Mr. Chairman, I would ask the privilege of the floor for a short time in order to bring to the attention of this committee of the House of Commons a matter which is of great importance to a large number of people in the northern part of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. This,
may I assure the committee, is not simply a matter of local interest, nor has it anything to do with any political party or political agitation. In order to bring out this matter in detail I shall have to speak longer than I should have liked to at this stage, but I hope that hon. members will bear in mind the fact that during this session I have been very sparing with their time and- have at no time delayed the proceedings of the house. This is not a new matter, and it does not constitute a new programme. In order that I may be strictly in order I would instruct the Clerk to withdraw from the order paper resolution No. 8 standing in my name.
At times during the last few years I have placed the details of this programme on the record. During the years of prosperity in western Canada,- the period from 1926 to 1929, plans were entered into by the two large railroad companies whereby transportation facilities would be provided for the northern parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan and eventually into British Columbia. This would have provided another ojitlet to the western ocean. In order to save time I shall not go into the full details of these undertakings, nor shall I recite all the possibilities of the country to be served and the advisability of the Canadian National and the government, working in conjunction with the Canadian Pacific, putting through this undertaking. I know that in the past, hon. members have heard reference made to railway lines in western Canada which parallel one another: Reference has been
made to railway construction which involved the expenditure of public money but which has not proved to be a paying proposition for the taxpayers of this country. The lines I am going to speak about would not parallel any other lines. They would serve one of the finest and most productive sections of this country, as well as other large areas of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Because of the undertakings that were entered into at that time, not hundreds but thousands of new settlers poured into the northern parts of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. They went in there because thejT believed that contracts had been entered into for the construction of the lines mentioned in the resolution I placed on the order paper and to which I have already referred. If at this late stage in the session I seem to be delaying the proceedings at all, let me repeat that I do so because I realize that it is my duty toward these people as well as to Canada as a whole. This programme would help to increase the production and the prosperity of that great country. Besides farming, lumber-
ing, fishing and mining, there are many other possibilities of development which would be brought about by the provision of transportation to the far north.
One of these lines would extend from Prince Albert to'the north country to join at Lac La Biche with the North Alberta railway running to Fort McMurray. This line would run through the treasure-trove of our north country. It would join farther west at 'a point on the Slave river, or perhaps north of Slave lake-I do not know just where-with the other branches of the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific into the Peace River country.
In 1927 and 1928 and 1929 an important part of this programme was started. I am sorry if I have to burden hon. members by mentioning places which may seem strange and foreign to them. However., I assure them that this is not a local matter; it is something that is of vast importance to thousands of people and to hundreds of square miles of country. At a point, named Ashmont the line coming in from Edmonton branches off in a north easterly direction. The construction of this line to the St. Paul district, where I live, would carry it down to what is known as the Cold lake country. It could then continue through Saskatchewan and down to St. Walburg.
An agreement was made at that time: between the two railway companies-I know' this is history-that the C.P.R. would construct a line from Prince Albert to and through Meadow Lake down to a point south of the Beaver river on the Canadian National, and then from that point on to Beaver Crossing they would have running rights over the Canadian National for a distance of fifty-five miles. Then both railways were to build north of the Beaver river in a northerly direction through the country I have just mentioned to the Lac La Biche region, Athabaska and the Peace River district.
I am sorry the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) has just left the chamber. Yesterday, and many times previously, I have heard him plead for more public works in order to provide employment. He has suggested a programme of public works in order to carry us through the period of transition when our factories are transferring from war work to peace time activities. If he is afraid of unemployment I can show him a spectacle which I believe will prevent him from ever again referring to a matter of this kind in the future. I would direct his attention to the record of the party to which he belongs from 1930 to 1935.
