".

I have made these observations only for the purpose of correcting the record.

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October 3, 1949

Mr. E. A. McCusker (Regina City):

I should like to say a few words in this debate. I congratulate the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis) on bringing this resolution before the house and the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra (Mr. Green) on the saner view he takes of it. In moving his resolution I think the hon. member for Vancouver East forgot the cost entailed in implementing the services. Probably I would not speak tonight if I did not come from a province in which we have had considerable experience in socialized medicine and with these different schemes over a long number of years.

Like the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra, I think that the socialists and C.C.F. are too inclined to take the credit for any social services or health measures which are being implemented or extended at the present time. I would remind them that back in 1916, and earlier than that, the Liberal government of Saskatchewan introduced many health measures which were of great benefit to the people. We had then a people

who were suffering from adversity, crop failures and one thing and another. We had a portion of our people who were unable to meet their obligations and receive the attention that they required. A number of schemes were put into operation. In one of those a municipal doctor was introduced and the municipality gave a basic guarantee of salary to the doctor to enable him to come in and live there while he provided medical services for the community. Municipal hospitals were put into effect. Contributions were made by people at large. Those within the municipality itself who were unable to pay their municipal bill were assisted by those who were in more fortunate circumstances. Municipal health schemes were introduced many years ago by Dr. Seymour, who was then the deputy minister of health in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan tuberculosis league was an outstanding example of what a community can do in the treatment of disease. This organization was made up of officers from the rural municipality and officers from the urban communities, citizens at large and members of the government. They set up the committee which handled the tuberculosis hospitals of Saskatchewan. I believe it was then that free hospitalization first came into effect and not in recent years, as our friends from the C.C.F. party would have us believe. However, this was done under the control of a sane nonpolitical body, which sought no kudos for what they were doing. Expenses were controlled and I need not say anything about the work that they have carried on. All hon. members know that in Saskatchewan today we have the lowest incidence of tuberculosis to be found anywhere in the world, and probably the most advanced treatment. I may say that the other day in my city a tuberculosis survey was made of the population. What percentage of the population do you think was covered? Ninety-nine per cent of the people were X-rayed. That shows how conscious they are of this disease. These things have not been brought forward in recent years. It is something that has developed. You cannot give a service such as that to a people and have it accepted overnight. It must be built up gradually.

In 1930 the Saskatchewan Cancer Commission Act was introduced by Dr. Munroe. The work was developed by Dr. Uhrich, now lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan, when he was the health minister of that province. Today we have probably one of the most advanced centres for cancer treatment in the Dominion of Canada. We had there, until a few months ago when he died of a heart attack, Dr. Blair, who was director of our cancer service and who, along with Dr.

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Richards of Toronto, has contributed more to the care and treatment of cancer than anyone else in this country. It was sane treatment gradually developed.

During my election campaign I expressed myself openly and wholeheartedly in favour of a contributory old age pension without a means test. I believe in the contributory feature of it. In the constituency I have the honour to represent there are a large number of people who have been ordinary labourers. They have worked on the streets -worked here, and worked there. The more frugal among them during the years have been able to purchase their modest homes, develop good gardens around them, and grow some of their winter supplies. However, they have not been able to put aside quite enough to look after their security in old age.

In order to be eligible for old age pension they would have to pass means tests. Some worthless galoot down the street, who had never done a decent day's work all his life, could get an old age pension and be just about as well off as someone else who had worked hard, been a good citizen and saved during his lifetime. Therefore I am in favour of the old age pension without a means test. But it must be a contributory pension. I do not think anything is worthwhile if one does not contribute toward it.

I am in favour of unemployment insurance, and I believe family allowances are a fine thing. I had not intended to speak long this evening, but I did wish to mention briefly the matter of health grants. Here perhaps my C.C.F. friends may give me a little assistance by handling some of my C.C.F. friends in Saskatchewan, so that I may get for the community I represent that to which it is entitled, and which it is prevented from getting today by a C.C.F. government.

As hon. members are aware, the national health program made provision for the sum of $165 million to support provincial health programs over a period of years. These grants covered public health, professional training, technical training, public health research-and it goes on down the line until it comes to hospital construction.

The Regina General hospital built a wing at a cost of $800,000. Construction had been started before the health grant became effective. I believe that date was April of 1948. At any rate, the hospital was partly constructed by that time, so that the city was not entitled to the total amount of the grant. The hospital authorities felt that $225,000 was coming to them from the federal government by way of grant, and an equal sum of $225,000 was coming from the provincial government. It will be recalled that

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federal health grants were to be matched by the provincial governments, in hospital construction.

When the campaign started last spring the city of Regina had received no grant. The hospital wing was completed, but remained empty because they had not sufficient money to purchase furniture. I made a public statement at that time, and the result was that there was an agreement to match $75,000 of the grant so that the hospital could buy furniture and open the wing. There was a waiting list of 300 people to get into the hospital. The building was there, but the provincial government refused to match the grant so that furniture could be purchased. The hospital had expended its funds. When I hear these great humanitarians talking I want to let them know just what the truth is, and just how human they are. They have matched $75,000 of that grant, but there is still over $100,000 which has not been received. The dominion government has

agreed that the city is entitled to $175,000. Thus far the provincial government has matched only $75,000 of this amount. The taxpayers of Regina are forced to find out of taxes another $200,000, to which they are rightfully entitled by way of hospital grants.

So that if my hon. friends to my left who get their inspiration from there, and who seem to send inspiration out to them, can induce them to match this grant, I am sure my constituents in Regina city would be most grateful.

I believe I have said all I wish to say at this time.

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