I think the importance of this legislation justifies the new departure. Perhaps it has scarcely dawned on the people of this country what this measure means to the rural sections of Canada, and to the agricultural interests. Let us look at what has been done elsewhere in regard to highways. In France, for instance, a country where agriculture has reached as high a condition, perhaps, as in any country in the world, they have 23,600 imiies of what tare called national highways, 28,600 .miles of departmental highways-all of these roads being paid for by the state-390,000 miles of municipl roads, upon which there is an annual outlay of 125,000,000 francs, or $25,000,000, and, in addition, a great mileage of what are known as rural roads, narrow roads connecting with the greater highways throughout the country. Consider also what is being done in the United States. In the state of New York, a few years ago, they bonded the state to the extent of $50,000,000 for the purpose of improving the roads, and the state proposes to build absolutely at the public expense 3,000 miles of state roads. They propose also, with the money raised by this issue of bonds, to assist what they call towns-we call them townships. In the state of Ohio, the estimate generally accepted is that the improvement of the road system adopted by the state, has increased farm values by from 25 to 50 per cent.
I asked the state engineer of what is called the State Commission, what effect the improvement of roads in the state of Massachussets had had in bringing back occupants to the abandoned farms, of which they have a good many, and he said that hundreds had returned to the farm in consequence of good roads. So it is a very important matter from that point of view. I am glad to see the unanimity existing in the House with regard to the importance of this question.
Now, it might be wise to consider carefully whether we should not have, to some extent, what we might call federal loads built and maintained by the federal authorities. There is danger, if you come down to the municipalities with this money, that we will have a lack of uniformity, we will not have that distinctive system which should govern the outlays on these roads. Now, we have nad some experience in Ontario with reference to giving municipalities money for this purpose. Several years ago there was what is known in Ontario as the Municipal Loan Fund. A number of counties borrowed largely from this fund, while others did not borrow from it. Some counties borrowed so largely that, after a few years, they found it difficult to pay; and away back in 1871 or 1872, I think the Hon. E. B. Woods devised a scheme of settling this vexed question. The legislature passed a law to forgive the debt to many of the borrowers, and in order to do justice to those who had not borrowed, they gave them so much per head. Now, it was not easy for some years to see any real benefit following the gift of that money to the municipalities. The difficulty was that they lowered their taxation instead of using the money to make improvements. I suppose under this Bill that difficultly could scarcely occur, because this money cannot be put to any other purpose than that of assisting in road construction. But. if you relieve the people along the line where you build one of these roads from road taxation, then there should be some arrangement by which the province would tax them for the purpose of forming a road fund, to build roads some where else. There has been a good deal said with reference to some definite plan or scheme being mentioned in the Bill. If you consider for a moment the varied climate of our extended country, you cannot have any uniform system that would apply to all the provinces, because our winter in some parts of the country affects the roads adversely. If you go into the far west and into British Columbia where they have a mild winter a different system would apply altogether. Then another thing is that the material out of which you have to build roads is of a
different kind in different sections of the country. There are some places where road material is much more easily got than in other places. All these matters have to be considered in dealing with this question.
The hon. member for Pictou (Mr. Macdonald), has raised the question of provincial rights. I think there is very little danger of any sharp trouble arising on this point so long as we are giving them something. The difficulty under the administration 'the hon. gentleman supported, was that the government was always taking something away from the provinces. That was a very different proposition. I am not a lawyer, but I believe this question of provincial rights, is largely a growth of sentiment rather than a difficulty in law. Expediency must to a large extent decide these questions between the federal and provincial authorities. Now the Americans are strong on state rights. When the federal government in the United States proposed to appropriate large sums of money to lend to the state for the purpose of encouraging agriculture, they said in the Act by which they made the appropriation that nothing in this Act should interfere with the right of the state to deal with this question; and there was no difficulty. Now it seems to me there ought to be no difficulty in this country, because our system is more elastic than theirs. I do not fear any difficulty along the lines suggested by the hon. member for Pictou. It seems to be that it will be ultimately a matter of agreement largely between the provinces, and the federal authorities. I think the direction of the road, or the location of the road, will largely be decided by conference between the provinces and the federal authority, because you must of necessity consult the provinces in a matter in which they have to so large an extent the local control.
Now, I feel that it would not be an unwise thing for the federal government to build certain roads as distinctively federal roads, and maintain them as such, because the question of maintenance is as important as the question of construction, and perhaps more so. If a road is not properly maintained, then you might just as well not build it, because it will very soon become dilapidated and useless. That is the experience of every one. Now, I wish to say that so far as I am concerned the proposal of the government has my most hearty and warm support. It is something that will affect the future of this country as nothing else will do that has been proposed for a number of years. As has been so well said by hon. members on both sides of the House, if we make such large outlays in other directions affecting trans-
portation, the burden of which has been largely thrown upon the agriculturalists throughout the country, and white he ha(3 to bear his share of other burdens in which he is also interested, the time has come to consider the advisability and wisdom of doing something to help the farmer, to get nearer to the door of the man who has worked so hard to solve the agricultural problems of this country. I can see no reason why this scheme should .not be carried out successfully, and in such a manner as to result in general welfare to the country. I was much interested in reading the early history of the eastern New England States in reference to roads. Before the railway, there was a strife between different neighbourhoods to secure what was then known as the ' general travel ' along those roads. The well-to-do people who rode in their carriages would choose the best roads, and the different farming communities vied with each other in constructing good roads so as to secure that travel; there was a sort of rivalry between them which resulted in better roads than would have otherwise been made. But when 'the railways came, they did away with all that. And, now, the era of automobiles is coming in, and is bringing that class of traffic back to the farmers' doors that has not been there before for a great many _ years, although it must be said that he is not very anxious sometimes to get it. But we must deal with all these questions as they arise, and they will 'have to be dealt with in this country. It is said that in the state of New York the outlay on roads will be largely repaid by the tax imposed on automobiles in that state. It seems to me that while this House has a right to deal with the matter, it will be a question to a considerable extent of co-operating with the provinces in carrying out the object of this Bill. I wish to say in conclusion that Whatever may be the outcome, I hope and believe that great good will result from this legislation to the community in general.