May 27, 1935

CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

Does my hon.

friend ask whether we have agreed to all sensible requests for dredging of all rivers in Canada since I have been in charge?

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Yes.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

I would say no; we have not had funds to agree to all that. That would take a great deal of money.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

There was a request made to the hon. gentleman for dredging in St. Urbain in the county of Chateauguay. He declined it. Did he decline it because it was not a sensible request?

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

I cannot be

expected, I submit with all sincerity, to carry in my mind details of requests for dredging throughout the dominion. Really I think the matter referred to has nothing to do with the bill or the section under consideration. I suggest that we have spent a great deal of time and it would be well to endeavour to make some progress. This is not a real estate agency or an occasion when we can be expected to give details on anything.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

I would not have said

anything more about the matter had the minister not said that it was irrelevant, but it is relevant; every expenditure from one cent up may be criticised here; we have a right to do this and no one will prevent us from doing it if we see fit to do so. The minister knows very well that I have a lot of consideration for him personally. Therefore he should not take this so lightly; it is a serious matter. He has already expressed his appreciation of some matters that I have brought to his personal

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attention. Here I tell him that he has been fooled by one of his colleagues, and that a considerable amount of public money has been wasted in improving a private property of one of the cabinet ministers. I am most indignant, and I cannot understand how the hon. gentleman takes it so lightly. But as he does it is useless to discuss the matter any further.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

Carried.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

I would like the hon. member to explain the whole thing to his constituents.

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CON

Eccles James Gott

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOTT:

Send some of Jack Miner's birds to his island.

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UFA

Henry Elvins Spencer

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPENCER:

It is not an island about which I wish to speak, but some valuable woodland north of Ottawa. The matter was brought up in this chamber last week by the leader of the opposition, and I concur entirely in what he said. Tremendous damage is being done to-day by unnecessary wood-cutting north of Ottawa, spoiling these wonderful hills that are so valuable to the people of this city. I would like to know if there is any possibility of even a small sum from this $1,500,000 under item 11 being used for a survey to learn what might be done to save these parklike woodlands and do something to preserve this splendid wild .country north of the city.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

I would say at once that no portion of this fund would be available for use on any land that is not the property of the crown. This wood-cutting is taking place on private property, and without the formation of a federal district or the assumption of some overriding control we have no right even to go on the property. That is my view of the situation.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I was rather amazed to find the suggestion made that this parliament could deal with this matter. This parliament has the same jurisdiction over this matter as it has over the private property of any citizen of any province. The lands, mines, minerals and timber of the province of Ontario and the province of Quebec are under the control of the crown in the right of the province.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

And every other province.

M,r. BENNETT: Yes. The only properties we have are in the Northwest Territories, the national parks and our experimental farms. With respect to reforestation the position is the same. We discussed the matter with the provinces on one occasion, but this dominion

has no authority over these woodlands near this city and no control, direct or indirect, remote or near; neither can it touch them in any way, shape or form unless there were legislation specifically directed to that end, and then the question would arise of the conflict between the crown in the right of the dominion and in the right of the province, and the purposes for which the crown right of the dominion desires to exercise its powers of expropriation. The whole matter was considered in a case that went to the privy council in connection with the right of way for a railway in northern Ontario, and the supremacy of the crown in the right of the dominion to expropriate provincial crown land for that purpose under the Railway Act as against anyone else was upheld. But as far as this particular question is concerned, we can talk about it, but the only authority that can deal with it is the province of Quebec or the province of Ontario as the case may be, unless we amend our constitution, which the formation of a federal district would involve. For a federal district comprising parts of two provinces would of necessity require a change in the British North America Act itself, having regard to the provisions concerning our parliamentary representation.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Chairman, may I say to the right hon. Prime Minister that what I suggested as certainly within the competence of this parliament and government was a conference with the provinces concerned. I saw no reason why my right hon. friend might not call into conference with him the premiers of Ontario and Quebec, and direct their attention to the fact that the land immediately adjacent to the capital is being denuded of its forest wealth. My right hon. friend recalls that when Sir Robert Borden was Prime Minister he appointed a royal commission, which after considerable trouble and expense made recommendations as to the improvement of the capital of Canada and how the suggested improvements might be developed. Among the suggestions was the creation of a federal district which would take in a large section of the wooded country round about the capital. Up to the present time that recommendation has not been carried out. However, it is wholly probable that in the course of years some means will be found whereby there will be created a federal district which will have to do not merely with the beautification of the capital itself, but also of its immediate environs.