Except on rare occasions, and more recently only by way of banter, I have never advanced partisan points of view in this house. I am getting too old for that kind of thing. The' needs of our country and the needs of our young people are too great and too important. These things are too great for us to meddle with them or to lose time in discussing partisan matters. A contract had been given for the construction of this line. I should like the Minister of Transport to pay close attention to what I am saying. As I say, this line was to go from Edmonton to my part of the country, Bonnyville- and district of St. Walburg in Saskatchewan, and then down through North Battleford and then into Saskatoon. But the work was abandoned. I can tell hon. members that no greater tragedy ever occurred. My hon. friend (Mr. Diefenbaker) sometimes becomes very eloquent when he speaks in this house. I do not blame him for trying to show up the failures of this government. However, from 1930 to 1935 I happened to be a member, of the legislature of Alberta. I represented the part of the country .which was to be served by that railroad. The Beaver river is not a large stream, but it extends a long way. It is the first liver north of Edmonton and Prince Albert and takes its source south of Lac La Biche, which forms part of the northern watershed rather than the Atlantic watershed. The waters of the Beaver river flow into Hudson bay. The construction of a trestle bridge over the Beaver river beyond Bonnyville was started over fourteen years ago, and it was the finest piece of work I have ever-seen. The engineer in charge told me that this was only the second time that this method of trestle building had been tried in Canada, and it was used because it gave a stronger, more efficient trestle. It was a very fine piece of work and cost a lot of money. Three cement piers were constructed over the water to enable the trestle to cross the river. A bridge across the river at that point would have saved thei farmers a long journey around, as much as fifty or sixty miles, in marketing their produce. All that remained to be done to complete the! bridge in 1932 was the construction of a relatively short span of steel, but under thei regime of the Conservative government this work was actually stopped. The trestle stands there to-day, unused, useless, extending out 'thousands of feet, still holding out a hand of despair as tragic as the hon. member for Lake Centre holds out to this house when he talks of the failings of this government. The farm-t ers of that north country have to travel all the way around the hills on the north side, and)
then across on the other side to market thein produce.. It is a lamentable situation, am example of the sort of thing that we shall never see again in this country, all caused through a lack of *understanding of the needs of the people. I will say something that might sound a little mean. Let us hope that it was the last act of the last Tory government that we shall ever see in this country.
So the trestle stands there to-day uncompleted. Not only was the work stopped at a time when thousands of men were idle and living in despair, walking the streets and lanes and highways and by-wa3rs of western Canada as elsewhere in this country, but the contractor was paid some thousands of dollars to withdraw from the contract he had signed with the Canadian National Railways. The Canadian National Railways or the government of this country actually paid him to cancel the contract and stop the work. Today you have this situation in the ridings of my hon. friends, from The Battlefords and North Battleford. Some fifty or sixty miles of first-class graded roadbed, built at a cost of from $13,000 to $15,000 a mile, have absolutely gone to ruin. Some of it is used by the local farmers as roadways; other parts have been washed right out. A large sum of money has been lost, and the settlers in that country are hauling their produce from fifty to sixty miles to market. This is one of the works that we are asking the Canadian National Railways to resume at the earliest possible moment.
I have seen with my own eyes the settlers who are now in that country drive in there from the so-called dust bowl in southern Saskatchewan, some of which unfortunately we have also in Alberta. They left that dust bowl, not because they did not have the courage to stick it out, but because nature went back on them. Year after year they saw the drought ruining their farms and blowing them into dust. After watching that ruin go on year after year they finally had to leave that drought area in which they had settled, abandon the farms they had developed and the homes they had built, and drive hundreds of miles to more suitable land elsewhere. I can yet see the wagons of those settlers, the old * broken-down rigs, containing a few household effects, travelling along mile after mile up to that north country where land was still available-not the best, some of it, it is true, but where at least it rained once in a while. As this is probably the last time that I shall have the opportunity to address the house during the present session I should like to mention how the women struck me as they travelled with their men to their new homes in the
north. The man of the family looked brokenhearted. He had seen his life work ruined through no fault of his own, but because the sun of southern Saskatchewan insisted on shining the year round. But the woman still sat straight in the old wagon drawn by horses so lean and weak that it could travel only a few miles a day. The woman had the vision before her of a new home in northern Saskatchewan or northern Alberta and was ready to start all over again. It is up to us to see that they are given that chance after making such a tremendous sacrifice. They had a hard time. Don't I know it! They have opened up that bush country only with the greatest of difficulty, and now they are producing surprising crops, but still have to haul their produce a long distance.
The other day when the hon. member for Cariboo, speaking in the debate on the address, asked for a western outlet for the people of that country, I had a good mind to stand up and say that his programme, which was quite just, formed a part of our own. The construction of this work in the northern parts of the western provinces from Prince Albert in the province of Saskatchewan to the Cold Lake region in the province of Alberta, and in the area north of the Beaver river to Lac La Biche, would provide a new great artery of transportation in the western provinces. It is in one of the most productive areas in western Canada, where, entirely apart from agriculture, every possible resource is available. It would guarantee a western outlet and be of much assistance in developing this great new country of which I have so often spoken.
