Mr. J. H. BLACKMORE (Lethbridge) moved the second reading of Bill No. 26, to incorporate the Alberta Provincial Bank.
He said: There are several reasons why
this house should proceed forthwith to give this bill second reading and refer it to the banking and commerce committee. Among the reasons which might be mentioned are, first, that the premier and cabinet of one of the provinces of this dominion have petitioned that this bill be enacted. This is a most unusual event in the history of Canada. Again, the government at present in power in Alberta is there definitely for the welfare of the common man. It set out with a proposal to give a dividend of $25 a month, however absurd that might seem. It set out also to give a fair price for primary and secondary products. Obviously both these proposals are in the interest of the common man. I feel, then, that I am justified in saying that the government is there primarily in the interest of the common people of the province. Again, that government has managed the affairs of Alberta unusually well. There has been no increase in the provincial debt since the Social Credit government took office. According to the best information I am able to obtain, Alberta is the only province in the dominion in which that is true.
There has been a constant effort on the part of the present Alberta government to be realistic. It has endeavoured first of all to adjust debts so that they might eventually be paid. The principle which it has espoused and so energetically followed has come to be recognized pretty well all over the dominion to-day, namely, that debt should be adjusted to the ability of debtors to pay. The same is accepted as being true of interest. Everyone realizes to-day that it is utterly absurd to hold men to an interest rate of seven or eight per cent when money is being obtained at a rate of three-quarters of one per cent. The Alberta government has consistently striven to reduce the interest rate to a point at which it is possible to pay it, and then it has endeavoured to pay that rate honestly and without fail. It has been unable to meet all its obligations when they came due, with the result that there has been default, but there was no blame to be attached to the Social Credit government for that default. A
Alberta Provincial Bank
situation, had been built up for years which was completely impossible for them and which would have been impossible for any government of any name that could have been elected in Alberta.
The government since it was elected has given the province sound management. It has saved a good deal of money for the people of Alberta. It has collected taxes well. It has increased the revenue of the province. For example, the oil returns of the province have increased $732,000 a year. The revenue from automobile licences has increased $760,000. The income from petroleum and natural gas rentals and royalties has increased $786,000. Liquor sales have yielded $930,000 more. There have been great savings to taxpayers on the insurance of government cars and government buildings, the total savings in three years being $111,104.74. They have organized a central purchasing board through which all the purchases of the government are made. Through that central purchasing board they hope to be able to save $400,000 a year. Between July 1, 1939, and February, 1940, they saved $260,000. In addition to these considerations, they have paid their interest promptly; they have paid off millions of dollars of the savings certificates which were hanging about their necks like a millstone when the government took office; in a general way they have done a good job of housekeeping in the province, building fine roads, improving the health of the people greatly, encouraging industry, endeavouring to refund the debt of the province, and in every other way that they found available they have managed the province well.
I should like to read a quotation from a letter which I believe will be of interest. The Alberta government from the time they took office tried to refund the debt by every means which was possible to them, but they were unable to have a refund of that debt.
One of the firms with which they were working was the Municipal Bond Company of Los Angeles. Mr. Harold B. Reed, representative of that organization, wrote to Mr. Low, the provincial treasurer, on March 4, 1940, a letter in which appeared these words:
I presume that by this time you and your colleagues are in full swing of the fight to return your government to power and I am convinced that you will make a good account of yourselves. From the situation as I know it, you can be proud of the accomplishments which you have made in the matter of the finances of the province-
I break off there to ask if hon. members suppose this man knew what he was talking about. He had access to all the provincial records; he examined with great care the 95826-804
financial position of the province, because he was counting on undertaking, with his associates, the refunding of the Alberta debt of over $160,000,000. It was very likely that he knew what he was talking about; his words, therefore, should carry more than ordinary weight:
-and despite criticisms to the contrary, you have the strength which comes from the knowledge of having done well a difficult job. Even though the debt readjustment may still be a matter of uncompleted business, nevertheless I think it has been conducted in such a manner that it should be relatively easy of final accomplishment once the elections are over and the Rowell report is issued.
Those words carry tremendous weight; they indicate that this man was completely satisfied after his investigation. It may be asked what bearing this has on the passage of this bill. I say it has important bearing, because it indicates the sort of men who are in charge of the affairs of Alberta, who have asked this government to give them a bank with which they can proceed with the rehabilitation of the province according to the principles in which they believe.
Alberta is in a very difficult position; another reason why this matter should be given consideration. It has a heavy debt. It is a province of primary producers, in the main, and therefore subject to serious fluctuations in the prices of primary products. The tariff incidence is particularly heavy on the three central western provinces, and the freight rate is especially onerous to the people of Alberta. As they say, the freight rates "get them going and coming." Their land settlement problem is grave, because land settlement was carried on under the direction of the dominion government. As a result, large numbers of people were allowed to settle in areas that were too dry for settlement, that part of the province which falls within the Palliser triangle. There was a great deal of scattering out of the people, giving the province a heavy administrative task with respect to roads and other social services; Alberta has, for example, to care for ninety thousand miles of road. An extremely difficult situation awaits any government in that province.
All the provinces are in trouble now; everyone realizes that. The Rowell commission was appointed to investigate conditions as between the provinces and the dominion, manifestly because the dominion realized that there existed a grievous problem and a grave situation. The dominion itself is in serious trouble. How we are all going to get out of the trouble no one would even dare forecast at the present time. It behooves us, therefore, to give earnest attention to the
Alberta Provincial Bank