Unless some action is taken immediately, however, an amount of damage will be done

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to the whole area adjacent to Ottawa that will be irreparable. I do not know whether my right hon. friend has seen some of the areas that within the past year have been cut within a very few miles of the city. If not, and if he can possibly spare the time for the purpose, I understand that to-night at 7.30 there are to be shown in one of the rooms of this house some lantern pictures which disclose just what has taken place within the last few years. Hon. members who see those pictures will find that the only appropriate comparison for some of the areas that have been shorn of their woods are the devastated areas of the battlefields after the great war. Many acres of beautiful woodland adjacent to the rivers or to the highways have been ruthlessly destroyed. I say ruthlessly, because they have been cut for a mere pittance, the owners receiving very little, and some unemployed men who have done the cutting but a very small amount of pay. There is an obligation on the federal government to have regard not merely for Ottawa to-day as the capital city, but to the capital of Canada for years and for generations to come.

The serious part to-day is that most of the forests -of which I am speaking are on hillsides which have very little soil upon them. The soil that is there has been the result of the slow accumulation of centuries, and, once the wood is cut, a few rainfalls are sufficient to wash away practically all the soil. Therefore it is not a matter that could be repaired by reforestation. These hillsides will become bleak areas of rock and stumps.

With the dominion government paying out money for the purpose of reforestation under a reforestation policy, it seems to me that there is an obligation to retain what we already have, especially where it is certain that in the course -of time we shall have to -do something in -the way of reforestation, if it can be done then, in order to make good a very serious loss.

I expected to find my right hon. friend sympathetic with any movement that would help to preserve the beauty of this capital and its immediate environment. I think he has that at heart. I believe that all that is necessary at this moment is for him to call in, as I suggested, representatives of the two provinces. He is pretty busy himself; let his ministers call in the ministers who have to do with the highways and parks of the provinces, have a conference and see if they will not agree to d-o something on their part in the way o-f conserving this forest wealth, provided the dominion makes some contribution, such as the Department of the Interior

is in a position to make out of unemployment relief funds, in giving employment if you like to unemployed surveyors. At this time we are sending lads to the mining camps and prospecting; a million dollars or more was asked recently by the Minister of Mines for great surveys, and it was urged that a lot of university men out of employment would thus find some work. Surely a few of these men might be retained by the Department of the Interior to do this work.

If I may I would point out to the Prime Minister, so that he will appreciate how urgent this is, that the areas nearest the roads and the river banks and the lakes are cut first, because it is cheaper to transport the wood from them. I do not think there is any desire to prevent the men who own these little properties from making what they can out of cutting some of their wooded areas. I believe even a word of advice would cause many of them to reserve the forepart of their grounds and premises immediately adjacent to the highways and confine what cutting they may have to do to the interior of their property. At any rate a reforestation policy which would have regard to not cutting timber below a certain size would help meet the situation-.

I appeal to the Prime Minister not to let this matter just go by with the statement that we have not the authority or that we must amend the constitution. In the past no one has been stronger on conferences than the right hon. gentleman, and conferences with the provinces are always possible. However, some government has to take the lead and certainly the federal government owes it to Canada to see that the immediate environs of the capital are maintained-, if it is at all possible to do so, with at least some degree of their original beauty.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I do not think the right hon. gentleman has any licence to suggest that I am not sympathetic-

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I said I was

sure my right hon-. friend was sympathetic.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

-But if he suggests that I am lacking in sympathy because I point out the facts I might ask, in turn, why during the n-ine years he was in power he did not take steps in this direction.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

First may I

say to my right hon. friend that when I mentioned the matter on Thursday and again to-day I said one person who I was sure would be in sympathy with the preservation of this forest life was my right hon. friend.

The answer to the question of why I let nine years go by, may I say,

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is that all that I am speaking of has taken place only within the last two or three years. I think I can explain the situation in a word. What is happening is this: It was not the owners of this property who conceived the idea of ruthlessly cutting down these forests; it was a few men who discovered that by taking contracts they could go to the different farmers and offer them small amounts for their wood, I think something like fifty cents a cord is what, in many cases, owners receive; and a dollar a cord is what these contractors have been paying for the cutting of the wood. Times being hard, they have found a number of people who were prepared to accept their proposals and sell and cut the wood at that figure, and as I have said owners have been selling wood in many cases at as low a figure as from forty cents to one dollar per cord depending on the quality of wood cut. The contractors make what little they can out of the sale of the wood through the extensive contracts they have entered into. It has been only within the last two years that what has been happening along the roadsides, the river banks and the lake shores has taken place, and it is for that reason that I am saying to my right hon. friend that I am sure another winter will work a dtegree of devastation that will be completely irreparable.

I hope my right hon. friend will believe that I sincerely regard him as entirely sympathetic to a movement of this kind, which aims at the preservation of these scenic woodland areas in the immediate vicinity of the capital. I simply asked for his cooperation in this matter because I believed he should and would be willing to give it.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I only desire to make

this observation: One must face the realities

of this situation. My right hon. friend suggested that trees below a certain size should not be cut, and I can only say that at the present time there is a law in that respect in the province of Quebec. That is a matter over which the province has control so far as crown lands are concerned. We have no more control over those crown lands than we have over the island of Newfoundland, as the situation exists at the moment.