When I was a member of the legislature of Alberta in 1932 we saw with the greatest of alarm that the federal government of that day and the Canadian National Railways had lost their vision of the past and had decided not to help in curing unemployment but rather to make it worse by stopping all public works. Accordingly I moved, seconded by Mr. Falconer, the following resolution:
That this assembly regrets the decision of the dominion government not to proceed with the construction of the extension of the Bonny-ville'-St. Walburg and the Heinsburg-French-men's Butte gaps of the Canadian National Railway lines from Edmonton to St. Walburg and Edmonton to Turtleford
That under existing conditions the farmers of all that great district north and east of Edmonton have no direct access to eastern markets and are compelled to pay a back-haul on all the products shipped out and on merchandise imported into that district;
That a large number of settlers induced to settle in the districts to be served by the proposed lines will find themselves in a precarious position, and a laTge percentage of them, in need of relief;
That we respectfully urge the dominion government to reconsider the matter and to proceed with the construction of the said lines during the coming season.
The journals go on:
The debate continued.
The motion being proposed, Mr. Speaker declared the motion carried unanimously.
But, Mr. Chairman, nothing was done. In 1935, when it was evident that the worst of the depression was over and that it was time this country woke up to the fact that we were n,ot done in this young country, I again moved a resolution in the Alberta legislature along the same lines, which will be found at page 137 of the journals of the assembly of 1935. It was the same motion except that I recited this, referring to the motion of 1932:
Whereas the dominion government and the Canadian1 National Railways did not deem it expedient to accede to the washes of this assembly and nothing whatsoever was done to relieve the situation,
And whereas the situation complained of in [DOT]the year 1932 has since been greatly aggravated by the large influx of settlers in the territory tributary to the proposed railway extensions- .
I recite that to show that we have been active all along; we have not desisted from these requests. Also let me point out that there was no politics in this, no difference between Liberal, Conservative, C.C.F. or Social Credit; it was a question of railway, communication in that great country to the northeast of Edmonton and the northwest of Prince Albert. I repeat, to drive it home, that there are immense possibilities in that area. No railway executive can tell us that this will not be a paying line. I happen to know. When I went to the committee in Edmonton, to the house, and later to the C.N.R., with petitions for the construction of that line, we produced figures which showed that the portion of the road from Edmonton northerly to Bonnyville, coming down on the Beaver river and through the town of St. Paul to Heinsburg, contained some of the best paying branch lines on the C.N.R. In 1944 Alberta led the whole dominion, even the province of Ontario, in the production of bacon hogs for export, and our district stood second in the whole province of Alberta.
I shall only briefly refer to the other part of this programme. I know that this is one of the most difficult of the proposed enterprises, but I cannot help feeling that the Canadian National Railway will repair the errors of the past by constructing a line from St. Walburg info Cold Lake, and, with the Canadian Pacific Railway, will carry on the great programme
for the opening up of a part of the western provinces where there is rain, where there are immense fisheries, where there is timber, an area which is at the head of the great waters of the north on a direct connecting link with the vast hinterland of the northwest territories clean up to Great Bear lake and Aklavik. As to this other one, I am told by some people- whether or not they are well informed-that it is not reported upon favourably by the engineers of the Canadian National Railways. I refer to the gap between that place in Alberta called Heinsburg and Frenchman's Butte, in Saskatchewan. There again, in 1931, or 1932, with the kind of government and the sort of policy which obtained in those days, this whole thing was stopped. The surveys were all made, but they would not push through the necessary thirty-nine miles', ivhich was all that was needed.
I want to remind hon. members that there is not one straight railway line in the western provinces north of the Saskatchewan river between Manitoba and the eastern market and the province of Alberta and the western market. If you look at the map you will see half a dozen lines stretching out from Edmonton, like the legs of a spider, in every direction. If you want to visit Athabaska and campaign there you have to go 150 miles away and back to Edmonton, then 100 miles out and back to Edmonton, then 150 miles out and1 back to Edmonton, then 150 miles in another direction and back to Edlmonton. There is no connecting link, there is no through, line in one of the finest productive countries iq western Canada. If we were asking for a branch line to serve the people along this forty miles of gap I might hesitate, because I would be told that there is not sufficient production in that particular area to warrant an expenditure of roughly $1,800,000. But that is not the situation. Surely the directorate and the engineers of the railway know that our farmers, right from the end of that line to twenty miles from Edmonton, are handicapped every day in the year on every hog shipped, every beef exported, every bushel of grain they carry out; that they are paying tribute to someone for the back haul from Winnipeg to Edmonton and 200 miles into that country, where thirty-nine or forty miles of construction would greatly reduce costs, and the local production together with passenger traffic would take care of the additional expenditure. I wish the minister to take note of this; there is not a word of criticism in it. I am the voice, as I know other hon. members are whose ridings have been served by these lines will be the voice, of their people, in asking for some-
thing reasonable and' fair, and saying that construction should never have been stopped, no matter what conditions obtained in this country in 1931 and 1932.