I do entirely agree with what the right hon. gentleman has said as to the dangers of this practice, because twenty-five years ago I bad occasion to learn of the evils of denuding a watershed of trees. Near the city of Calgary there was a fairly good growth of timber, which was under lease from the federal government to a well known company. A fire took part of it and the rest was cut down,

with the result that the humus which had accumulated during the centuries was washed down by the spring rains. Now there is no longer moisture gradually finding its way to the river; it comes down in the spring in the form of freshets, and there is no regularity of flow in the river. I discovered this in connection with an enterprise with which we were then interested, the use of water for the purpose of power. At that time we endeavoured to point out the evils of this practice. The company in question had a contract with the government which precluded them from cutting timber below a certain size, but the fire did the rest.

Every year, I think, this government has made some contribution for the purpose of preventing forest fires, and now that the dominion has parted with its interests in public lands, so far as the west is concerned, that part of the country stands in exactly the same position as the old provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The right hon. gentleman knows that better than I, because he had to deal with the agreements. We have no power with respect to the cutting of timber in the provinces of Quebec or Ontario and, what is even more important in this connection, we have no power in connection with reforestation. The province of Ontario had a reforestation plan, and after this depression began our director of forestry here was asked to look into the matter in connection with certain works that were carried on at one of the relief camps for single, homeless men in the Kananaskis valley, which is well known to the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart). The difficulty I see is that, with the best intentions in the world, this parliament cannot in any sense exercise control in this matter, since it lies with the crown in the right of the provinces to deal with questions of this kind. Eor instance, in the province of Quebec they have greatly improved conditions during the last few years by the reforestation of certain areas that have been denuded of trees. I understand that under modern methods they can carry on this work without very much expense, and I believe it has been demonstrated that it takes about sixty years for certain types of spruce to reach maturity for the purpose of being used for pulpwood.

So far as the immediate matter is concerned, I was not aware that the devastation to which attention has been directed was on such a colossal scale as has been suggested. However, I will ask the chairman of the federal district commission to communicate with the

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two governments concerned in order to ascertain from the ministers concerned in each of these provinces whether anything can be done to meet the situation. I am heartily in accord with the' principle that has been laid down, that the approaches to the capital city of Ottawa should be kept as beautiful as it is possible to maintain them, but I am also realist enough to know that unfortunately we have no power in the premises. If a federal district is to be set up, as I have pointed out, it cannot be done by this parliament alone; the district would extend into two provinces, and in the very nature of the action to be taken some modification of the existing provisions of the British North America Act would be involved. As I think the right hon. gentleman will remember if he carries his mind back, all these matters were discussed some time ago when the question of the federal district commission was being considered by the commission set up by the government of Sir Robert Borden shortly after he assumed office, which made a report on the beautification of this city, which to some extent has been carried out. As the years have gone by it has been found that the plans which have been carried out have resulted in this becoming a more beautiful city, and that work is being carried on all the time. If the approaches to the city are to be maintained, however, unfortunately it will require not only the expenditure of money; more than that it will require legislative action which is not competent to this parliament but which, in its ultimate analysis, will require some modification of the existing provisions of the British North America Act.

I shall direct the attention of the chairman of the federal district commission to the matter at once. I have no doubt he has had his attention directed to it already, because he and his commission have been most farsighted in trying to secure properties at reasonable prices in, order that the beautiful approaches to this community might be maintained. For instance, across the river an old mill burned down, and the commission were able to acquire that property at a very small price. Out near the research building two small properties were acquired for which we had to provide an amount in the estimates, in order to maintain just what has been suggested by the right hon. gentleman, the beauty of the community as a whole. But we will have to deal with the question of the approaches from an entirely different angle. I oannot do more than submit what has been said to the chairman of the commission, to whom I will send a copy of Hansard. However it may be desirable for him to go to Quebec and Toronto to see if anything can be done for the purpose of taking immediate action, for I had no idea that it was as serious as the right hon. gentleman has indicated.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

May I at once thank the Prime Minister. His remarks bear out what I have said. I felt sure no one would be more interested in the matter than my right hon. friend, once he appreciated the situation. I think the step he has suggested, namely that of conferring with the chairman of the federal district commission and enlisting his active cooperation is an excellent way of going about the matter. I have no doubt that with the Prime Minister's powerful influence behind him much affecting the situation will be accomplished. I am sure the chairman of the Federal District Commission will find the provinces sympathetic, once it is proposed that the matter be taken up as one of joint action.

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May 27, 1935